There’s a reason they say “Instagram or it didn’t happen.”
We hold online personalities to a high standard, and we’re always willing to explore what different camera lenses capture. Whether we’re in search of comfort, levity or a bit of both, there are plenty of parenting influencers—dad and mom bloggers, Instagrammers, writers—who are anxious to give us a peak at what happens in their lives.
Time Out New York Kids spoke with experts who were willing to reveal what exactly it takes to be a successful online mommy and daddy influencer. Start taking notes and say cheese!
#1 How do you effectively engage with your community?
The idea of a perfectly structured photo is about as nauseating as bad sloppy joes from the cafeteria. When mommies and daddies are in search of an outlet that will help them resonate with all that comes along with parenting—the love, the happiness...the temper tantrum in the supermarket—they’re going to opt for a source that understands what they’re going through.
“My biggest pet peeve are accounts that set unrealistic expectations for motherhood. They are beautiful to look at but can make you feel less than,” Ilana Wiles of Mommy Shorts says. “I have to post what is true to me, which isn't perfect by a long shot, but I think there is beauty and laughter in the chaos.”
And parents are all-too-familiar with chaos, and that’s certainly OK. There are going to be days where you’re sharing sweet, joyous photos, but then you’ll find yourself with half of the family cooperating, and the other half scowling. Don’t be afraid to get candid—those shots are the most meaningful to readers.
#2 How do you create a reliable platform?
It’s hard to resist a cute photo of kiddies hanging with family dog or enjoying a scoop of ice cream, but the secret to creating a powerful digital parenting community is to insert yourself into the equation, too. After all, you’re the reason those little ones made their grand online debut. (Heck, you are the talent agent here, so give yourself a little TLC.)
“If you're a parent who is starting some kind of online thing, make it about you—your life, your interests, something that resonates for you,” says Amy Oztan of Amy Ever After and Parenting Bytes. Whether you’re tackling a particular hobby, honing in on a certain subject or trying to keep things humorous, be mindful that what happens behinds the scenes piques readers’ interests. Even the pros realize that a selfie or two garners more likes.
“It used to be that pics of just my kids would do best, but I'm actually finding that my followers really want to see the person behind my account, too, so I've been trying to put myself in more of my own pics,” Wiles says. “This tells me that my followers aren't just looking at my pictures; they are reading what I have to say.”
“It will be much easier to maintain and grow what you've built, if it's about your journey as a person, not just a parent,” Wiles adds.
#3 How do you get your kids to cooperate for a photo?
Getting children to respond efficiently to tasks with little pullback is a feat in itself...and realistically, this isn’t something that happens terribly often. But if you’re dying to get your feet wet in the online world of parent influencers, you’re going to have to figure out how to get the tykes to cooperate (well, at least get them to smile on cue every now and then).
“Paying him with food no longer works,” he jokes. “My son enjoys working for the blog, but as a teenager he now needs to charge me for his time.”
A type of reward—be it monetary or in the form of a piece of candy—is always a good trick, but if you’re not willing to shell out a prize at the end of each post, no sweat. There are a few other savvy ways to generate impactful content without the hassle.
“Give your kids a fun task or activity to do, and photograph them doing it,” Carmen Sognonvi of Top Flight Family suggests. “You'll get some great candid photos, and the kids won't mind you taking pictures because they'll be busy and happy.”
And when all else fails, she says to keep it short!
#4 How do you make money from your work?
Make no mistake, being Insta-famous is a business, and you can cash in on the benefits if you so choose, but you have to plan wisely.
“I create branded content in the form of photos, blog posts and videos,” Wiles says. “I love working with brands that I love, use and am happy to recommend to my audience. I also try to work with brands who will give me a certain amount of creative control, so the content doesn't feel much different than what I would post normally.”
While staying true to your niche and your core beliefs, you also should try to diversify where you can.
“Show where you go, what your kids eat, what you wear. It's much easier to seamlessly fit in branded content when you are already posting more than just beautiful photos of your kids,” Wiles says.
To get to this point, you have to make a few proactive steps—just take it from Chaitin.
“Join every possible network. Pitch and tweet to companies, and show them what you can do, sort of an audition without their being a position,” he says. “Let them want to make an opening for you when they see your work.”
#5 How do you increase your following?
There’s no way to sugarcoat it—social media popularity is measured in likes, reposts and comments. Before you frantically start looking at numbers and decoding your analytics, the first thing you need to do is pick a routine.
“Posting consistently is really important, especially when you're first starting out,” Sognonvi says. “Figure out what kind of schedule—whether it's daily, weekly, biweekly—you can stick to, and then stick to that! Second, be patient.”
When your audience tunes in every Wednesday at 8pm for story time, it’ll be rewarding to see your community grow and rely on you for particular news or stories. However, Insta fame does require you to step out beyond the screen and do some good old-fashioned in-person networking.
“I always have business cards with me,” Oztan says. She also tries to get involved with online conversations to grow her following.
While your crew is off doing homework, you should study up, too. A quick lesson in SEO or social media could be beneficial in the long run. Devise ways to keep your community flourishing, starting with the basics.
“Be strategic about using a mix of large and small [hashtags],” Oztan says. “And don't keep using the same ones. Ideally, every photo you post will have a different combination of hashtags.”
#6 How can we get the most out of our hometown?
When asked what he loves most about NYC, Chaitin believes that the ability from travel from one block to another and end up in a completely different world speaks volumes when you’re trying to create fresh content. When fun abounds, so do ideas.
“I love that we can do something new and interesting every single day, Wiles says. “I love that my kids have plenty to do and see, just by walking or scooting from one area of the city to the next.”