5 Free Apps To Help You Slay Your Instagram Game

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Beauty bloggers, fashion influencers and business alike build their branding around gorgeous visual aesthetics on Instagram. Some of us just want to use the algorithm to our advantage and have fun while building our personal brand on the platform. With each new feature Instagram releases, the more opportunities for great self promotion. Over the years I’ve gleaned the top apps to help you slay with the best of them and stand out from crowd with your own unique brand.

(P.S. click on any photo to download the corresponding app)


Perhaps the most used app by top bloggers is Facetune. The app will rock your world by manipulating your pre-filtered photos to make them perfect. I mean, you’re perfect as you are, but also who’s not down with editing out a zit every now and then? Taking away blemishes, blurring backgrounds, color correcting, and defining features are just a few of the best features. Bloggers with a white feed aesthetic particularly like this app to correct discolored backgrounds. You’ll find that after some fidgeting, a photo of any quality can be worthy of your feed.

Every good grammer knows that a cohesive feed attracts more followers and keeps them with you. This app allows you to a pick a gorgeous filter or create your own by crafting a perfect formula. Slap that puppy on all your pictures and voila’! You’ve got a perfect feed in no time. I suggest looking up VSCO filter formulas on Pinterest and then tweaking them to make them your very own. After all, personalization is your best friend in brand cultivation. Remember that photos taken in different lights will need to have edited exposure settings to make sure your gorgeous feed remains cohesive.

Planning your posts in advance is practically the only way to survive while trying to post consistently. UNUM allows you to see exactly what posts would look like in your feed so you can make everything look pretty. It uses drag and drop features to make planning really easy. The free version even allows you to see your best posting days and times! In its basic form UNUM will also shoot you a reminder to post your beautiful pictures. That way, you can focus on the important stuff, like responding to comments and sliding into DMs.

I get most asked about my IG stories and IGTV videos. “How did you make this? What app did you use?” Here it is, my secret of secrets: InShot. It’s the most user-friendly video editing app I’ve found that makes IG stories fun. Whether you’re splicing together a mashup of your fun weekend or creating a quick tutorial on how to keep your succulents happy, this app will provide you with a variety of tools. You can change the filter of your videos, slow down or speed up clips, add non-lame royalty free music, text and even stickers! There are fairly endless options with this app and it’s all very intuitive to learn.

Admittedly, this app has driven the most traffic for me. It allows you to create gorgeous Instagram Stories from pre-made templates. You choose a template then remix it to make it all your own. You can choose to change the photos, text and color scheme. Then, when you finish all that, you can decide which elements (if any) should have animation. Using the animation tool has kept my followers engaged and encouraged them to take action. Oh, by the way, you can resize any of the layouts for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat and more. I mean, how could you not?

I have a passion for creating a feed that communicates my personal brand. As a web marketing specialist for a company that provides social media coaching, I’ve taken my training and fused it with my passion and experience to bring you these 5 apps. They’re ones I’ve used over the years while trying out others that haven’t quite made the cut. So whether you’re a business, influencer or aspiring influencer, I’m positive you can use these apps to help you slay that Instagram game.

How to Build a Personal Brand on Instagram

 Photo via: https://www.hellobrio.com

Photo via: https://www.hellobrio.com

Well what do ya know? Hello Brio, a brilliant website, agreed to post my blog on how to build a personal brand on Instagram. This was a fun one to write and I got to feature some great ladies Kacee and Katlyn on it, so I’d say it’s a win! Give it a read and maybe a share if you’re feelin’ frisky.

5 Ways to Optimize Your Blog

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If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have a blog, that you’re killin' the game and that your hair looks really nice today.

#winning

The thing is, there’s lots of nerdy, behind the scenes stuff that you might not know about blogging. No offense, but your blog is really amazing and more people need to see it. So this is my nerdy gift to you: tips on how to get your blog in front of more people’s eyeballs.

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#1 Keywords are Essential

If you know about keywords, skip to the next section. If not, it’s cool, no judgement. When starting a blog you want to have a band of words that people will search to find your website. You want some to be broader and some to be more specific. The key (ha) to these words is to make them genuinely searchable. What would people be googling to find you? So if you’re lifestyle and fashion queen based out of the 406, your short keywords are could be something like “fashion blogger Montana.” Now take those words an integrate them as much as you can into your blog post titles and general content.

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#2 Girl-Crush on Alexa

You’ve probably hear that you should make your post titles and even website names searchable on Google. This is def true, but with the rise of Siri and Alexa, things are changing. Not only do you need to use words in your posts that people would type for, you need to use words that people would actually say. The stats are in, and the amount of people using voice search is only rising. Which means website managers are newly tailoring every keyword to be easily spoken words.

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#3 Connect to Yourself

As a rising influencer, you likely have a social media presence that is adorably curated. Use that to your advantage to get more traffic to your site. Your social accounts should be clearly accessible from every page, leading people with a single click to your grams. At the bottom of each post you should make it really easy for anyone to tweet your blog post or pin your adorable photo. Likewise, use your social accounts to let people know that you’ve posted a hot and fresh blog post. Link that post in your bio, tell them about it in your stories and then they’ll take a journey back to your website. It’s the beautiful internet symbiotic relationship. Like those birds who eat bugs off of hippos. But less gross.

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#4 Feel the Need for Speed

Make sure your blog loads quick as a bunny! Studies show that the many visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. That's obviously insanely fast. There are several things you can do to make your site load faster. One is making your photos smaller, another is to turn off plug-ins that you don't use. These are fairly easy things to do on your end. Optimizing your CSS and getting your JavaScript to load last are both really helpful too. If those last two sounded like crazy-talk, you'll want to leave those to the nerds.

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#5 Glean from the Pros

I obvs believe in investing in an optimization expert. But not everyone has that kind of capital. So one of the coolest ways to get free tips on optimization and all things marketing, is to follow companies you admire on Twitter. The peeps I currently work for, will tweet out weekly tips and tricks! Now that's what I call, ballin on a budget.


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There are a billion and half other things you can do to help your blog rank higher in Google. These are just a few tips to nudge your hot butt in the right direction. For now, I’ll leave with some quick bonus tips. Keep posting regularly, use lots of images and videos and make beautiful shareable content.

Why the Instagram Algorithm Is so Frustrating

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How Does the Algorithm Affect Me?

So here's the deal. Instagram let us know that things were getting shaken up by the new algorithm in March of 2016. They said the switch from a chronological feed ensured that we'd all be seeing posts we cared about most. By now, we've mostly figured out that the posts shown are based on the level of engagement they get. So if people like your photo, share it, DM you about it or comment, Instagram gives it more attention and pushes it up. This seems like a great idea in theory, except that if you're up against the attention Cardi B is getting, you're doomed. In short, you've probably noticed that your posts are getting a lot less attention, or your friends/clients are actually missing them altogether. (See photo)

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1. Figure Out Your Best Engagement Time

This is important for all your social media platforms. You know your audience, and you have a good idea about when they're typically on Instagram. Is it on their lunch break? Their commute home? As soon as they get out of bed? If you can't recall when people are most engaged with you, track and test it for about a month, and you'll see the patterns pretty quickly. By the way, you can do this with a pen and paper or get an app like Later or Planoly that maps it out for you. When you figure out your best posting times/days, go for it! Do it consistently and reap the rewards of your research.

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2. Start Posting to Stories Frequently

You've probably noticed that you get a lot more views on your stories than on your posts. Since the algorithm takes your engagement there into consideration, use this to your advantage. Begin posting more to your stories and use the features Instagram gives you to broaden your audience. Tagging your location ensures more views and the poll feature gives you some major engagement points. The trick is asking questions that make your audience want to give their opinion. I've found that the more personal the question, the more engagement is received. Put more effort into your stories and Instagram will take notice.

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3. Engage with Your Audience

There are two factors to this insight. First, you want to get your audience's attention. Post quality content that is authentic and your audience will most likely stick around. Try a new and interesting pose or a caption that would make someone linger. Secondly, respond to your engagement quickly. When you get a comment or a DM, like it and respond asap. Instagram rewards people who care about their followers. 

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4. Post the Right Content

Aesthetic and authentic, these are the words to think about when curating your posts. Find a layout that suits you and keep it consistent, and develop a style for your posts that is easily identifiable. VSCO makes it really easy to find a great filter that will make all your photos look clean and like they belong together. Your audience wants to know what to expect from you. If it feels real yet beautiful, they'll keep coming back.

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Bonus Tip

It may seem like a lot of work to maneuver around the new Instagram algorithm, but it is possible. If your business or personal website is needing more traffic, Instagram is certainly a great tool. Don't forget to utilize other tools at your disposal like improving SEO traffic by updating your website often and trying to partner with other bloggers or brands to get more exposure.

5 Things I Learned From Working at Home

It has been one single year since I left my job of 5 years to strike out on my own. Working from home has been my part time gig this whole time and it's been a real effin journey. I've been learning the ups and downs of working from home (because it's really not all a total dream). The following are 5 things I didn't know before I entered the "work from home" world. Disclaimer: I am by no means doing any or all of these perfectly, in fact they're more of reflections for a desperate need of change in my own process. 

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1. You need an official working space

Currently I'm sitting at a tiny desk in an uncomfortable chair that faces a wall in my room. To the left is my bed (so cozy) and to my right is a snoozing fluff ball. This is not the ideal set up. Psychologically speaking, you should never work where you sleep. The association it creates is stressful. I find at night I can never stop thinking about work if it's stressing me out. My room is no longer a space for relaxed recovery. Instead, there should be a designated work area in my apartment that is nowhere near my room. That way, that space has a mental association with work alone and my little brain won't get confused and merge my whole life into a frustrating melting pot. Also, I need a new desk and chair. I'm sitting here for 7 hours a day. It needs to feel better for my boney butt.

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2. A flexible schedule doesn't mean you're always available

I had met one on one with students for coffee as part of my job for 5 years. It was really hard to break that habit once my schedule was so flexible. I would meet with one or two people a day and then find I had limited time to start/finish working. (DUH). I also found that people were frustrated when I told them I had to work. When you create your own schedule you have to stick to it as if you were punching the actual clock. No one would beg you to have coffee in the middle of your shift at the mall right? Same applies here. When you respect the time you set aside for work, people will slowly start to respect it as well. 

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3. You need to take care of your mental well-being.

Being alone seemed like a welcome change after years of "people work". Turns out, I surprisingly love people and not being with them all day makes me depressed and anxious. Who knew?! It was wild how fast I became self-centered and genuinely anxious/sad when my schedule changed. I realized I really needed to bring some of the outside world in to my work as much as was possible. That means meaningful podcasts, lunch hour with a buddy or an occasional phone call to my mom when things are getting a little rough. So know yourself well. If you need people, integrate them a little during the day. If you don't, probably force yourself to reach out or you may burrow yourself away in your new found hermitage. 

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4. Discipline and goal-setting are a must. (I don't like this one obvs.).

By far the saddest thing I've learned about myself in this environment is that I'm not a self-starter. I need to physically write out daily goals with attached time stamps so I don't stray and take forever making breakfast or hitting the snooze button. Writing out goals allows me to see what needs to be done in a given month which allows me to plan my weeks and days. Giving each goal a time frame in a given day forces me to be disciplined. Especially if my task for the day is difficult, I will do anything to avoid it. #procrastinationkween

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5. Just because you can doesn't mean you should wear pjs.

Everyone tells you how glamorous your life must be since you can wear sweats all day, never do your hair, and have no boss to answer to. First of all, I do have a boss and thankfully he's super chill and encouraging. Secondly, wearing sweats all day is not an option for me. I find the moment I decide to not dress like it's a work day, my actions follow. Instead, getting dressed, doing my hair and and slipping on some shoes makes my brain understand that it's time to crush some goals. I will crush nothing in pjs. Except a nap. 

Top 4 Best Coffee Shops in Montana

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Best

 

Coffee

 

Shops

 

in MT

the definitive list
*sort of

Buzzing back and forth across Montana is pretty much a side gig for me and my boi. With family in Billings and jobs in Missoula, we drive some serious hours and as such need some serious fuel. In the 11 years I've trekked across the state I've made a mental list of the only coffee shops worthy of my valuable time. 

With all that said, you don't care about the intro, I don't care about the intro. Let's get to the list already.

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1.

 

Moav

 

Coffee

 

House

Billings, MT

You can always count on these Edison bulbed hipsters to provide you with a stellar Americano. They've also recently partnered with a local bakery to provide you with amazing pastries. So like, why go anywhere else?

2. Treeline

 

Coffee

 

Roasters

Bozeman, MT

Treeline always have some kind of special concoction that's irresistible. Truth be known, I can't even remember what this (pictured) was. All I know is that it was amazing and I drank half of it...much to Jesse's chagrin as it wasn't mine. They are meticulous about their roasts which translates in all their coffee. Oh! And they have cute geo pour over filters that are travel size for all your camping needs. 

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3. Blodgett Creamery Coffee Saloon

Polson, MT

Small town in Montana don't exactly have a reputation for great coffee, but with Polson it's a different story. If you find yourself wandering through on your way to Glacier, stop here. You can get delicious coffee, ice cream and food. WHAT. MORE. DO. YOU. WANT.

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4. Black Coffee Roasting Co.

Missoula, MT

TO BE FAIR, there are a zillion and half great places to get coffee in Missoula. Le Petite (amazing bakery as well), Clyde Coffee, Drum Coffee... I could go on. But I won't. Black Coffee is considered the OG in my mind and I have never been disappointed with their drinks, beans, pastries or special toast. Simple as that. 

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Alright, here's the thing. 

The list isn't exactly comprehensive. But in truth, they are my go-tos when traveling. I refuse to stop anywhere else because I'm a snob.

*It should be noted that I really love Harper and Madison in Billings as well (but for a quick stop it's Moav or The Annex)