We talk quite a bit about Instagram — the aspirational photo-sharing platform that single-handedly spawned the likes of flatlays, #ootds, Facetune, acai bowls and Kylie Cosmetics — on this website. We've tapped the collective opinions of 10 fashion insiders for tips on how to get more likes and followers. We've listed off our favorite accounts to follow in categories like swimwear babes, menswear enthusiasts, celebrity stylists (as well as makeup artists) and beauty influencers. Plus, we've referenced Instagram in broader capacities, examining how the network has affected how labels cater to consumers and how we, in turn, buy into a brand's culture.
All of this would indicate that we generally enjoy Instagram, or at the very least tolerate it — especially because a highly followed presence is now a huge benefit in the fashion, beauty and media industries. But the truth is, we're actually pretty conflicted, and for a variety of reasons: We spend too much time on it; we feel immense professional pressure to rack up engagement; we don't understand how to create a curated, "on-brand" feed, or how to appropriately edit photos. But, for some of us, the real kicker is that we don't enjoy it nearly enough for the amount of effort we're exerting.
We held an internal roundtable and seven of our editors sounded off on all of the above. (Spoiler: It's not all bad! Some of us have gained valuable perspective on Instagram that could restore some fun into your own experience.) Do you agree with our sentiments? Are we just being dramatic? Should we all quit social media completely and move to a commune in Colorado? Let us know in the comments.
Alyssa Vingan Klein, Editor-in-Chief
My husband is my biggest fan, and because he finds my fashion-related antics to be adorable, he's usually willing to indulge even my most ridiculous requests — particularly those regarding the creation of social media #content. While he understands the competitive, image-driven nature of my business and the fact that my Instagram page is both an extension of my resume and a reflection of my aesthetic, I see him die a little inside when I declare that it's "content time." In those tense moments, he must take on an important, thankless role that he never asked for when we exchanged vows: that of the Instagram Husband.
The maintenance of my Instagram feed is one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of my job. At the beginning, the app was so much fun! I snapped random scenes from my day-to-day NYC existence and of anything that made me smile — a promo poster for "Drive" featuring Ryan Gosling, for example — adding an "artsy" touch with the bold filters that were standard in Instagram's early days. There was little rhyme or reason behind my posts, with the only common thread being, "I like these things, maybe you will, too."
But as the years went by and brands, modeling agencies and PRs caught on, the platform became all about strategy. Bloggers, editors and tastemakers rose to industry fame by posting perfectly filtered "outfit of the day" photos, and if these caught enough eyes in high places, they'd receive free product for a following post — or, even get paid a premium to wear it. (Ah, the dawn of the influencer!) As a camera-shy, behind-the-scenes type who can't afford to shop for high-end Insta-bait every season, it can feel impossible to compete with those who, for myriad reasons, are dripping in it.
Have I considered buying something because I thought it'd photograph well for Instagram? Sadly, yes. In addition, I've agonized over my physical appearance — fearing that I'll "never measure up" — in ways that I never had before the app entered my life in 2010. But perhaps the worst psychological effect Instagram's had on me is the looming implication that poor "performance" on the network will damage my career.
During a boozy dinner a couple of years ago, a top fashion publicist told me, in so many words, that I was, in fact, doing myself a disservice by not trying to become an Instagram personality. At another, slightly boozier dinner recently, a PR confessed that Fashionista wasn't included on a particular press trip because invitations were largely based on editors' follower counts. To hear that a well-crafted story about the opportunity was worth significantly less than pretty, pretty Instagram content was a blow to say the least; I'd be lying if I said that I don't worry that my lack of social media fame will negatively impact my future job prospects. (And I know I am not alone here.)
So, there you have it. I'll probably never be the face of a publication or a brand with a personal following in the hundreds of thousands, but if you ever need a #content machine of the non-social media variety, I'm your girl.
Dhani Mau, Editorial Director
When I started working at Fashionista, I don't think we even had an official Twitter account, so the concept of social media as a necessary complement to publishing is something I had to get used to over time — and I can't say it's come naturally to me. Maybe I have some self-confidence issues, but the idea that anyone cares even remotely about what I ate for breakfast or what my feelings are about some TV show or magazine cover still makes no sense to me, so Twitter has never been my thing. Communicating visually through Instagram, however, was something I could relate to a little bit more, and I do get to see some pretty cool stuff in my life, from my cat to Paris Fashion Week, that's worth sharing. But like my fellow co-editors, I find myself hesitating more and more about what I post lately. And the less I post, the more I feel like what I do post has to be "really good" somehow and then I want to slap myself for caring so much about something so trivial — or at least that should be trivial.
I recently read the dystopian book "The Circle," in which the main character (and most of society) becomes consumed by her social media persona — literally conflating her own self worth with online engagement. It doesn't end well and left me feeling kinda sick and terrified for the future because it wasn't so far from reality. It's a similar sensation to the one I feel when I hear that someone gets passed up for an opportunity because of their Instagram presence despite being otherwise qualified. It's an environment that leads to people doing and posting things solely for social media, and thus being inauthentic by definition, which is kinda crazy!
I don't think I could really live with myself if I succumbed to that and I think I would start to get really confused about what my Instagram personality is vs. my real one — and tbh, figuring that out in your 20s is already difficult enough. I can only hope that, for some people, the "real" stuff I do — like make content for this site and attempt to be a decent human being — is enough. And if not, I guess I'm moving to a farm.
Tyler McCall, Deputy Editor
I have a real love/hate relationship with Instagram. I genuinely love using it as an exploration tool, and I've found fun news stories by combing through my feed. Anna Dello Russo jogging in a full Dolce & Gabbana look is internet gold, people! I also really enjoy seeing everyone's far-flung trips, extravagant purchases and best selfies.
But the flip side is that it's definitely made me feel like I have to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. It seems like the more Instagram followers you have, the more respect you get from people in the industry — and the more opportunities you have. That might not be true, but I'm still trying to get in the game. I recently downloaded an app that will generate the most popular hashtags for the type of image you're Instagramming. It makes me feel like an enormous asshole, but it works. I mean, I did a flatlay on Thanksgiving, for God's sake.
Still, I try to reel it in when I feel that I'm trying too hard. I want to just be my realest self on Instagram — okay, a highly-filtered real version of myself.
Maura Brannigan, Senior Editor
Recently, I scrolled back to my very first post on Instagram from November 2011. The picture had been run through roughly 800 filters and had a tacky, feathered film border around the edges. I narcissistically went to delete it out of panic — my lord, had I used KELVIN?! — but instead resorted to researching "how to delete Instagram photos in bulk" for the rest of the evening. Later, in bed, I caught myself dozing off with my phone in-hand, the screen glowing with the Instagram feed of a C-list Bachelor contestant.
I woke up the next morning feeling like I had snapped. I considered downloading one of those trackers that tells you how many hours of This One Precious Life you're wasting on apps, but was admittedly afraid to see my paranoia first calculated, then spelled out in some cute, sans-serif typeface. I logged out of Instagram for the rest of the day and didn't miss it one bit. I even thought about deleting it altogether.
The thing that kills me about my whole Instagram complex is that I'm not even good at it! My feed isn't pretty or funny or unfiltered or, frankly, entertaining. It's just there, floating in cyberspace with whatever VSCO setting I've adopted. I get that we're "supposed" to have "brands" that are "distinct" to each respective platform, but is Instagram supposed to be this much work? It's meant to look easy and consistent, but you and I both know it's not — even the folks who don't use a single editing tool put some effort into their delivery.
But most of all, that pressure only snowballs when I consider how crucial a digital presence is in our industry. Like Alyssa mentioned, I fear that my lack of Instagram a) interest, and b) savvy will discourage employers, publicists and brands from working with (or reaching out to) me in the future. But, consequently, I also don't want to have to add 60 hashtags to every post to build a follower base; I often wonder if there's a way to fine-tune your #brand in a more authentic manner.
I know I'm just supposed to "be myself," but what if I don't understand what the Instagram equivalent of "myself" is? What I'm really asking is: Who am I?
Stephanie Saltzman, Beauty Editor
In the beauty industry, there's huge pressure to build up an Instagram presence – but I'm an editor, not an #influencer. It took me a little while to realize that those two categories don't necessarily need to overlap. A former colleague of mine was an Instagram master: She'd plan her outfits ahead of time, depending on what she needed to shoot for her feed; she could have taught a seminar on FaceTune. And all of that hard work paid off for her in the form of an impressive following and plenty of subsequent paid activations. But after getting an inside look at the diligence, work ethic and commitment to one's #aesthetic and #brand that are required to truly become successful on Instagram, I realized that I'm just never going to be that person. Sure, I can appreciate a beautiful flatlay as much as the next girl, but I simply don't have the patience (or photography skills, if I'm being honest) to seriously pursue it.
It was sort of like coming to the realization that every single celebrity is wearing hair extensions — no one on TV actually has a naturally ample head of hair (with the exception of, like, Adam Driver). It takes expensive chunks of hair that another person grew and that were then installed by a professional to give Blake Lively all that bounce, so the rest of us should let ourselves off the hook about our (lack of) hair fullness. For me, seeing how an actual influencer operates incited a similar revelation: Becoming a successful Instagrammer with thousands of followers doesn't just happen; it takes work, consistency and a trained eye. So rather than freaking out about it, I took a step back. I just don't have it in me to care that much about Instagram. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy getting likes and followers (I shamelessly use the excessive hashtags trick), but if I want to post a photo of George Costanza on Thanksgiving, I'm just gonna do it — follower count be damned. Now I use the platform as a source of inspiration and enjoyment, not one of stress or feelings of inadequacy.
Maria Bobila, Associate Editor
Kendall Jenner, Instagirl, recently came to a breaking point that caused her to quit Instagram, explaining: "I would wake up in the morning and look at it first thing; I would go to bed and it was the last thing I would look at. I felt a little too dependent on it." I used to make a point to scroll through my Instagram feed in the morning and at night until I knew that I had seen everything that was new. But when posting in chronological order was no more, I felt like I was trapped in an endless black hole of flat lays, travel photos, personal style posts and memes. I probably looked like a frozen robot zombie with a weird backlight face glow and whose right thumb was the only thing that can move. I've started to grow impatient with the need to consume so much Instagram content, but then FOMO strikes: Did I miss a cool city to put on my bucket list? What did [insert a stylish person I follow] wear today? Is there a meme I can send to my boyfriend so he can just write back "lol" because that's pretty much all we do on Instagram these days?
When it comes to posting, I stick to a very specific landscape layout using SquareReady — even though Instagram doesn't crop your photos into squares anymore. How pretentious is that? I swear I'm not an asshole.
Karina Hoshikawa, Assistant Editor
I first started using Instagram in high school for the sole purpose of editing my photos with cool filters — the social aspect of using the app as a way to communicate hadn't really caught on yet. (It's for this reason that my first photo on Instagram is probably something random from that period of my life — freshly made cookies or my collection of Harry Potter books. I'm a little too nervous to look.) With that in mind, it's pretty insane to think of how it's evolved to become so intertwined with fashion media and essential in establishing a personal #brand.
However, even though I'm not in high school anymore — and am slightly less obsessed with Harry Potter — baking and books are still two of my favorite things, which is why my feed today is still clogged with pictures of food and shamelessly Instagrammable bookstores and cafés. But as someone who works in fashion, I've definitely felt the pressure to curate my feed to be more consistent with my work as an editor. (In other words, how many pictures of cookies are too many pictures of cookies? Should I be doing more flatlays of my makeup stash?) Truth is, as much I feel that being a "fashion person" relies on a certain degree of (tasteful!) self-promotion, I'm probably never going to be a "selfie" kind of girl and am still figuring out my Instagram #aesthetic. But if nothing else, I'd like to think I've evolved my digital presence since a certain teenage penchant for Amaro…
Whitney Bauck, Assistant Editor
I didn't get a smartphone until a year and a half ago, so I was pretty late to the Insta game. In college, it seemed like my best friends were either social media crazy — as in I had to repeatedly ask them to stop looking at their phones when we were together — or they were the kind of people who fantasized about going completely off the grid and working on a farm.
As a result of being surrounded by those two extremes, I'd given a decent amount of thought to what I wanted my engagement with Instagram to look like by the time I actually made an account (as opposed to something like Facebook that I joined instinctively as a teen). I definitely don't do this perfectly, but my general goal is to walk the line between checking IG obsessively and totally disengaging from it; I see it as a platform that's important for participating in this industry, but I don't want to become addicted. I guess regulating how much time I spend on it has thus far been more important to me than regulating whether I'm sharing the "right" stuff.
In terms of posting things, I still get excited when I can use Instagram as a way to share something I'm really fired up about, whether that's a cause (hello, post-election feels), an ethical brand I wanna hype or an article I wrote that I think would be genuinely useful to people. One of my best friends — who's more of the "let's go off the grid" type — always says he's still on Instagram because "it's where the people are," and I guess I'm pretty much in the same boat. If I have something to say that I think matters, I don't want to just say it to myself.
Homepage photo: Imaxtree