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How to dominate Instagram in 2018

Instagram has changed a lot in the past year, and has introduced a lot of new features along the way, making it one of the best places to market yourself or your business to date. Whether you’re looking to grow a personal account, start a business or raise brand awareness through a marketing campaign, here’s some tips to keep you on track in 2018…

Tell your story

Whether you think it’s a rip-off of Snapchat or not, nobody can deny that Instagram Stories were a game changer, and is now seen as an essential brand strategy for every business. It just works! A huge part of building your business and staying relevant is by storytelling, and even if your content isn’t good enough for your feed on one day, utilize that content in your story; Show the faces behind the brand, get people involved. It’s not just the story itself, it’s the functions within that story that can optomise your engagement with viewers, such as polls, GIFS, editing, voice, all relatable content that highlights your company culture and value in viewer engagement.

Hashtags are still important

Hashtag strategy is still important and essential for keeping your name bouncing around the Insta-sphere (is that a thing?) As of now, users can follow specific hashtags, as part of it’s ongoing efforts to be a ‘real time’ app (as shown by it’s development of video, live features and stories). So how can you utilise this? Help users find your brand through a niche, by integrating yourself into a specific hashtag. They are literally trying to find you and the content you create, all you have to do is use the function wisely and make yourself relevant. It also encourages accounts to listen to their following and cater to them. For business accounts and analysists, this could mean some serious advantageous ad targeting data. For those who dislike or avoid the chaos of the discover feed, the hashtag follow function can give a personalised and cleverly curated and structured space that may in turn tempt you to spend more and more time on the app itself. Works for you, works for Instagram. Clever, right?

Focus on becoming personal

There is nothing worse than staring at an Instagram account and all you see is catalog-style photography with forced or reused sales-like captions. Your product could be incredible, and you might be a global brand, but if your page is all product and no people, you’re missing out on a huge potential for growth. People like to buy from people, not businesses, so show people. An Instagram with just landscape or product photography alienates your audience a little. Where is the personality? If you are trying to market headphones, leave the studio behind and pick out some models or even your own employees, and sell those products as something that is personal and enjoyable. Unless you are specifically interested in flaunting travel destinations or interior design, for example, try to keep your Instagram as lifestyle friendly as possible. Scatter the promotional product posts. Show people enjoying your product so your followers assume it is a functional and friendly business that people actually use.

Influencer marketing

Just like the above point, adopting an influencer marketing strategy is going to make your business look super relateable. It’s promotions at it’s cleverest, and shows ‘real’ people enjoying and reviewing and recommending your product. As I said before, people like to buy from people, and for this reason, social media influencers are causing a storm in the marketing and business world. Alongside Instagram’s many new additional features has come a few changes to it’s algorithm, and as usual, we don’t like it. It’s limiting our reach and we’re having to switch our strategies up. With the decline of organic reach, lies the importance of having a social media influencer.

Go live

Video is currently the best way to market, so what’s stopping you from taking it that one step further and going live? You can use this to make big announcements, launch a product, show behind the scenes, photography, how-to’s, questions and answers, competitions. Instagram is trying to be ‘in the now’ as they call it, and this is their attempt at it and it’s pretty good. You can collect great data from your interactions with people and even answer real time questions. If you’re confident with a camera, going live is a fantastic way to be real and relatable with your viewers.

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Fitness Advice

The story of how I fell in love with fitness.

I love fitness. I love working out, I love seeing results and I love feeling good about my health, because I haven’t always.

Body confidence has been a battle for me through my teenage years, like everyone else I’m sure! I was very naturally ‘thin’ and I felt as though I was shapeless. I was surrounded by women in my family who were shapely and curvy and I felt so odd about my body and people certainly didn’t hold back when making comments about it. I had no natural curves and most of the time I could see ribs, despite having a huge appetite. It made me feel boyish and unattractive. I have always been active but my body never really gained any sort of athletic shape, and even though I knew I wanted to change something about it, I didn’t know how.

During my last two years of high school I started hiking with my family. I remember one time in particular, we got home after a week long expedition and as I was getting dressed I noticed my reflection in the mirror and I saw something I hadn’t before. Muscle definition. I was, from that point, geninely fascinated at the thought of having muscle because it gave me a shape. From there, I began to follow small fitness accounts on Instagram and Youtube and I read blogs all day long. IThen one day, I joined a gym. Little did I know just how important that environment would be for me now.

I remember walking into the main gym, past the weights and straight onto a treadmill…and that continued for a few weeks. Although that treadmill workout every day didn’t do much for my ‘gaining’ goals it certainly kick-started my endurance. Eventually, one day, I walked into the gym, right past the treadmill and picked up two hand weights. From there on weight training was a staple; I lifted light and used controlled movements. Eventually I began to see changes, albeit small. I started to gain definition in my arms, legs and bum. It was addictive, but before long…I gave up. I stopped making progress as I was scared to lift heavy and my enthusiasm started to wane. I believed, completely, that my body wouldn’t change anymore. That was it.

A year later, at some point in 2012, I moved cities to study at University. It was here that I re-discovered my passion for the gym again. I met girls that loved to lift and guys that loved to lift heavy. So, jumping on the bandwagon, I excitedly joined yet another gym. However, this gym was different. It had squat racks, platforms and ropes. I had a good feeling about it. I went with a friend for a few weeks and for the first time in my life, I squatted with a bar on my back. Due to having trained before, and with some serious determination, I actually managed 40kg for my first time. I remember sinking into the squat and feeling my core tighten to hold it, and I was smiling as I re racked it. I was ecstatic. I could actually lift weights! From there on I became obsessed. I started to learn more about form, various training styles and good nutrition. I started to perfect my compound movements. In that year, my body changed a lot. I discovered I actually had great potential for muscle building and I wanted to seize it.

However just a year later, and I suffered a sudden hit in my life which resulted in me moving back to my home city. I struggled with sadness for a while and fell out of love with a lot of things, fitness being one of them. In fact, I fell so out of love with myself that I utterly neglected my body, and I dropped from 132lbs to 98lbs. I worked 60 hour weeks, I cried a lot, I neglected friends and I barely ate. I went travelling that year with my friend who was going through some similar problems and even now, as happy as the memories make me, I feel sad and disappointed when I see photos of myself. I looked tiny and deflated.

When I returned to the UK, I decided something had to change. I wrote a check-list of all of the things I wanted to fix, and once a week I would tick them off. Over the next few months I would transform myself. I gained my weight back, I ate well, I took holidays, I partied with friends, spent more time with my family and met someone. Somewhere between all of that, I got a personal trainer, and after just three months I was back to my usual self, but better. The difference in my mental health was incredible.

Left is me at 100lbs during my holiday in Thailand, 2016. Right is me during Summer 2017, significant weight gain and happy in myself, but no training for 6 months due to a back injury.

his time, my approach to my training was aggressive. I lifted heavy and I lifted a lot. Then, somewhere around March 2017, I tore my back muscle during a 85kg deadlift and once again I drifted from the gym. I couldn’t train due to the pain and as much as I hated it, I had to take a break.

This time out of the gym was different, however. Despite feeling ridiculously low about losing my hard earned muscle, I didn’t fall out of love, I was determined more than anything to lift again. So I healed myself. I took magnesium, I ate a nutrient dense diet and stretched regularly. After a few months I began to do light cardio, then some body weight training. Eventually, I began to bump up the weight. Then, I constructed a 3 month science heavy training plan. I focused on heavy compound movements and mobility training, and paired it with a nutrition plan of 2,500 calories (protein and carb rich). I began to cycle creatine, I took my BCAA’s and reduced my hours at work to get enough rest in between. 3 months, and it worked.

Left: July 2017, right: November 2017 (after my 3 month plan).

I guess this is where I am at now, then! I am about one month away from coming off creatine and lowering my calories as I would like to do a mini cut.

Some measurements I took the other day say I have gained around 2.5 inches around my quads, 1.5 inch around my arms, around 2 inch on my glutes and lost one inch around my waist.

My body composition is changing, and I am.getting stronger. I have a good relationship with food AND my body.

Thank you if you got to the end of this very long post, and I’ll be sure to update you all again sometime on my personal progress,

Francesca M. Healy

Everyday Advice

HOW TO BE CONFIDENT

At some point between childhood and adulthood, something changed in our psychology. We went from being explorers, rebels and daredevils. We pushed the boundaries at every opportunity and acted on impulse. We got our hands dirty and completely on purpose. We loved every single adventure and found excitement in the smallest things. What happened? Social influences and the voices of our parents and teachers resound through our ears as teenagers until eventually we came to a standstill, weighted by the standards and opinions of others. The side effects? Withdrawal, fear to do as we please, a loathing of our own voices and zero self confidence.

However, is it reversible. Although these voices are the voices we trust and 90% of their input is good and wholesome and genuine, some of it is damaging to us. Revise where certain things felt wrong or had these damaging effects on you during those times and get to work on rectifying it. As children we think we can conquer the world, as adults we need to know that we can. Below are some ways in which you can do this, just to get you started!

Praise yourself 

Give yourself credit. Your self esteem will appreciate it and it’ll reflect in how you go about your day. If you’ve just aced an exam, congratulate yourself! If you just got a new job, treat yourself to something. Confidence is an battle only you can win, so help yourself and train your brain to say thank you…from me to me.

Cut people out

Who do you surround yourself with? Are they motivating you or putting you down? Don’t let so called ‘friends’ stunt your progress. If someone is toxic and all they do is knock your confidence, do not be afraid to cut them out. If cutting them out is a little intimidating for now, at least take a break from that person just to check that you’re not being dragged down with them.

Showcase your success

If there are things you have succeeded at throughout your life, big or small, then display them so that every single day you are reminded of something outstanding that you did, and perhaps you’ll leave the house that day with an extra bounce in your step! A big part of battling the self confidence issue is by acknowledging the value you have in the world and celebrating your successes will confirm this every single day!

Dress to Impress

This is so important. I’ve said it before in my ‘Interview Stress’ post, but looking good is so important, and I don’t mean by societies standards. I mean by your standards. If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, others can see that and you come across as a whole different person! Dress smart, and dress to impress.

Become an expert

Pick something you are good at and make yourself an expert. Whether it’s arts, sports, cooking, writing…being an expert will make you feel proud of yourself and give you the confidence to discuss it with like minded people! Having confidence in your passion will earn a lot of respect from people, and vice versa!

Listen and learn

Engage yourself with people who can teach you things and listen to what they have to say. There is a reason they are talking and that is because they feel that what they have to say is valuable, and perhaps something can be learnt or debated. Engage with people who aren’t afraid to talk or debate, and you will slowly learn to initiate those conversations yourself! Every conversation is valuable.

Network

Confidence is not entirely self taught and sometimes you need a bit of guidance. Make sure you’re venturing into the world and seeking out it’s potential. Where do you fit into it all? What is your purpose? Talking to other people can make you smarter and more intelligent! Go outside, speak to people, go to events, go for a drink, meet someone for coffee, visit a different city…every experience teaches you something new and every step outside of your comfort zone builds another layer of confidence and sense of achievement.

Establish a comfort zone

Stepping outside of your comfort zone is all well and good, it will teach you things and show you just how strong you are, but don’t forget to take comfort in an environment you are familiar with and can be yourself in. It could be a family home, or your favourite coffee shop. Coming back to check yourself and appreciate yourself in a place you are relaxed in, is super important. This also gives you an edge if you are nervous about meeting someone as you can simply arrange to meet in that comfort zone and then you can own the space.

Learn to take a compliment

When you start to accept that you deserve the compliments people give you, you allow  positivity to manifest. Relating back to my earlier point that confidence isn’t a lone battle, this is a prime example. Let people build you! Screw humble and screw politeness, say thank you and return the compliment. It feels good, trust me.

 

Francesca M. Healy

Everyday Advice · Fitness Advice

Image Obsessed: The Relationship between Instagram and the Fitness Industry

With 200 million current active users, it’s no surprise that Instagram is dominating the social media sphere, and is playing a huge part in the driving force that is the fitness industry. Through Instagram alone we have seen an astronomical surge in fitness movements, communities, and self-made influencers. Last year, it was reported that Facebook lost almost 2.8 million users under the age of 25, so it’s no stretch to suggest that they have more than likely turned their interests to Instagram and Snapchat instead, but why?

To put it simply, we live in an image obsessed society, and I don’t mean body-image right now, I mean visuals. Pictures, filters, quotes, selfies, screenshots, albums, stories, you name it. We love visuals because it’s relatable and it excites us, and this shows in the very basic of social media analytics. Although this content is viewed through a filtered and often photoshopped lens, statistics do show that these videos and pictures are getting our attention. Young people are image obsessed in both senses of the word, and it seems the only way to find a huge chunk of this demographic is by delving into the beautifully organised chaos that is Instagram. The password? #fitfam.

The Power of Fitness Communities

Instagram has given us the incredible opportunity to create and grow communities, whether you’re a sponsered influencer, or a standard follower. The best thing about it, is that it is completely free. Hashtagging #fitfam #bbg #crossfit, instantly plunges you into an entire feed saturated with content that’s geared to you. It’s empowering, it’s motivating and it’s reassuring. Positivity breeds like wildfire in this environment because it is a fantastic support system. Say what you want about Instagram, but you cannot fault it’s communities; they are uplifting and works to keep those who are lagging on some days, stay in the game!

Visuals & Sense of Attainability

Photoshop and filters aside, Instagram shows us real people, with real progress. It gives us a sense of business authenticity because we are getting marketing straight from the customer. This authenticity gives people like you and me a sense of attainability. We don’t buy celebrities weight-loss and workout DVD’s anymore, because Instagram is saturated with them, and they’re not celebrities, they’re just like you and I. We realise that actually, we can achieve our goals because so and so did (and she probably has the transformation picture and self made videos to prove it). It’s reassuring and so motivating. Once we know that the goals are achievable, the next step is discovering how.

#thinspo vs. #fitspo

Okay, I’m sure you’ve seen both of these circulating over the past few years, but for the sake of clarification: #thinspo is a hashtag typically occompanied by thousands upon thousands of pictures of abs and thigh gaps, and #fitspo by girls with thick thighs and flexing new back gains. Both look attractive, but they leave the door open for some toxic behaviors. Fitspo came about years ago, as long as I can remember joining Instagram and Pinterest and before long I was inquistive enough to stumble across some sensitive areas such as the pool of pro-ana and other ED pages, with quotes such as ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ being thrown around. Thinspo for me is a seemingly innocent surface with extremely dark undertones I wouldn’t want to stumble across again. Fitspo is relatively newer, brought about by the sudden influx of female lifters and interest in pro bikini models. It is a community that aims to be an influencing and motivating community for women who want to lift and build, but it’s origins are not something so innocent. There is of course the obvious hitting back at the thinspo community, with the intention to show that ‘strong is the new skinny’, but with that comes a wave of arrogance and self-riteoucness. There is equally as much body shaming and it’s messages are equally as misleading. It’s important to take these communities with a pinch of salt and refrain from becoming too invested in either.

We Live in a World of Instants

Turn on your phone, click on Instagram, check out your feed. How long did that take? 2-3 seconds? Instagram is instant. Want to see what pastel pink hair looks like? #pinkhairstyle. Want some new decor inspiration? #bohodecor. Search a simple hashtag and within seconds, you have your answer in the form of thousands and thousands of photos. Top searches save in your search bar, liked posts save automatically. No detective work, Instagram is efficient in it’s search options and optomises this process by refining your searches to you and your recent logs. It’s clever and so ridiculously fast. This, then, gives us an answer to the over used excuse of, ‘I have no time in my day to workout’, because actually, Kayla Instenes just uploaded a 15 minute ab blast which after a few seconds of uplaoding, will probably be top of your discovery feed. Instagram is instant and therefore PERFECT for on the go people, and the everyday user living in the age of instants.

Desperate for Fame

The most disheartening I see on Instagram, is women and men putting themselve through hell getting their dream bodies just to post about it. I’m not against showing off progress, I am against showcasing it purely for followers. If you’re working out and dieting for Instagram, then it’s not the right reason. I believe in making changes for you and for your wellbeing, not because you want to hit 12k overnight. Soon you will realise Instagram is saturated by sucessful people hitting 12k every single hour and getting fit for followers is not the way forward. Get fit for you whilst promoting something positive and you’ll find support from new followers before long.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post for today,

Food and other creations

Happiness is…a colourful plate.

I’m a fussy eater, or at least I used to be. How did I tackle this? How am I now that girl that will order seafood ramen with a glass of green juice? (Wagamamas, I’m looking at you). It’s simple…make your food look GOOD and trick yourself into eating it. Sounds like garbage, but it’s actually science and it ACTUALLY works.

For the sake of time (and the never ending length of my blogs these days) I’ll say it simply: Our eyes are, arguably, the most important gustatory organ. It legitimately influences how we taste and agree with food when it hits our body. It’s incredible, and so easily taken advantage of. Food industries PUMP our food with colouring and test fruits and vegetables against colour gradient charts to find out if they will make the standard profit. Plenty of studies have been done to prove that our eyes trick us when it comes to taste and smell, so for the sake of science and your immune system, here’s some colourful meal ideas to consider!

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PURPLE PARMA BOWL
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a strange combination but I like experimenting with food and this was JUST the right amount of crazy to get before I ruined it. First off, I filled the bowl with a lovely cherry flavoured Greek yoghurt. Then museli, honey, dried strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, coconut, raisins, chai seeds, nuts and PARMA VIOLETS. Yes, Parma Violets. Just think for a second, dried fruit is sickly sweet and the Parma Violets just compliment it with a sour kick. Plus, it was fun and made me feel like a kid. Accept it.

Almond & Orange Smoothie
Smoothies are fantastic for picky eaters. Disguise all the grim foods with some strong flavours and boom, great tasting vitamin dense drink. This one in particular has almonds and hemp, a little kale and carrot and good spoon of manuka honey. Top that off with orange and lemon and you have a fruity drink with all the super food goodness! Add this to your breakfast to fill you right up!

Antioxidant Oats
It’s simple, it’s clean, but it’s packed with power.
1. (bottom left) Oats, honey, chai and blueberries. Keeps you full for hours, pumps you with antioxidants, slow releasing energy and looks really tasty too. This is a staple for me!
2. (right) On the go breakfast: Costa oats, frozen packed blackberries and fresh strawberries! It’s a little sugar boost, cheerful and colourful enough to pick you up on any journey!

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MEAT FREE BURGER
For the veggies. This one is an incredible meat free brand (I will make an edit with the name of the company soon) with a spinach layer, reduced tomato and onion relish between a grilled brioche. Plain, sure…but delicious. The flavour is in the veggie burger, you do not need to add to this. And it looks divine (if I don’t say so myself).

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HALLOUMI DELIGHT
Halloumi is certainly a delight. It’s also a little on the calorie side but EAT TO BUILD, right? This is just wholemeal thins, a little mayo, grilled spicy chicken, grilled halloumi and some mean greens on the side. Bright, cheerful and a quick go to lunch idea!

Once again, try these out and let me know if you like them!

Francesca M. Healy

 

 

 

Everyday Advice

Interview Stress: Inevitable but Defeatable

Ugh, Interviews.

They are undeniably the most stressful things to experience – and I should know, I’ve had a week of them back to back!

Now I don’t want to bore you with my personal career search, what I do want to talk about right now is stress, and more specifically, how to handle that stress. Note I’m using the word handle, not COPE. I see the word ‘cope’ thrown around far too much when it comes to reading stress and anxiety articles and I personally don’t agree with it. Cope implies you’re at the mercy of your stress and that you should just ride the wave, so to speak. Nah. Let’s talk about how you can approach the stress and alleviate it yourself.

Also, I’m not going to give you the typical self help interview tips like, ‘prepare before hand’ and, ‘do your research’ because guys, it doesn’t matter how much to prepare and research, the stress can and will come regardless. So when it does, tell yourself that it’s OK, you’re human and a lot of that stress is a big dose of excitement. Generally, we work better under pressure and immediate answers are usually the most honest and genuine ones. So take these following tips into account, but as an aid, not a cure! Stress is OK!

OK, so how to we handle interview anxiety exactly? Here’s some tips that I personally use to calm myself down a little and compose myself.

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Have a pamper morning

I’m telling you, set that alarm early, run a bath and put on that over priced hair mask. Looking good is important but feeling good is imperative. Feel good and you’ll emit positivity without even trying. You’ll smile without forcing it and ease back into that office chair without reminding yourself to first. So go on, start the day right with YOU time and remind yourself of how much you mean to you, and you’ll carry that healthy mindset into the interview room.

No Caffeine

Sorry coffee addicts, but even you have to admit that caffeine shoots your nerves. You’ll be sat there twitching and eyeballing every corner of the room like its the last thing you’ll ever see. It’s easily done, I get it, but it’s not a good feeling when you’re sat in a coffee shop watching the clock and worrying about your best handshake technique whilst two shots of caffeine is making your heart do cartwheels. Skip the coffee and opt for something calmer. Calm is the theme we’re going for here, after all. Remember that what you put into your body has a million other effects too.

Talk to Somebody

Phone a friend, get a family member to drive you to the office, do a little pre-interview brunch. I feel calmer in a social setting. Don’t sit at home with your head lost in questionable google articles doing last minute prep with a pre-booked taxi…ask someone to preoccupy you for a few hours. If it doesn’t calm you, at least they’re there to quick fire some confidence at you! Today I delved into a conversation about the change in size of pepperami snack sticks with a rather hyperactive school kid and it really wasn’t the most riveting conversation I’ve ever had but it took my mind off my nerves a little and gave me something to smile about.

Plan a Reward

We all love presents. Presents that say well done are ever better. Let’s continue the theme of self-love by pre-planning a little reward. Have something waiting at home for you that you can genuinely look forward to. A lovely dinner, a new book, a bottle of wine or a night out with your friends. Do something that makes you want to stay excited and positive despite how you feel on exiting the interview. Aced it? Go tuck into that take away and Peaky Blinders binge. Fluffed it? It’s OK because you bought a new face cream and your bestie is coming over with wine so who bloody cares anymore? You get the jist.

I hope you enjoyed this little article, and from me to you, tried and tested, I promise it works! Good luck,

Francesca M. Healy