In Search of Sheila


My Favorite Blog Posts of the Week You've Got To Read (Plus Starbucks Giveaway!)

April 21, 2017

I wanted to start sharing some of my favorite blog posts of the week/month with you guys not only to spread the blogger love, but to share products, information, and things that have inspired me or added value to my life that I think you guys would find value in too. So if you're looking for some new blogs to check out or want to get inspired too, here are 13 of my favorite blogging, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle/personal development blog posts from this past week that really struck a chord with me. Oh, and if you want to find out how to win an eGift card to Starbucks, keep reading until the end!

How To Use Hashtags to Grow Your Instagram

April 19, 2017

It seems like everyone either loves hashtags or totally hates them. Well, I'll let you in on a little secret: they are your golden ticket to killing the Instagram game. Don't believe me? Maybe you're not using them with a strategy in mind. Love 'em or hate 'em, hashtags were put on this earth for a reason. The savvy bloggers and business owners know that they are an incredibly useful tool to organically grow their accounts. In this post you'll learn why hashtags are so important for your blog or brand, how I use them, and how you can use them to YOUR advantage to take your Instagram to the next level.

How to use Instagram Hashtags to Get More Followers

Believe it or not there is a strategy to using hashtags to your advantage. Everyone's strategy is going to be a little different, so my biggest piece of advice is to try different things to see what works for you. Embrace trial and error or you'll end up overwhelmed and frustrated. This post includes ways that work for ME, but they might not work for you and that's okay. There is no science to Instagram (although I wish there was sometimes...) and it is always changing so you have to be willing to adapt and keep up.

How I Use Hashtags

I can vouch that hashtags work for me, because I see results. I post at my optimal times by paying attention to my analytics and average 300-500 likes per photo. With a little over 6,000 followers, I think that's pretty good! I'm not trying to brag (okay, maybe a little), but these numbers don't come overnight. 

I make sure to never post a photo without hashtags, because I view it as a missed opportunity for my photo to get noticed and perform as best as it can. I'm a self-diagnosed hashtag hoarder and I have multiple notebooks of lists with category-specific hashtags. I used to carry a little white one with me all the time, but I mostly refer to my pre-made lists in my Notes app on my phone. I'm always looking up new ones to add to my list and make sure use a good variety of them on different posts.

My main point: you gotta hustle with the hashtags and you'll see the growth.

Why You Should Use Hashtags

The biggest reason to consider using hashtags if you're not already is Instagram's new algorithm. I won't go into too much detail, but basically posts don't show up in chronological order anymore, but based on an equation (ew, math!) and probability that your followers "would like it." Okay, thanks Instagram. This change has made it so much harder for accounts to gain followers, but also means smaller accounts have a shot at getting noticed. It only means you need to work smarter and play the game as best you can. 

Remember that the main purpose of hashtags is to attract new users to your account, interact with your photos, and potentially give you a follow if they genuinely love your content. This doesn't mean that they can't be used to connect with your followers too, however. I elaborate more on this topic later in this post.

How to Find Hashtags

Finding hashtags isn't hard at all. Simply typing in a keyword in the search function is a good place to start. My favorite way to find hashtags that are relevant and active is to see what other people are using. Check out your favorite accounts and start building a list from there. Once you have a few to start with you can explore related hashtags and it kind of turns into a domino effect. In my last blogging tips post I dished out all my favorite hashtags that I personally use on my photos. 

Tip: Save category-specific ones in a text editor on your phone to save you time and stress. I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted on searching for hashtags. Now that I have ready-made lists based on categories such as fashion and lifestyle, I can copy and paste them and tweak a few tags depending on the image and how I'm feeling. Also make sure to regularly update your lists as new hashtags are always emerging, or to retire ones that aren't so relevant anymore.

Use 'Em All

People always wonder, how many hashtags should I use? Honestly, the only rule is that Instagram grants you to use a maximum of 30 tags. Some people swear by using all 30 (waves hand), some people are too prideful to use any or only a few (well, good for you!), or some people are just plain oblivious to their effectiveness. There is no shame in using all the hashtags that Instagram allows and this goes for accounts of ALL sizes--big or small. It's the best way to increase the chances of your photo getting seen and you're honestly only hurting your account but NOT using all of them.

Use Niche-Specific Hashtags

This is important! The key to getting noticed is targeting the right people aka your target audience. These are the users who are more likely to engage with your account and give you a follow. If you aren't sure who your audience is or you're just starting out, focus on your niche or brand. You also want to make sure the hashtags you use are relevant to the photo and are ACTIVE. If someone is looking under the "outfitinspo" tag and see a photo of a building, they're probably going to scroll right past it.

When you tag your posts get in the head of your audience and ask yourself, what would people be searching for in order to find my photo? For example, I post fashion related content on my Instagram, so I always make sure I use hashtags that I know will reach people that are looking for fashion related content, such as #bloggerstyle, #americanstyle, and #outfitideas

Using a variety of hashtags in different categories is important if you don't have a super specific niche. Since I'm a fashion and lifestyle blogger, but my Instagram's mainly fashion with a little lifestyle in the mix, I make sure to use a combination of blogging, fashion, and lifestyle hashtags to reach different users that would be interested in my account.

Find a Good Balance

Don't use the same exact tags on every post and avoid using generic ones with millions of posts such as #happy or #shoes. Your photo will not only get seen by the wrong people, but it probably won't get seen at all. Try to use hashtags with less than 500,000 posts so your image has a better chance of being seen.

BUT ALSO try using tags with more than 500,000 posts, because if you get featured on Instagram's Top Posts, your image will get seen by A LOT of people who will probably follow you. Experiment to see what gets more (or less) engagement and to target different audiences. I try to use 3-5 "big" hashtags per post.

Get Featured on Top Posts

Each hashtag has a Top Posts or "top nine" that features nine of the most popular posts that were tagged with that hashtag and are essentially trending. Making it on the Top Posts is guaranteed to give your post a lot of exposure or even go viral.  It's honestly kind of a big deal, especially if it's a tag with over a million posts. I've personally gained a lot of followers by making it on Insta's Top Posts for tags like #minimalist, #minimalism, #fashionkilla, and even #fashionbloggers!

Instagram Hashtag Top Posts Featured

So, How Do You Get on the Top Posts?
One big misconception is that only the biggest accounts can make it on the Top Posts, but this isn't true! What you need to pay attention to is the Instagram algorithm. No one really knows how the algorithm works, but Instagram does favor posts with high engagement, meaning that the more likes and comments your post gets, the more likely it is to be featured in the Top Posts.

But Instagram also takes into consideration how quickly your post receives its engagement. Photos that make it on the Top Posts are usually published within the last 24 hours, so you also need to strategize when you post. Pay attention to your Instagram Analytics for when you're followers are most active and post during your peak times. If you're just starting your account, try different times and analyze how quickly you get likes and comments.

For accounts with less than 10,000 followers, you want to focus your attention on hashtags with around 100,000 or less posts where you are more likely to be selected by Instagram. But don't feel discouraged or limited! I always include 3-5 "big" hashtags that are still relevant to my photo such as #fashionbloggers, #thatsdarling, or #minimalism. It's kind of like submitting your artwork to a panel of judges, except the panel is an algorithm that can't be easily swayed.

In the end, it all comes down to a large amount of engagement in short amount of time. The best strategy to achieve this?  Having great photos, using the right hashtags that are relevant to your post, and publishing at your optimal times.

Use Community and Branded Hashtags

Community hashtags
connect like-minded users around a specific subject such as the popular #thatsdarling or #morningslikethese tags. They're a great way to connect with other users in your niche, get the chance to be featured on different accounts, and expand your reach.

Branded hashtags
are unique to your blog or business. They are a great way to connect with your followers and create your own little community. As a blogger it's a good way to curate your posts so they all show up under one tag and users can browse them. My own tags are #insearchofsheila which just features my outfit photos and #coffeeandsheila which includes all of my selfies and flat lays with coffee.

For a brand or business, having your own tag is a great way for your followers and customers to share their own experiences and promote your products and account to others.

Hashtag Etiquette 

Hide 'Em!
Conceal your hashtags by using the "five vertical dots" trick by typing a period into five separate rows prior to your list of hashtags. The purpose of this is to eliminate any distractions surrounding your photo, making it appear more clean and allowing users to completely focus on your image.

Don't Go Overboard on Your Caption
Avoid looking like an arse by #hashtagging #every #word in your caption. Was this ever cool? I used to do it when I started out my Instagram, but in retrospect I must have sounded so lame, haha!

Don't Be a Copycat
Although I totally suggest seeing what hashtags other accounts are using, I don't suggest directly copying them into your post. Not only is that just uncool, but how can you be confident in their expertise? Find what works for you.

Trying to Up Your Instagram Game?

Get my FREE downloadable PDF jam-packed with over 350 hashtags for ANY niche + tips to strategically use them to YOUR advantage!

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Do you use hashtags? If so, what's your strategy? What are some of your favorite hashtags? Let me know down below in the comments so I can add them to my lists!

Why you should use hashtags to organically grow your Instagram account

4 Colors I'll Be Wearing All Spring

April 17, 2017

Blush Pink Pants, Denim Jacket, White Shoes, Spring Outfit
Denim jacket: Forever 21 / T-shirt: Dresslily / Pants: c/o Rosegal / Shoes: Adidas / Bag: Zaful / Watch: c/o Timex

Is anyone sick of everyone talking about spring yet? Didn't think so. The weather has been just right (not too hot, not too cold) and I've been soaking it up all weekend. Today's outfit features 4 colors that I will be wearing allll spring. They're not only great colors on their own, but I LOVE the color palette they create when they are mixed together.

Making the Most of Spring Time With Jord Watches + Giveaway

April 14, 2017

Spring has sprung! Today's post is in collaboration with Jord Watches, a brand that focuses on more than just telling time.  As the days get longer and warmer, I make sure to continually add meaning and intention to my life by engaging in things during the spring season that bring me joy. From the moment I wake up, to the end of the day as I lie in bed writing in my journal, I always make sure I live a life of authenticity and content. 

Jord Wood Watch Women Spring Accessory Outfit
Watch: c/o Jord Watches / Top: Brandy Melville / Skirt: similar / Shoes: Adidas / Bag: DSW

Jord's unique wood watches are made with the same intention as well, focusing on a modern lifestyle of experiential living. I not only love Jord's minimal design, but their beliefs that "moments are bigger than minutes" and that you should always be mindful of the need to make that time count. Here at In Search of Sheila, I encourage observing your surroundings and learning as many new things as possible. I'm always on the search for meaning and there's no other perfect time to embrace this ideal than the blooming of spring!

How to Start Meditating Right Now and Make It a Habit That Sticks

April 12, 2017

Meditation is something that we know is good for us and will make our lives better. It's known to reduce stress, improve focus, and promote a healthy mind, body, and spirit. All the people that seem to have their sh*t together meditate, so why can't I? Well, you can, but so many of us just never get around to actually doing it. Why is that? Because practicing meditation is a habit you must learn, just like brushing your teeth or tieing your shoes. It takes a little self-discipline to work it into our everyday lives, but it's not unachievable. Quite the contrary, it's VERY achievable to not only make it a habit, but a part of your every day life.

How to Start a Meditation Practice and Make it a Daily Habit

One of my goals for this year was to start a regular meditation practice. It was on my mind all last year as something I'd like to do, something I always thought about, but I never did it. That was my first problem. I thought about it too much. Once I actually committed to it at the beginning of this year and took action to add it to my life, I practice every single morning after I wake up. It's a "non-negotiable" for me. If I don't do it, my whole day is off. It's just like brushing your teeth.

The first rule to starting any new habit or lifestyle change is to JUST DO IT. Easier said than done, right? I get it. So here are 7 ways to start meditating RIGHT NOW that will help you develop it into a habit.

Understand the Practice

What is meditation? There's a stereotype that meditating means you have to sit cross legged in a quiet room humming "ohmmmm." Well, I actually do sit cross legged with my hands on my knees and like to chant sometimes when my body needs the vibrations, BUT there's more to meditation than just sitting quietly and "contemplating the world."

Meditation is a practice for resting the mind. It teaches us how to be present in all areas of our life and to become completely aware of our thoughts, rather than caught up in them. In meditation, your mind is clear, relaxed, and focused on your breath.

How do you do it? There are many different ways to meditate, the simplest be to sit in a comfortable position with a neutral spine--don't slouch! Close your eyes and visual something calming like a beach or lake and begin to focus on your breath. Count in 1-2-3-4 and out 5-6-7-8. Focusing your attention on your breath count will allow you to become completely aware of your present state, letting go of all the thoughts buzzing around in your head.

You can also meditate while lying down, standing, or walking, and even by focusing on a moving tree branch or mountain. There are many different ways to reach a total state awareness, find what works for you!

How to Start Meditating

Set An Intention

What are you looking to get out of meditation? Stress-relief? Better focus? Stronger relationships? Define why you want to learn and always remind yourself this before you practice or if you're struggling to find the motivation to start. If meditating in the morning, it's also a good opportunity to practice a mantra or positive affirmation to inspire and empower you to start the day.

For me, I like to meditate right after I wake up to start my day with a clear and positive mind. I find myself more calm,  throughout the day, especially when I am faced with stressful situations at work.

Start Your Day With a Clear and Positive Mind

Not sure how to start your day on the right foot? Grab my list 25 mindful morning mantras to inspire and empower you for a day free of stress of full of intention.

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Make Time

As we get caught up in the business of everyday life, it can be hard to devote our precious time to stillness, but it's important to prioritize meditation and SCHEDULE it into our day. "I don't have time" isn't a good excuse. Time is irrelevant. How you go about your day is all based on choices that you make and what you dedicate your energy to. Use some of that energy on yourself.

Decide whether you want to meditate and write it down in  your planner or put a daily reminder in your phone. Make it a priority just like running errands or going to a doctor's appointment.

Start With 2-5 Minutes

Developing a habit won't happen over night, that's why it's better to start small. Starting out slow and meditating every day, rather than once a week for ten minutes, will help train your mind to recognize it as a habit and soon enough it will become second nature to you.

Use An App

Apps are the best way to start meditating, especially if you feel lost or not sure what to do. I personally use Calm and highly recommend it. It's great for beginners, because it offers guided and timed sessions. Most apps also track your time and days spent meditating which is a great way to track your progress.Here's a list of some apps to check out:

1. Calm (free) 
2. Headspace (free)
3. Buddhify ($4.99
4. Sattva (free)
5. Aura (free + offers Apple Watch app)

How to meditate with the Calm app

Put Your Phone on Silent

If you do use an app (which you should!) make sure to put your phone on silent. The last thing you need while trying to reach a state of calmness is have your phone going off!

Be Consistent

Practices makes perfect! Since meditation is a habit, you need to train your brain to recognize it as part of your daily routine. When you're just starting out, try practicing everyday at the same time and even in the same place. Consistency is the key to developing new habits.

Another mental trick that helped me was to meditate immediately after my alarm goes off. Instead of lying there or grabbing for my phone, I just sit up and turn my Calm app on and meditate for 5 minutes. I know getting out of bed can be hard, so just sitting up in your bed is a good way to stay in bed, but still doing something good for your body, especially in the morning!

How to Start a Meditation Practice and Make it a Daily Habit

So, do you practice daily meditation? If not, what's holding you back?

How to Start a Meditation Practice

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