Susan Earlam – Seven Years in and I Still Love Instagram
I’ve been a fan of Susan Earlam for a couple of years now – her account is beautiful and she has a warmth and style I really admire. And I’m not the only one – she has 6500 followers. I interviewed her about why she’s passionate about Instagram and how her career change to writer is working out on the gram.
Name: Susan Earlam
Started on Instagram: 2011, blogging since 2010
Profession: Writer, Home and Women’s Lifestyle Blogger
How did you get started on Instagram?
Back in 2011, I was already an interiors blogger and everyone told me I needed to be on Instagram to promote my blog so I gave it a go. Back then we were all sharing pretty poor pictures with bad filters though, and those frames… I did Sara Tasker’s free downloadable course in 2013, I think that’s when it was first launched. This really helped me to think about looking at the grid as a whole, and how to curate it better. It brought back memories of my fine art degree and I began to think about composition, shapes and lines, and take it more seriously.
What do you enjoy about Instagram?
I’m a very visual person so it’s a great platform for me. And I’ve made lots of friends there. It’s nice to see what they are sharing and doing. And what’s rewarding is if I put more into it I get more out of it, but I do need the time to do it. I like meeting people on Instagram with similar taste or at a similar stage of life.
What don’t you like about Instagram?
It’s a horrible feeling when a post bombs. Sometimes it’s because Instagram is doing an update and that means no one’s post has been seen. Other times if you do a collaboration you feel under a lot of pressure to get it right and that takes away from the enjoyment. Also because of Instagram regulations we should put #ad on any collaborative posts, but when you do, Instagram sees it’s an ad and shows it to less people. Luckily I’ve never been told off by Instagram, but I have heard of people who without realising haven’t followed the correct procedures, so that makes me cautious.
I sometimes find, when I say I’ve got a new blog post in the caption, that it feels it doesn’t get seen either. It seems Instagram doesn’t want people to leave their platform to view a blog link, so perhaps they deprioritise posts promoting blogs?
Tell us about the friends you’ve made on Instagram
I have made really good friends across the country. I can talk with them about my blog and Instagram life and they get it. They are usually having the same problems as me – and we can inspire each and support each other – whether that’s sharing a new hashtag or seeing a way around a tricky problem or helping each other with likes on an ad post. In particular there’s a group of three women I met at a blogging event a few years ago in London and off the back of it we set up a WhatsApp group. It’s so nice to use the group to share ‘OMG’ moments or give and receive a kind word of support when it’s needed, or to celebrate a success. I would recommend anyone in the online world to find a bunch of mates on your level as it can be very isolating. It’s so helpful as they have a different perspective on my work – they will have great suggestions for me, as I will have for them.
You’re focussing your career more on writing now, can you tell us about that?
For most of my time on Instagram I’ve been known for my interiors, but in the last six months I’ve started focussing on being a writer and an author. I’m currently writing a novel and I’m 75k words into my first draft.
Changing direction on Instagram is challenging, particularly trying to represent being a writer. Showcasing my home through interiors shots was so much more obvious and easy – and it’s something that is very popular on Instagram.
However it gives me an advantage that I’ve been on Instagram for so long. My approach at the moment is to try and connect with other writers who’ve got good Instagram and Twitter accounts and make genuine connections with people in that world.
I realise this will take time. It’s exciting because I can get bored easily, I don’t like churning stuff out just because that’s what is expected of me, or that’s what I know will get likes.
I see it as a new challenge. When people think I can’t do something I get quite fired up to prove them wrong.
I’m loving the freedom of creating a book, of literally making it up as I go along. I was feeling stagnant through 2017 and this has reinvigorated me. Before focusing on interiors I ran a website called Vintage Manchester, which was an online vintage lifestyle magazine. After having my second child I found that two sites was too much so I merged them both together and have what you see now. The writing is a whole new stage which I’m slowly changing my online life to illustrate.
How much time do you spend on Instagram?
I check it in the morning at 6.30 when I have my cup of coffee in bed. I’ll spend about 20/30 minutes then – scrolling and commenting and I might post. Then throughout the day, when I’ve got a spare ten minutes or I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, I’ll have a look. And in the evening another 20/30 mins. So in total it actually adds up to 1.5/2 hours a day, but I don’t find it intrusive. I always find it very comforting and inspiring to look at the things people post.
What are your tips for anyone starting out on Instagram?
Find people to follow, not necessarily the people who you think you should follow. Comment and like and reply. Use the hashtags you want to be known for. Aim at both small and large communities.
Play it as a long game, invest your time, improve your skill. It’s not a short game – don’t do things like buying followers etc
Take advantage of Stories – I find if I post on Stories, my most recent post in my grid will get lots of likes. I spread my Stories throughout the day, as they get prioritised every time there’s a new one. If people aren’t seeing your grid posts, at least they will see your Stories, which might remind them to look at your grid.
Offer valuable comments, don’t be vague, say something specific – perhaps about the location – that you’ve been there, or something more personal.
Try and find a style that fits with you.
What are your favourite Instagram accounts for Stories?
@bettymagazine – I love how gritty and honest Charlotte is
@superlativelylj – is always interesting and thought-provoking
What are Favourite Instagram accounts for the grid?
@hanbullivant – I like the colours and sentiment behind the posts – she’s very real
@ejmellow – is a writer and does nice shots about her books and her work spaces
@hollygoeslightly – is also a writer with a heartfelt, colourful, friendly feed
@haarkon_ – do lovely botanical posts. And they are very responsive which isn’t always the case with accounts with a large following. Also they’re from Sheffield and I like championing accounts in the north!
All the photos of Susan in this blog post are by Alexander Ward Photography
Other Instagram Interviews
I hope this interview with Susan has given you some inspiration for your own Instagram, if you want more ideas and pointers you might also enjoy my Instagram interviews with Rabya Lomas and Rare Mags.