Smash Past The Noise: How to kill it in a crowded Instagram space

My head is still reeling from the wealth of useful insight & information I learned at the most recent Create & Cultivate event in Chicago. Most notable were those addressing what it takes to stand out in today’s crowded social media space. Whether you chooseone platform or a few in particular, the tip to stand out from the masses, is by just that. Standing out!

Case in point. #tbt to a hip crowded NYC rooftop bar. Around 60 social mavens stilettoed their way to a balconies edge, held their Rose wine up to the sunset sky, and proudly Instagrammed their dime-a-dozen Picasso. #nofilter. Perfect picture? Sure. Easy photo? Why not. Predictable? Absolutely!

Now to be perfectly clear, there is nothing wrong with posting images that are popular and trending. But if you want to stand out, or get featured by a hot digital publication you might want to rethink a couple of strategies, starting with these 5 easy tips.

I was voted 'best use' of Paul Smith's pink wall.

I was voted 'best use' of Paul Smith's pink wall.

1. Just Because Everyone's Doing It, Doesn't Mean You Have To. This is a hard one as we see that great engagement comes with great composition. If you copycat trends you will always be a step behind. The goal is to put YOUR signature on a style, not follow behind one.

Actionable tip: Try a new angle on a common theme e.g. Ice cream cone from a dog or ant’s eye view, as opposed to a bird's-eye view.

2. Put Down The Phone. Hey I get it, it’s easy to follow what other people do when we have our heads buried in our social feed & it’s on constant repeat! There’s new inspiration everywhere that’s just begging to be found. I promise you, all you have to do is say YES!

Actionable tip: Go to a magazine stand or bookstore and browse magazines or art books you might not have seen before. Be inspired by a different genre.

3. Time To Engage. What I love about Instagram is the sense of community that has been built, especially when you don’t even know most of your audience. But it feels like you do right? Comment back, like people's photos, even if you don’t follow them. By engaging with your audience and being social with them, it lets them know you value them.

Actionable tip: Reply to most of your comments, for you will create raving fans that value the time you took to answer a question, or just a simple emoji back. Engagement will let you skyrocket!

4. Story Time. Sometimes it’s the who, what, and why of a shot that draws people in. A good story can be just as compelling as the image itself. It helps explain it, entice it, and adds value to your feed.

Actionable tip: Perhaps talk about the behind the scenes reasons for the shot. What it meant to you, or how it makes you feel. Your audience wants to connect with you on many levels.

5. Staying True To Your Brand. A savvy audience can see a lie a mile away. The more transparent, and the more you have FUN, the more your brand and personality will shine through.

Actionable tip: Write down who you are and who aren’t. Create a rule book for your brand based on these brand guidelines to help keep you on track.

6. Stats. By using simple tools like Iconosquare to measure engagement and look at the best posting times, you will find out what your audience likes. This will allow you to know which content performs better, hence what to showcase more of.

Actionable tip: In order to stand out from the noise you have to a/b test which images work for your audience. Find your style, test the waters, watch your stats—cause your audience will tell you what they like and what they don’t.

For this post, I used Madewell's #totewell hashtag to be featured in their campaign.

For this post, I used Madewell's #totewell hashtag to be featured in their campaign.

7. Tool Kit. Here’s a simple yet effective arsenal of what I use and how it works. For photo editing I use Snapseed, and then Instagram's own editing tools. Both are simple and effective. For framing I use Diptic, where you can customize borders, add text, and color correct as well. For hashtag strategies, use different ones depending on what the content is. Flowers are different to outfits and food. Be strategic, and put them in the comments. Try new hashtags as what's trending also changes. A lot of brands will have their own campaigns. It's a great way to hashtag the campaign brand to get noticed.

Actionable tip: Watch what your peers are doing. If you know someone doing extremely well, what is it that they are doing? Look at their hashtags, and photo tags. You have up to 20 photo tags, so use them! Tag brands, style groups and IG accounts that promote you on their page.

For more tips & tricks on standing out in a crowd, join us in Dallas for the next Create + Cultivate for our Style Vibes panel on how to define your personal brand!


Melinda Fleming is the founder of Curated Cool, an online destination where the world of fashion, travel and art come together. Curated Cool offers tips & advice on standing out from the masses, & finding those cool one-of-a-kind pieces. Wanderlust has Melinda flying around the world over 100,000 miles a year. Follow the adventures @curatedcool

Kate Williams

Writer + editorial director in Los Angeles. Reading books + watching palm trees.