Friday, May 17, 2019

Instagram in 2019 is Confusing, Here's my Best Tips & Tricks

The other morning I sat down and began going through my blog archives, mostly out of curiosity about what I had written several years ago, but also to see if there were any posts I could revamp and relaunch here in 2019.

I was shocked when I found out that one of my most popular posts here on Northern Prepster was a post I shared back in 2017 where I shared my tips & tricks for growing your Instagram (click HERE to read the post!)

It's no secret that Instagram has changed a lot over the two years since that post was written and the same things we did to increase engagement and grow our social media presence back then doesn't really work today. For example, Instagram stories are HUGE nowadays and with the Instagram algorithm constantly changing, consistency is more important than ever.

I am far from figuring out how to work the current Instagram algorithm (if anyone has, kudos to you) but I have found ways to keep my engagement up and make the most of my account. I've compiled a list of 11 of my best tips & tricks to get the most out of your Instagram account.


This should be a given but if you want to grow on Instagram, you have to work towards consistently be putting out new content. These last few months I struggled to put new content out regularly because I was so busy with school and I saw a HUGE drop in my engagement. Now that I'm home for the summer and posting more often, I'm seeing my engagement climb back to where it used to be when I posted every day. I aim to post at least one photo per day and try to share at least 2-3 things on my story and have found that this seems to be the perfect amount of exposure each day for me.


Whenever a post I'm sharing has an applicable question that I can ask my followers, I ALWAYS ask them! This encourages them to engage with the post and it shows that you're interested in what they have to say. Especially with stories, simply posting that little question box and having people submit questions is a great way to interact with your audience. I started doing Monday Night Nine a couple of months ago and I've noticed a higher follower retention rate since I started engaging and answering questions, that they asked, consistently every week.


Instagram is a social media platform. The media part is easy, just share your favorite photos. Now the social aspect of it, this is the part that requires a little bit of time and effort. I spend 15 minutes every morning going through my feed and liking and commenting on posts. I'm picky about my comments though, I don't leave a comment just to leave a comment, I leave a comment when I have something genuine to say.

I've found that comments that are more personalized and are obvious that you really mean what you're typing, get more interaction and can oftentimes lead to them reciprocating the engagement. The same goes for replying to comments, the more personal the reply, the more likely they are to stick around because it shows that you actually took a minute to read their comment and think of a thoughtful response. I do my best to reply to every comment I get because I want people to make sure that I see the effort they're putting in and that I appreciate their support.


This is something that I just recently discovered myself. When you post multiple photos that allow people to swipe through them, Instagram will show the first photo on people's feeds first, and then the second time around, Instagram will show the second photo. By posting multiple photos, you're getting essentially double the exposure, on the same post!


This should go without saying but if you want to attract an audience that is genuinely interested in what you share, you need to be true to yourself. I've found that my posts that perform the best are the ones where I ramble on about my day and the picture is more of a candid photo (a real candid, not the staged candids that we're all probably guilty of taking, myself included) that showcases my personality.


If you're posting a photo and can tag the brand or company of the shirt or shoes you're wearing, tag them! This increases your chance that they'll see your post, engage with it, and potentially share it on their page. I'm a blogger, I know that LikeToKnowIt is big nowadays and I'm not saying don't use this, I'm just saying that maybe in addition to tagging LikeToKnowIt, tag those brands, too.


If your account is set up as a business account, you have the ability to see a bunch of analytics about your account. I use my analytics because it helps me gauge the best time to post each day. For maximum engagement, you want to post when the majority of your followers are scrolling through their feeds, this tool is a great way to pinpoint your best posting times.


I always make sure to go through my feed and engage with a lot of my followers and those I'm following prior to posting a photo, as well as after I post. This is an easy way to show that you're online and when people check to read the comment you left on their post, they're more likely to notice your new post, too.


Thanks to Instagram's confusing algorithm, your post may not show up on the feeds of all of your followers. Every time I post a new photo, I make sure to share it on my story and put a "tap here" gif on top of the photo so in case my photo didn't show up in their feed but they did view my story, all they have to do is tap on the photo and it will take them directly to my post.


The way you edit your photos is kind of like the branding of your page. You want your followers to be able to recognize one of your photos when they see it so having a cohesive theme is an easy way to do this. I also know that I'm more likely to follow an account if their page looks put together and I can tell they spend time thinking about the overall look of their page. It's also kind of fun to play around with editing and figure out what you like!


Your bio is the first thing people look at when they click on your profile. If you're an influencer, blogger, or business, I highly recommended having your e-mail in your bio. A decent bit of the companies I've partnered with have found me via Instagram and because I have my email in my bio, they can quickly figure out how to contact me. Your bio is also your place to quickly tell people who you are & what your page is all about, spend some time thinking about what you want people to know about your page, that fits into 150 characters or less.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Relationships: I'm not in One & I'm Totally ok with it

I want to preface this post by saying that this type of content isn't what you'll usually read here on Northern Prepster. While I do share most of my life on this blog, there are certain bits I often choose to omit from sharing but this post is something I've been thinking about writing for a while and finally found the motivation to sit down and write it all out. So here we go.

Relationships are amazing, beautiful and important in life. I'm talking about all relationships; friendships, family, professional, the whole shebang. I believe that a key component to networking in today's society is all about who you know and who knows you. Relationships are critical for our wellbeing. Our whole lives are spent building relationships with one another, it's just in our nature.

Every Monday evening I host Monday Night Nine on my Instagram stories. If you're not familiar with MNN, every Monday, I answer the first nine questions that my followers on Instagram ask me. There are no restrictions on what can be asked and while I have opted not to answer certain questions for personal or privacy reasons, pretty much everything is fair game. I started Monday Night Nine as a way for my audience to get to know me more than just 'the girl behind Northern Prepster' and I was blown away at the positive response I received and have since made MNN a weekly thing. 

I've been doing MNN for almost 8 months and the top question I get asked is "are you in a relationship?" or "are you dating anyone?"

The first couple of times I would answer (with my answer being NO, every time) but then after a month or so I stopped answering this question. 

It wasn't that I was embarrassed or ashamed that I wasn't in a relationship, it's quite the opposite actually. But it was the responses I would receive to my answer of 'No' that left me wondering if I was doing something wrong. I was bombarded with questions like "what do you mean you're not in a relationship?" or "how are you still single?" I was caught off guard when people kept messaging me, noticeably shocked, after reading that I wasn't involved in a relationship. 

After the ninth (yes, NINTH) consecutive week of receiving these questions on Monday Night Nine, I remember talking about it with my friends, who are also all not involved in relationships, so they are in the same place that I am. Talking about this my friends, with the Bachelor playing in the background might I add, made me realize that the media makes our generation believe thay in order to be happy, you need to be in a relationship. I can't speak on behalf of anyone other than myself, but I strongly disagree with this. 

I am 20 years old and have never been in a relationship, or even been on a date before (at least not in my book). There. I said it. I'm in my second decade of life and although I've never been asked on a date or been in a relationship, I am perfectly okay with that and am extremely happy with my life and where I am today. 

Yes, one day down the road I would like to find myself in a relationship and be able to have the fairytale wedding I've dreamed about since I was little (if you know me well enough, I've probably showed you pictures of the beautiful rustic barn that I'm obsessed with) and I would like to have a family of my own. But for now, I'm happy by myself. 

Being independent for the last 20 years of my life has allowed me to grow in so many indescribable ways and spending lots of time by myself gave me time to realize what I value in life and what I truly want in a relationship. 

One of the biggest things impacting relationships nowadays is social media and the fact that it plays such a big role in most people's daily lives. We live in a world where relationships are defined by how long your Snapchat streak is, how quickly someone replies to your text messages or if someone does or doesn't like our picture on Instagram it leaves us wondering where we stand with them. I'm not saying that I haven't done those things, because I'm guilty of all three of them.

It took me a while to learn this but relationships worth having in your life are not ones that rely upon social media. 

Now I'm not saying that social media is a bad way to meet people and form these relationships because I've made countless friends via blogging and Instagram and I even met my freshman year roommate who is now one of my closest friends via Facebook. Relationships that I want in my life are ones that work both in person and online. I want to be able to have meaningful conversations with someone in person, face-to-face as opposed to just online. I want someone to get to know me based on the things I choose to tell them, not what they can gather from my Instagram pictures or my favorites on Twitter. 

I've talked with several of you through Instagram messages you've sent me about being single in today's day and age and here is my message to anyone else who may be feeling that way:

I am a firm believer that the best things in life are worth waiting for. I would much rather wait and really get to know someone before I rush into a potentially toxic relationship. My guard is always up and I'm very cautious as to who I let into my life because people have the ability to leave your life whenever they please. It hurts to know that, but it's true. Because of this and because I've had people walk out of my life after I open up to them, I've become very selective about who I choose to spend my time with and every relationship in my life is built upon a foundation of trust. I am not angry at the fact that people have left my life, while it is a hard pill to swallow at times and they have caused me to wonder if I did something wrong, I am quick to realize that as long as I was my raw, authentic self, that I did nothing wrong to make them want to leave. I am instead grateful because these experiences have helped me grow and realize what I am truly looking for in a strong relationship. 

Just because the season of life you're currently in hasn't lead you to a relationship, doesn't mean that the next one won't. Just be patient and know that you do not need to be dating someone to be happy and that being single does not define you. Good things take time, just remember that. 


Monday, May 13, 2019

To: High School Seniors Nearing Graduation From: A Rising College Junior

This post is from my 2017 archives, however, as a rising upperclassman in college, I want to revisit this topic and update it as I have even more to speak on. If you're interested in reading the original post, click HERE

Dear High School Seniors Nearing Graduation, 

Do you believe people now when they told you not to blink because high school would fly by? I was in the same boat as you just two years ago. I was ready to get out and be done and was convinced I would never think "gosh, I miss high school" but as a rising college junior, I can tell you that there have been dozens of times when I've sat and reminisced about my time in high school. 

As graduation draws nearer and nearer, I'm sure the excitement and anticipation for the next chapter of your life to begin are growing with each passing hour. But don't be so quick to turn the page and close this chapter of your life. Yes, the next chapter you're about to enter is full of new chances, new opportunities and thousands of new memories waiting to be made, but you're going to miss this one, too. 

Friday night football games, homecoming, and prom are now behind you. As are the nights of staying up late finalizing that college essay or eagerly checking your email for updates on your college decisions. 

I hope you've found a school that you're excited to attend and I hope that you take an extra minute to thank your teachers for helping get you to the place you are today. I hope you beam ear to ear when you wear the shirt from your future school and that you feel as though you could ramble on and on for hours about how much you love it. If college isn't where your path is leading you, I hope you're eager to dive into whatever this next chapter of life holds for you. 

I hope that when you hold your graduation gown and cap that you realize that all of those late nights, early mornings, review sessions and quizlets have earned you these. You've worked so hard to get to where you are and I hope you will have the same drive and ambition when you step foot onto your college campus or wherever you find yourself after graduation.

If your graduation day is anything like mine, it's bound to be a rollercoaster of emotions. From the extreme high of putting your cap on and zipping up your gown, to the strange moment when you see all of your classmates and best friends lined up in alphabetical order all in matching attire and realizing that after today, you may never see some of these people again. To the overwhelmingly proud moment when you hear your name read as you walk across that stage and shake the hands of your school faculty and accept that diploma. To the moment when your hands are shaking from pure excitement as you move your tassel from the right side to the left side of your cap. Looking up and seeing hundreds of caps flying through the air and finally being able to call yourself an alumna of your former high school. Hugging your best friends after the ceremony and realizing that you are no longer classmates nor are you students at the same school anymore. Your graduation day is one you are sure to never forget, please enjoy every minute of it.

Things will be different after that day, as you watch this chapter of your life come to an end and begin to walk through the first pages of the next, I have three pieces of advice for you. 

- Take lots of pictures. Not only are you going to want them to cover the chipped paint on your dorm room walls (sorry, it's the truth) but you're going to want them to remember the moments and people that shaped you into the person you are today. 

- Save your money. You can either spend that newly acquired graduation money on things now, or you can save it and treat yourself to that pizza that you and your roommate will order when you're just too lazy to walk to the student union for dinner. 

- Spend time with your family. Whether you're going to school down the road or across the country, skip that movie with your friends to stay home with your parents one weekend, or try to learn how to play X-Box with your little brother even if you're a lost cause like I am, because, in a few short months, you won't be living in the same place as them anymore. 

Congratulations on your graduation, I hope you cherish those last four years of your life forever, and may the next chapter of your life be more than you could ever dream about.

a (nostalgic) rising college junior.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Going to College 8 Hours from Home was the Hardest Thing I've Ever Done, but also the Best Thing I've Ever Done

528 miles.
There are a handful of numbers that have some sort of significance in my life and that I have memorized. My home phone number, my families birthdates, my street address, my old membership number from the golf course, and the distance from my college town to my hometown.

If you're new to Northern Prepster (welcome!) let me give you the overview:
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and grew up within a two-mile radius of all of my friends. The same friends I made in kindergarten are the same friends I walked across the stage with at graduation 13 years later. Now, I am a current sophomore at The University of South Carolina down in Columbia, South Carolina.

Not to throw some geography at you but Columbus, Ohio is here:
and Columbia, South Carolina is here:                 X

Obviously, in real life, the distance is a little bit different than that but with the keys available to me on this keyboard, that's the best illustration I could come up with. 

My point is, I chose to attend a school far from the only place I've ever called home. 

I am a huge homebody. I grew up in a town where everyone knows everyone and I loved every minute of it (which is why I'm planning to return after graduation, but that's a story for another day). 

Before even beginning my college search, I knew I wanted to attend a big, SEC school and major in Elementary Education. These two requirements of mine greatly narrowed down my search and left me with a handful of options. I fell in love with schools down south and while I could picture myself at several schools down here, I always ended up telling myself "but it's so far from home."

If you would've asked senior-year Riley where she thought she would be attending school next year, she would have looked at you and said: "I love The University of South Carolina but it's so far from home, so I'll probably just end up going to OSU or Miami because they're in-state."

For the longest time, I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to go out-of-state for school for the sole reason of being too far from home. South Carolina had everything I was looking for: a great elementary education program, big SEC school, Greek Life, beautiful campus, and I could picture myself loving it there. The only thing holding me back was that it was 528 miles from my home, my family, and the last 18 years of my life. 

Fast forward to February of my senior year, only a few short months away from having to officially declare which school I would attending upon graduation. At this point in time, I had been accepted to USC and my mom suggested that we go back down to Columbia and sit in on a class in the school of education, my desired program. So we packed up our bags and drove down to USC for two days.

We were able to sit in on an education class taught by a professor that I abolsutely adored (& went on to take on of his classes this past semester!) and got the chance to meet up with and chat with a current student and listen to her talk about the university.


The University of South Carolina is 8 hours and 11 minutes by car, 3 hours and 31 minutes by air, or 528 miles away from home. But after that day, I realized how much I loved USC and decided to take a leap of faith and declare that I would be attending in the fall. To this day, I have not looked back on that decision. Sure there were times when I really missed home, but being away from home 9 months out of the year now makes the time that I do get to spend at home even more special.

Two years ago I jumped into the unknown and because of that, I have grown immensely as an individual. Not only am I more independent, I'm also mroe confident in myself because I've had to basically make a home for myself in a city that was once foreign to me.

To any high school seniors out there who may be hesitant to attend a school away from home: go for it. I know it's scary, slightly terrifying if you will, but the benefits outweigh the costs 100 to 1. You can always move back home after graduation in just four short years, but for now, this is your chance to make someone place "your city."

I am now halfway through with my time at USC and I only wish my senior-year self could see how happy I am, because it would have made all of my fears and worries nonexistent. And to think, the place I am now is all because I decided to just go for it. 


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sophomore Year: ✓

Somebody play Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer because oh man, I'm halfway there.

I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that I'm 50% of the way done with college and that I will never be considered an underclassman ever again.

Sophomore year was one for the books, not only did I find "my people" (which you can read all about HERE) but I also had an amazing year academically, so all in all, it was a good year. From living in my sorority house, to weekend roadtrips to so many fun places (Charleston, Greenville, Atlanta, Edisto Island, & Oriental, NC) and everything in between, USC sure did treat me well.

I could go on and on about how much fun I had this year but instead of writing a novel in this one post, I opted to share some of my favorite photos from the year. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Sophomore year, thank you for everything, I loved every minute of you and will cherish the memories made forever. Junior year, hey there, I'm ready for you, let's see if you can live up to my sophomore year.


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