Industry Tips

Why I've been blocking & unfollowing people and why you should too

Today I wanted to talk about something a little different and share with you why I’ve been I’ve been blocking and unfollowing people on Instagram and why you should too! Instagram as a platform has changed so much through the years and like most social platforms, you either adapt to those changes or grow out of it. Take Facebook, for example, it was the platform of choice in the early 2000s but now it’s only relevant to stay connected to your grandma or to aimlessly watch life hack videos. Myspace and Tumblr have unfortunately fallen into the same trend and it will be a matter of time before YouTube and Instagram fizzle out too. So you might be wondering why I am choosing to become a full-time creator now and how to thrive in this extremely saturated market that is seemingly going downhill. 

First, I am committing to becoming a full-time creator because creating content is something that I’ve always wanted to do as a career. I understand that it is an uphill battle but I am in a position where everything has aligned for me to try this now. Creating content is also where my passion is deeply rooted. I love being able to share my perspective and create something that I am extremely proud of and share it with the world. If I am able to brighten 1 person’s day or change 1 person’s perspective on something, I have accomplished my goal. The best part of Instagram for me isn’t getting likes on a photo but the planning of the shoot, editing the photos and seeing my vision come to life! This is why I shoot all my content with a DSLR, I genuinely love creating and I am actively choosing to be different from every other Influencer. I am also committing to be a full-time influencer now because I truly do believe that Instagram and YouTube will be relevant for the next few years and if I put as much effort into it as I would a real job, I will make something out of myself!

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Second, in order to thrive in this community, you need to make yourself stand out. I have a whole blog post on my Instagram Journey but in short; find your niche and grow with the platform. I have transitioned my focus from beauty to fashion to now sharing industry knowledge with the collective. I also believe that you have to grow with the platform if you want to stay relevant. This means using the built-in features that the platform comes out with. Instagram polls, carousel photos, IGTVs automatically give you a bump in the algorithm so it's stupid to not use it. Growing with the platform also means taking part in trending content. I’m not saying you should switch your whole content strategy to mukbang videos but partaking in a challenge every once in a while will expose you to more and different people!

Now that I’m done with my tangent, let me explain to you why I’ve been blocking and unfollowing people, and why you should too. They say social media is a very negative space but I only find that to be true if you are consuming negative content. Let’s say you have self-esteem issues and your feed is full of skinny plastic girls that are #GOALS. Of course, you are going to feel bad about yourself! Now if you unfollow those accounts and fill your feed with motivation pages your outlook will start to change, social media is just a collection of highlight reels that is carefully crafted to make that individual's life look better. Once a quarter (once every three months) I recommend going through your following and unfollow accounts that no longer inspire you or make you feel bad about yourself! If that is me, I respect your decision, I just ask that you DM me to let me know what I could be doing better. I promise you will not hurt my feelings! 

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I’ve been blocking bots and accounts that don’t fit my target market on the daily. As brands become more educated on influencer marketing they become more selective with the type of influencers they work with. All the brand really cares about is getting a return on their investment and if your followers aren't in line with their target market, you won't get the job. I consider any accounts that have no profile pictures or have a huge discrepancy between the number of accounts they are following vs the numbers of followers they have, a bot. I immediately block these accounts when they come in to make sure my followers are real and engaged! My content is geared for women between the ages of 18-35 and while I don’t block every person outside of this demographic, I have been more selective with followers drastically outside of this target market.

I know the topic of this blog post is vastly different from my usual content and some of you may not agree with my perspective but these are my thoughts on social moving forward. I know my growth won’t be as dramatic, but I would rather have 100 dedicated followers that share my same perspective than 1000 strangers that are only following me because of my looks! I would love to hear what you have to say, leave me a comment down below and follow me on IG and subscribe to my YT if you haven’t already.

Love,

Erica


FaceTune Like An Instagram Pro | Glowing Skin

Hey Guys,

I always get questions on how I get my skin to look so highlighted in my photos so today I am unveiling my secret: FACETUNE! I always forget to put on body highlight or it just doesn't show up as much as I want it to so this is how I fix it. If you guys are interested in the rest of my edits or want to learn how I do this in Photoshop or just my photoshopping secrets in general, leave me a comment down below and let me know what you want to see next!

-Erica Luo

San Francisco Photo Guide - Rooftop Edition

Here at last, here at last! As my parting gift to San Francisco, I am FINALLY sharing my favorite rooftops for the best Instagram pictures! Keep in mind that the majority of these spaces are privately owned and will require some trespassing to get to. PLEASE be respectful, be careful and most importantly, you didn’t get directions from me.

1: Sutter Stockton Garage 8th floor

444 Stockton St San Francisco, CA 94108

The 8th floor of the Sutter Stockton Garage is one of my favorites. I’ve shot so many photos here it's not even funny, it looks good from practically every corner and is easily accessible! You can either drive to the garage or just take the main elevators to the 8th floor and snap away. A security guard will patrol this area but as long as you aren't climbing over the railings or doing anything illegal, he’ll let you do your thang.

2: Sutter Stockton Garage 12th floor

444 Stockton St San Francisco, CA 94108

One of the other reasons I love the Sutter Stockton Garage is because there’s not one but TWO rooftops. The 12th floor is almost always blocked off and you can only access it by the “high-speed elevators”. This is a different set of elevators than the main one that only goes up to the 8th floor. Fun Fact: car commercials have been shot here! How I know? Security has kicked me out for shooting without a permit.

3: Vallejo Street Garage - Top

766 Vallejo St San Francisco, CA 94131

By now you’re probably wondering if all my rooftops are parking lots but don’t worry this is the last one! The Vallejo Street Garage still gives you highrise city vibes without being smack dab in the middle of Financial District. You’ll have lots of sun, open space and privacy to shoot for as long as you want. I have, however, encountered tour groups that come up for a few snaps, but they leave pretty quickly. Again you are able to enter with a car or take the stairs/elevators to the top floor.

4: North Ping Yuen Center

838 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

This is the rooftop I’ve gotten the most questions about! I’ve only been here once and that was a few years ago so my memory is hazy. It was also the most difficult rooftop to get to but the view is so worth it! Look for the building below and wait for someone to enter or leave the complex. Once you get inside, climb up the stairs or elevators until you get to the top. I think (really not sure about this) you’ll have to look for another set of stairs (maybe emergency exit...it’s not the stairs that has the open airway) and climb that to get to the roof. One of the residents told me about this after he saw me climbing down the fire ladder… awkward

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5: Maritime Wine Tasting Studio

222 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Following the hardest rooftop to get to, I’m sharing the easiest rooftop to get to...that is if someone lets you through the door. Maritime Wine Tasting Studio is where you want to map to, but what you’re really looking for is the solid grey double doors that say 222 on floor. Wait for someone to let you inside and take the elevator to the top floor. Once you reach the top floor, you’ll climb about 4 steps of stairs, open the door and voila the roof. You’ll get a direct view of the Transamerica Pyramid and two streets crossing into the building creating some of the most photogenic leading lines.

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6: LinkedIn San Francisco

222 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105

LinkedIn San Francisco is by far my favorite rooftop in San Francisco. The catch? An employee needs to bring you in. I’ve gotten a ton of questions on this space so I’m including it here in case you have a friend that works there! I recommend coming on the weekends so you don't intrude on the working employees and to have more privacy to shoot.

Ok, that's it! My long awaited photo guide to San Francisco rooftops and how to get to each location! It has been a while since I’ve shot at some of these spaces so the information is provided to the best of my ability. If something is wrong or outdated please let me know and be nice about it. I’m sharing this information to help you, not to lead you astray! A lot of these spots are kept secret 1: to respect the property and 2: to avoid Instagrammer from bombarding these locations. I’m trusting that you will be respectful, safe and abide by the law when referencing this guide. Most importantly, get some killer shots and tag me so I can repost!

-Erica

My Instagram Story - How I went from 18k to 100k followers in one year

Whenever someone finds out about my Instagram their immediate follow-up question is how I got started on the platform. Since we hit 100k yesterday, I thought I would commemorate this moment by sharing with you my story and how I was able to break free and grow my account after being stuck for years! So let's take it from the top...

2013

I downloaded Instagram in 2013 when the platform was just starting out and YouTube and Facebook were still the platforms of choice. Back then Instagram was brimming with candid shots, real friends and Valencia filters. No one had a curated feed and social strategy did not exist. In fact, if you’ve been following me for a while, you would know that my handle used to be “il0veerica” with a zero, or “xxil0veerica” if you’ve been with me since the beginning of time.

I was attending college at the time and my social aspiration was to make YouTube beauty tutorials/fashion lookbooks. But I got on Instagram for the simple reason everyone else did – everyone else was doing it. It was fun back then! No algorithms, no gear, and everything was chronological. What a time to be alive…

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My first post

If you scroll all the way back to my first post, you’ll see a stack of polaroids of my friends and I in Vegas captioned “Night 1 in #vegas with my loves ❤️” dated December 15, 2013. In my archives, however, I found a gem of an #ootd dated August 9, 2013, captioned “ 🍙”. Like what? A rice ball? I wasn’t even wearing all black and white, but then again there was no social strategy and captions didn’t matter as much. Now if we’re being honest, I know that picture was not my very first post, #ootd’s did not exist so there was no way that could’ve been it. I’m pretty sure my first post was a picture of food, maybe a sandwich or noodles? Either way, it's long gone and we’ll never find out.

#OOTD

OOTD’s or outfit of the days (if you’ve been living under a rock) is the lifeblood of my feed. I post one almost every day but now I shoot the content ahead of time. Back then, however, it truly was the outfit I wore for that day. I remember setting my phone on timer, propping it up against a stack of books and shooting against a white wall. The inspiration for posting outfits came from my close friend Lisa (@hilisaa) who I would help shoot content for and @desiperkins lookbook videos. At the time I was still more interested in creating YouTube content rather than Instagram content. In fact, a lot of my #ootd’s back then were just snaps of my outfit to promote the lookbooks I posted on YouTube.

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My first collab

In early 2014, I got my first collab! I think I was sitting around 1k-2k followers on Instagram but the collaboration was for YouTube. It was for a brand from Thailand called Miss Tichy (which doesn't exist anymore) who sent over 5 different bustiers asking to be styled in a lookbook. Shortly after I got my first Instagram collaboration which was for @sunglassspot to promote their frames.

Working Full Time

I graduated from college in June of 2014 and started working corporate by August 2014. I had been steadily growing my account up until this point and think I reached the 12k mark by the time my first day rolled around. However, once I started working 9-5, I wasn't able to dedicate as much time to creating content and my growth plateaued. I also chopped off all my hair and dyed it brown (terrible for brand recognition) and Instagram was soon to change its algorithm. I was uninspired, unmotivated, and posting just to post. Between August 2014 - December 2016 I only grew 2k, bring me to 14k. At the same time, I saw accounts that used to have the same following as me skyrocket and even new influencers surpass my follower and engagement count – I was ready to give up.

The Turning Point

In December of 2016, Lisa asked me to join her shoot with a few photographers. We bought changes of outfits, explored the city, and for the first time in a long time, I felt inspired again! Creating this content was fun and no longer something I had to do just to have something to post. Not to mention the change in perspective did wonders for my feed. After that shoot, I reached out to every Bay Area photographer I could find and exclusively posted photographer shot photos. I was so addicted to this process I would pack a duffel bag full of clothes and bring it to work just to go shoot when I got off. My account slowly started to grow again and I reached the 18k mark! For a while, I thought the growth came from posting professional camera photos, but I reality it was because I was expanding my network. Every time I shot with a photographer, not only did I have content to post on my page, but they would post me on their account exposing me to their network! Who would’ve thought the secret to growth on social media was to be social?

Going from 18k to 100k

In May of 2018, I quit my full-time job to go back to school which ended up freeing up a lot of my time for social media, but this time my approach was a lot different. I found myself writing more thoughtful captions and responding to comments hoping to connect with my audience. I also no longer looked at influencers as competition but as a community that needed support. The more I supported that community, the more support I got back. Meeting people off platform was also huge for me. I was lucky enough to be invited to a few events but have also reached out to people I’ve admired for lunch/coffee dates. In order to grow, you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Be nice and be genuine, don’t socialize with the intention of getting something out of them. This is truly how I got out of my rut and grew from 18k to 100k in a year!

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I really hope you enjoyed reading about my journey – I started this blog to give you behind the scenes and to share my secrets with you! As you can see my story is a long one and my growth did not happen overnight. Everyone has their own path and everyone feels stuck at some point. If this is you, try something new or engage with your community/idols. I guarantee the influencer you reach out to will appreciate it more than you know. Last but not least, THANK YOU FOR 100K! I used to think that when I reached 100k I will finally think of myself as an influencer but the truth is you could have 1 follower and be an influencer. It all comes down to having a stance on a topic and willing to share your beliefs/knowledge with the world!

-Erica

PS: Thank you to my boyfriend Mark, the ultimate Insta hubby, for helping me take photos since the beginning and supporting me more than I support myself. Here’s a photo of him surprising me with balloons & Susie Cakes yesterday because he was so proud!  

San Francisco's Photo Guide For The Best Instagram Pics

I’ve lived in San Francisco my whole life and over the years I’ve learned about some top tier photo spots that will have your followers swooning for the exact location. In this post, I’ll be sharing with you some of the city’s hidden gems and how to get that best tourist photo!

1: Fort Point - Golden Gate Bridge

Long Ave & Marine Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

San Francisco’s most iconic landmark has to the Golden Gate Bridge, not only is it the most beautiful bridge in the world, it is the most photographed. It can be shot from various points around the city, from the Marin headlands to Baker’s Beach everyone is fighting for the perfect shot. This is why I love taking pictures at Fort Point, not everyone thinks about this spot when it comes to capturing the bridge meaning there are not as many tourists. You can also get up close and practically under the bridge giving you a different angle for the gram.

Pro tip: Once you snap a picture at the entrance down the hill, continue driving towards the bridge. You’ll see a brick building with a small parking lot and a rusty metal chain. Step over that chain and walk along the path to get extremely close to the bridge. Vertigo was shot here and most people give up before reaching this point but it makes for the best photo!

2: Bernal Heights Park

10 Bernal Heights Blvd San Francisco, CA 94110

It’s been a while since I’ve shot here but Bernal Heights Park overlooks the whole city with a cute little swing that is perfect for IG! I recommend driving to the top until you see a chained off driveway and park along the adjacent road. There are many paths you can take up this hill but this will be the easiest. People come here all day long but my favorite is right as the sun sets. You’ll be able to see the lights come on and cotton candy skies to follow.

Pro Tip: Bring bug spray

3: Mount Davidson Park

Dalewood Way & Myra Way San Francisco, CA 94127

On the subject of parks, I have to drop Mount Davidson in this guide. While it’s not the most sought after location, it is extremely different and perfect for Halloween. There’s plenty of street parking and is always foggy helping set the mood for that spooky shot.

4: Legion of Honor

100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

The Legion of Honor is a historic museum with clean pillars in front making it perfect backdrop for engagement or family photos. I’ve used this spot many times when shooting around the holidays or more formal outfits.

5: Cherry Blossom Fields

Vacaville, CA. Take I-80 East and it’s 1 or 2 exits after Sonic.


At the end of winter or early spring, you might be able to catch some cherry blossom fields out in Vacaville or Fairfield area. Unfortunately, I don't have an exact location because we drove until we saw the flowers and these fields are private property but if you look around the area you’ll be able to find it.

Pro Tip: It’s really muddy so don't drive on to the field unless you have four-wheel drive and wear cheap boots because they will get messed up.

6: Pier 7 & Pier 14

Pier 7 San Francisco, CA 94105

Pier 14 San Francisco, CA 94105

I always forget about these piers but they make for a great backdrop! You have the bay bridge on one side and skyscrapers on the other. No matter what direction you shoot or how far down the pier you go, you’ll be able to get a good pic. The best part - even on the busiest Saturday you can get a shot with no one in the background.

7: Maiden Lane

Maiden Ln San Francisco, CA 94108 - Near Union Square

I hate that I’m including Maiden Lane in this guide because all the little teeny boppers shoot here, but I also shoot here so it is what it is. When I have a lot of outfits to shoot and I need a nice clean backdrop I opt for Maiden Lane. All the designer stores are in the area and there are string lights around the block making it the perfect ambiance for a fashion shoot. The streets around Maiden Lane also have a similar vibe if you don't want to be so obvious with your location.

8: Sausalito

350 Harbor Dr, Sausalito, CA 94965

Just across the Golden Gate bridge is a cute little city called Sausalito. It’s the place where people dock their boats and yachts making it the perfect place for a summer photo. Getting on the boat is technically considered trespassing, but I won’t tell if you won’t ;) However, I would be careful because some people actually live on these boats so you may be breaking into their house!

9: Mount Tam

3801 Panoramic Hwy Mill Valley, CA 94941

Mount Tam, summertime sunset. Do it. There are so many spots you can stop at, just explore and look for cars parked in a certain area. This is usually a good indication a banger is right around the corner.

10: Treasure Island

Treasure Island San Francisco, CA

Treasure Island is halfway across the Bay Bridge making it the perfect location to capture the city and the bridge in one fellow swoop. It has been under construction these past few months (June 2019) but I wanted to throw it in here in case you are planning far in advance. Wait for the sun to set to capture a colorful sky and be sure to bring a jacket because it does get really cold!

11: Sunflower Fields

Davis, CA. Take I-80 East until you see the flowers on the freeway

I’ve shot at the sunflower fields many times and it's always a blast. They come in season around the summertime and it’s easily spottable on the freeway. Typically I drive towards Davis, CA from San Francisco and stop once I see a nice field. Don’t be scared by the bees, they are there to pollinate and bring bug spray if you’re sensitive to mosquitos!

Random fact: These sunflowers are grown for seeds meaning the flower part is extremely heavy and never face the sun.

12: Breather Spaces

All over

Depending on the type of content you’re shooting, sometimes you just need to be indoors. Breather is an app where you can rent an office or coworking space by the hour. I’ve found some really nice spaces with great lighting for extremely cheap. You’ll get a code a few minutes before and the instructions to enter the buildings are usually pretty straight forward. The best part - you get $45 off your first rental (code: FD6GRV) meaning some places are free!

I hope you guys found this guide helpful! If you’re traveling to SF, welcome. If you’ve lived here for a while, I hope this gave you a new perspective. At times the photo community or social media at large can be really secretive but I want to share what I know with you and hopefully get inspired by your creative content! Please be mindful that some of these locations are private properties and to be respectful when shooting or hanging around the area! Up next I’ll be releasing my long-awaited rooftop guide! Stay tuned <3

-Erica

How To Get Started As An Influencer

So people have been telling you to start a blog and you’ve been considering it. Wondering if it’s too late and how to make it big at the same time. Here are some genuine tips on how to grow your following and become an industry leader!

1: Pick Your Category

What is it that you do well? What are you passionate about? Is it food, fitness, fashion, parenting, motivation? Pick one and stick to it. This will be your brand identity - what you are known for. While this can evolve over time start off by selecting one topic and only post about that topic. Let me be brutally honest and say that no one cares about you or your life at this point, that's why you haven't become famous posting pictures of your pet one day and your backyard rager the next. That doesn't mean should stop posting those images, maybe consider dedicating a separate account to your brand.

2: Be Consistent

I see so many people extremely passionate (starting a new account, following tons of people, engaging with their users) then abandoning their account a week later. Trust me I’ve been there, influencer life is really time-consuming but if you want to make it you have to be consistent. A minimum of 3 posts a week on Instagram or 1 Blog/Youtube upload is a great place to start. Think of this as a TV show, having a consistent schedule means your audience will be able to look forward to your post!

Planoly has a free scheduling tool that allows you to upload pictures and captions for auto posting on Instagram. YouTube, Facebook, and most blogging platforms have built-in scheduling functionalities that you should take advantage of if you are really busy. I also recommend keeping an index of posts rather than posting as soon as your content is ready. I personally post 5-7 times a week on Instagram but take all my pictures on Saturday. That way I can plan out my feed ahead of time and make sure I’m consistent.

3: A Good Caption

I think captions are more important than images because it’s where you can show your personality and be vulnerable with your audience. I personally struggle with this because English is my second language and I’m scared of making a grammatical error or having my audience not understand my point. That being said, I’m not perfect and people relate to that. This year I’ve made it a priority to get more personal with my followers and I advise you to do the same!

Think about what you can say to add value in the world, this can be as simple as sharing your bad day and letting your followers know they aren't alone. Social Media at is peak is about building connections and making the world feel smaller, you can be a part of that conversation by writing a meaningful caption. Far too many influencers only think about what they can get out of influencing rather than what they can put in.

4: Engage, Engage, Engage

Engage with your audience - You wrote a meaningful caption and if someone responds, the worst thing you could do is ignore them. This shows that you don’t actually care about your community. Have genuine conversations with your followers, ask them a question then take it a step further by following up by sharing something personal. I’ve made it a goal to respond to comments for 30 minutes after every post I upload, sometimes it’s only for 10 minutes but it is a priority.

Engage with fellow influencers - The best way to build a community is by engaging and supporting influencers that you look up to or post about the same topics. Start by commenting on their post with a meaningful note (not emojis) and be consistent with this. I’ve been able to get influencers with huge followings to support me and vice versa with this strategy. That being said you must be genuine, people can spot a snake from a mile away!

Engage with tools - Platforms are always coming up with new features and engaging with said tools will work in your favor. That’s because you get a boost in the algorithm when you try out their new features. The poll, question and heart eyes slider on Instagram Stories is also a great way to understand your audience and further understand why they follow you.

5: No Shortcuts

When you’re starting off, momentum will be slow and you will be tempted to take shortcuts, but if you take a shortcut your success will go away as quickly as they come! Shortcuts come in all shape and sizes, let's break them down:

Buying Follower/Engagement - It’s really easy to buy followers and it’s cheap, but it’s even easier to spot! Someone started their account yesterday and they have 1000 followers - forsure fake unless you're a Kardashian or Nikita Dragun you just don’t have that power. The same thing goes for engagement, someone uploaded a post 5 minutes ago and all of a sudden they have 1,000 likes? It’s a bot. It’s disingenuous and will ultimately lead to your downfall. To have an influence over your community you have to be honest, plus brands don't want to work with you and your fake following!

Loop Giveaways - I don't know why this still exists but loop giveaways are the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Have not participated and will not ever participate. Basically, you and a group of people will either buy in or buy high-end products that will be given away online. The idea is that the user will have to go from profile to profile (hence the loop) following each person, commenting, or whatever the rules are theoretically increasing your follower count. Not only is this pretty much the same thing as buying followers, but you’re also showing your community that you’re desperate - not a good look.

Following and Unfollowing - Ever had an influencer follow you only to find out they unfollowed you a few days later? I personally don’t agree with this method because again it’s disingenuous but it’s worked for a ton of people. Up to you if you want to take the shortcut, but if you want to make an impact I would advise against it.

All in all remember to have fun, try new things, and be your own #1 fan. Don't be embarrassed by embarking on this new venture because no one will take you seriously unless you do! If you enjoyed reading this and found it helpful I would love to share more industry-specific knowledge with you all. How to make money as an influencer, How to collaborate with brands, How to run social media for your business vs. personal, are all ideas I have! Let me know if that’s something you will find interesting.

-Erica