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Instagram versus reality

I've been on a roller coaster journey of social media, life on the web and small business ventures over the last while and i'm sure some of you will have similar stories of the highs and lows.


When I joined Airbnb in 2018 I took a huge leap of faith with renting out my beloved cottage to the public.

I have spoken on this before in previous blogs so just to say what started as a scary undertaking became ultimately one of the best decisions of my life.


What I have never talked about though is the 'behind the scenes' social media madness that usually becomes part and parcel of owing a small business and having an online account,

there's a lot more to it than just a bit of fun.


Apart from the hosting side and doing your own cleaning, laundry, maintainance work, there is the need for advertising, mostly through social media.


Though now, thankfully, the cottage sells itself with 130+ 5 star reviews on Airbnb and a feature on National TV,

i still have a use for social media and to be honest I actually enjoy the creative side of advertising my business.

I have a Trohanny Cottage page on Facebook,Instagram and Tiktok (I never really used Twitter) and alongside that I've being creating this website which i adore.


All have evolved over the last few years,from private and personal to more focused on the cottage and it's four legged Welcoming Committee.


While on the whole I enjoy using these mediums and i'm proud of what i've created,

there have been many times where I have been close to deleting and shutting them all off.


The social media world while fun and engaging is also a bizarre one and it's a place of various atmospheres that you have to learn to navigate.


The thing I personally find hardest with social media is the need for consistency.


I look at so many Instagram feeds with these perfect matching borders, faded pastel photos and perfectly organised story categories and sometimes I despair at my chaotic jumble of wildly techno-colour photos, and reels, my ramblings and random story choices.


I was actually warned recently about having such strange mix of stories, that it was disconcerting to the viewer and wasn't in line with my 'brand'.

Believe me I understood where they were coming from and though i know it was from a good place and it made sense, it did annoy me as i felt i was being asked to contain myself and conform.

I've probably lost followers before over airing some personal and political views and/or moving away from just sticking to the cottage renovation side of things.


I had one group of stories where I was first advertising the cottage, then dancing in support of the women in Iran followed by a random funny reel of a cat.

But you see, that's just it, that's me..

I change ideas and moods in seconds and my interests and likes are very wide ranging.


For example my music collection at best could be called eclectic!

I love a bit of Enya but I also love The Prodigy.

I'll go from an singing an old Irish folk song to Rage against the Machine, attempting to learn a trending tiktok piece back to Planxty..

you get the idea!

That's how I am and how I've always been , I suppose that's what you see in my social media and people are either going to ride the waves with me or jump ship!


The issue with being so random is the public, or maybe more to the point, the algorithm doesn't like my kind of account.

Pages like mine are confusing as to what the USP is, and there is no specific box we fit into.


I'll say it again, Consistency is what seems to win the social media game.


Similar regular content aimed at one specific particular area or group with correct hashtags and nothing too mentally taxing or different seems to win Meta followers.


I have tried to work on my consistency,

I have done lists of lists and tried to set up plans and strategies.

I have followed social media marketing experts and worked out monthly posting schedules.


I have spent months working on a website shop with my sister.

The aim was to sell some cottage themed products (cards, prints, soaps) to help towards the funds needed to re-thatch this year as even two government grants, which succeeded in getting don't come close to covering costs of a thatch roof.


The idea was instead of asking for money for nothing through a 'gofundme' (as i feel there are much much needier causes) i could offer something i've put work into.


So to make this happen I literally had to learn from scratch.


I spent months designing my own logo, products, pricing printers, advertising, editing ,re-editing, the list was endless..

As my sister said to me, "you're trying to do in a few months what i have spent 20 years learning" ( btw she has the patience of a Saint!)


I found after a certain point I just couldn't put enough time into it, the products, the stats, the need for targeting, being meticulous with every little detail, for so little return.

I sold a few things at the start and then nothing.

It was disheartening but huge lessons were learnt.

I'm not afraid of hard work or perseverance but raising a young family, looking after a home/mini farm, running a busy Airbnb, attempting to kick start a writing career and then running an online shop, it was too many balls to juggle and something had to drop.


Some creators and small business owners are brilliant at sticking to a format and i'm sure their work pays off.

They post regularly, often daily and it's basically the same format, same type of photo and reels slightly changed, over and over and they seem to gain huge follower numbers.


..Speaking of followers..

Early on, i was feeling the pressure of follower numbers and comparing myself to other accounts so much, I 'bought' myself 1000 followers for something like €16!

(Yes this is a thing and I guarantee most have tried the same, possibly more successfully than me though)


Feeling like a criminal I watched my numbers immediately increase and felt my adrenaline rise like an addict getting a brand new buzz.

Needless to say the buzz didn't last too long when 'NavJSangreet002' and 'Pingpongjee346' and the other 998 similar bots disappeared after a few weeks and i landed back at square one!!

Another lesson learnt.

There's an Irish writer and podcaster called Blindboy, known by some for the plastic bag he wears over his head and the song 'horse outside', more recently known for his wonderful short stories, intelligent thought provoking insights on mental health and his general quirkiness.

I'm a big fan and have been for a long time and apart from him being an all round wonderful human he never bores me, ever, which is rare these days.

What is relevant here is that he says,

as the sole creator of his podcast ,he is not behoven of any broadcaster or sponsor.


His podcast relies on Patrons like myself only, who for a tiny monthly fee pay for anyone who can't afford it and so everyone's a winner.

This way he is free to create as he pleases and go along with whatever he chooses and I believe this is the key.

The creators and business owners that need big follower numbers, sponsorship and to stick to certain patterns must surely find it suffocating at times.


I've (as in TrohannyCottage) had offers to promote a lot of dog and cat brands, horse products, health supplements, clothes ( yes seriously how i laughed!) to feature in calendars, televison series, travel agents, photography shoots, books, art work and as a location for independent film makers just to name a few.


I'm getting better at learning to say no to things that don't interest me or that put too many demands on my time and/or energy, for in my opinion no money is worth peace of mind.


I'm only a tiny fish in a huge pond so i can only imagine the pressure actual influencers with big follower numbers feel from brands and their expectations

.

If you rely solely on your business being supported by these people holding the purse strings where does that leave you if things go wrong..

A frustrated puppet?!


I'm learning to step back every time I feel get sucked into that social media promotion world, which is easier said than done.

But when i focus on what really matters to me and what my real goals are, i do believe it's possible to balance both.

Outside of my two and four legged family and friends, being a host and sharing the cottage with my guests who appreciate it, brings me such great joy and purpose.

Alongside that, it's writing, blogging and creating in the moment without restrictions and without the need to please others.


Whether it's funny poems, true stories, sharing a political view, taking photos of whatever appeals to my eye, random online chats, listening or dancing to a crazy range of music..

well as long as what I do speaks to my heart and keeps my head happy, then that's what I will try to focus on.


And yes, it will probably keep changing and keep evolving, as life does, but the one thing I can guarantee is..


It will definitely be authentic and it certainly won't be consistent!! 😉

Áine 💚


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4 Comments


Guest
Apr 16, 2023

Beautiful

Brilliant

Businesslike

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Guest
Apr 10, 2023

Don’t change a thing!!!!! Not one thing!! ☘️❤️

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Guest
Apr 10, 2023

Aine,

Keep being you! I cant imagine how tough the balancing act is but you're doing a great job!

I'm focusing on saving up so that I can come stay in your beautiful cottage!

Betsy from Boston

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Just be yourself , your great as you are , I love your story’s and yes it is difficult and a strange world to promote your business on social media . It is a learning curve (and for me it still is)

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