9 Things I Learned From International Style Institute

This past weekend I got the amazing opportunity to attend International Style Institute in LA, presented by celebrity fashion stylist Anita Patrickson and Sarah Boyd of Simply Inc.

Although I was head-over-heels (or in my case, flats) excited to attend and cover the 3-day event, I didn't expect to learn much considering I've been in the industry for quite some time. Little did I know I would leave the event as a better writer, blogger, and all-around content creator. I also may or may not have left the event a few pounds heavier considering I ate a couple of donuts from California Donuts every morning, but that's another story...

It's safe to say I underestimated how much learning ability I had left in me. I've been doing the whole content creator thing for 5 years now, so I just assumed I had it down. Yeaaah...I was completely wrong. No matter what your craft is, there's always room to learn. And when you're surrounded by a bunch of boss babes for three days straight, you're going to learn a thing or two! 

Whether you're just starting out as a content creator or if you've been an expert for years, I hope these nine things I learned can help you on your journey.

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for International Style Institute

1. Your uniqueness is your biggest asset.
Some influencers have millions of followers. Some of them have writing skills you can only dream of. Some of them look straight outta Vogue, some of them cook better than your mom, and some of them take photos that look almost unreal. But you know what they don't have? Your uniqueness. "The best thing you have is yourself," celebrity stylist and International Style Institute Co-founder Anita Patrickson explained.

2. Showing every aspect of your brand is important.
If you continuously scroll down on Olivia Culpo's Instagram, you'll notice two things: 1. she is absolutely stunning and 2. her content is insanely diverse. You'll see food, fashion, DIY, and lifestyle content from her, showing every aspect of her personality and brand. "I want people to feel like they're enjoying my day with me," said Culpo. If you want your followers to feel like they're apart of your story, you have to show them every part of you, not just the beautifully curated and edited parts. This is something Culpo and I have in common. When it comes to blogging, I'm all over the place! One second I'm writing poetry, the next second I'm reviewing a video game, then you'll see me talking about my favorite vegan options at Disneyland. I want my readers to see me for the complex individual I am, not a fabricated, virtual person.

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for International Style Institute
Olivia Culpo
 speaking about how to capitalize on your social media to grow your brand at the International Style Institute in LA presented by Anita Patrickson and Simply Inc.

3. Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience.
Let's just be honest here...we all get caught up in the day-to-day sometimes We think our readers won't notice our lazy grammar, our unedited photos or our late YouTube videos. That's the thing: THEY NOTICE. They might not care enough to point it out, but they definitely aren't afraid to click on the next best website they come across, completely abandoning yours. "Never underestimate the intelligence of your reader," Writer Natalie Alcala explained.

4. There are no rules for aesthetic, but you must stay consistent. 
We all know how aggravating "aesthetic" can be sometimes. Should you hop on the minimalistic bandwagon like the rest of the world? Or are you into a more preppy feel? Perhaps you've always been into a moody, dark vibe? Or maybe you're all over the place and not even sure where to begin. Here's the thing: there are no rules for aesthetic. You shouldn't hop on any bandwagon you're not 100% on board with. But once you do finally figure out which aesthetic is right for your brand, you have to stick with it. It's okay to change it up a bit as you grow but you shouldn't be switching aesthetics every other week. "You can't be everything to everyone," Vanessa Flaherty of talent management agency DBA explained.

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for International Style Institute

5. Be relatable with your content. Ask yourself, "would someone share this with their friend?"
Nathan Kitada of YouTube shared with us the top ten ways to gain success on YouTube, shareability being the one I found most affective. When someone shares your content on their Facebook or Twitter feed, they're not doing it to talk about you. They're doing it to talk about how your content relates to their life. "You share it because it articulates something about you," said Kitada. If you find yourself staring at your analytics wondering why you lack genuine engagement too often, it could be because your audience isn't taking anything away from your content. Whether it be the best rainbow grilled cheese recipe or relationship advice, you have to essentially provide a service for them. If you don't, you can't expect them to come back.

6. Don't ever assume anyone is dying to work with you.
"Don't ever assume anyone is dying to work with you," explained Ashlee Margolis of The A List, regarding content creator / brand partnerships. Margolis is one of the reasons why your favorite bloggers and celebrities are always looking ridiculously astonishing while wearing only the best brands, so it's safe to say she knows a thing or two about working with them. (I mean, it is called "The A List" for a reason.) When pitching a brand or emailing someone you're interested in collaborating with, stay humble.

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for International Style Institute
(From left to right) Anita Patrickson, Olivia Culpo and Sarah Boyd attend the International Style Instittue at the Grove in LA presented by Anita Patrickson and Simply Inc.
7. Authentic content can be more important than reach.
Because not everyone can have a million followers! Microinfluencers are becoming increasingly important in 2016. You should never sell yourself short as an influencer looking for work just because you feel your reach isn't high enough. Unless you're Selena Gomez, the queen of Instagram, there's always someone who has more followers than you. When a brand is looking for content creators to work with, they're not always looking at your follower count, according to Bloglovin's Kamiu Lee. Sometimes it comes down to aesthetic, engagement, niche, passion, or even just being in the right place at the right time. "They're not always look at pure reach, but organic content," said Lee. As long as you continue creating content you're passionate about, you're in the right direction!

8. Let everyone know who you are and why you're doing what you do.
Aesthetically pleasing photos with artsy lyrical captions are cool and all, but it's not going to keep people coming back. You have to tell your story. Why are you posting these photos? What are you doing this weekend? What are your goals in life? Why did you start blogging/vlogging? Where did you get those sunglasses? Whether the story is trivial or life-changing, if it's yours, it's worthy of being told.

9. Always engage with other content creators.
Not only will engaging with other content creators help grow your audience, but it's also a killer PR move. Although it's no secret food blogger Naomi Robinson of Bakers Royale has talent, she made one thing clear: she would be nothing without other influencers. "If you don't engage on social media, you're like a billboard in the middle of a desert," said Robinson. You could have the most beautiful photos with the most poetic captions but that all means nothing if you're not engaging with others online.

If you want to learn more about International Style Institute, check out their website or follow them on Instagram.

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