Having fun in front of the SunBum concept store in Encinitas on a sunny day. You can see the SunBum logo on the buidling on the left, and the SunBum truck is on the right of the picture.

Why You Should Consistently Talk About Brands on Your Social Media

If you are a content creator or influencer and you are NOT consistently talking about brands and products you love, you are doing yourself a disservice. Here is why you definitely should talk about brands and products that you love shamelessly!

What You Are Probably Thinking Now

I used to think that if I talked about a brands that I liked, then I would be selling myself short. To me, I thought if I gave them free advertisement then there would be no reason or incentive for them to want to work with me. If I already gave them a shoutout to my audience, why would they pay me?

But this is kind of backwards!

By talking about a brand and what you love about them, you have officially put yourself organically on their radar! Brands love when they can work with a true fan of their brand. Then they know that the influencer that they are working with is someone who loves them and is going to give them the best, most authentic content.

How It Helps You to Talk About Brands

Not to mention, by giving them a little unprompted love on your feed, you can provide them numbers on how well they did on your page! Especially on your Insta Story because you can see just how many times they sticker tapped their tagged name or swiped up on your Story to a product that you might have linked. This sort of information can provide them with valuable insight in to just how beneficial a partnership with you can be.

So all around, giving brands some love and tagging them in your content that may feature them or give them a very specific shoutout could potentially get you a collaboration with them in the future when you pitch yourself to them!

Now let’s talk about why you should NOT be giving these shoutouts with the disclosure that what you are saying is not a paid sponsorship.

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When to Stop Accepting Gifted or Non-Paid Campaigns

Congratulations! You did it! You have successfully made it through the 5 steps in becoming a content creator and you are now starting to monetize your posts! Because you have started building a portfolio of either great pictures or actual sponsored posts, you have gotten to the point in your creating that you are asking yourself “should I still be accepting unpaid work?”.

Let’s dive in to this topic!

Who is this blog for?

This post will be for anyone who has started working with companies on a gifted or hosted basis, looking for more information on this topic, or is wondering when you should start cutting the cord from even accepting free items for content purposes.

And the truth of this topic is simple – there is no one right answer for when to stop accepting gifted or non-paid campaigns. So overall, my hope from this post is to at least give you some guidance and to get you to think about what’s the best course of action for you.

For me personally, my page originally started as the social media account for my small shop, but after sharing more of my personal life and style, the page naturally transformed in to something else entirely. So after some thought, I changed the name, I changed the direction, and I started making all of my content as “lifestyle blogger” content. And even though I have had the account for over six years now, I really didn’t start doing influencer stuff until about late 2019! So currently, even with over 18,000 followers, I still will sometimes accept gifted opportunities.

My Rules for Accepting Gifted Campaigns

That being said, I have rules for myself when I do accept gifted campaigns. The reason I have these rules is because I have started valuing how much time and effort goes in to all of my posts and I cannot just be accepting things just because its free. However, there is value in some of the campaigns that I receive that cannot compensate by paying me. So the three reasons I will accept a gifted campaign are:

  1. It’s a product I was going to buy anyway AND the deliverables are not excessive. If I really wanted that product but they are asking for three Instagram posts, a Tik Tok, and a YouTube review, well then I’m passing. One post and an Instagram Story with a swipe-up link is perfectly fine.
  2. It’s a product that I can link via RewardStyle and make some commissionable sales off of it. In this way, I can actually make money off of a free product by talking about it on my social media and hopefully getting some small compensation for it.
  3. It’s a company that I really wanted to work with. I have my own list of companies that if they came knocking, I would 100% answer the door as quickly as possible!

How to Go Forward with Your Content

Now to answer this question for yourself, you first need to ask yourself “how much is my time worth?”. For me, I started setting these rules for gifted opportunities only last month because, for all of 2020, most every single sponsored post I did, I was only getting paid about $25 per post (which is NOTHING!). So after reevaluating my page and refocusing the direction, I decided that it was time for me to start standing up for my posting rate, which is currently around $100 per single Instagram post. So maybe if you value your time or page a little bit less, accepting something for free could possibly be as good as getting actual payment for it!

However, let’s say you are constantly getting DMs or emails for opportunities, your schedule is booked with all these fun campaigns, and you may be getting to the point of not having enough time to mix in your own non-sponsored posts. This would be a definite sign that you need to stop accepting those non-paid gigs and start giving them your posting rates.

Free is always fun, but if opportunities are always knocking on your door, then obviously you are doing something right and people are noticing! By responding to these campaigns with your enthusiasm and your ideas for how to showcase their products, but ending it with “however, I do not accept products as payment. If you liked the ideas I had for promoting your product and feel like I am a good fit for your brand, I would be happy to discuss my posting rates with you!” could get you that CHA-CHING! But keep in mind, companies will say no – there is always going to be someone who will do it for free. But you don’t have to be one of them.

This doesn’t have to mean the end of gifted opportunities though. Remember, I still have my own rules for receiving product as payment. So let’s say that you respond to that email saying that you would happily discuss your rate and the company responds with “Thank you for your interest, however at this time we are only doing gifted products for content.” Well, you can just as easily think it over and respond with “After thinking it over, I really feel like my audience would appreciate seeing your brand, and I would be happy to do product in exchange for content.” Or you can even say “Thank you for thinking of me for this campaign, please keep me in mind for your next paid opportunity!”

If you really just want to work for free, no one is stopping you! But with the influencer market becoming so large, there will ALWAYS be someone willing to work for free if you won’t.

Why You SHOULD Stop Accepting Gifted Campaigns

Which leads me to another interesting tid-bit of information. One of the big reasons that I am an advocate for moving from gifted work to paid work is because the market is so saturated. Influencers left and right want to work and they are willing to do it for free. Now again, this is fine to build a portfolio or to get your foot in the door with a brand you really like, but the reason influencers are getting a lot of DMs and emails for non-paid work is because other influencers continue to ACCEPT those campaigns. So those companies know that they can get away with offering gifted campaigns because people are willing to work for only that.

Can you imagine the impact we would all have on the influencer market if we started working together to stand up for our time and energy in to these posts? Companies everywhere are turning to influencers because it is SO MUCH CHEAPER to use hundreds of influencers to promote them than it is to spend a whole lot more money on doing fancy photoshoots where they hire the photographer, the wardrobe department, the lighting, setting the scene, and the editing team. I assure you that they have room in their marketing budget to pay influencers a decent rate. But they won’t if they know someone will work for free.

And you don’t need X amount of followers to do paid work! You should not be selling yourself short just because you don’t think you have a big enough following to get a company’s attention. If you have an engaged audience and you are getting brands wanting to work with you, keep up the good work up! I have seen so many people get paid deals with as little as 2,000 followers. Don’t sell yourself short if you think it’s time that you started getting paid for your awesome posts!

Overall, just take this with a grain of salt – there is no one right answer to this big question of “when you should stop accepting non-paid work”. It will forever be a moving target! You just need to decide for yourself when your time and your work needs to start making you money in return.


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Photo opportunities for creators in San Diego County

Location Ideas for Instagram Photos in North County San Diego

As someone who has spent much of her time at Disneyland taking pictures for my Instagram page, I was left scrambling for a solution when Disneyland closed its gates over a year ago. My biggest fear was that I just wouldn’t be able to make content because now I didn’t have a location to take pictures. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the biggest blessing in disguise! My content has become much more inspired now that I have left my comfort zone.

Now I want to help you do the same! Whether you are also a content creator in San Diego or you are planning a visit and want to know some hidden gems for pictures, you have come to the right place! What I can promise from this blog is that these spots will NOT be on any lists for “Top 10 Spots to Take Pictures in San Diego”. Definitely not. I’m not a tourist and there are many more places to take pictures – you just have to be a little more open minded about the locations and what you can create there!

Rosemary-Duff Florist // 101 W 2nd Ave, Escondido CA 92025

Just a regular florist shop? WRONG! This florist shop loves being the center of attention when a new holiday comes around! They paint a beautiful mural for most major holidays and it makes for an amazing back drop for some cute, themed pictures!

Old Poway Park // 14134 Midland Rd, Poway CA 92064

This place offers a number of photo spots. Styled like an old town, this offers beautiful architecture, train tracks, old rusted train cars, and a beautiful park that looks amazing during golden hour.

American Flag Wall // 2224 S Escondido Blvd, Escondido CA 92025

Who wants a little ‘Merica? This is a great location to celebrate your own patriotism or the big moments in American history – the Fourth of July, a new election, or just a cute American styled outfit!

Red and Pink Brick Wall // 135 E Felicita Ave, Escondido CA 92025

**Please note that the address displayed is a residential house. This is the closest mapped spot.** The wall is outside of this residential house but it is right up against a public sidewalk with a fence that separates the wall from the residency.

Hill Overlooking Poway // 14117 Tierra Bonita Rd, Poway CA 92064

**Please note that the address displayed is a residential house. This is the closest mapped spot.** The view overlooking Poway is on the opposite side of the road. This is a great spot if you need pictures with mountains in the background or if you want a lot of blue sky in the background.

Palomar McClellan Airport // 2198 Palomar Airport Rd, Carlsbad CA 92008

This small airport provides a great opportunity to have an airport photoshoot in a location that is not that crowded and is very well maintained!

Dried Riverbed // 14326 Tierra Bonita Rd, Poway CA 92064

**Please note that the address displayed is to the Poway Rodeo grounds. This is the closest mapped spot.** The riverbed borders the rodeo grounds and depending on the season can be a great spot for spring pictures or summer pictures! During the winter though, it’s mostly dirt and dead plants.

Keep on exploring because San Diego is full of opportunity and creativity can be found everywhere! And if you don’t live in San Diego, use this blog as inspiration for finding hidden gems where you live too!


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The biggest mistakes when trying to gain followers on social media

The Biggest Mistakes of Trying to Gain Followers

If you are trying to gain followers, you may be tempted to join an Instagram Pod or Facebook Engagement Group. I am here to tell you that that is one of the biggest mistakes of trying to gain followers. I know the idea of these games to increase engagement and to gain followers seem harmless and overall beneficial. But I promise you that doing this will have long-term damage to your social page.

Here is my personal experience with each one individually:

Instagram Pods

I was a part of a pod when this idea first started out a few years ago. Now although the algorithm was a lot different back then, here’s why these don’t work. Simply put, people are not that responsible. I was always one of those people that would like and comment right away to other people’s posts. But there were a few people in our group that would literally post and leave. They would never stick around to do the same for the other people in the group.

I explain more of why Pods don’t work in the next section below because the idea of Pods has grown to MASSIVE sizes. The idea has grown far bigger than Instagram can handle in a group DM. And now they must be moderated via a Facebook Group.

Facebook Engagement Groups

flurry of social media notifications

If you aren’t familiar with these Engagement Groups, it’s essentially a large Instagram Pod. The one I joined on Facebook had over 5,000 active members, had strict rules for participation, and had many different opportunities per day to join games to increase likes, comments, Story Views, Tik Tok views, etc. I felt confident that I would be able to gain more traction on Instagram. Since there were many members, there would be probably 50-300 participants depending on the type of game. I thought that even 50 extra likes on my content would be a win! Here’s why I was wrong.

Having all those people flood a direct URL link to my page hurt my organic reach and engagement. My followers weren’t the ones liking my posts, and no one was commenting. After a few weeks in the group, I found that I had to play two or three of these games to get my post’s ‘like’ count back up to what I was getting organically before playing the games! Having those people ‘like’ my content that were not my followers, that were not my target audience, and did not spend more than a split second on my post made the algorithm all read that as “FAKE”.

I don’t know how the algorithm knows this cheap trick, but it does. It knows when you’re cheating the system and acts accordingly. It will always be smarter than us when it comes to trying to gain followers.

Pinterest Group Boards

Group Boards are a way for many Pinterest users to Pin their content on to one community Board. They tend to have many members actively posting constantly. When you post a Pin on a Board that constantly has other people pinning items too, your Pin quickly becomes old news. Inevitably that Pin will only show a few views, if you’re lucky, and 0 engagement. And that severely affects your engagement rate.

Not to mention that the only people who post on Group Boards are influencers who are trying to do the same thing you are. Boost their own engagement. Which means that they post and leave! They are not there to find new content to Repin. They are there to post their content in the hopes of someone seeing it and boosting their engagement. Essentially you are posting on a dead Board. Keep your valuable content to your Boards ONLY.

For reference, pre-Group Boards I had about 300k monthly viewers on Pinterest. Now I average about 60k.

Loop Giveaways

loop giveaways on social media

Many influencers believe that this is the only way they can gain followers nowadays on Instagram. And although you will receive more followers, you won’t receive better engagement. Why? Because the people gained in these giveaways are not there for your content. They are there to win and that’s it.

By gaining followers that don’t care about your content, your engagement rate will tank. Because when your content is published to Instagram, it will get pushed to a very small percentage of your followers. If those followers interact with your content, then Instagram will keep pushing it to more users. But if it gets pushed to one of these giveaway followers, they won’t like, comment, share, or save.

Ditch the loop giveaways, ditch the fake following, ditch the lack of engagement from that following! Just don’t do loop giveaways.

Final Thoughts on trying to gain followers

Now I know all these things will continue to entice you with a good time and the prospect of trying to gain followers. And trust me, I know everyone’s experience is different when it comes to each one of these things. This blog is written from my own personal experience! I am hoping that by giving my insight, you can come to a more educated decision of how you want to take your page. So take what I say with a grain of salt just because what works for me (and more importantly, what doesn’t work for me), might not be the same experience you have.

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why am I losing followers?

Why Am I Losing Followers Even Though My Content Is Getting Better?

Posting on social media means its users are at the mercy of an algorithm. If you are confused about losing followers consistently eve though your content that is receiving more engagement – listen up.

Why do I lose followers on posts that get more engagement?

Chadwick Boseman mural in Downtown Disney Anaheim
This post got me 2,295 likes! But I also lost 50 followers in the process.

The reason you are losing followers is because you are getting closer to your true client market and getting rid of the people that are only holding your page back. I actually lose the most amount of followers on a day where my post does the best! The day I received 2,300 likes on a post, I lost about 50 followers.

“Well that doesn’t make sense. You put out good content that people really like, shouldn’t you be gaining followers?”

That’s what I would think and would like to happen! But unfortunately it’s not. The reason I am losing more followers is because my posts are FINALLY getting pushed to more of my followers. Those people that are unfollowing me probably haven’t organically come across one of my posts in a really long time. So either they:

  1. don’t recognize me, or
  2. are just no longer fans of my content.

Either way you slice it, they aren’t about my page anymore.

Even on normal days I still lose followers – what gives?

Another big reason you could be losing followers is that Instagram is getting very good at shutting down bot and spam accounts. Followers that you have lost could be Instagram helping you to do some housekeeping! You don’t want more followers if those followers are ghost or spam accounts. They won’t interact with your content and that will hurt your page so much more than having a lower following count.

I am dressed in a red two piece set from SHEIN. The top is cropped and the pants are high waisted over my belly button. They are also flared and flowy. This outfit was to Disney Bound as slave Jasmine from Aladdin.
My Slave Jasmine Disney Bound started off with slow engagement but the more my followers got involved, the more overall engagement I got!

When you post, Instagram only shows your post to a small percentage of your total following. If that group of people engages with your post, then your post will go to the next tier group of your followers. And so on and so forth. So the better the post does, the more it goes to your followers. But if you have all these fake or spam accounts in your following then it’s possible that your post will be pushed to those accounts. If that happens, then your post won’t do as well. Those accounts won’t engage with your content and then your post won’t get pushed to the next tier level of followers.

But what if I am losing followers that aren’t spam or bot accounts?

So circling back on that post that did really well for me but I lost 50 followers, my post probably got pushed farther then it has in a really long time to some of my followers who hadn’t seen me in a while, thus resulting in a massive flux to my page of people to unfollow me. But hey, no skin off my nose because they did me a favor my leaving!

What I am getting at here is that you do want to lose followers if it will help you get closer to your target audience. For me, I did a rebranding about a year and a half ago and changed my Instagram handle as well as the content I provided. I can’t expect that all of my followers got the news alerts when I was talking about it before I made the change. So it can then be expected that by the time my content actually turns up on their page, they might want to unfollow because the content I provide now is not what the originally signed up for anymore and that’s ok!

Why don’t loop giveaways work?

Close up of me in front of a colorful and floral "Happy Valentine's Day" mural in Escondido, San Diego County.
My followers have loved seeing how I am finding new spots around me to create engaging content.

I used to do those huge loop giveaways and granted I gained a lot of followers but it severely hurt my engagement because what I found was that my content was then being pushed to those dead-weight followers who were literally only following me out of obligation to get something for free. Those are not the type of people you want on your page – you want fans, not fakes! So I made the very tough decision to delete about 10,000 followers from my page as a way to help get my content back onto the feeds of people who actually wanted to follow me.

Since that hard decision, my content has THRIVED! My content is being pushed back on to the page’s of people who actually want to see my content. Don’t be afraid to drop the dead-weight followers, and don’t be scared that you are losing followers even when you are putting good content out. It is all for the better that you get closer to your target audience and that you cater to their needs and not to the needs of people who don’t like your content and wouldn’t have engaged with your page anyway. They did you a favor by unfollowing – trust me!

Read more Influencer Tips at www.donnagailblog.com