#almostnaked

By the time this thing called Instagram Stories had rolled around, I was a “grownup” home-owner who has to do things like spring-cleaning.  This is the story of rediscovery, putting it all out there, and having no regrets or shame.  The hero of our story?  A small pile of photo DVDs from a time long forgotten found during an inappropriately timed storage closet deep clean.  

I decided, what the hell, it might be fun to take my followers on a archaeological expedition into these old DVDs of photos, with a really great business moral of the story.  I pulled out my old windows desktop (since my mac doesn’t even have a CD driver) and began a series of IG stories about discovering these old CDs while cleaning out my office - there was one from a church event that I couldn’t even remember being at, a disk of photos from another photographer I worked with WAY back in the day, and lastly, the true golden nugget of discovery.

You see, when I was twenty-one, I was in the best shape of my life (as so many people are at that age).  I was dating a pretty cool dude.  And fueled by mixed motivations of self-love and sharing, I teamed up with a group of my friends to pull together twelve different sets, two days of shooting, and one super terrible Shutterfly pinup calendar.  My photographer was a home-schooled friend with a camera who had just turned eighteen, whom I paid $150 or so for two FULL days of work. My hair & makeup was done by a friend from my theatre program at university.  There was the bad-ass biker chic, naked Santa, and cowboy boots and lacey underthings.  I started the weekend out shyly hiding under bubbles in a candle lit bathroom and ended the weekend walking freely around my living room in nothing but a (fake) fur coat.  Truly, it was liberating.

I took my followers on a journey with me, starting with the discover of the disks, all the way through a quick scroll through the images on the calendar shoot disk.  Although I designed the story line to feel very organic and investigative, I wasn’t putting anything out in the world that wasn’t intentional and I never surprised myself on live camera.  I even culled down the images so there was nothing that exposed more than my (then very flat) midriff or my perky backside.   I shared just enough to get my audience laughing with me and keep people interested.  In this day and age, sometimes, that means you gotta throw in a little T & A.

There was a moral to it all.  As soon as I shared these mortifyingly low quality portraits from a decade ago, I shared a series of the studio’s boudoir highlight reel.  If we had stopped pursuing our creative passions after pulling together a fully uncolor-corrected mess of a weekend whim, I wouldn’t be where I am now.  Our studio wouldn’t be able to help dozens of women feel passionately beautiful through our boudoir sessions. 

And, yes, I also added in the life advice to think twice before sending calendars of your almost naked self to your boyfriends.  Because, let’s be honest, some boyfriends become ex-boyfriends.  And some ex-boyfriends aren’t as classy as my last one.

So, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking, “What the eff, Ashley, I thought this was supposed to be a business blog?  And a post about Social Media Following?”  So be patient.  Because it is!

I have to admit, I shared the story and immediately started to get a little nervous.  I put myself out there.  I don’t mean that in a open/mushy/emotionally vulnerable way, guys.  I literally put myself out there in every way possible.  But you know what happened next?

I got interaction. I had dozens of views.  I could watch in real time as more people went through my story.  I could see people who had to step away from the story, coming back to the story. Some people responded to my story and others went right to texting me.  Some people LOVED what I was doing.  Some people thought the devil was moving in me.  Some people unfollowed me.  THAT was the highlight of the day.

You see, if you are authentically you and your brand is grounded and cohesive, sometimes, you will lose followers.  In a world where we are flocking to videos about growing our following and strategies for growth, we have to remember that there is more value in repelling the people who aren’t meant to be a part of your following as there is in growing that number for statistic’s sake.

Every follower that you gain that isn’t ready to engage, invest, and be passionate about your brand is a temptation for you to dilute your message.  Distill your truth down to a pure essence and pump that magic juice out into the world without abandon. 

In the past ten years, the makeup/hair artist has disappeared from my life, I’ve put on thirty pounds, and my friend with a camera has become my trusted studio manager (and a kick-ass photographer, to boot).  More than anything though, I’ve become less disappointed by the fact that I so often feel like a pariah in the wedding industry and more proud of the fact that I’ve built a strong business wearing men’s jeans, rocking a 90’s style hair clip, and dropping f bombs like others drop smiles. 

Do you.  Whether it is rose gold and tutus or death metal and chains.  And, if your brand repels someone, you’re probably doing it all right.

Ashley GerrityComment