How Lainy Hedaya Launched Her Career on Instagram
While scrolling through your Instagram feed, you’re presented with a curated selection of posts from fashion bloggers to artists to brands. And what might look like a simple photograph may actually be content that took months to create. That’s what Entrepreneur learned from fashion blogger and Instagram icon Lainy Hedaya.
Hedaya launched her New York City fashion blog, Haute Inhabit, in 2011, which gave her a headstart on social media. Having studied design in school, Hedaya has always had an eye for aesthetics, so when she eventually tapped into Instagram, she was a natural.
Today, Hedaya uses Instagram to show off her eye for fashion through her minimalistic and chic lens. And she’s leveraged the platform for business too -- from branded partnerships to even selling her own paintings. Appealing to the luxury market, Instagram’s been a perfect fit for her fashion-hungry followers. “An audience prefers to see fashion in a very fast way rather than waiting every day for a [blog] post online,” Hedaya says.
She says she spends “all day, every day” on the platform. And those efforts pay off: With a following of more than 150,000, Instagram has become one of her biggest revenue generators.
Entrepreneur caught up with Hedaya to learn how she’s built a following, created relationships with major luxury brands and launched her career through Instagram.
How did you get your start with Instagram?
I started a blog first, and then I [felt] like social media just became a 360 thing with blogging. I initially started the blog when blogging was becoming a thing, and slowly transferred the focus over.
An audience prefers to see fashion in a very fast way rather than waiting every day for a post online and having to check back on a website. They have their own feed of all bloggers, so it kind of just snowballed from the blog to the Instagram. I do think there is some value in having a blog as a home base, and a nuance to how to share the same story on both.
What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?
I use Twitter, I use Snapchat, I use Facebook obviously. I used to love Vine but then they folded, which makes me so sad because I really think they had something going there.
I spend, I would say, 90 percent of the time on Instagram. I think it's the best platform for my content and for my advertisers. It's quick. It's fast. It's tailored to you. It's very easy. Everybody's on it. It's an amazing community, [and] you can build communities on there. Everybody is highly engaged and it's an all encompassing tool for visual content.
How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to gain followers?
I don't know that I actually promote my account but the best way to gain followers is to be engaged with your audience. And to be engaged with other people as well, and post visually pleasing content. I think that's a good recipe for success on Instagram. I also think having a unique perspective is important, which could also translate to "being yourself" as much as you can … and stick to what feels good to you.
What's your content strategy?
We have a content calendar that's pretty intense, and then sometimes it's just what we're doing that day. So it's a mix -- if we're not working with a brand [one] day, then we usually just post a story about what we're doing throughout the day. Or we do both. I think a "go as it comes" approach is the most natural … especially now that there's Instagram Stories. Your Stories, all around, need to be relevant to the moment.
My background is in design, and from a fashion standpoint, my aesthetic has been pretty much the same since I started. I'm not really what one would call a "chameleon" -- I'm very consistent [and] I think that's what sets me apart from most of my peers.
How has your content strategy evolved as Instagram has added features?
I love [Instagram] Stories and I use Stories all day because it's a nice window into the back-end of everything. But the strategy has been different in that it used to be I would post one image of something and now I [will] post a whole Story. Besides Stories, my Instagram feed has become like a story as well. I think that the audience likes to see different facets of different moments.
How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
I wouldn't say it's 100 percent monetized but it's definitely my largest platform for revenue. A lot of other influencers have other platforms that are their biggest source of income, but I guess where that comes from is where your content [best] translates.
I also sell art on another account, [@lainyhedayaart], which has been amazing. Within the first week of launching it I got 50 requests for work. So I sell pieces on there and that's one way of monetizing, aside from other creative services I occasionally get booked on: photography, interior design, graphic design, writing. But I'd say, for now, I mostly monetize through branded partnerships and appearances.
What advice do you have for other Instagram influencers or people who want to build brands on the platform?
I know it sounds tacky, but stay true to yourself and what you like because there's somebody out there who's going to relate to it. When something is not you, it shows and it never feels right to your audience.
It's such a huge space and everyone always says it's oversaturated, but I'm a huge believer that there is a girl for everybody and there's always a girl that somebody can relate to. I guess that's why different brands work with different people.
What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
That it's a very simple business, when I think it's the most complicated thing ever. There's a lot that goes behind the business [and] people just think, "Oh, I posted a picture, she posted a picture." When sometimes one picture and one post could have taken months of planning and lots of contractual negotiations. There's a lot that goes behind it.