My Little Duke

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An "Insta-Class" with My Little Duke

Blogging, FaithSteph DukeComment

It took several requests and a gentle nudge from a friend for me to even consider doing something like this! I mean, who am I to give advice about Instagram?! I am nobody and I am certainly no expert. Tutor English? Yes, absolutely! Take a class on Instagram? Now that’s a whole other ball game!

As the date for the class drew closer, I had a major case of imposter-syndrome … but much to my surprise, the class ended up being over-subscribed and I needed to re-locate! Ok, I told myself. I can do this. I have something valid to say. I have my experience to share. And that is exactly what I did.

Flowers kindly gifted by  @gracehillflowers

Flowers kindly gifted by @gracehillflowers

My main aim was to offer the ladies a behind-the-lens insight into my experience of using Instagram over the last 4 years. It was important to me that they would come away from the class feeling both informed and equipped, and I do hope that this was so!

Here’s what they said:

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“Thanks so much for a lovely evening. It was so relaxed and you were refreshingly open and honest. I hope your other sessions go really well too - I’m sure they will love it as much as we did!”

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“Thank you for last night, it was a fascinating evening. So much information to help me negotiate the Instagram world. I will be working on creating more content, experimenting with my pics and I may even create a story!”

~

“I have been trying to think of something to share so I could join with the hashtag #learnuaryni - turns out after a little insta class run by Steph from @mylittleduke, I did just that. I learnt some things about Instagram that I have been dying to know but most wouldn’t share. Steph was honest and forthright about her social media journey, and inspiring to say the least. The added bonus of course was the lovely ladies I got to meet there. We shared stories and ideas and this highlighted once again how these squares can bring likeminded people together to form friendships, business ideas, content creating and best of all, plenty of laughter (oh, and a love of cakes!) There are big things to come…”

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I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of women to join me for this first class. We giggled, bonded and shared our unique stories over copious cups of tea and cake. The discussion was honest and open and full of learning opportunities for everyone, myself included.

As many of you will know, I’ve been on quite a journey with Instagram over the last 4 years. What began as a small business selling items for mummies and littles has evolved into something I could never have imagined. Never could I have dreamed that I’d create content for brands, never mind getting paid to do so. Never would I have thought I’d be driving up to Ballymena to meet someone I’d become friends with online. Never could I imagine I’d listen to promptings from the Holy Spirit, then write and share what I believed to be something from the heart of God. The doors of opportunity are wide open and I’ve been learning to walk right through!

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So what sort of things did we cover in the class?

  • my personal experience of IG ( the positive & the negative)

  • content creation / working with brands

  • taking & editing photos

  • branding & blogging

  • growing a following

  • instagram for business

  • & much, much more!

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It was an honour to showcase some wonderful local ladies on the evening too. Rachel from @rachiebakesni made the delicious treats we enjoyed on the night … thank you Rachel!

mini marbled chocolate & clementine loaf cakes

mini marbled chocolate & clementine loaf cakes

can you spot Rachel’s homemade marshmallow?!

can you spot Rachel’s homemade marshmallow?!

The ladies were also treated to gorgeous place-name hoops by the lovely Louise of @taylorit_ and stunning prints by mixed media artist, Lynsey of @lynseyauldart.

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A special thanks must go to the 6 brave women who came along to listen, to learn and to share their instagram stories. I’ve linked their accounts here:

Jillian @hennathome

Claire @thats_me_lady_c

Arlene @arlsnyro

Victoria @thecraftystag

Andrea @life_hack_mum_

Jenny @jennycatlowphotography - Jenny very kindly offered to take some photos on the night - such a lovely reminder of our session!

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It is no co-incidence that I’m sharing this blog post on International Women’s Day. I keep being continually blown away by the women I am having opportunity to connect with through Instagram - some real God-appointments and friendships! Gosh I am so grateful!

Alongside the group insta-class I have also been running 1-1 sessions. Like I mentioned earlier, these were also by request and I felt real imposter-syndrome all over again! However, after my first meeting I came away completely assured that I could actually offer something of value and I needn’t feel the fear.

My first meeting was with a woman who I greatly admire. Her God-story is pretty incredible and it was such an honour to have opportunity to chat 1-1 about using Instagram to grow her business. I now feel privileged to be able to call Charlene a friend and I can’t be more excited about being able to journey alongside her as she steps out in faith with @gracehillflowers! I really couldn’t have asked for a better person to *nervously* do my first session with!! Here’s what Charlene said:

“I had the priviledge of doing a 1-1 session with Steph. She has a wonderful knowlege of the world of instagram and was excellent at tailoring her knowledge to my specific needs in the direction I wanted our wee farm to take on the squares. I found her very open and honest in the information she shared. Through my 1-1 session with her, she has helped me gain more confidence through her encouragement and ongoing support. Thankful to call her more than a mentor now, but a friend.”

Charlene grows her own beautiful blooms at her Flower Farm in Loughgall

Charlene grows her own beautiful blooms at her Flower Farm in Loughgall

Here are some more amazing ladies who are availing of the 1-1 sessions. You girls are truly inspirational!

Sarah @iamsarahfletcher

Sharon @sharon_laura

Patricia @patricianewell1

Kerry @butterscotch315

Michelle @shelleyt_

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My most recent session was with Sara @saraallen_author. Sara has just launched her incredible book ‘Meraki’ and what a joy it was to spend time chatting together. This was indeed another God-appointment! I came away so blessed and encouraged, grateful to have spent time in Sara’s company.

Here’s what Sara said:

It’s #internationalwomensday and I thought Id mark the occasion by giving a shout out to this girl ... Steph Duke.

I’ve followed her on insta for a while and admired the authenticity she brings to a platform that can be very much all about my, myself and I.

Steph appeared real, not fake, not self promoting but someone who stood out as she bravely used her voice to encourage and inspire others by sharing her story.

When Steph mentioned that she was thinking of doing workshops on all things insta and sharing some of her experiences and lessons I couldn’t wait to jump in and sign up. But my ever complicated diary wouldn’t allow and so I thought I’d contact her and ask for a one to one coffee meeting instead.

Honestly I’ve never connected with anyone via insta before in person – I’ve DM’d, sent emails and commented but face to face was a whole new level of brave!! Especially because I still didn’t even really know what I really wanted to do with this platform.

I have loved Instagram for a few years, originally joining because I love nothing more than capturing a moment with a photo. I am a firm believer that a picture can sometimes paint a thousand words.

But if I am totally honest I had got a bit lost and disappointed with it all.

It has become a bit of an advertising, influencer platform with everyone vying for a little bit of attention and I’m not a fan.

I’ve lost my love for it but yet I am in a place on my personal journey where I know God is asking me to use my voice in whatever space and platform I find myself for good. I can’t just tap out.

I’ve spent the last few years writing a book which was published in December and as my lovely editor reminded me more than once the book is for others not me, my responsibility is to get the message out there. I can’t control what people will think of it but I do need to let them know it exists.

In steps Steph ...

As I tried to explain some of my ramblings as my love / hate relationship with Instragam and what I really wanted to use the platform for she listened, smiled and gave me so many key insights into what this platform can do & the functionality of how it all really works. Who knew there was a good and bad time to post? Of the importance of filters, stories and hashtags?

It is a minefield and one that I need to get brave enough to tackle with a bit more clarity of thought and planning but one that I now have a greater understanding of thanks to Steph. Who also helped me realise the importance of using platforms like Instagram for good!

I’ve shyed away as I don’t want to appear self- promoting. I haven’t wanted people to roll their eyes and think “here she goes again” but what I do want is for people to hear my heart in the words I share. Read the posts and understand that they flow from a heart that is surrendered to Jesus and that in sharing the things that flow from it I want others to connect with Him. To understand that He is the only reason I am something to share, He is the One who has transformed my life and I will gladly share His story for ever.

If you are thinking of connecting with Steph – do it! She has a lot to share and you will come away inspired and informed. Inspired to join the army of like minded “influencers” who are sharing their story to set others free and informed about all the technical know how and insights to help you make it happen.

I couldn’t recommend a session with Steph more.

Wow. Thank you Sara!

I am so deeply humbled and never more certain that if we offer God our WHOLE selves, He will take whatever we give Him (even if we feel like our hands are empty) and will use it in the most beautiful way.

So be encouraged today that even if you feel like an imposter - but you feel God stirring in your heart - DO WHATEVER IT IS THAT GOD IS CALLING YOU TO DO! I cannot begin to comprehend God’s plans and purposes for my life in the next 10 years, the possibilities are LIMITLESS. I’m learning not to limit myself! Will you join me?!

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And there you have it! I hope this post gives you an insight into my heart behind these sessions and a bit more information too. I’m currently running 1-1 sessions throughout March and April and intend on hosting another group class over the coming weeks as well. Please, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is never any pressure to sign up, I’d be just so delighted to connect with you and share the details! You can message me through my Instagram @mylittleduke or drop me an email: steph@mylittleduke.com. Can’t wait to hear from you! Instagram can feel a bit intimidating at times, it’s time to take back control.

My Instagram Truth

Blogging, Faith, MotherhoodSteph Duke1 Comment

We all know never to go to bed angry. Well … never go to bed hungry either. You’ll not sleep and find yourself over-analysing Instagram until the wee hours of the morning!

 

Oh boy, did I toss and turn for hours last night. Every time I tried to still my mind, I thought of something else. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn over and reach for the notes app on my phone! I felt a real stirring in my soul and had no peace until I’d bullet pointed everything that I’m writing here.

 

It’s now Sunday morning and I feel less stressed about it all, despite not knowing quite how I’m going to articulate what I’m about to say. What I do know is that God gave me a prompt (or two, or three, or four!!) and all I can do is share my voice with you today. So thank you in advance for reading and I’d really value your thoughts on it all, please do get in touch!

 

Instagram is a huge part of my on-going and future ministry. In fact, it has been a major player on social media for me since I launched My Little Duke (MLD) shortly after Phoebe was born. I had a personal account that I’d enjoyed using since 2011 and while I was off sick during pregnancy I started to realise the power and influence of this little app. I’d scroll and click through endless accounts (new mums, mums-to-be, online shops for babies) and find stories that resonated and products I loved. To be fair, I found myself mostly navigating around American accounts – hence the idea for MLD (selling American products here in NI.)

 

Fast-forward almost 3 years and I can’t believe the journey I’ve been on with MLD.  I’m the daughter of a salesman and worked in retail myself for almost 7 years – so selling products I loved felt quite natural to me - particularly the face-to-face sales at local events! Alongside sales, I also started a little blogging, however, once I was back at work full-time, it was nearly impossible to blog at all (isn’t it surprisingly time consuming?!) I remember those days well … the frustrations of wanting to engage more in the Instagram and Blogging worlds (knowing so little compared to what I know now.) I just didn’t have the time. I absolutely love to write, but not under those time constraints and pressures. In those days, there were much higher priorities and writing a blog was always bottom of the list, even posting semi-regularly on Instagram was a struggle.

 

How times have changed, eh?! During the last 6 months I’ve posted consistently (at least once a day) and my Instagram content has also changed. In essence it’s about the same things:

 

Faith, Family and Motherhood

Travel and Lifestyle

Fashion and Beauty

 

But the look and feel of my account has shifted. It’s more intentional. This is both good and bad. As I’ve learned more about the app (Algorithms, Engagement, Aesthetics and Organic Growth) I’ve found myself having to be more intentional about what I post and how I post it. This is where my tossing and turning last night in bed began…

 

I want to be transparent.

 

I need to be.

 

Otherwise, my voice can’t be trusted and any small influence I have becomes powerless and ineffective.

 

So here are my Instagram truths.

 

Sometimes I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed by it all.

 

As Instagram continues to grow rapidly, there have been many times when I just feel like I can’t keep up. There is huge pressure to continually post engaging, inspiring, beautifully curated content. How sustainable or attainable this is – I’m not quite sure? Maybe it’s just hard in these winter months?

 

In order to get the kind of light needed for a shot, things have to be timed wisely these days! More truth here – I am not a photographer! I only ever use my phone (iPhone 7) but have so enjoyed pursuing and developing my passion for photography (both capturing and editing) over the last number of years. But what I do understand is that in order to keep posting those consistent and carefully curated squares – I have to keep snapping carefully curated shots. This means planning and preparation. Long gone are the days of snapping and posting spontaneously.  It’s a sort of “planned spontaneity” if that can even be a thing?! I’m not saying that all my posts have been carefully planned – they aren’t. But what I am saying is that more and more often, I’m finding myself being more mindful of what I post … because it matters.

 

I am at the stage now where I have a specific look and feel on my grid. There are some spontaneous snaps that just wouldn’t look right! Another truth - I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take great pride in the aesthetics of my feed. I use the app ‘Snug’ to curate the squares before I post. As someone who (for a long time) tried to be in complete control of her own life, I loved Instagram for that very reason. If I couldn’t control what was happening in my real life, I could certainly control my “virtual’ one. The problem for me at the minute is the scary thought of how we might be curating our real lives, in order that they fit in to those virtual squares of “life.” Sheesh. Could we really be?! There are real dangers here! It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. Do we spend more time, energy and effort carefully curating our “virtual’ existence than we do in our real one?

 

I’ve also serious concerns about the language associated with Instagram. 

 

How often do we hear, or even say ourselves, things like:

 

“it’s not insta-worthy”

 

or

 

“doing it for the ‘gram’”

 

or

 

“if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen!”

 

Often these are said in jest, yet, subconsciously, I fear that our perceptions are changing. We are subtly being fed a bunch of outright lies - lies of false ideals, behaviours and expectations of what is “socially acceptable.” What is completely normal and acceptable has suddenly become boring and unacceptable by insta-standards. I fear for the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. Are we role-modelling a distorted version of reality?  We constantly scroll and see what we don’t have. If not careful, we begin to live with a scarcity mind-set, one where we start to convince ourselves that we are living in lack. This is actually quite a natural reaction, when so much of what our eyes consume is what we don’t have and what we wish we could – materially, spiritually and physically. Too often “I too, have fallen into the comparison trap.” And this idea of something not being “worthy” enough for Instagram?! WHAT? Where are we placing our value and worth? Surely not in Instagram?! Please God, let it not become where I place even an ounce of my real value! (This could be a whole other blog post!)

 

Too often, we know and see too much. It’s visual perfection overload and nearly impossible to swim against the current of these new “norms’. I’m regularly and intentionally having to force my eyes upwards and outwards, looking to see the blessings that I DO have, rather than all that I don’t.

 

Sometimes I think it’s all just one big game, and we’re all trying to win. And in the race to achieve Instagram “success” we are actually becoming conformed and moulded into some version of ourselves with some version of our lives that isn’t sustainable, isn’t attainable; one that could actually suck us dry of life itself – if we let it. I know we aren’t all in it for fame, for success, for followers and likes. Yet, because so much of the app is tailored in that way, it can be hard to go against that flow. It’s the constant striving for more that causes feelings of failure, disappointment, frustration and ultimately … depletion, if the likes, followers or engagement don’t reach the targets we’re encouraged to set for ourselves. It’s good to set targets, but they have to be realistic – and someone else’s growth on Instagram might not be a realistic growth for you. I’ve had to learn that, accept it and focus on investing in the accounts and people who I really love and value.

 

Additionally, if I’m being totally honest, (the whole point of this blog I suppose!) there have been many occasions where “I have let Instagram become an obsessive addiction.”  Becoming obsessive seems to be ingrained in me somehow. I blame Weight Watchers! For over 10 years now I have obsessively dieted. There have been times where this obsession varied in degrees, and thankfully it’s becoming less of a fixation now than it has ever been. Yet, there is something about Instagram that appeals to this nature. Just like the scales – it’s also a game of numbers. There are so many parallels for me. In the same way I step on the scales every morning, (I’m working on this - I promise!) I also open up the app. In the same way I look for that number on those scales, I look at my follower count. Often, in the same way that number on the scales determined my mood, there have been times when the same could be said of Instagram (especially as the follower count fluctuates so much!)

 

There’s also the addictiveness and adrenalin boost of achieving success, both on the scales and on Instagram. It’s too tempting to strive to achieve more of that and to obsess over the little things. For me, there’s a very fine line – both in dieting and on Instagram – and I am calling it out for what it is. It is dangerous. When the scales were tipping too far into obsession, I have had to catch myself on and catch a grip! Otherwise, it becomes an endless battle that consumes both my time and energy - a dangerous and divisive distraction. This is something I’ve had to call out recently and really work with the Lord on. It’s a work in progress, and it’s not easy. Instagram’s algorithm is making organic growth harder, making some posts almost invisible and forcing us to be more creative with how and what we post. I’ve found it really disheartening sometimes and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not offering any solution here, just my own experience and a voice of “me too” or maybe I’m the only one!! What is the answer? To cut and run? To stick the course?  I’m as frustrated as you, as overwhelmed as you, as maxed out of ideas as you … I’m just not up for cinemagraphs or photoshop magic!

 

What’s important – for me anyway – is keeping accountable. Whether you are strong enough to do that yourself or have someone else you can trust to do it for you. Honestly self-evaluate your activity on social media – a lot depends on whether it is hobby or source of income. Now that I’m making a small amount of money through the app, I feel a little more justified in spending more time on it, but I cannot justify my needless scrolling!!

 

In some ways I feel like we are all just trying to navigate these unknown waters of Instagram. Some days the waters are beautifully blue and crystal clear, other days they can be grey, dark and murky. There are days where I feel like I’m confidently riding the waves and some others where I’m simply treading water – watching and waiting for my turn. There are also days when I genuinely feel like I’m sinking - days when I’m engulfed and overwhelmed by the waters, not able to catch a break.

 

Despite all I’ve written though, this funny little world has made me braver, (surprisingly) less self-conscious, and has unearthed some hidden creativity! I look at the world differently and appreciate the changing of the seasons. I’m intentionally looking for beauty around me – finding it and capturing it. I’ve blogged before about the connections and friendships formed through these squares, but I know who the true author behind these connections is, and it’s not Instagram. Insta is just the platform, another tool that God can use to weave our stories together for greater good. And I just love stories. Don’t you ever underestimate the power of your story, especially your story of the gospel. We are part of a much bigger story, one than spans right back to the beginning of time. My prayer is that from my story across these squares … you see Jesus. That I point you to Him - to His grace and goodness … not my carefully created existence!

 

My prayer is that while I continue to invest time in Instagram, while I connect, create and use my voice – that God is glorified and the Holy Spirit has room to move. But most importantly I pray that I don’t conform, but am continually transformed by the Lord (Romans 12 v 2) by the renewing of my mind. The ugly Instagram truth needs exposed more often! The subtle infiltration of certain ideals and expectations of how life should be lived needs called out. I need protection from the vanity and self-indulgence of it all, and from feeding off it like its good nourishment for me. I can think of lots of better kinds of nourishment than Instagram!

 

So seriously, seriously well done if you’ve made it this far …

 

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and support on this journey. I value every comment, message, like and follow. I love it when you give me that virtual high-five and “me too.” Nothing is overlooked here. Know that today.

 

Bless you guys,

Steph xo