Crocstar Audience series – chapter one: Ainsley Gray

Pretty pictures and honest captions.

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As part of our audience series, we’ve been chatting to Ainsley of ‘Life With Oakley and Olive’. She’s been telling us about getting creative with content, staying authentic on Instagram and what it means to her to support local brands.

All about Ainsley
Ainsley is a Derbyshire-based ‘Mama, wife and blogger’. Her carefully curated Instagram feed has over 25k followers and her blog offers an honest insight into life with two little ones.

Hi Ainsley, thanks so much for dropping by with Olive today. Let’s kick things off with a quick one. Why do you use Instagram? And what makes it different from other social media platforms?

Thanks! And thanks for the tea and cake. So I joined Instagram initially just to record snapshots of meaningful milestones in my life.

As a former art student, Instagram appealed to me as it satisfied a creative itch. I can curate a feed of images that flow and tell a story. Unlike Facebook where I feel too exposed, I have the power to select what memories I want to capture and share.

I think of Instagram as my personal scrapbook and create my own hashtags to curate mini-galleries. Because I can reflect on my memories in a personal way, my feed still feels like mine even though it’s open for everyone to see.

My patience seems to be low at the moment, and I can't figure out why. It's as if the past 12 weeks has finally caught up with me, I'm constantly torn between wanting to stay at home and catch up on things that need doing or getting out and about where Oakley can wear himself out and have fun. The juggle is real, but what I can say is when negative thoughts consume and patience does wear thin a brisk walk seems to help my mind. Just stepping away from the jobs that seem to be weighing me down for only an hour or so makes them feel not so heavy anymore and whilst the babies nap (or not nap for longer than 10 minutes as today proved) priorities become a little clearer. Tonight it has been teething for one and colic for the other, patience was very much needed. If your ever having 'one of those days' just take a walk and breath in that fresh air, it might just help. Thanks for today's much needed walk @graced_with_girls 👏🏼 #wheninstafriendsbecomerealfriends #motherhoodunplugged #honestmotherhood #tryingnottobehardonmyself #motherhoodthroughinstagram #itstoughsometimes #butgodilovethem

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Often Instagram bloggers describe their posts as a journey. Do you feel the same?

Yes definitely. After my wedding my photos included more of my house renovation, then my pregnancy. Each stage of my life has given me a new network of Insta-friends and my following has snowballed organically.

After using hashtags, I’ve been able to connect with people on the same journey as me, which has been incredibly empowering.

Instagram is a place of true community and friendship – I’ve never had any negative engagement. I feel like Instagram is an important platform for women and mothers especially, it’s somewhere we can have a voice and make female issues visible. Motherhood through Instagram has been amazing.

'I dream of giving birth to a child that will one day ask... "Mother what was war?"' Please please stop the world, I want to get off. To think me and Daniel were only walking the streets of central London yesterday. My heart goes out to all affected by today's act of terrorism, and I pray for the injured. #prayforlondon #siblinghoodlove

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How did you begin to collaborate with businesses?

I stumbled across a few brands that only sold their products through Instagram. I love unique, quirky things and I liked that you wouldn’t be able to find these on the high street.

I started to take pictures of the products I bought - I had around two thousand followers at the time - and by doing this the brand would gain lots of new followers, and ultimately sales. Eventually they contacted me asking if they could send me complimentary things to promote.

That’s when my modest community progressed so much in such a short amount of time, none of it was forced, it was all totally organic. Often my friends would ask if I’d bought followers but I didn’t even know - and I still don’t - how to do that.

Ok so I did kinda plan on having 2 boys, I was so looking forward to the twinning. Then our little yellow baby turned pink and I wasn't sure the twinning would be possible, oh how silly was I?! They are going to love me when they are older! 💙💗 #tapfordetails #twinning #obsessedwithmynewcamera #olympuspencrew #siblinghoodlove

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We’ve recently been to YMS where the major theme was how to stay authentic on social – particularly for influencers who can have a huge impact on whether their followers buy a product or not. 

As you can probably guess, our next question is how do you balance these requests?

When I find an exciting new product that really works, I absolutely want to shout about it to other mums. However I’m conscious that I influence their buying decisions and only collaborate with brands that complement my Instagram feed. It may sound silly, but because my Instagram is my creative outlet I don’t want it to turn into a walking billboard!

For me personally, Instagram is the best place to give a well-deserved shout out to independent and local brands.

It’s rare that I have to turn down a collaboration request, but when I do it can be awkward. Working with Crocstar is helpful because everything is explained in a brief. They have a knack for matching me with brands they know I will love, although they get that no one understands my aesthetic better than me (it’s the art student in me!).

Daddy is at work and it would be so easy to avoid to madness that comes with getting out with 2 on my own. It took 5 hours from waking up but we made it, 5 nappies later, numerous snack stops and an almost lost shoe but it felt so nice to see that spring has sprung at my favourite place. . . . . . . . #motherhood #motherhoodunplugged #candidchildhood #dayout #motherhoodthroughinstagram #freshair #springtime

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Do you ever feel there’s a pressure to post?

Now that I’m part of a community, I do feel pressure to post every single day. I want social media to be a part of my life, not an obsession. I think it’s important for my children to not think of me as someone who’s glued to their phone. I’ve tackled this by investing in a camera which helps me to create content mindfully, rather than constantly snapping away on my phone.

Using a camera has also allowed me to improve the quality of my images and get the aesthetic that I want. At first, I was worried that using aspirational photos might seem inauthentic and not representative of my daily life so ‘pretty pictures and honest captions’ has become my mantra. Styled photographs might attract followers, but raw and real words keep them.

I think this is why I’m obsessed with Instagram Stories – I can be relaxed about what I share because it’s temporary. I don’t have to think about how it looks and can just focus on how enjoyable it is for my Insta-friends. And on days when Oakley totally isn’t into smiling for the camera and there’s a pile of washing it do, it’s nice to have that real-time connection with my followers.

Thank you so much for your time Ainsley, it’s been great to get a look into your world behind the camera!

Do you understand your audience better than anyone else could?

We’re on the hunt for influencers and brands that really understand their audience – and what makes them tick. If this sounds like you, drop us a line.