Jillian Tobher Leslie is the founder of Catch My Party, the web’s most popular party idea source. Her and her husband have successfully built a fun side project into a full-time business, and now share user-submitted photos and in-house party content with more than 600,000 followers on Pinterest and 94,000 on Instagram. Check out more of Jillian’s work here!
We took some time to chat with Jillian about the recent release of Instagram’s Stories feature, her strategy when it comes to managing more and more platforms, and how she got started as a full-time blogger. Check out what she had to say below!
For those who are just being introduced to you, can you share a little bit about yourself?
I founded Catch My Party in 2009 with my husband. We started it as a side project. I was a writer in Hollywood, and my husband was working at MySpace and we just came up with this idea and thought, “We’ll build this up on the side.” So we did it! We actually did it! And then at a certain point we said, “Hey, we think this could be a business. We could leave our jobs and do this full time.” And so we did, and so far we’ve made it work! We are based in Palo Alto, CA. We moved up here to be closer to technology culture.
Catch My Party is the largest party ideas site on the web. We have user generated content where people upload photos of their parties, and we also blog about party trends, party ideas, party recipes, and crafts. We give away collections of free printables to decorate your party, and there are over 50k parties that people have added to our site to show off.
With so many new social sharing platforms popping up these days, how do you stay on top of all the best ways to connect with your audience?
The biggest thing that we think about is, where is our audience already? Our audience is mainly women, 98%, typically 25-35 years old, and a lot of those women are moms. So what we try to think about is where those women are, and it’s really in 3 places. They are on Pinterest trying to get party ideas, and so we are on Pinterest. We have a big following because we really focused on growing it. They are on Instagram because they like looking at beautiful things, so we are on Instagram. And they are on Facebook, also, so we are on Facebook. We’re on everything- Twitter, Google+, Snapchat- but in terms of where we are focused, that’s really where we focus and we are intentional about the content we share.
We are also exploring Snapchat and trying to create a presence on Snapchat. The tricky thing about Snapchat is that our users are a little bit older than the typical user. However we believe Snapchat will also mature, and we want to be sure to stake out a presence there.
How do you see yourself using IG Stories and Snapchat for Catch My Party? Will you be using both, or do you prefer one over the other? Why?
I prefer Instagram Stories right now, for a few reasons. We have 90k followers on Instagram so we have an instant audience. If I want to reach people, it’s much easier to do there than Snapchat. Also, there is discoverability on Instagram. So you can search for people, they highlight people to follow, and it’s a lot easier to get your content to trickle out. On Snapchat, the way that the user interface is set up, it’s much harder to follow people. They either have to find our snapcode or type in our name, so it’s trickier to get followers onto the platform who aren’t already there. I believe that will change, and Snapchat will recognize that and integrate that functionality. But if I were trying to reach people today, it would be on Instagram Stories.
What’s your favorite kind of content to share on IG Stories? What kind of content keeps your audience most engaged?
It’s still very new, so I’m experimenting. And I recommend that everyone experiment, because everyone’s audiences are so different. What I find is that my audience is really busy moms. So yesterday I shared a really quick story about my daughter’s first day of fourth grade. But the truth of the matter is, people don’t care that much about that. What I try to share are things that I find in the world that I think are cool. Because if think it’s cool maybe you’ll think it’s cool. I’m always thinking in terms of how can I provide value and not just make it a platform all about me.
How does your strategic approach when it comes to posting an image on IG differ from other platforms? What about a video?
I feel like Instagram now is two apps in one, and it doesn’t quite feel seamless. They’re very different experiences. Sharing beautiful photos in your stream and then a spur of the moment story. So when I go to Instagram now I’m of two minds – stream or story?
Every day I share 2-3 parties that have been added to Catch My Party to our Instagram feed, because I can tag [the person who submitted] and give a little bit of attention to them, and they can possibly grow their followings because I featured them and I can thank them for adding it to our site. So that’s how I think about our stream. If I make something beautiful for HelloSociety, I will also put that on my IG feed. Really I think about our Instagram feed as showing off beautiful things.
Stories are much more casual. Again, I try not to make me the focus. I try to be a curator of interesting things. We’ll also show off that I posted a new blog post. I’ll put in my story saying “Hey guys, check out the Alice in Wonderland cake photo roundup that I just shared”, and I’ll put the link to my blog in the caption.
Do you have any advice when it comes to standing out in an ever-growing community of bloggers and Influencers?
I think it’s really important to understand what your brand is, and to really stick to it. Some advice I always gave people on Instagram before Stories was if you’re a food blogger that does desserts, I want to see photos of your desserts. I don’t want to see photos of your kids at the pool. Even though you have lovely children and a cool looking pool, I follow you because you make delicious desserts. So it’s really understanding the kind of value you’re putting out into the world, and going deep into that. It doesn’t mean that over time you can’t expand, like if you do desserts and want to do cocktails now too. But being a niche player is a better strategy than trying to do everything. Do everything intentionally and beautifully, and buy a DSLR camera and learn how to use it.