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This Style Blogger Got Her Start in Her Dorm Room. Today She Has Over a Million Followers and a Fashion Line.

Gal Meets Glam founder Julia Engel shares how she used social media to grow her brand.
This Style Blogger Got Her Start in Her Dorm Room. Today She Has Over a Million Followers and a Fashion Line.
Image credit: Courtesy of Julia Engel
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
7 min read

In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.

In 2011, Julia Engel was a junior in college getting a degree in marketing. She decided to start a style blog, Gal Meets Glam, as a side project to put all the things that inspired her in one place.

Today, Engel’s 1.2 million Instagram followers regularly flock to her site to get her take on fashion, travel, entertaining and home design. What started as a hobby has evolved into a growing style and beauty empire.

This spring, Engel’s classically feminine aesthetic jumped off the screen and into the hands of her fans in the form of her first fashion line, the Gal Meets Glam Collection. The line of dresses launched exclusively with Nordstrom and is now being sold nationwide after four years of planning and development.

“I wanted to create something that was bigger than myself that could be a daily part of these women's lives,” Engel said. “One of the reasons why it was received so well is because it was so true to myself and true to everything I love and everything I built on Gal Meets Glam over the past seven and half years.”

Engel shared her insights with Entrepreneur about why authenticity is the key to social media success.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Related: Why Beauty Hack Guru Huda Kattan Turned Down a $185,000 Instagram Sponsored Post Deal

How did you get your start on Instagram?

I started Gal Meets Glam in 2011 when I was a junior in college. I created an Instagram account in early 2012. I first thought it was a filters app, so my first five images were just the same picture five times. I didn't realize it was an actual platform for following and connecting with other people.

How do you leverage your account and to what extent do you monetize it?

We monetize through a few different ways. If a post has product links, we use different affiliate platforms. We make money through that and then we make money through sponsored content. There's a few different types of sponsored content but most of the ones we do are long-term partnerships, six months to a year or more. We've had a three year-long contract with American Express and we work with them throughout the year and that is integrated throughout all of our content, not just a sponsored post once and done.

We get contacted by many brands. In order to keep the integrity and the authenticity of your site and your brand you have to have most of your content be non-sponsored. We're strategic about who we choose their work with. That is all tied around whether we think that brands aligns with our brand and if we think our readers are going to be interested in that partnership.

What's your content strategy? How do you decide what and when to post?

That all ties back to what we have on the blog. That's dependent on the month and what season we're in and what our readers are excited about. We take a lot of information that we're getting from people and turn it into posts. We get a lot of our ideas from questions that we're constantly being asked because we want to be creating posts that are resonating with people and feel like we're listening to them. Oftentimes we'll create something for the blog and we'll think of another fun element to tie to Instagram, whether it's a short video to go along with it that we think is engaging and fun to follow along or something for Instagram stories that we think will grab people's attention.

Related: The 'Hot Vet' of Instagram Shares What He's Learned About Brand-Building, Human Nature and Pet Allergies With His 1 Million Followers

What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?

My biggest advice would be to think about what you have to give an audience. Too many people are constantly thinking about what can I get out of it? Can I get someone free? Can I get a big following and be Instagram famous? The most important thing is to gain a following to think about what you are putting out there. Because people are following you because they're getting something out of it. Think about what you have to offer and how are you going to make it unique. And sometimes people underestimate themselves. If they're genuinely being authentic and being themselves, that's what makes them unique. Put on blinders and don't pay attention to what everybody else doing.

What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?

A lot of people now think that anybody that has a big following on Instagram is an Instagrammer. I have people come up to me and they're like, "I love your Instagram" or "You're my Instagrammer." While that's awesome and I love Instagram, there is so much more to our business. It is small portion. While it's definitely helped our business in so many different ways and helped us expand and grow, it is a social media platform that we use to build our business. So I think oftentimes people are swept into Instagram and it becomes a bubble.

What are five posts that best represent your brand?

A big part of what I share is centered around my personal style, and that's what my readers and followers engage with the most.
 

I created Gal Meets Glam Collection for women of all types to feel beautiful and confident in. I get no greater joy than seeing someone in one of my dresses. This is a picture with me, my mom and two sisters all wearing @galmeetsglam Collection.

Travel and new experiences fuel my creativity. There's no greater joy that I get than when I'm exploring a beautiful new place and I think it comes through in my images.

I carefully plan out how my images work with one another to create a cohesive aesthetic of the brand. When someone lands on my profile they should know exactly what to expect by following me: fun, feminine and thoughtfully crafted imagery.

None of my success would have been possible without my husband, Thomas (@tberolz). We started together and since Day 1 he's been by my side as my photographer, business partner and number one supporter.

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The 'Hot Vet' of Instagram Shares What He's Learned About Brand-Building, Human Nature and Pet Allergies With His 1 Million Followers