Most know the chic rocker-turned-influencer Tessa Barton, who has been brightening up social media feeds across New York City, on Instagram as the famed @Tezza. But her latest project, InstaStyle, a guide to building your best life on Instagram, has her playing teacher to a clamoring fan base—Barton has nearly 700,000 followers on Instagram—seeking answers to questions about cultivating an audience on the social media platform.
In her latest chat with Gotham, Barton sheds some light on the tricks she used to build her following on Instagram, her current obsessions, and her favorite NYC haunts.
What's the key to building a following on Instagram? TESSA BARTON: The number one thing would be not to copy somebody else completely because there’s somebody already out there doing that. Find your voice and your message and what you have to say, because it is becoming such a saturated market and standing out is becoming harder. There's a lot of trial and error. Everyone’s account is different in that way.
Being consistent and having really good content is also really important. It doesn’t have to be this editorial content but a good content is very important. I’ve always been super interactive with people who are also setting out to do. It’s the best way to build a community.
Where do you get your inspiration from? TB: I’m really always trying to push myself to come up with something that I haven’t seen before, whether that’s trying crazy different angles or coming up with something to visually catch people off guard. People are scrolling so much that even sometimes I get bored looking. So I’m constantly asking myself, “What can I do that’s different?” and “What’s fun to look at for me?”
Of course, I also look at a ton of vintage photographs and models from back in the day that I can pull from but translate in my own style.
Have you moved on from the selfie? TB: I have, but I guess I’m technically posting a selfie everyday because photos of me go up all the time. But I don’t think people will ever get over it. We’re in a weird generation where we’re just obsessed with ourselves, so I think people will constantly be looking for that satisfaction.
Is there anything you're currently obsessed with? TB: I have a really bad sunglasses obsession at the moment. I think I have like… It’s scary, I don’t know that I should say… maybe around 150 different pairs of sunglasses. I collect everything from vintage to high fashion to those stupid street glasses that run you a couple dollars. That’s my weakness at the moment.
But I did just get a pair of these chunky Gucci sandals. They’re insane and they look like saucers. I can’t explain it. [Laughs] They're definitely my favorite thing right now.
Are there things you won't wear? I've drawn my own personal line at sweatpants... TB: I’m with you on the sweatpants! I don’t even own a pair of sweatpants. I hate sweatpants. We can agree on that with you.
I definitely won’t rock the bodycon shape or anything too tight. I like masculine shapes. I don’t wear stilettos. That’s not my vibe. I wear a lot of heels, but they’re chunky, or boots. I don’t know what it is. I can never seem to pull it off, but maybe this is the year!
I know a lot of people who have tried to build a following by pushing money at their Instagram accounts. What's the best way to build a following nowadays? TB: I never did it through money. I reached out to every brand I ever wanted to work with and I still do that to this day. A lot of us try to get a brand to notice you by commenting on their photos or DMing them and letting them know you love their stuff or by wearing the brand on your feed. You definitely have to post about it or no one is going to see that you do that. It’s the best way, I think, to get noticed and have success. Offering to shoot content for a brand can help get other big brands to notice you, but it takes a lot of hustle.
If you could work with any brand, which would it be? TB: Gucci is my number one. I’m putting it out there, haha. I think they’re such a unique and innovative brand. But I like working with small up-and-coming brands that are just starting and really trying to get their feet off the ground.
When you have downtime, where can we find you? TB: I do live in the Lower East Side and I love it. There’s so many chic boutiques and shops. I like to go dancing and there’s a lot of fun places down here. There’s a really weird place called Make Believe. It’s all pink and always has a good rotation of DJs spinning.