5 Affordable Items That'll Transform Your Social Media Presence

camera phone at concertwoman using camera phone at show
Sumetee Theesungnern/Dreamstime

If you love to share your travel photos, videos, and narratives across social media, here's how a modest investment in gear can jump-start your personal brand.

In a world awash with social-media travel influencers and megastars, it can be difficult for the aspiring writer/photographer to stand out from the crowd. From revamping your Instagram feed to enhancing your YouTube channel’s production values, here’s how to take your show on the road—and make your voice heard.

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1. A Reliable Microphone

Sure, smartphones come with pretty good built-in mics these days, but if you’re serious about upping your social-media game, improving the sound quality of your broadcasts is an easy way to take things up a notch. For phones with headphone jacks, Rode’s VideoMic Me is a solid, affordable option: It’s a directional microphone, so it does have to be pointed toward the sound it’s recording, but it comes with a furry puff called a windshield that cuts down on background noise—especially handy for outdoor shoots. For newer iPhones, Shure’s MV88 iOS hooks up via the Lightning connector, rotates to pick up sound from all directions, and comes with a molded carrying case to boot. (Just make sure your phone is fully charged, since you won’t be able to plug in while the mic is attached.) Both models are compact, light (less than an ounce and a half each), and easy to use.

Rode VideoMic Me directional microphone, $54; amazon.comShure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone, $129 (discounted through 12/31/18; regularly $149); amazon.com.

2. An External Light Source

Some of the best things happen in dimly lit places, but that doesn’t mean you should keep your followers in the dark. For those cozy meals in candle-lit dining rooms, late nights in murky bars, or really, anytime natural light is in short supply, a little illumination goes a long way. Whether you’re snapping selfies or small plates, brighten things up with LuMee's combination LED light/battery charger, a small brick that comes in handy in more situations than you’d imagine. (Just watch out for the strobe function—you’ll want to save that one for the club.) As the kids say, pics or it didn’t happen.

LuMee Power Light, $50; lumee.com.

3. A Flexible Tripod

Anyone who’s attempted to take a few minutes of video with increasingly shaky hands can attest to the importance of a tripod. Fotopro's uFO2 has bendable legs that wrap around the nearest surface (a railing, a signpost, an arm rest) for stability, and a Bluetooth remote control for hitting that record button or capturing the perfect still shot. It includes a mount for a regular camera as well as adapters for both phone and GoPro, and its legs are waterproof, so when you're conducting a rain-soaked interview or going whitewater rafting, you won’t have to worry about it failing. Not to mention that at twelve inches in length, it also works as a selfie stick—ideal for the solo traveler and aspiring Instagram star alike.

Fotopro uFO2 tripod, $23; amazon.com.

4. An Emergency Power Boost

Don’t get stuck in low-power mode in the middle of a key livestream or tweet storm. TravelCard's slim little charger will give you a quick 35 to 45 percent boost, and, weighing in at just under two ounces, it’s barely bigger than a credit card, so it’ll take up next to no room in your kit. Consider it an insurance policy, and keep one on hand at all times. 

TravelCard charger, $29; travelcardcharger.com.

5. Something to Stash It All In

Once you’ve got the right equipment, you need to corral everything so it's easily accessible, and this pouch serves double duty, organizing your gadgets and protecting them from the elements at the same time. Part of a collaboration between two Maine outfitters, New England stalwart L.L. Bean and Flowfold, a Portland-area brand that creates minimalist gear with high-performance fabrics, it’s made from a composite that’s tough, lightweight, and water-resistant, so it’ll keep your stuff safe and dry if unexpected weather conditions arise. And, with bright-orange loops on each end, it’ll never get lost in your bag.

L.L.Bean x Flowfold Utility Organizer in olive, $50; llbean.com.

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