How to Brand Your Instagram

Creating a Consistent and On-Brand Instagram feed for your small business

How many of you are Instagram fans? (Assuming that since you are here reading this post, your hand is metaphorically raised.) We most definitely are. It’s one of our favorite platforms, both personally and professionally, and we spend the majority of our social time engaging on Instagram.

When branding our Instagram accounts, before worrying about what images to use or filters to try – another important element to think about is the content you are sharing and what its purpose has for your brand. What can we post in our feed that will bring value to our followers, support our brand’s message, and all the while provide an exclusive behind the scenes look into creative professional lives?

Ask yourself: If a potential client were to come to your IG feed, what would they learn? 

Behind the Brand:

Before we jump into what to post, let’s define what we’re doing on Instagram in the first place as this will greatly affect what we end up posting.

Why are you on Instagram?

Not all platforms are created equal and with only a finite amount of time to devote to social media each day, picking the right platforms for your small business is critical. So, why Instagram specifically (v.s. Facebook or Twitter)? Why are you promoting your business on Instagram? What value does Instagram provide for your business?

Who are you talking to on Instagram?

Knowing specifically who it is on the other side of the phone screen can really make a difference in understanding what types of content to post, how to communicate through your content, and what times to post. So, who specifically are you talking to on Instagram and why? Who are your ideal clients and why (and even when) are they on Instagram?

What actions do you want your posts to inspire people to do?

Just like a blog post, email newsletter, or product sales page, including a clear call to action at the end of each post can be incredibly helpful in guiding your followers through the desired outcome for each post. Social media is all about being social, and sometimes people need a little help or guidance there in order to know how you want them to reach out.

Branding the Basics

Now that we know why we’re on Instagram and who were talking to, we can focus on the general setup of our Instagram account.

The Profile Photo:

Should you use a photo of you or your logo? Depending on your business, this answer varies. People will always connect with a face before they connect with a logo so if using a photo of yourself is appropriate, we always recommend doing so. But if you work for a larger brand or company where a single photo doesn’t clearly represent your brand, using your logo is a great choice. An Instagram Profile photo is incredibly small (exactly 110×110 px), especially on mobile devices so using a variation or your logo that looks great in a tight circular shape is best. If using a photo, using a clean tighter facial crop where you are clearly visible is an ideal choice.

The Bio:

With a limited amount of characters to work with (150 characters to be specific), you want to write your bio strategically, providing only the most critical information in the most easily digestible format. Check out some of your favorite Instagram feeds and see how others have utilized this limited space.

Your ONLY Link:

With only one URL link available to you, making sure you use the best one for Instagram is so important (hint, it isn’t always your home page URL). Think about the most actionable page you can send your followers to; your portfolio, your opt-in, your contact page, a blog post, etc… and know that you are not stuck with that one link forever. Updating your link often (especially if you are a product based shop) is a great way to provide a reason for followers to continue back to your bio again and again.

Highlights:

Highlights and Instagram Stories can be incredible opportunities to showcase and promote your brand. Think about your business and the products or services you offer. How can you break those down into short “highlighted” segments? Or what short visual snippets of your business would be beneficial for your clients or followers to see?

      • Use your Highlights like a portfolio feed to highlight past project and showcase your work.
      • Use your highlights to educate your clients and outline your process, company information, FAQ’s, or even Testimonials.
      • Use your highlights to showcase “how-tos” and educate your clients through video tutorials or explainer clips.
      • Use your highlights to share location-based images or photography.
      • Use your highlights to showcase your menu or signature dishes.

I could honestly go on and on here, but the best way to use your Highlights section will be based on how best to communicate your brand to your clients.

What to Post on Instagram

The answer to “what to post on Instagram” is just as unique as the brand doing the posting. There isn’t any “one system fits all” when it comes to what to post or even when, but we have found a set of posting guidelines that should help you to start curating valuable content in a consistent and maintainable schedule. Then, once you’ve got your IG feet under you, you can confidently take off and really build a unique brand on Instagram. 

When working with our brand clients, we spend a great deal of time focusing on the major “W’s” of their brands; WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, HOW (I know HOW isn’t a “W” but they always group that one together too.) 

WHO ARE YOU?

Do you ever share any personal posts about yourself? Any selfies of you or professional images of you working and providing a face to go with the name on your IG handle?

INSTA-INSPIRATION: Take a look at our own Instagram feed @whiskeyandred and you’ll see a number of very on brand styled photos of both Steven and me working, designing, and engaging with one another the way we would if we were working on a project or in a meeting with a client. This helps us to “paint the picture” of not only who we are, but what it looks like when you work with us. It supports our team element and the individual focus and attention we put into every client project.

WHO DO YOU WORK WITH?

What kinds of clients do you work with? Who seeks out your services? What does your ideal client look like? Help your followers envision themselves working with you through the inspiring branded images you share on Instagram.

INSTA-INSPIRATION: Britt, Graphic designer behind @brandedbybritt is constantly sharing client projects and showcasing beautiful new brand introductions for her clients, helping 1. introduce them to her audience, and 2. showcase the kinds of clients that she works with, helping followers on IG imagine working on their blog and brand designs with Britt too.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

What do you do professionally? What is your job title? Are you a designer, writer, teacher, coach, athlete, blogger… etc. Is this clear in the images you are sharing. If I came to your Instagram account, would I be able to know what it was you did?

INSTA-INSPIRATION: Abagail Pumphrey of @thinkcreativekc does a great job of promoting her blog content and professional services on Instagram while also sharing fun, bright colorful images that give you a strong understanding of who Agabail is and what she stands for. You instantly know what Abagail does and why it’s important to her.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Now that we’ve cleared up WHO you work with, and WHAT you do, HOW do you do it? What is your creative process? Do you have specific steps that you follow in your professional services? Do you have a unique way in which you conduct your business? What is it about your brand that makes you unique?

INSTA-INSPIRATION: Saffron Avenue owner and designer Angela Mondloch @saffronavenue is constantly utilizing Instagram’s video feature to show her working on her calligraphy and writing messages to her IG followers as it relates to her professional and personal life.

WHERE DO YOU WORK?

Now all of us have the luxury of working in big beautiful office spaces, but that’s ok. Showing where you work opens up more information about the world in which you exist in. That may sound so scientific, of course people know what world we exist in, but really, this element can often be underemphasized in social media where we get used to watching life happen on a screen. Do you work in a local coffee shop? Do you drive to your client’s homes? Do you work virtually? Help us picture what your creative world looks like.

INSTA-INSPIRATION: Regina A at @byreginatv does a beautiful job of showing her doing her thing all over the United States. From coffee shops, to kitchens, to offices, to couches and beyond! Plus, she is always showing really creative behind the scenes shots of her actually working, allowing her audience a sneak peek at upcoming projects.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? (To you and to your followers.)

This might seem harder to portray in images, but this is where your text comes into play. Thinking about the message you are sending with each image. Why is this post important? Why is it important to you and your brand? AND why is it important to your followers? It’s this commonality that will help make your brand more relatable and identifiable for your target clients and encourage them to click your links and explore further.

So, how do we actually capture all these important brand elements into our Instagram images? 

INSTA-BRAND PHOTO CHALLENGE

31 Day’s of Intentional Insta-Business Action to Build Our Brands on Instagram

For the next 30 days, I challenge you to post to Instagram, sharing relevant, interesting, and artistic behind the scenes images that don’t only include food and babies. Think outside the box with me as we tackle our Instagram feeds this month with inspiring and creative business-focused daily photo challenges.

  • STEP 1: Download the Brand Your Instagram Challenge Photo Checklist HERE!
  • STEP 2: Head over to Instagram and follow me @whiskeyandred
  • STEP 3: Be sure to include the group hashtag: #InstaBrandChallenge so that way we can all follow along and support each other as we work to brand our Instagram.

 

FREE Instagram Challenge for Business


The Daily Shot:

*Note: Day 1 starts on a Monday in order to keep with the weekly/daily focuses. 

MONDAYS: The lady or gentleman behind the brand! Mondays are a great day to share a little more you. And not just the typical selfie, but an action shot of you living and breathing your personal brand.

TUESDAYS: Technology and Business Organization. Each Tuesday, you’ll be prompted to capture and share a business resource, be it your favorite tech, your calendar system, or your tangible tools. Tuesdays are for supporting HOW you do what you do by focusing on the tools and resources you use to manage and maintain your brand.

WEDNESDAYS: Client Project and Professional Workflow. Take the midweek to share a behind the scenes glance at your creative process. Be it featuring a recent client project, a particular phase in your workflow, or your creative materials in action (workbooks, notebooks, post-its etc… This helps your followers envision not only HOW you work, but WHO you work with so they can then begin to picture themselves working with you too.

THURSDAYS: #ThrowbackThrusdays. Have you read “Leave Your Mark” by Aliza Licht? She talks about taking #selfies, but not your traditional “turn-the-camera-around-and-take-a-rough-photo-of-yourself” kind of selfie, but a selfie of where you are at today v.s. yesterday, last week, last month, and beyond. Thinking in terms of your brand’s growth, share a throwback memory of how far your brand has come. This provides social proof and supports your creditability as a professional in your niche by showing how much time has gone by and how much you’ve grown.

FRIDAYS: #CreativeGeniusFriday. Each Friday, share either an accomplished week by showcasing a finished to-do-list, empty inbox, celebratory cup of coffee, or recognize another creative who’s inspired you in some way that week. Part of being a leader is also knowing how to be a follower. By supporting other brands and artists, you only make yourself look more credible. Fridays are a great time to recognize those that have inspired your brand and help spread some Friday love.

SATURDAYS: Celebrating Saturday. Just as important as how we manage our work time, is how we allow ourselves to relax during our downtime. How do you unwind from a busy week? What are some of your favorite creative outlets? Do you like to binge watch Netflix on Saturdays with your dog or are your the avid outdoors adventurer taking on some crazy nature adventure? Or are you the nighttime socialite? What do you do when you’re not hard at work?

SUNDAYS: A Sunday well spent set you up for a week of content. How do you prep for your new week to begin? Do you have any specific routine for your work week? Or are you family-focused on the weekends?

So, what do you say? (in the voice of Barney Stinson of ‘How I Met Your Mother’)… 

Challenge Accepted!  

 


 

Be sure to start with prompt 1: “Your Introduction” so all the fellow creatives partaking in our little challenge can get to know you and what you’re all about, and then jump right into today’s challenge: Calendar, Schedule, To-Do List! A new month means new schedule. How do you organize your time and track your monthly brand growth?

I’d love to follow along with you as you brand your Instagram and partake in our epic #InstaBrand, so comment below and include your IG handle so I can find you and help expand your brand this month on Instagram.

Ready…. set…. GO!

P.S. If you know of any other creative entrepreneurs that would benefit from this challenge, be sure to help spread the word!

Sincerely,

Julie & Steve

SO, HOW CAN WE HELP YOU BUILD YOUR BRAND?


PHOTO CREDIT: © Jaelynn Castillo via Unsplash

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Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

Julie Harris is the founder and lead designer of Whiskey & Red. Based out of Woodland Park, Colorado, Whiskey & Red specializes in small business branding and WordPress website design. They collaborate with small business owners, at all levels of industry, helping them translate their offline business into an online digital experience.

68 Comments

  • Ooh this is so what I need! I’ve been trying to up my IG game but haven’t seemed to gain many new followers. This sounds like fun! I’m definitely spreading the word!

    @marianney5

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Marianne! I am so thrilled you’ll be joining me. Instagram hasn’t been a major player in my social schedule but I really wanted to give it a solid focus this month with an intentional photo challenge. Then after putting it all together, I thought I should definitely make this a group effort. Just like working out, trying something new is easier with group accountability. So here’s to an intentional #InstaSeptember!!

  • This is an excellent challenge, Julie – and there’s plenty of instruction and inspiration to get an Instagram account moving.

    I took up an Instagram challenge a few months ago and at the start, wondered how I’d post something every single day. But by taking each day as it comes, I managed it.

    Can’t wait to see how people do on this !

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Raz! I definitely wanted to create something that was flexible, while still manageable and maintainable for a busy entrepreneur who might not utilize Instagram in their normal social strategy. But the goal is always to post with purpose so hopefully my prompts help inspire new creative uses for IG for other brilliant creatives. I love your post-it posts! #wordsmatter. It’s like my daily dose of motivation with Raz! 🙂

  • Ruthie Gray says:

    Hi Julie! Just found you today and commented on your Instagram. I’m just now getting it together and am traveling so I hope to catch up fully in the next few days. I’m so excited about this program because I’ve wanted to brand my Instagram for a long time but haven’t made the time it really had someone to show me how to better do that.
    Excited to be a part of #InstaSeptember!
    Have a great evening! 🙂

    • Julie Harris says:

      Welcome Ruthie! So thrilled you stumbled upon this place. I am so excited for you to be joining me for this #InstaSeptember challenge! And jump in anytime, the challenge is meant to be flexible while still accountable so anyone can participate. I’ll be going on my own travel adventure soon and I wanted to use this challenge to build positive IG posting habits so I can continue even after the campaign is done.

    • Denise says:

      I have been trying to build my page, and i love these suggestions my IG : #mymaxchallenge
      Thanks!

  • Lora Frost says:

    Love this idea of creating a behind the scenes look for the next 30 days! See you in the challenge 🙂

    • Julie Harris says:

      Yay! Welcome Lora. Instagram is all about the “instant” moments of our day, but when it comes to providing productive, intentional brand supportive content, sometimes we have to think a little harder. It’s all about providing value to our followers. Hopefully this challenge will help spark some insta-inspiration for you! See you on IG!

  • Juliet says:

    Such a helpful post! Thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely come back later 🙂

    Happy Promo-Monday 🙂
    x, Juliet

  • Vanesa says:

    Julie, this is GOLD! I’m a week late, but I’ll start the second week of the challenge today. I look forward to keeping up with other people’s pictures with the #instaseptember hashtag.

    • Julie Harris says:

      Excellent! Welcome Vanesa. The challenge is meant to be flexible and maintainable with all of our busy entrepreneurial schedules. So you can jump in with day one or join us in week two, whatever works best for you. That’s why I have both the daily themes and the daily prompts. I can’t wait to check out your BTS brand insta-action!

  • Julienne says:

    This is such a great post and so much what I’ve been needing lately! Thanks!

    • Julie Harris says:

      I am so glad, Julienne. Thank you so much for stopping by. I’d love to have you join in on our insta-brand action. I wanted to make Instagram a more consistent part of my brand and it’s always easier to build a stronger habit when you’ve got the accountability and support of a group to help you keep going.

  • Ashley says:

    Love this! I know I am a little late to start it but I am definitely going try this challenge!

  • Donna says:

    i love this. We are starting a new business…check out the website ????. But I’m just starting to use social media. My IG account I had for ages. But now want to use it to promote my family’s new business. So I think this is a great way for me to get started thank you

    • Julie Harris says:

      Hi Donna! Thank you so much! This challenge has definitely helped give me the kick in the pants that I needed to up my IG game. I hope you enjoy the daily prompts, and of course feel free to move them around and mix them up as they fit best with your brand. Social media is such a crucial part in building a successful brand but can easily get overwhelming. Hopefully, by joining in with us, you’ll find the creative confidence to take social media on by storm! 🙂 Good luck with your new business!

  • Catherine says:

    I’ve just found out about this and it’s a great idea! I’m going to try and join in even though I’m really late! @velvetbarnacle

  • Tracy says:

    Julie,

    What a wonderful idea! I just found your blog and love the content and information! Even though I am a few months late discovering this, and since it was already November..I plan on doing this in December! Again, thanks so much for the idea! TR

    • Julie Harris says:

      Welcome Tracy! I am so glad you found your way here. The challenge is definitely meant to be doable in any month at any start point so I am so excited to hear you’ll be doing it in December! I can only imagine some of the prompts with a Holiday emphasis. So fun!

  • Allison says:

    Definitely going to give these a try! @allisonswonderlandco

  • Simon Ostrovsky says:

    Thanks a lot! You inspired me to run this contest with my followers. It’s really important to do it, coz it makes you closer with followers. Btw, have you finished this challenge? As for me, I go out of my way to promote my IG: use thought-ous to the smallest detail strategy with hastagging, runnung contests, doing feedback with followers, use Schedugram for analytics and zengram.net for increasing followers, which are, by the way, real and loyal, cause they are interested in me 😀 And I’ll go to any length to gain success.

  • Sara says:

    I just saw this but it looks fun and helpful, so I’m going to do it! Just followed you on IG 🙂 @wichitadoula

  • Sarah says:

    This is a wonderful article for anyone that is unsure about how to present themselves on Instagram! I shared it with the Brilliant Business Moms FB group~ they loved it 🙂 Easy to follow and well organized. Thank you!
    Sarah @the_accidental_artist

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Sarah for stopping by and sharing this with your FB group! I so appreciate you helping spread the word about this post. Instagram is such a powerful and exciting platform for us small business owners but can be a bit daunting when we first start out. I hoped this post would bring more confidence and clarity into how to use Instagram as a professional platform. I’ll be sure to check out your IG account!

  • Emily says:

    This is sooo helpful! Glad I stumbled upon this, and thank you for sharing!

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Emily for your time! I am so glad you found your way here. I absolutely love Instagram for business so I wanted to find a way to help others expand their brands there too. I hope you try out the challenge!

  • Yessie says:

    Totally what I need in my IG life right now!
    Thanks for the great post.
    @yessielibby

  • Ariane says:

    Nice! I can really learn from this. Too bad I didn’t read this post yesterday, because it is Tuesday now, haha. Should I wait until next week to begin or post two photos today (the 1st and the 2nd on the checklist) so I will be on track?

    • Julie Harris says:

      Haha no worries Ariane! The challenge is meant to be flexible enough to start any day of the week. Just jump in where ever you are and go for the next 31 days. That’s the beauty of Instagram 🙂 Just be sure to use the hashtag so I can follow along with you!

  • Gwen Byes says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’m stuck in the middle of two things I love…Photography and Art. Trying to figure out how to brand the two together. It seems like I work on one for a while and then focus on the other. My IG is mostly photography. Started a bog, but I’m not really a writer. Struggling to find my niche. I found some great inspiration in your post. Thanks!

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Gwen! I am so glad you found some great inspiration here. The goal is to help you find a system that works for you to promote your brand and engage your target audience on Instagram. I feel like Photography and Art are very related and that you could find a beautiful way to integrate the two together and by using a cohesive color palette and photo styling, they’ll blend beautifully. Blogging is a great way to really hone your brand voice and find the perfect tone and mood for your content. It’s definitely hard at first, but keep it up and you’ll find what works best for you. Good luck!!!

  • Chelsey says:

    I love your ideas and knowledge! I’m just starting out and am overwhelmed, trying to make sure I’m hitting all the right points. I’m excited to try this challenge, I think I’ll start next week! Thank you so much!

    @TheBakeSite

    • Julie Harris says:

      Yay! I’m so excited you found your way here Chelsey. I still do the challenge each month to help keep my content consistent and provide a variety of points to discuss as they relate to whatever I am doing at that point in time. Editorial calendars are hard, and then actually executing them can be even harder, but a challenge helps make it fun and gives us the opportunity to build a habit and get in a consistent and manageable flow for our content. I look forward to checking out where you’re at with the challenge!

  • Yuslih El Fahmi says:

    what a great info. it’s helpful

  • Dawn Hurd says:

    GREAT tips as I am always just showing my products and never thought about sharing a glimpse into my world but maybe I ought to try. Thank you for the advice I’m going to give it a try x

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Dawn! Yes!! People might know they want what you are selling, but do they want to buy it from you, or someone else? Giving them that peak into your world and the experience you create through your brand helps make that personal connection and establish a relationship that will make you their top choice. Definitely give it a try 🙂

  • Kristina says:

    Wow! Thanks! The information is really usefull! I’m starting using it from Monday and I hope it will be really effective! Thanks once again:)

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Kristina! I am so happy you found this post so helpful. Have fun with the challenge!!! I hope it is just as effective for you as it was for me 🙂

  • Hi Julie, thanks for the awesome challenge! I started mine 5 days ago and am really loving it. I’ve done a 30 challenge before and really struggled to keep up with it as it meant I had to produce work every day and that was tough to find the time. But I’m loving this so far and already have gained a few more followers!
    Here’s me if you want to follow along : @conniemavromatis

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Connie! I am so glad you are enjoying the challenge so far. It’s definitely meant to make it easier to curate valuable content in a way that naturally fits in with your business. Instead of random photo prompts, I tried to keep the themes business related so that it would be easier to make them happen each day. I can’t wait to see what you’ve posted so far!

  • Melissa says:

    This is a really nice idea. I just started a instgram page for my designs in other to reach potential clients, but was wondering if I was doing well or was in the rigth track. I wasn’t sure to make a theme or just casual designs and photos.

    Well! I’ll accept the challenge and see where it leads me. You can visit my IG page @melarroyodesign and would love some feedback.

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much Melissa! I am so glad you found this post so valuable. As a fellow designer, Instagram was made for us! I so recommend getting more comfortable sharing your work and even more behind the scenes pieces of you and your creative process. Really thinking about what your goals are for Instagram and how to achieve them through the content you post. Always keep asking, “if a potential client were to come upon your IG feed, what would they learn?” And, do you clearly state what you’d like them to do next? (contact you, answer a question, share a thought, etc…). Best of luck!

  • Shammee says:

    Wow, this are amazing steps.
    I have just started my account yesterday & I am gonna follow all this steps.

    Thank you so much, following you now and looking forward for amazing ideas.

  • Britney says:

    I’m excited to try all the steps out and see how my branding grows!
    @bfree158

  • Kym Buchanan says:

    What a great article. I love how you designed the layout. So much easier to read and understand.
    Thanks so much. I would love to be able to link your article to my Instagram course.

  • Emine says:

    Thank you so much. I printed it out and can’t wait to show my process of starting and growing my blog.

    Greetings from the Netherlands
    http://organizedandmessy.wordpress.com/

  • Jaalyn J Washington says:

    Awesome! I will be starting a new instagram today as I am in the process of launching my social media marketing business. This is the perfect challenge to start it off! @jaalynwashington

  • Meghan says:

    Going to start this up coming Monday on both of my Insta accounts! I run two businesses and have one for each, though there is some over lap.
    Would love for you to follow along.
    @red_bell_farms and @red_bell_and_wine

    -Meghan

    • Julie Harris says:

      Yay! Good luck Meghan! One account is hard enough, so tackling two is quite a challenge. I’ll be sure to jump over and check out how the challenge is going 🙂

  • Ines says:

    This is so useful! I have 10K followers, but now i am on a need to starting making my instagram more atractive…
    i love the week schedule, i’ll try to make it fix into one that i just planned. Tomorrow is Monday so it is a good day to start!
    I would love if you can see my performance in a week and let me know your thoughts! I promise i’ll do my best!

  • Hi July! Thanks! The information is really usefull! I’m starting using it from Monday and I hope it will be really effective! Thanks once again:)
    Here’s me if you want to follow along : @noidesign_

  • Mikaila says:

    So keen to effectively brand my insta now!!
    Joining you!!
    @mikamonster1

  • I’m doing this! Thanks for the post!

  • Kirtti says:

    Thank You for this post. I had been changing my theme on Instagram. I loved my last month’s theme so much. But I feel as June is my Birth Month I must change again. I am brainstorming how can I incorporate these ideas and create a new post each day.

    This is new as I had been using stock images and words on it since starting. Let’s see how it will go.

    Thank You again.

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m diving in feet first with my new art business and have learned so much already. Feel free to follow me @nicoleproxmire

    Nicole

  • Ashley says:

    Oh very helpful! Thank you! ! My IG handle is dreameditrepeat hope I can follow this checklist and grow!

  • John says:

    Great article! I will be using the calendar for posts and hopefully it will start a habit of post consistently.

  • Brittany says:

    I love this and am totally starting on Monday!!

  • Mackayla says:

    Love all of the tips you shared, especially the one about your WHY, and the WHY of your brand.

  • Betty says:

    This is so timely, been thinking of beginning the new month with a fresh start
    @mum_lifeessentials

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