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 (vs. 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?
If a potential client were to come to your IG feed, what would they learn?
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 we’re 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.
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
Think about the most actionable page you can send your followers to
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 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 projects 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.
So, where to begin…
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 one of our favorite feeds to follow, fellow design team, Char Co. @charcompany. In their posts, stories, and highlights – they do an excellent job of welcoming you into their studio and showcasing their talented team of designers, photographers, and creatives. This helps you see WHO you could be working with if you hired Char Co. for your design needs, putting a face to a larger brand and helping create that human relationship from the get-go.
Who Do You Work With/Who Do You Serve?
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: We are living in a world where “influencer” is an actual job title, and eCommerce brands like Andie Swim @andieswim have done an amazing job of showing their brand influences and ambassadors in their feed, stories, and highlights. They even have a hashtag for their clients to use when showcasing themselves using Andie’s products – #andieinthewild
What Do You/Does Your Company Do?
What do you do? 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/your company did?
INSTA-INSPIRATION: One of our favorite mouth-watering accounts we follow is White Pie Denver @white_pie_denver. They are a local pizzeria and sandwich restaurant based out of Denver. Their feed is filled with the most delicious photos that make me hungry just typing about them now. It is incredibly clear not only what they do (make pizza), but what makes their pizzas and sandwiches different through the up-close and personal shots they have of their handcrafted masterpieces.
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: As a designer or maker of any kind, social media is made for you right now with all the video and animated options available through everyday tech like our phones or mobile devices. 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 or in person? 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.
What about those strange one-word phrases that start with pound symbols and break English majors’ hearts around the world? There are COUNTLESS posts out there on this specific topic and there is definitely a scientific system to creating the best hashtag strategy for your brand, but when first getting started, having the basics in place can really help.
It’s generally recommended to start with 13 hashtags per post. Now, this is only a recommendation and by no means the rule. You’ll see some people posting with as many as 30 hashtags while others might only use one or two (or none at all!) Depending on their brand, follower count, and social strategy, the total will vary. So pick a number that works best for you and start there.
Here is a general list of tags to include with each post:
- Your personal hashtag ex: #whiskeyandred
- Your location hashtag ex: #woodlandpark
- Your State Hashtag ex: #colorado
- Your Industry or Service (this might be more than one hashtag, or even a combo of service and location) ex: #websitedesign #branddesign #logodesign #brandidentity #coloradowebsitedesign
- Social Media Relevant hashtags ex: #followfriday #fridayintroductions #tiptuesday #throwbackthrusday #waybackwednesday
So, how do we actually capture all these important brand elements into our Instagram images?
Instagram Brand Photo Challenge
25 Days of Intentional Instagram Business Action to Build Our Brands on Instagram
For the next 25 days, we challenge you to post to Instagram, sharing relevant, interesting, and artistic behind the scenes images that don’t only include food or flat lays. Think “outside the box” with us as we tackle our Instagram feeds with inspiring and creative business-focused daily photo challenges.
The Daily Shot
*Note: Day 1 starts on a Monday in order to keep with the weekly/daily focuses.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
#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.
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?
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’)…
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 a new schedule. How do you organize your time and track your monthly brand growth?
Ready… set… GO!