It’s no secret that Instagram can be one of the most useful tools in your brand’s marketing arsenal — it’s an incredible platform for inspiring positive brand affinity, building awareness, keeping fans up to date with your latest and greatest products and services, and ensuring that your company is a valid contributor to today’s media landscape.
However, with new brands popping up daily on users’ feeds, not to mention personal users honing their own visual feeds better than most big-budget companies, the world of eye-catching content and sustained user interest is a highly competitive one.
So, where do you start when building your brand’s Instagram presence—both in terms of visuals and copy—and how can you move with the times to ensure you’re a stand-out on any self-respecting Instafeed?
Here are some key tips for where to begin, how to execute, and the best way to engage when it comes to nailing your brand’s Instagram tone:
Know What Your Brand Stands For
Trends come and go in today’s fast-paced world. While it’s important to move with the times, knowing what your brand stands for, and what the key objectives of your Instagram content are, is foundational for building an impressive feed.
Before you start creating content, ask yourself:
- What does my brand stand for?
Any brand should have a clear mission statement, supported by a short list of brand values. These values (usually around three to five values are ideal) should be clearly actionable, and reflected in every aspect of the brand’s products and marketing.
Understanding the key values of your brand will help you to answer many questions that you will encounter throughout your company’s life, from what the packaging should look like, to which hashtags you want to align with on Instagram.
- What is the objective of my feed?
Is it to inform fans of new products and services? Is it to inspire them to use your current products in new ways? Is it to show affinity for a lifestyle in which your brand fits into?
By having clear objectives and goals about what you are trying to communicate, you can ensure that each and every post ties into a bigger-picture strategy. This makes your feed a more effective tool in your marketing toolbox and results in an actively engaged following who are prepped for what to expect when they encounter your content.
For example, IKEA UK does this very well with their posts that incorporate style, interior design and product placements all at once. The screenshot below is a glimpse of their grid:
Own A Visual Style
Developing a uniquely distinguishable visual style and colour palette can take time, however a great place to start is combining the brand values that you have already defined, with some research into visual language used by other successful companies.
For example, if your company is selling giftware, and your brand is designed to appeal towards females who have a high level of disposable income, have a look at other brands playing in the premium giftware space. Perhaps include jewellery and luxe homewares too, and do some homework on the style of imagery that seems to consistently rank highly in terms of likes and comments.
Are flat lays the best way to illustrate what you are trying to communicate? Does inspirational travel photography resonate with your audience? Or is it a combination of both?
Make a list of techniques and a gallery of screengrabs as a reference point for the content that you want to generate, and revisit it —you can add to it, re-edit it—regularly to keep your own visual style on track.
Establish Your Color Palette
When experimenting with creating simple images that showcase your product, or reflect the lifestyle category that your brand is setting out to appeal to, begin to define a two or three-color palette that reflects your brand. This will become your visual footprint in users’ feeds.
This palette could be derived from your branding, your logo, or your packaging, or could simply be a series of colours that reflect the mood of your company. Test out several colour palettes in blocks of 9 images using an app such as VSCO, or on a hidden Instagram account, before establishing the colours that you’re going to keep consistent on your feed.
Once you have made your decision, start collecting backdrops and plain styling objects that can be used when shooting images for your Instagram feed. It’s a great idea to keep a few with you at all times, in your backpack or handbag, at your studio etc, so that they are always to hand. You never know when the opportunity to snap a great image might strike!
Remember: Editing techniques such as tonal filters and varying the contrast can also be key to creating your brand’s visual style.
Take advantage of Schedugram’s in-browser editor to crop, add stickers and apply tonal filters to your posts as you schedule them in advance.
Should all images be slightly de-saturated, but with heightened contrast, to make them a little more dramatic without making them feel garish? Or should you adjust the warmth setting to give a cool, sophisticated overall feel?
Make a note of the editing settings that work for you, and try to use them consistently so that your feed feels cohesive when viewed as a grid.
Captions Aren’t An After-Thought!
Yes, Instagram is a predominantly visual platform, but captions are a key way for users to find out more information about your company, follow your page, engage further with your brand values, and ultimately decide if your company is for them or not.
While it’s tempting to pack as much detail into captions as you possibly can, a better approach can be to think of your caption as a conversation — keep it short, snappy and relatable, and above all else, make sure the language that you use fits flawlessly with the overall tone and attitude of your brand.
A useful way to begin establishing a written tone for captions is to think of your brand as a person you are having a conversation with: What sort of words do they use? Are they the playful and enthusiastic friend who you can have a laugh with, or are they the more serious friend that you turn to for advice on serious issues? Once you establish this personality, it becomes much easier to assess whether a caption does or doesn’t fit your Instagram feed.
A key tip: Remember to review posts as they appear within a user’s general feed, which only shows between two and four lines of copy. Are you using these first words wisely? Make sure that your captions spark curiosity or interest within your target audience using these first few lines, and that they make sense when cut off or abbreviated by Instagram’s feed presets.
Make Sure Your Brand Hashtags Feel Natural
While bespoke brand hashtags can be a fantastic way to connect passionate fans and invite them to join in the visual conversation, nobody likes a brand that is constantly forcing its hashtags into users’ feeds by overlaying them onto what would otherwise be a beautiful image.
Rather than spoiling a beautiful image with hashtags all over it, consider using Schedugr.am to place your brand hashtags within the first comment instead. You’ll be able drive engagement and avoid frustrating your audience at the same time.
Like all decisions, brand tags can be a product of your company’s values, so be prepared to think beyond the scope of simply your brand’s name and location.
When deciding upon your brand’s unique hashtag, you should also search for other content that has been tagged with the word or phrase to ensure that there aren’t other brands out there using the tag.
For example, if your brand is a cosmetic company called Vixen Beauty, that aims to empower wearers and allow them to express themselves, instead of promoting #VixenBeauty as your key hashtag, look to incorporate the empowerment aspect of your ethos into the tag, with something like #BeAVixen or #MyVixenLook.
Champion users who post content using your hashtag to encourage others to do the same… Everyone loves the flattery of a regram!
Don’t Be Afraid Of Change
It’s true what they say: The only constant thing is change. Instagram, as a platform, will always keep changing, and the ways in which people use social media to communicate will continue to evolve.
Subscribe to key updates from Instagram via news outlets such as our blog or Contently to ensure that you are staying on top of the latest product developments, and don’t be afraid to try new things, such as Instagram polls in Instagram Stories, or gallery posts that have a narrative that runs through a few sequential images.
Your brand could be the first brand to introduce a user to a new function that Instagram has released, making it stand out as a leader and encouraging the user to share your content with friends, so once you become aware of a new feature, trial one or two posts that incorporate it (in your own style and tone, of course), and then test several approaches to the feature over the next week so that you can establish how best to use it.
About the author
Clare Acheson is a creative consultant, researcher and writer with an interest in visual culture, trend forecasting and design criticism. She’s currently in Melbourne, working as a Content producer & strategist at Urban List.