How to create a strong brand on Instagram
Do you stumble upon simply gorgeous Instagram handles that have figured it all out? Their images are crisp, they all have that authentic brand feeling to them, and on top of that all (like it wasn’t enough of a hit to your ego!), they have mastered Instagram captions.
INSTAGRAM BRANDING 101
First, Instagram (although excellent) is just another social channel for your content. So it follows that you should treat it as such.
Ensure that Instagram fits organically into your overall branding and business strategy. Once your customers land on your profile, they have to recognize your brand immediately. Don’t try to be something you are not; it will be apparent and damaging.
Also, let’s get clear on overall branding versus visual branding. Branding is more than developing a logo. Branding encompasses all brand experiences, from how it looks and sounds to what it offers and handles customers. Everything your company does or offers is branding. So you need to define your company branding if you want it to be at least a bit successful.
Branding encompasses all of the brand experiences, from how it looks and sounds to what it offers and handles customers. Everything your company does or offers is branding.
STORYTELLING AND POSITIONING
While developing beautiful imagery is very important, so is the storytelling and positioning of your company.
Your brand story includes things like how you started, what hurdles you’ve overcome, what your passions are, what values drive your company, etc. It also includes things like your customers and what you help them achieve, what kinds of problems you are helping to solve, and what type of aspirational lifestyle they strive for. And this is just the beginning.
You have to consider your offerings and product lines and the theme or aspect that unites all of your products in a cohesive line. Plus, be very mindful of how you can stand out in your niche. There are many similar products offered in almost any industry, any part of our lives. However, we have a tendency to choose the brands we use by associations and the values we assign to them. So, think about what differentiates your company and your offerings from everyone else.
These details make up your brand story, and you have to be effective in consistently telling it through imagery and captions. Another place that will truly help you “introduce” yourself and your company to potential followers and clients is your Instagram bio. Think of it as your elevator speech. Every successful bio on Instagram has to have a couple of things. Who you are, What you do, and Who you serve. Ensure that all of these pieces are present and that they are clear.
Do not be afraid to be very specific. Entice the right people to follow you even if it means that some people who are not in your target audience will choose not to follow you. It is crucial because it will attract the right followers, hopefully turning them into clients. Don’t be afraid to turn away people who are not your ideal clients. It is beautiful because, in the long term, it will enable you to truly focus on the right people and provide them with a more excellent value.
Finally, if you have space left, include a fun fact about yourself. It helps show your personable side ad strike a conversation with people who have similar interests and passions.
Now, let’s get to the visual branding (also usually known as the “fun” part). Your Instagram visuals have to align with your visual assets on every other channel. Again, it ensures a cohesive experience for potential and existing customers. It also strengthens their set of associations with your brand. If your branding is clean and minimal – it should stay the same on Instagram. If your brand uses many bright colors, so should your Instagram photos.
Also, pay attention to your Instagram profile image. It seems like a no-brainer, yet marketers make this mistake. The Instagram profile image is tiny on the phone, so please, make sure it’s still legible.
CREATING INSTAGRAM-WORTHY IMAGES
Now, let’s talk about how you can go about creating beautiful imagery for Instagram that reinforces your brand.
This network is all about beautiful, bold photos that catch attention. Don’t bother to upload grainy (unless you’re going for that look), low-quality images – spoiler alert: it won’t rake in many likes. Your pictures are just one of the millions of others, so you better step up your game.
Visual representation of your brand online may be the first experience your audience has with it – make sure it’s great.
Some businesses have to be serious and sad, while some companies can get away with a bit of humor. Some companies appeal to their audience with playfulness and flirting. Others have to show their sense of style, glamour, and hipness. Yet, other companies will not win any customers over if they are not progressive and forward-thinking enough.
The mood of the business and its target audience will dictate the aesthetics of your brand presence. Think about the basic building blocks of your brand, such as color palette, fonts, imagery, logos, and slogans. We have all the pieces we need to create a beautiful and cohesive Instagram presence for your brand!
You have quite a few choices for producing and sourcing Instagram content.
CREATE YOUR CONTENT
The first choice is obviously to create your images. If you use lots of your images, make sure they are well-lit, high-contrast, and straightforward. Some seasoned Instagrammers only use their smartphones to take images of themselves. However, if you are not at that level of expertise or skill, opt for a real camera. There are a lot of decent camera offerings available at affordable prices. You will also quickly see the return on this investment in the quality of your content and, thus, the interest of your audience. Be very diligent with the quality of content you post to this network. If the image is excellent contextually; but is grainy or dark, try to find it in better quality or recreate it. Be ruthless in polishing your feed.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
Then, of course, you can hire a professional photographer to create high-quality pictures of your product or business. While this is a bit pricier option, it still makes a lot of sense. You won’t necessarily hire a photographer to create images for Instagram. You really should be hiring a professional to take a variety of images of you, your business, your products, and maybe even behind-the-scenes content. Once you have a library of great images of your business, you can ensure consistency across channels by uploading these photos to your website, email communications, print materials, and social channels. Since we talk about Instagram specifically, you can play around with these new professional images and create a variety of visuals. For example, you could creatively crop images or overlay images with text.
ROYALTY-FREE STOCK IMAGES
Finally, you can turn to stock photos. Royalty-free image websites are abundant, so finding amazing high-quality photos is not that difficult. Lots of these services allow you to use the pictures for free or for a small fee. I am also not talking about those “businessmen in black suits against white background” images. I am talking about creative stock images that almost do not look stock.
Visual representation of your brand online may be the first experience your audience has with it – make sure it’s great.
However, a word of advice: you can employ stock images once in a while but try to use as much unique imagery as possible. It will add a personal touch and tell a story about your brand.
You can also combine images with text to create variety in your visuals. Canva will help you create stunning, eye-catching visual items that tell your story. People appreciate it when you take the time to create a pleasant user experience.
Finally, you can turn to the vibrant Instagram community and, once in a while, repost someone else’s post if that post is in line with your branding. Most Instagrammers won’t find it offensive if you repost their content with proper credit. It may even lead to new connections and new communities being discovered.
SWITCH PHOTOS WITH INFOGRAPHICS AND VIDEOS
Finally, use various visual content to mix up your Instagram presence. A couple of the most excellent tools are infographics and videos. People love to get information in accessible, comprehensive ways.
Infographics present information in short pieces that are easy to understand. Videos are unique because people can see the exact process for something they’re trying to do or listen to your news instead of reading through a lengthy press release written in the dry language.
CRAFTING A UNIFORMED INSTAGRAM LOOK
It may be challenging enough to take amazing photos constantly; it might be even harder to ensure they all feel like pieces of one puzzle. Don’t get discouraged here – you can create a consistent Instagram look. Once people land on your Instagram, the first thing they will see is your feed. You have to ensure a pleasurable experience – make sure it has the flow and that all images are high-resolution, visually pleasing, and representative of your brand.
Think of your Instagram feed as one big picture, where all of the images fit in and create your overall brand story, but then also each image goes into detail and strengthens that story even further.
So it would help if you struck a balance between each image telling a story on its own and being engaging by itself, but also as a part of a bigger picture building a cohesive feed that tells a straightforward story of what you’re trying to sell.
Uncommon to see business profiles where we have an image of the product, here we have a blurry “behind-the-scenes” image, and here we have an inspirational quote from a person who has nothing to do with a given industry. Keep your messaging and branding consistent.
Consistency is the key to visual marketing. Decide whether you want your brand to be serious, dramatic, romantic, funky, or classy. Use filters to submerge your audience into this feeling. Create a mini branding guide that lays out colors, graphic fonts, caption mood, hashtags, and anything else you need.
Consistency is the key to visual marketing.
First, look for your brand colors. If you’re creating product photos or staged photos of product usage, it should be relatively easy to bring those colors into the photo. If it’s text-heavy images, you have complete control over font colors. Finally, if it’s truly a lifestyle photo, a behind-the-scenes moment, or a casual photo, you can enhance the brand look with a bit of help from filters.
Spend a little time going through all the filters Instagram offers already. Some Instagram filters, like Clarendon, Lark, and Juno, intensify hues and increase contrast. Others, such as Gingham, Crema, and Reyes, make photos look more subdued and pale. Yet others bring out specific colors. For example, Perpetua enhances blues and greens, Valencia adds yellow, and Nashville adds pink hues. Also, don’t forget some filters will warm up the colors in a photo, while others will cool them down.
If Instagram filters don’t satisfy you, there are a variety of apps these days that all come with pre-made filters and the ability to create your unique look. For example, check out VSCO filters. These free and paid filters are a little more sophisticated. If you find a collection or a filter you like, spend a few bucks on it to drive your Instagram branding home.
Another thing you can do is to hop on over to Canva and play around with sliders to indeed have control over saturation, brightness, contrast, hue, vignette, and other options.
Pro tip: save the filter code you get in that window once you are happy with the settings. Now, when you create other images, you can save time by simply pasting that code into the same window. It will apply all of those settings to any other image and give you that consistent Instagram look.
Of course, there is always Photoshop. If you feel comfortable playing around with settings and filters in Photoshop, go for it! You can also save your preferred look as a preset to save you some time in the future!
PLACE BRANDING CONSISTENTLY
Use a consistent logo and placement on all of your visual marketing assets. Having logo variations will confuse and distract your audience and customers. Please spend some time to find something that works and use it across all of your visual content. Your customers will be much more likely to recognize your visuals in the noise of other brands and content.
MIX AND MATCH BEAUTIFUL COLORS
I will assume you’re not a graphic designer or an artist, so use Design Seeds. This tool will quickly suggest the best color palette based on the images you upload to this website.
Use these colors if you’d like to add a text overlay, create a color block, or anything else you might want to do with it. It’s sad to see a beautiful image with great potential with an unsuccessful copy overlay that distracts or doesn’t go with an image.
HOW TO WRITE A PERFECT INSTAGRAM CAPTION TO TELL THE STORY OF YOUR BRAND
While the images capture our attention on Instagram, it is the captions that make it indeed a compelling message. Sometimes it is nice to get a background story and find out more details. It makes the storytelling that much more powerful.
Let me briefly revisit the first point and say that your voice on Instagram should be the same as everywhere else. Those captions have to be authentic to your brand. Now that we clarified that let’s discuss the length of Instagram captions.
The short answer is that there is no correct answer. That being said, your captions should add some value to the visual content it accompanies. Play with the length of your captions to see what works best for your audience.
Extended captions give your photos the depth to be meaningful. Some people use Instagram as a mini-blog platform where they share the details of their life, their thoughts, or their adventures. Some people become famous for going deep in their Instagram posts and showing a proper knowledge of their niche.
At the same time, some images do not require a lengthy caption. If the image is self-explanatory or doesn’t have an important story behind it, don’t force it. Sometimes the punchiest copywriting is brief and clever. Practice this skill once in a while. Clarify what’s happening, bring attention to details by highlighting what you love about this image, or show your humorous side.
It all comes down to how much you want to disclose or what your followers need to know to understand your message. Don’t leave them guessing and wondering, but also don’t tire them with paragraphs and paragraphs of a meaningless ramble.
Also, please do not stuff your captions with hashtags. It is very distracting. If you’re going to use the hashtag in your caption, it has to be done cheeky and highlight a point, so don’t put more than three hashtags into an image caption.
Where you can put more is in the comment section. Once you publish an image, go to comments and post your hashtags as the first comment.
It will accomplish a few things. (Another pro tip I am spilling here!)
First of all, your uploads will be as discoverable as they’d be with hashtags in the descriptions. Yet, it keeps descriptions short and clean. Plus, if you’re going to repost an image on other platforms that don’t support hashtags or make it look weird, it’s better to keep the copy neat.
Yet, now that you know where to insert hashtags don’t be too spammy and staff your comments with irrelevant keywords.
CREATE MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS TO YOUR CONTENT
Although this is more about building a community and striking the right chord with your audience, here are my two cents regarding your branding on Instagram.
To truly stand out on Instagram and earn yourself lots of loyal followers and paying customers, you need to make an emotional connection with them. It is where your storytelling, imagery, and even comments come together.
I am not saying to be overly dramatic or push people’s buttons for no reason, but being authentic will win you a more targeted community. If you share exciting and personal stories of why you started your company in the first place or share what your passions, obsessions, and aspirations are for this business, the right kind of people will want to stay for the ride. Your visual content can be emotional as well. Strike a chord with your audience by sharing emotionally-striking images that people can relate to. Happy smiles, deep eyes, or breathtaking views are some of the most common ways to provoke an emotional response in viewers. Yet, be careful not to go after “shock value.” It might not rub well with all of your audience, and you don’t want to get in trouble for inappropriate images.
One of the best ways to work that visual content is to make it emotional.
Yes, Instagram branding takes time to perfect. However, once you achieve that consistent Instagram looks and find your signature style that beautifully blends into an overall branding, you’ll be golden.
What do you think? Did you find your Instagram style? What are its building blocks of it? How do you ensure consistency in your Instagram presence? Share in the comment section below.