By now, we all know that Instagram is the place to be for creatives. This network provides an amazing opportunity to build authentic relationships that feel intimate and true. Plus, Instagram is all about beautiful, artistic, bold images. But while we pride ourselves on being creative, let’s be honest here: it is hard to post stunning content every single day. At the same time, we stumble upon these gorgeous feeds with hundreds of thousands of followers and we start doubting our abilities. We get impostor syndrome, and think that our Insta feed will never look nearly as cool and polished.
Yet, the secret to an awesome and popular Instagram account is simple: Keep it consistent and be very strategic with it.
It seems that Instagram is about “being in the moment” and randomly snapping breathtaking images; however, if you want Instagram to become your friend and a truly effective marketing channel, there is definitely a lot more going on in the background than meets the eye.
Get clear on branding
Let’s start with Instagram branding 101. Get very clear on why you are on the platform, who you are trying to reach, and what the end goal is for being on the platform. It’s a relatively easy task if you have all of that figured out in your business and on your website. Just think of Instagram as another channel for your brand. Do not – I repeat, do not – create a whole new brand identity on Instagram. This platform should organically fit in with whatever you are doing already on the interwebs.
Consistency is key
Think of every post not as a separate entity out there, but as a single piece of a huge puzzle that is your Instagram presence. All of those pieces have to fit together cohesively and tell a story about your brand. Before you post an image, evaluate whether it really fits into your overall feed on a conceptual basis. Then, decide how you can make it fit in visually. Keep your brand colors in mind. More importantly, keep your overall brand mood consistent.
If your brand has a very glamorous feel, imagine what a grainy, dark image will do to it. If your brand feels homey, warm and natural, posting images with neon colors (even if they’re pretty) will leave your followers very confused.
You might want to share your new cool headshot made by a professional photographer, share a picture of your cat napping, or talk about this awesome new product you’re about launch. How do you go about logically crafting those posts on your Instagram? Through consistent use of colors, filters and styles. Pick two filters to use consistently on all of your images. Remember that different filters add different levels of saturation, temperature and brightness. Also, remember that they accentuate different colors. So, if your brand colors are greens and blues, try the Perpetua filter. If your brand incorporates pink hues, give the Nashville filter a try.
Plus, once you select a filter, you can double tap on it to control the intensity. You can also hone in on brightness, contrast and other details by going to individual settings. If you can’t find an Instagram filter that truly hits home, try VSCO. In my opinion, their filters are a bit more sophisticated than Instagram’s standard ones. Some filters do cost a couple of dollars, but you get to keep them once you’ve bought them and make your images stand out from the rest. I think it’s worth the investment.
Stand out from the crowd with graphics
Since Instagram is obviously very visual, try spicing it up with graphics. Text-based content will stand out on this image-heavy network. I love using Canva for all my graphic needs. You can use their free stock images, or upload your own. Add a color overlay with your brand colors. Play with fonts. You can truly make your graphics shine and be a coherent part of your feed.
Speaking of Canva, you can also play with their filters and customize them. Once you’re happy with settings, you can copy the filter code that appears on the bottom, and apply those exact same specifications to any other image you’re creating in Canva by simply pasting the code. How much time and sanity would that save you?
Planning and visualizing are your friends
Consistency should not only be present in your visuals and storytelling, it also should be evident in your posting schedule. No one wants to follow a person who might not be posting another awesome photo any time soon. You might unknowingly be hurting your follower counts by appearing and then disappearing off the platform.
Another important thing that planning enables you to do is to be even more strategic, even more engaging, and even more appealing to follow. Say you have a launch coming up soon, so for a whole month leading up to it, all you do is hard sell. All you do is share the same image of a future product over and over and over again. Doesn’t sound too appealing to follow, right?
However, if you plan your content just a bit ahead, you can mix up your self-promotional posts with educational posts, behind-the-scenes moments of your launch, and so forth. While you still may be talking about the same thing, you will be doing it much more engagingly and gracefully. You will be able to see so many more angles to your launch than just a hard sell.
What’s cool about new scheduling apps popping up on the market is that some of them are specifically designed for Instagram. Many of these apps now also have an ability for you to visualize your feed before posting individual images.
It may not seem like a biggie, but I will share a personal story with you. My Insta feed is pretty consistent: I use the same font and logo placement on all of my images. I also make sure that my photos are mostly blue in hue. Seems easy, doesn’t it? Find a blue image, put a predefined font on it, slap a logo and you’re done. However, on more than one occasion I have run into an issue of one blue hue not working with a blue hue next to it. This blue was greenish, and this was purplish, and this was much darker or brighter, and was sticking out from the bunch. I also could have multiple images of ocean scenes and then people for the next three images, so there was really no reason or rhythm to any of it. I’ve found that visual planning tools like Planoly, Plann and Tailwind work really well to avoid this, because you can play around with how it all looks together as a whole.
Don’t shy away from stock
Finally, once in awhile we all hit a creative block. Our minds just go blank and we anxiously start scrambling for ideas, and the pressure to post something doesn’t really help.
For instances like that, use stock images. Before you shake your head in disapproval, I will give you a few key reasons why it’s more than ok to post stock images on Instagram.
First of all, there are a ton of websites where attribution is not required. So you’re not mentioning anyone else or ruining an image with a watermark. Better yet, some of these sites are free, or charge a very modest monthly fee. Also, stock photography is much better than it used to be even five years ago. I am not talking about people in black suits against a white background or a guy giving you a thumbs up with a cheesy smile. I am talking about images that are of such high quality that you won’t even realize they’re stock.
In fact, using stock images is a pretty widespread practice on Instagram. Even influencers use quality – key word here being “quality” – stock images. Plus, don’t forget that with the use of filters, photo-editing tools, and text overlays, you can make that stock image truly fit your brand.
Having a gorgeous Instagram feed takes some work and dedication, but not as much as it may seem at first. To make your job less daunting, get very clear on your overall branding first, plan ahead and use the tools that are available at your disposal.