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The draw of Instagram, much like Pinterest, is in its non-stop supply of eye candy. The insta accounts that grow remarkably quickly from 0 to 10,000 followers, are often the ones that have a strong, delicious, consistent visual aesthetic. Of course this isn’t the only path to success on the app, there are certainly other ways to build a tribe there, but there is no mistaking the impact of an instagram feed that is so carefully curated to your exact tastes, that you want to step inside it and live there forever. If you can create this feeling for your ideal customer – you’ve got ’em. It’s only a matter of time until they buy from you (of course, you’re going to have to give them that chance once in a while – but we’ll discuss that later). First things first, let’s design your instagram visual strategy (be sure to read to the bottom where I share an awesome new tool that makes the beautifying of your feed easy!)
Where to Start…
The first place to start, as I mentioned last week, is of course, with your brand. Knowing why you do what you do, and who you do it for – plus the 4-6 ‘content categories’ or types of posts you think you may want to repeat, repeat, repeat. This will make your decision-making easier, it will help you build up that consistency, and it will make instagram actually WORK as a sales and customer acquisition tool (which it may NOT be if you’re just posting photos of your nails and your cappuccino!!)
1. Content Plan
Once you generally know your brand stuff (P.S. Your brand statement makes a great bio!) and you’re clear on which content categories you’re going to post regularly – I suggest making a draft of grid like this one (using whatever tools you like… draw it on paper if you want to) to give you a ‘flow’ for how those categories will be delivered. Keep in mind you’ll may want to post some of the categories more often than others, or throw one thing in there every 9 images or so. Mix it up! See where it takes you…
This is just a starting point, but that’s the idea – start!
As part of your content plan, you’ll want to think about not just the category of the content, but the type of content as well.
Definitely consider these top 5:
- Videos get mega engagement on Insta so definitely consider how to incorporate those…
- Quotes and branded templates with text in them are perfectly suited to insta
- Lay-flat Images that appear to be taken from directly above are yummy and easy to do yourself
- Multi-image feed that use 3, 6 or 9 frames on instagram (made by breaking one image up into 3, 6 or 9 and then posting one at a time – like the @thehappydogmom example above) are super cool – but keep in mind they will be broken as soon as you post just one image (shifting all the photos to the right 1 space) so you’ll either want to always post 3 at a time from then on, or delete them after your next post, so your feed doesn’t look a mess.
- Carousal Posts that include multiple images in one post have recently been made available and are a great way to tell more of a story of an event, a product, a session or a testimonial.
2. Visual Inspiration
Ok, here’s where it starts to get fun. Just like you need a plan for the content you’ll share, you need a plan for what that content will LOOK LIKE. The more creativity and self-control you exhibit here – the more wow-inducing your feed can be! The more your new visitors are wow’d the more followers you’ll amass quickly!
However, let me start by saying that there is no one RIGHT way to make your instagram pop.
There are lots of common ways to put together a visual space ( I see so many pastel feeds – seriously – what is the deal with pastels these days? There gorgeous but geez!?), but the goal is not to be like everyone else, the goal is to create a space that feels inviting to your users and authentic to you. A space where you have an endless supply of ideas, snaps, curated photos, lifestyle product shots etc. that naturally ‘fit’ because you designed the space to work with what you’ve already got going!
For example, I LOVE the bight white instagram feeds – they’re so crisp and breezy and fresh… They’re all flat-lay desk shots and flowers and hand lettering and cute outfits and fancy mugs… but no matter how much I love the look of that space – it’s not me. My counters aren’t marble, my desk isn’t white, my nails are never done and the surfaces I end up shooting on most often are wood and concrete – so it would be super hard for me to make a feed like this work long-term without super duper extra effort. So, when I set about to create the visual strategy for Working with Dog, I started with 3 things I suggest you use too…
3 Tools to Drive your Visual Strategy
- A pinterest board
- Brand color palette
- Materials, details, props I own, use regularly or that are a natural ‘fit’ for my brand & life
This is not to say you can’t or shouldn’t curate a mega amazing ambitious feed to make it 100% epic and consistent. If you’re up for it, and this is your passion, and you’ll get pleasure and satisfaction from it, DO IT! I bet you’ll be wildly successful! I am simply saying, you don’t have to do that to benefit from the platform.
Ok. First thing’s first…
Pinterest ‘mood board’
Pinterest is such a great place to build up pictures of ANYTHING, but the key here is not to go crazy with everything you love… That won’t get you very far with this consistency thing I keep harping on about. No, this is not that kind of pinterest board. This board has a specific goal, and that is to help you find your feet and inspire ideas, props, photographic styles and content for the way you’d like your instagram feed to look and feel. In this pinterest board, you want to be sure to include:
- Your favorite lifestyle & studio photos of your product or service (if you don’t have these – get some done in the next 3 months – if you need help finding the right photographer who ‘gets you’ and can work within your budget – get in touch, we can help matchmake!)
- Your brand colors (I suggest individual swatches or ‘blocks’ one color per swatch so they can ‘mix in’ with the other images on the board) > If you don’t have these we can make you a custom color palette to help inspire you, but really you should get your color nailed down as part of your ‘branding and identity’.
- Other photos (from pinterest, instagram or elsewhere) that FIT and you love, and that look good with #1 and #2
Use this space to curate the exact look and feel you’d like your instagram to represent. If you have a designer you work with, get his or her opinion – this ‘strategy level’ stuff is always a great place to invite professionals to help. Sometimes you simply are too close to it to really see it. Better to involve a pro before you get too far along.
P.S. When you create this board you may want to make it ‘secret’ so that it’s just for you and your team to see/use.
3. Get Thee to Instagram!
Last week I asked to you find, dust off and re-connect with your instagram account, or if you don’t have one, to get yourself one.
Of course the best way to learn is by doing – right? I started the @workingwithdog instagram in June 2015 and at the time I really had no idea what I was doing or why – but I put in the work to force myself into using the platform strategically (despite feeling like the photos or content were never good enough!) Over the last 2 years I’ve gained 4k followers, found a rhythm aesthetically, and have made many thousands of dollars directly from clients on instagram. I get comments often about how much people enjoy the feed, so to me, that means I’m doing something right, even though I don’t feel like it’s perfect.
Now it’s your turn. The more love you put into creating an instaspace that feels exciting, the more you’ll want to be there, build it, meet new people there and make it work for you.
Visual Planning Secret Weapon
One of the best tools I’ve recently discovered for visually planning instagram posts (as a cohesive feed, rather than scheduling one at a time) is Planoly. This tool not only lets you visually plan how your feed will look, it also handles the scheduling and engagement management bits too. I have only just started using it but I LOVE it so far! Definitely worth a try. This can help you shape they way your feed will look before you’ve posted a single image!
Planoly has offered #wwd members 50% off any monthly plan!! coupon code: workingwithdog
Need Some Insta-piration?
Here is some eye candy to inspire you to push the boundaries creatively in the pursuit of insta-awesome (has anyone seen pitch perfect? I feel like I’m all ‘aca-awesome’ in this article haha.)