It was 2012 I joined the photo sharing social media platform Instagram. From the spring afternoon (yes I do remember) I was hooked. An array of beautiful photographs – travel, product and portraits all perfectly shot and gorgeously executed. Originally the platform was developed as an answer to sharing brilliant photography taken on a mobile device.
Five years on and I look through my Instagram feed and regularly find myself frustrated with bad lighting, ugly memes and generally untidy photography. (Learn more about The Evolution of Instagram here)
Then just when I am about to click off one of my favourite brands comes into view. A vision in pale pink and soft highlights – my eye gratified. I click to Nectar and Stone’s profile – something I almost always do when I see a post of theirs. I just want to check if there is a picture I have missed and I am immediately rewarded with a charming set of pretty pictures working in harmony.
Image of Nectar and Stone feed
Of course, Nectar and Stone have the advantage of great subject matter – they design delicious looking desserts for a living – but it doesn’t take an expert to see that their photos have been planned, scheduled and delivered with every detail in mind. We can all take a little inspiration from brands such as these when writing a social strategy for Instagram.
Every successful feed has to start with a well-researched and developed social strategy. Behind every great social strategy is a brand who knows who they are – their brand identity, and what they stand for – their brand values. This strong sense of self is the best basis there is for producing a brilliant and rewarding social media presence. We wrote another blog How To Use Instagram for Your Business which you may found helpful.
Instagram is a great place to reflect a brands personality and culture – but it is important to establish what you want out of your business Instagram account. Bear in mind the limits and technicalities of Instagram when considering this. For example, you can’t link out to websites in your posts so conversion rate isn’t always appropriate as a goal. Whereas brand awareness or showcasing your portfolio are perfect for such a platform. Write a mission statement such as “We aim to increase brand awareness and let people take a peek into what we look like behind the scenes”.
Another crucial aspect to ascertain is your brands target audience for Instagram. I say for the particular platform as this may well be different to the audience you choose to aim your website at or perhaps your LinkedIn profile. Usually, there is less ‘pressure to sell’ on Instagram as a platform (although advances are making it increasingly useful in doing so) you may choose to focus posts to existing clients for example.
By now you’ve probably realised a lot is required in terms of a plan before you go ahead sporadically snapping and sharing pictures in order to run an Instagram for business. If you are looking to run a successful personal Instagram account, covering the above may be advantageous for you too. Long gone are the days of ‘instant photo sharing’ as brands are required to plan and scheduled their posts and pictures.
Once these points have been addressed your conditions are great to start thinking about how your Instagram feed will look. Now, this might be something set out by your branding guidelines – for example outward facing images may be required to be in black and white or highly contrasted. Play around with colour palettes and filters to find something you are comfortable with but excited by and most importantly echoes your brand and its ethics. Become consistent with this, editing your photos in a similar way every time you share.
The bespoke bride always presents bright colours
Remember to consider your Instagram feed as a whole. A lot of us spend time worrying about a particular and what it looks like – which is important – but remember to keep in mind those images which surround it and how they will look presented together. Your Instagram becomes a scrapbook or mood board of your brand.
Then comes the fun bit – the photos or posts themselves. Point and shoot, right? Wrong. Every post should be carefully constructed and selected with your brands values, goals and aesthetic in mind. We’ve put together a list of points you should consider when taking your own images to post to Instagram.
Many successful Instagrammers would tell you that lighting is everything; the single most important factor when shooting photos for impact. We agree, if you are going to take any advice from this blog – at least remember to get your lighting right (obviously nail your basics like focus first). Bad lighting appeals to no-one and doesn’t showcase products to their full glory. Good lighting can set the mood and create atmosphere.
Top tip: use natural light where possible. The best time to take natural lit photos is an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.
We’ve all seen those hilarious photos online of someone’s selfie and in the background, their Mum is tucking into her dinner, their dirty washing lay on the floor or their little sister is pulling a face. That’s what you then remember the photo for – not the amazing dress the subject was trying to show off. Think about what else is in your shot and have a clean, uncomplicated background. The eye enjoys neatness and a clear canvas to make the subject pop. Visually busy backgrounds are distracting.
Top tip: make yourself a mini studio using a white table and backdrop. This is useful when creating flat-lays or product shots.
Creating balance can lie in your photos composition, the lighting or the harmony of the colours within the image. It basically refers to the amount of attention that an area of the photograph commands. Demanding equal attention across an image means visual balance is achieved. You could create balance by the use of symmetry or the inclusion of numerous subjects within an image to balance the eye.
Top tip: A basic photography principle is the rule of thirds, which when followed helps to produce well balanced but appealing pictures.
Instagram’s inbuilt editor is what attracts most of us to the platform for image sharing. Use it. It is powerful, efficient and free! Filters are fantastic and can work great for already great images – find one that reflects your brand and perhaps use it in varying strengths for every post. However, don’t be scared to use the individual editing tools to create images of distinction for your brand. Slightly wonky horizon? Straighten it. Gloomy day? Brighten it. A whole host of characteristics are available to toggle including contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, highlights and shadows.
Top tip: Steer clear of dramatic over editing. People can easily go too far with high contrast and full vignette pictures – not a good look.
I hope this gave you a head start when constructing your brands Instagram aesthetic. Start with a brands value and guidelines, develop them into a social strategy and have an idea of visual expectations when representing your brand. Follow some basic photography tips, make use of the in platform editing tools and you’re on your way to a winner. Following these pointers will make for a more satisfying user experience and have you well on your way to reaching your pre-set goals for Instagram.
For more advice on how to market your brand on Instagram or any other social media platform do get in touch with us.