Your business’ Instagram Feed is one of the most important things for your branding. It’s like your modern day business card to showcase your work, represent your brand and drive consumers.
In this post you’ll learn some rules for maintaining brand consistency and engaging your audience on your Instagram profile.
Why Does Your Feed Matter?
The Instagram feed for your business is crucial for your brand. Instagram has gone through so many changes, no doubt. We’ve gone from posting with Instagram provided filters and scrolling through chronological posts of ALL (yes, all) of the accounts we follow, to now fighting for a chance to get seen among millions of ads and flashy, click-bait content.
Trust me, I’ve been on the same ride as you, and it’s a f*cking roller coaster.
But even though things may not be as sweet and easy as they used to be, a branded Instagram is essential to any and every small business/blog/idea – PERIOD. And until something comes to take its crown, we must worship the social queen that is IG.
So now that we’ve established our full commitment to the platform, let me explain to you how to utilize it without getting lost in the murky shadows.
Instagram Feed Rules
- Aim for satisfaction, not perfection
- Maintain a consistent, yet fluid, plan for posting
- Get inspired, but don’t conform
- Build your content backwards (I’ll explain…)
- Use the platform as if you’re a HUMAN
RULE NUMBER ONE: Don’t Be Obsessive
I feel like this is the most common mistake when it comes to Instagram: OVER-OBSESSION.
I cannot tell you how many times clients, friends – even myself – have rambled on about how to make their Instagram account f l a w l e s s. It’s a disease easier to catch than COVID-19, let me tell ya.
Every waking moment is spent checking notifications, prepping the next post, “researching competition,” and whatever other excuse made for this app to ruin your life.
And although this post is all about making your Instagram as aesthetic as possible, making sure you have control over the platform is essential.
This is kind of my “disclaimer” rule to keep you present in the real world. As much as we want to look perfect on social media, it truly is just an app. So learn how to use it to your advantage!
Plan Your Business Instagram Feed
First things first – you need to have a plan.
You wouldn’t walk into an investor meeting without the core DNA of what you stand for splattered across the pages of a .ppt, right? Think of your Instagram feed the same way, except without as much pressure!
Social Media is a place for your business to show its story, and your Instagram Feed is a work of art made to embody that message.
Instagram Feed Scheduling Tools
On the flipside to over-obsessive Instagrammers, there are the ones who think it’s ok to just post when an idea comes, or create content on the fly. I can’t lie, sometimes magic can happen here. But a large majority of the time you end up with half-ass content riddled of spelling errors, untimely references and a loss of attention across the board.
Not to mention, creativity flows sequentially – not forcefully.
If you tell yourself in between meetings that something must go on your Instagram Feed today, you’ll force an idea during a 20-minute lunch break. Or worse – panic at 9pm and put up a picture of your dog. BUT if you set aside half a day each week to get creative defining your brand’s message, you’ll be a content machine in no time.
(If not, shoot me an email and I’ll help close the gap for you 😉 – firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are a million and one scheduling services, calendars, publishers, etc. that can help you achieve this goal. Depending on your objective, there are a few I have worked with and recommend for businesses on a budget.
- CoSchedule (good for wordpress / blog integration)
- Later (my favorite for Instagram + great mobile app!)
- Planoly (simple, minimal posting with full feed view)
Plan Your Feed Fluidly
Ok now here comes the second part of this bullet point – DO NOT become married to your plan.
I know this is contradicting. First I tell you to plan, next I tell you don’t plan on the plan. It doesn’t make sense, but bear with me here, OK?
There are times when you really just have to let go of the plan and adjust as needed. Sometimes an idea comes to you that’s so timely and important, you feel it’s your duty to let the world know. And that’s totally ok! Actually, it’s encouraged.
The reason you plan your business Instagram Feed is because those light bulb moments don’t come every day. By building an arsenal of good, usable content to have in your corner, you’re prepared to go about running operations – and letting some mind-blowing ideas pop in without pressure.
To put it in perspective, I typically post 5-7 Instagram Feed posts a week for full-time business clients. So when preparing for a photo shoot, I expect to get at least that many shots and ideas done in advance. Then, when planning my calendar, I choose from a library of content and build out a solid 1-2 weeks of posts at a time.
The reason I do this instead of locking in 30+ days of content, copy and planning is… shit happens!
In my experience, it works best to have a general plan for one month out, then micro plan week by week, two at most, to keep things fresh. I find things get stale when you plug content and let it run for too long, and it shows in audiences too.
Additionally, this method helps you stay on top of pop culture references and news-worthy events, which draw a fine line between good content and great.
Get Inspired, But Don’t Conform
Another tip that is (hopefully) obvious: Be original!
Everyone gets their inspiration from some one source or another, and it’s not a bad thing! Creativity is meant to be spread, IMO. But there’s a special balance between finding inspiration and appeasing the masses.
When preparing content for a client, I usually have a number of inspo resources to look at. For example, @sweetgreen is total IG porn for restaurant clients. But all their content is salads, veggies, fruit, etc., so a place that sells BBQ and burgers may not feel similar. But there are styles and methods you can take to apply to your own work. (See below!)
When you’re browsing Pinterest (or other badass business’ Instagram feeds) for inspo, keep your brand in mind and apply that look to the content you like. This is where knowing your brand’s aesthetic really comes into play.
Literally anything can be taken as inspo and applied to your brand if you do it correctly.
You may find content that you LOVE the feeling it gives, but the vibe, colors, look, etc. is off for your brand. Try to decipher what it is you actually like about the photo. It could be the contrast between the subject and background. Or maybe it’s a play on shadowing that draws you in.
My favorite quote is: “Art is born in attention. Its midwife is detail.”
Art is created by first observing things around you and being inspired by what you notice. But if you only stop there, you miss out on taking that inspiration and molding it to create something truly unique, original and inspiring to others.
Anyone can just black and white copy someone else’s work. You might even get credit for the concept. But that’s lazy and boring. Challenge yourself to say, “WHY do I like this, and how can I make it great for my brand / business?”
That is where the real magic happens. 😉
Build Your Content From Caption To Photo
After many years of social media management and producing content for brands, I finally figured out the secret to creating posts with purpose.
Take your photos around your caption instead of writing a caption for your photos.
The caption is easily 40% of a post’s performance, sometimes more. So when you take the time to think about what message you’d like to say, THEN go to photo planning, the whole idea comes together. It’s one of those, “A-ha!” moments, yano?
I used to have a photoshoot for a brand or my own blog and just get as many pictures as possible. My production plan looked more like a list of items instead of a marketable thought or idea.
It makes for easy planning and execution, but when it comes time to write a caption that people will actually care about, I always found myself bullshitting or trying too hard to make the words work with the picture.
These days, I go through various planning exercises by looking at the upcoming holiday calendar, analyzing past posts that did well, and considering any promotions or features the brand is highlighting. Then I go searching for imagery inspo and try to find ways to incorporate the message with the image in a clever way.
This is extra important if you use a professional photographer to produce content. Every minute spent on set trying to come up with innovative ideas is money out the door. Setting up your team for success early on makes all the difference!
Here’s my post on how to create a production timeline / shot list for content shoots.
If you have an idea for a message, but are stumped on the image, still add it to the list! Your photographer could have the perfect picture in mind to go with your idea.
Look At Audience Feedback When Creating
Instagram was created to be a SOCIAL platform. Treat it that way!
Instead of going through the movements of creating content, posting content, and moving on, look at what your audience is saying about your brand. This is done by asking questions, responding to comments, and just engaging with people. It helps bring a human element to your brand.
If you spend any time on social media, you know what I’m talking about. The brand that doesn’t respond to comments, or worse – comments the same generic shit every time. Accounts that post and post with no emotion, never relating to how you feel or thinking about what you want.
People want connection. Take the two seconds to actually respond to things as if you were talking to your friend. For a start-up business, this is what creates true, loyal customers that will ride-or-die with you into the sunset. Plus, what better way to get new content ideas than to simply ask the people consuming it?
Stay human. Stay patient. It will pay off in the long run.