Built for visual storytelling, Instagram is a creative powerhouse with over 400 million individuals and brands publishing 80 million photos and videos a day. The platform is proving that engaging through photos and imagery is becoming increasingly more popular and important for marketers.
Since its inception in 2010, brands have been some of the platform’s biggest contributors and influencers. For early adopters like Starbucks, Red Bull, Gucci and Levi’s, Instagram was a new channel to build brand exposure and engage in a dialogue with current and prospective consumers. In 2015, 33% of Fortune 500 companies had invested in Instagram–a 13% increase from the previous year.
Brands that are thriving on popular social platforms are using consistent, well-crafted visuals that are a mix of branded and lifestyle imagery. So, how does your brand rise above the noise and create content for Instagram that’s follow-worthy? The same creative principles that apply to any marketing channel should be applied.
Need help getting started? The following tips will help your brand up its visual storytelling game and build a larger and more engaged community on Instagram.
1. Define Your Objectives
Before an account is created, your team needs to ask itself: Why is our brand on Instagram? Once this question is answered, a set of defined objectives based on your existing social media strategy and overarching marketing goals should be set.
In order to rapidly grow your Instagram followers you need to start by asking the following questions:
- Will your account support awareness by showcasing your product or service?
- Which benchmarks and Instagram analytics will be used to measure and quantify success?
- Will your Instagram serve to extend the branded lifestyle that’s already been communicated on your other social channels?
There is no one-size-fits all approach to success. It’s easy to want to dismiss setting KPI’s and goals, but it’s a critical component in conveying a relatable brand story. By starting with a clearly defined objective, you’ll be able to effectively create well-crafted content that will help set the voice and visual persona for your brand.
2. Curate Your Feed
Brands that are thriving on Instagram have a well thought out publishing cadence. Mosts posts on a branded product feed will feature a product in some way, whether that’s as the main subject of a post or more of an accessory in the background.
Effective photography for Instagram is just great photography. Pelican Products is a great example of a brand that uses high caliber photography and prefers its products are predominantly highlighted. Each photo is well shot and visually interesting. The photography embraces the brand’s core values and is positioned to target its audience of outdoor and sporting enthusiasts as well as their military demographic.
The use of logos or iconography can drive just as much awareness and engagement as photography can. If graphical elements align with your business identity and help drive positive association and brand recognition then, by all means, use them. The Honest Company is an example of a brand that highlights its personality through a combination of illustrations, positive quotes, product shots and adorable babies.
A photo posted by The Honest Company (@honest) on
The brand has excelled at positioning itself as a lifestyle brand and that aesthetic shines through their entire Instagram feed.
Hiring a professional photographer to shoot every new product launch is not a requirement to grow followers and build a successful brand presence on Instagram. One of the most authentic, compelling and affordable brand assets available today is user-generated content (UGC). Reposting and sharing fan photos creates excitement within your Instagram community, helps build brand loyalists and increases engagement.
Consumers love to be recognized and there’s no easier way to thank your advocates than by highlighting their creativity and sharing their positive sentiments for your product. In fact, 85% of consumers say they find user generated content more influential than brand photos and videos. Another bonus of UGC is that it’s one less piece of content your social team has to budget its time and resources to create.
4. Customize Your Toolbox
There are hundreds of applications and services available to help social marketers create the perfect Instagram content.
For a fee, photography services like Flashstock will set up professional photo shoots on location and in studio to capture personalized, branded photography. If a professional photo shoot falls outside of your budget and it’s impossible to capture your images internally, stock photography sites can prove helpful.
iStock by Getty Images houses millions of royalty-free photos, videos and illustrations that can be edited to fit brand standards and shared on social media. While stock photography usage may be the ultimate social media “fake it until you make it” play, you don’t want the photography to feel irrelevant to the audience. If stock photography is the avenue you choose, select images that aren’t overly posed or obviously staged.
Once you have your photography and graphics solidified, don’t be afraid to edit your images and videos with filters and other creative tools like Hyperlapse, Layout and Boomerang–all of which are available as Instagram apps for businesses. These apps give images the signature Instagram look and feel that consumers respond to and don’t require an exhaustive amount of internal effort.
5. Don’t Forget About Hashtags
While the Instagram community thrives on visual stories, your captions shouldn’t be forgotten. Social media loves a good hashtag #selfie or #TBT. Participating in trending hashtags and relevant current events can be a great way for a brand to add relevancy and organically gain followers while still using the proper social lingo. The strategic use of hashtags will help your brand extend its reach and generate more eyeballs on your Instagram feed. So make sure to join the conversation.
Your brand’s Instagram feed should be a healthy mix of authentic visuals combined with brand artistry. A feed should never look overly transactional or self-promotional. Master these five tips with the right Instagram management tools and you’ll get your audience to stop scrolling, double tap and engage with your brand.
Jenna Vandenberg: Jenna has spent over fifteen years managing the marketing efforts of Fortune 500 brands across traditional, interactive and social platforms in the New York and Los Angeles markets. Honing her account management background at advertising agencies such as JWT, DraftFCB and David&Goliath; Jenna’s client experience spans the tourism, retail, technology, healthcare and automotive categories with clients managed such as: Macy’s, The New York Times, Hewlett-Packard and Ford.
I'm new to Instagram and these tips are a good fit for me. I've taken a course on monetizing and I wanted to pull my hair out. Instagram is a social platform and I want to be social on it. This sure is a help because I was having trouble with hashtags.
When it comes to images, I do find that our own images work better than stock photos. No matter if you take a photo of your left foot, it gets more eyeballs than anything.