The explosion of social media in the past few years, most notably Instagram, has been a game-changer for online businesses, particularly creative-based ones. Because of Instagram's visual nature (who doesn't like to look at cool stuff?!), it has helped create a way for individuals and small businesses to carve out a strong brand identity (beyond their website) and use it to find new business, while connecting with others in their field.
Ok, so what am I talking about?
Instagram is like the best way possible (for a brand) to present who you are and what you're all about. Think about it... You control all of the content... you get to interact directly with friends and followers and customers... you get to see what others around you are doing. And it's a place people want to be! While changes to Instagram (or any social media platform) are inevitable, I think it's so important to understand how to use it now, the way it is today, so you can evolve with it. (SIDE NOTE: I'll be headed to SLC next week with my friend Rachel to present at SNAP, on "Branding Yourself and Building an Audience on Instagram"... it's sure to be a good time!! And I'll be sharing more of the info from that course later on, so if you can't make it, don't worry! Stay tuned...;))
So get to the point...
You need a compelling feed to stand out on Instagram!! And maybe you've decided it's not for you. It's too much work. You have a real life to keep up with. Fair enough. BUT- if you're determined to get more out of it, then YAY, let's keep chatting...
1) CONSIDER YOUR GALLERY AS A WHOLE
That's right, it's not enough to take a cute picture, and throw it up. Even if it has a witty caption. Your feed has to make sense as a whole! Think about it, if I click over to your feed to check you out and get a sense of your brand and what you're about, I want to instantly get a sense of your vibe! If your photos aren't visually cohesive, it's hard to understand your business. And most people aren't going to take the time to click through each photo until they can say "ahhh, so she likes knitting, diet coke, and J Crew, totally my kind of gal!"... fair or not, it's a snap judgment!
So since you're a real person who does not have time to spend all day curating cute IG photos, what should you do?
* Create a common color theme for your feed- every photo you post should tie in with this theme! One of the easiest ways to do this is to buy 2-4 cute backgrounds in your key brand colors (you can do this inexpensively with foam boards, poster board, or even scrapbook paper, depending on what you sell/show) and use those to style most of your photos on! It will automatically create a cohesive feel as you start interspersing them in your feed, and tell a stronger story. And yes, you can occasionally slip in other photos, it doesn't need to look like a robot curated it! But it will instantly elevate your whole feed and be more compelling to anyone who clicks over.
2) MAKE IT CLEAR WHAT YOU DO
Sometimes you see someone's feed and it's filled with cute photos and a totally cohesive color palette, but after a minute you realize- I have no idea what this person sells or does?! And the odds that I'll decide to follow that person or spend more time trying to figure it out are slim... HIT ME OVER THE HEAD!! I mean, not literally. But if you're using Instagram for your business, USE IT, man! Show your products, use photos from your blog posts, make your bio clear, and whatever you do, have some kind of a link to your website or shop.
It can be a scary hump to get over-
- What if people don't like what I'm sharing? (but what if they DO? And who cares about the ones who don't!)
- What if I seem too sales-y? (don't be too sales-y! Share what you're passionate about and why, and how people can be a part of what you're doing/selling... make them feel like they're apart of the rise of your brand, not like they're at an auction)
- What if I stop sharing as many personal photos and my friends think I'm a sell out? (Create a separate account! And remember, you're trying to build your business here, no shame in your game! If you need to gently remind some IRL friends + family of that, so be it.)
* Not everyone who comes across your feed will be a fan- that's OK!! But if you're not working to share all of your amazing work and passions, the ones that DO love it, won't be sure what you're all about... Make it clear so it's compelling to the RIGHT people!
3) HAVE FUN WITH IT
I think the main reason certain accounts really grow or explode, over others (besides amazing content!) is that they don't take it too seriously. They're able to really be themselves and represent what their brand is all about, and it shows. If you're too "business-y" about it all, or seem to have a kind-of wooden tone, it's harder to connect.
Think about your friend who types with lots of punctuation and emojis- it's probably much easier to read her tone in a text, then one who types one line sentences without much pizzazz. And if you're not an "emoji" kind-of-person, that's ok too! Just represent who you really are and the way you would want to talk to a customer or a fan if they walked into your shop/office/etc.
* People follow you on Instagram because they like what you do and want to know more about you! This doesn't mean you need to share your teeth-brushing routine or every bit of your life. But be YOU! Get comfortable, have fun with captions (and photos!) and present yourself as the compelling friend and feed they can't wait to see more from.
4) CREATE GREAT CONTENT
Which leads me to where you knew I was going... You have to create great content! Now, I am not saying everyone needs to spend hours a day professionally photographing their work and meticulously planning elaborate shoots. That's cool if you do, but you don't need to.
What you DO need to do, is spend some time planning out and creating your content. (Check out this past post on 5 Tips For Taking Styled Photos!) Did you just write an amazing blog post you want to share? Pull some of the best photos and plan to intersperse those in your feed (with solid captions) over the week the blog post goes live. If you just finished a collection of new paintings, set aside some time to style and photograph each one individually (and maybe as a collection too!), so you have a cache of photos to pull from for a while. There's a version of this for any business! The bottom line is, you do have to spend a little time each week creating good content, and planning when to share it. If you're always just snapping a quick pic, posting, and moving on, odds are your feed will show that.
* It's such a cliche but SO true- you will get out of it exactly what you put into it! If you are thoughtful about what and when you post, and you take time to create images that others would truly enjoy seeing, you WILL grow and you WILL see engagement and sales... if you treat social media as an afterthought or a less-important activity, you will probably not get much from it. Make it compelling so people are compelled to see what you'll come up with next!
5) GIVE THEM MORE
I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and say something that I know is counter-intuitive to what a lot of people will tell you... your goal is not to sell something in EVERY post! If you're trying and not succeeding, and feeling like because of that, you're no good at social media, come and sit with me.
People follow brands because they connect with the brand! Yes, they buy stuff too. And yes, you SHOULD sell and promote your work. Absolutely. But the whole draw of social media is that it allows people to feel like they're getting to see more of a person or brand then they would otherwise. This is your opportunity to romance them a little, share what makes you tick, why you're passionate about what you do, and share WHAT you do. And sell. But if all of the other stuff doesn't happen first, it's like who cares? I've heard figures ranging from every other, up to EVERY post, should have a "sell" or an ask. I personally think it should be lower. Creating great content that people want to see and digest is the best way to make them loyal to your brand, and that will matter way more than a quick sale.
* Create GREAT content that people want to see! Giving them freebies is awesome too (free downloads, workbooks, coupon codes, etc) but sometimes the best thing you can do to create loyalty is to be entertaining! Make them want to tune to see all the fun, crazy, cool, creative stuff you're up to and they'll be compelled to buy from you when the time is right!
Figuring out how to make Instagram work for you isn't easy- but it is SO worth it! Over the next few months, I'll be bringing you more content on topics like photo-styling, using Instagram to launch your business, and more... I don't have all the answers but what I have figured out, I want to share! Building a creative business can be so much work... but it can also be CRAZY fun!!
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