Instagram Profile Branding

After writing this post about Instagram Analytics I received a number of questions about whether people should optimize their Instagram profile or only focus on posting the most engaging pictures every time. My original answer was: “If you want to maximize likes or comments on photos, post the best pictures you have each time”. After discussing this topic with other influencers my answer to this question has changed. My new answer is: “Focus more on how your landing page (your profile) looks when people visit it. Rather than optimizing for likes, you should be optimizing your entire profile to increase conversion from new visitor to follower.”

When someone has a strong and clear brand it’s much easier for new visitors to make the follow or not follow decision. I’d rather have a hard yes or a hard no from potential followers because this helps ensure that you have a more engaged following.

To help you refresh and focus on your Instagram I’m going to talk about what elements I think make up an Instagram brand and give a couple examples of accounts that I think do a great job at one or all of these attributes.

What makes up your brand?

Types of Pictures

Every account has the choice about what pictures to take and post. Most of us make conscious decisions about what we are going to post about and what’s not going to make it. Great branding people have an instinct for knowing what to post and what not to post. They almost have a sixth sense for knowing whether a picture will work or not. I’m not one of those people, Julia, on the other hand is. I once convinced her to post a picture that I loved but she didn’t, needless to say her followers agreed with her and not me. When choosing what types of pictures it’s best to come up with a list of 5-10 things that you are approved to post and 5-10 things you should never post. Then go seek out the things you should post.

It’s important that you switch up what you post. While an account of just selfies might appeal to you, it really doesn’t tell a great story on the brand side of things. “Filler images” as I like to call them, such as fruit, flowers, sweets or inspirational quotes are  great ways of drawing positive attributes out of that thing being posted and associating them with your brand. You can use VSCO to plan out your feed ahead of time so that you know whether or not your photos will work together.

An example of someone that I think does an awesome job in Photo selection and planning is Kiel James Patrick (@KJP).

kjp-feed

*Note about the feeling of “I haven’t posted in a while”*

Anyone that’s focused on building a following on Instagram obviously has to post on a consistent schedule. Depending on the person, this schedule can inflict immense pressure to post. Everyone has days where you don’t have time to take an Instagram photo or you are feeling uninspired. Not posting for a day or a couple of days can further increase the urge to post.

Should you feel the urge to get a picture up, in most cases, I advise you to try and fight it. I think a lot of influencers wrongly believe that by not posting for an extended period of time on IG they are losing followers. What I’ve found is that people don’t unfollow because of low posting frequency. Most people unfollow when they are reminded that you exist. If you keep reminding them that you exist while also posting subpar photos, you will probably increase your unfollows.

Color Palette

Your color palette is the set of identifying colors that represent your brand. In addition to what pictures you post, the colors in those images help show the mood of your photos. While your palette can be achieved through selection of photos, editing plays a big part in sticking to your colors. It doesn’t really matter what editing apps you use for your photos but you should try your best to stick to the same 1-3 filters. I catch myself going through phases with my editing, sometimes I like a little bit extra orange hue to add some warmth, lately though I’ve been pushing myself to use the same filter, Slumber on IG, even if it’s only at 10%.

Mary from Happily Grey does a really great job with her color palette. True to her name, her palette is mostly grey, white and black with some pops of color.

happilygrey-feed

Create your ideal palette

I recently decide to start a new account (@will_journey) where I could focus just on my landscape photography. To help with the branding I created this palette out of 18 of my all-time favorite landscape photos that I’ve posted on Instagram. If you take a step back from your website or Instagram and squint a little bit the main colors of your feed will start to appear. I used the eyedropper tool in Keynote to go down and select my favorite pixel that I think represented the overall color tone of that image. I’ll use this palette to help guide me when selecting and editing photos.

@tberolz Instagram palette

Voice

Having and sticking to a clear voice is a must for having a strong brand. Ask any Instagram influencer how they feel about captions and they will probably admit that coming up with good captions is really hard. Some common voices are funny (puns), inspirational (inspiring quotes and stories) and factual (Here is a cupcake that I ate). From personal experience I’ve found that when I stick to my humor rather than a factual voice, I get much better engagement. You should also keep your voice when answering comments too. I really enjoy Rosie’s (@rosielondoner) voice, her account is about more than just pictures, you really want to see what she has to say about each photo. Here’s an example of one of her many puns:




strong-instagram-voice-example

 

To give you a little background on my creative process, my captions for photos pop into my head before the idea of taking a picture even occurs. In all three of these photos below, I had either the exact caption or something along the lines of these captions in my head prior to snapping the image.

strong-instagram-voice-example-2

strong-instagram-voice-example-3

strong-instagram-voice-example-4

How do I start the process of rebranding?

Assuming your not doing a 180 degree turn from your current content here are the steps I would recommend taking for your rebrand:

  1. Identify what your ideal brand would look like. Gather inspiration from your other favorite brands on IG.
  2. Select your older content you have already posted that’s on brand with what you want to be. Try to carve out your niche. Unless you had a first mover’s advantage in a particular category on Instagram you will have to be unique for people to drop everything to follow you. Checkout the @Instagram account for examples of people that are truly unique.
  3. Pick photos that are no longer on-brand and add these to your “What not to post list”.
  4. Think about new content that you can add to round out your profile.

Not sure if you need to refocus your IG profile or not?

If you need extra encouragement to improve, hand your phone over to someone that’s unfamiliar with your Instagram. Ask them to go through your profile while watching over their shoulder for 3-5 minutes. Make note of what they click on and what they don’t click on. Afterwards, ask them what they thought, what they liked, what they didn’t like. You can even have them go through a couple of other accounts that you really look up to and have them do the same thing.

 

22 Comments

  • Thank you for sharing your insights. The “Gangsta’s Paradise” IG is one of my favorites. The humorous tone is refreshing!

    • Thomas says:

      That’s great to hear. Now that I have my other accounts (@willtravelforphotos) maybe I’ll start doing more humorous ones.

  • Great tips! Something I’ve always wondered is if photographers upload camera photos to Instagram or phone photos. Do you tend to actually use your phone for Instagram pictures or do you upload your photos from your professional camera?

    • Thomas says:

      99% of the images on my IG are from my Camera. It really depends on the person. As a photographer I can tell when someone has posted from their camera or phone. I’ve been on trips with other popular fashion bloggers and I’m amazed with their editing skills.

      • Lb says:

        Do you recommend a software that makes it easy to send camera pics straight to your phone for IG Upload? That said, how long does it typically take for you to get an actual post up when taken out and about. I’m struggling to understand how to stay relevant and in the moment when it might take hours or days to get to a computer to upload and then post. Any recommendations?

        • Thomas says:

          I use Google Drive and store my exported photos in there. You are right that it is difficult to stay up to date, relevant, on time….whatever you want to call it when shooting with the camera. If time is super important to you carry a laptop with you. That’s what I do. That way Julia can go through photos while I drive.

  • Cristina says:

    Thanks for the tips, Thomas! I always learn a lot from you. I used to think that in order to have lots of IG followers you just needed high quality images. Even so, there’s so much competition that it’s so difficult to get a “real” audience. I must admit that it annoys me when people follow and unfollow when you post something new just because they only wanted you to follow them back… This post has made me realize how much planning goes into successful IG account.

  • Lindsay says:

    Hi Thomas,
    Do you use any social media schedulers for your posts? (e.g., latergramme or hootsuite)?
    Thanks,
    Lindsay

  • Erika Galan says:

    Hello Thomas! This post was very helpful. I have been struggling with the idea of “my brand” on Instagram lately. I am hoping to revive my blog on WordPress and become a professional blogger. I have very specific taste but find that my photos on Instagram are all over the place stylistically. This is in part due to the fact that I have not decided to go 100% into blogging so I have art, fashion, work and my personal life represented on my Instagram. How do you and Julia find a balance?

    Also, do you use your iPhone to take photos and post or do you use a camera? If so, what camera? I would like to invest in one at this time and I am not sure what to go with.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise! I really appreciated this post.
    Erika

    • Thomas says:

      If you want to be a professional blogger than you need to make a 100% commitment to your brand. Figure out that optimal combination of what performs best for you and what you enjoy sharing most.

      All photos on my account are taken with my Leica camera. Julia posts a mix of iPhone and camera photos. You can find great cameras that have awesome features like wi-fi file transferring. It’s best to go to BHphotovideo.com and use their filters to find a great camera for what you want to do.

  • Anna D Kart says:

    Hi Thomas! I love your tips and how down-to-earth your voice sounds. You actually share useful information without sounding too out there.
    Thank you!
    Also, Julia’s Insta is beyond perfect. Sometimes it can be a little annoying. Do you think it’s part of brand or do people respond better to real life photos?

  • Lylie says:

    Extremely helpful and insightful post – thank you!

  • Maren says:

    So I found this post extremely helpful! I’m currently in the process of trying to “brand” my IG and I’m wondering how much of my personal pictures should I get rid of? Would you recommend starting to edit things out as you go, or would it be better to create an IG account for the blog and relocate there? Really appreciate this blog, I think it’s incredibly helpful!!

  • Camille says:

    I just devoured your blog. I recently started a jewlery line and it has been really hard for me to establish a tone and an identity. It definitely shows because I havent been able to grow my instagram following at all. Your tips convinced me to a) decide on a color scheme b) either not use a filter or stick to one only (so so hard) c) not post just to post. I have some work to do!

  • Ann Krembs says:

    Hi Thomas!

    It’s been a while since I’ve checked in. I love your posts. I really appreciate bloggers out there who are helping other bloggers. You’re one of them, so thank you. A TON!

    You share some great tips here Thomas. The one that I think is such a good idea, and I will do tomorrow is give my account to someone and just watch them. I work in a high school–in a library actually, so I have access to hip, cool kids. They’ll let me know for sure!

    Sometimes I think of captions first too. That kind of makes me feel like I’m taking my Instagram to the next level. I’m getting better at planning out content too and making sure to adhere to consistency. I’m totally going to try that color scheme idea. You’ve supplied us with some really good advice.

    Thanks again!

    Ann from Kremb de la Kremb

  • Holly says:

    Great post, Thomas!
    Do you have any tips for speeding up the process of transferring photos from your DSLR to your phone since you may not always have your computer around with a card reader handy?
    Thanks in advance!
    Holly
    http://www.teachmestyle.com

  • Fiona says:

    Thomas,

    This is so so helpful, thank you! I’ve been waiting for someone to go through do’s and don’t’s like this for a while now and this confirmed some suspicions about Insta (using the same filters turned down on each photo) and photography I had. I’m in the rebranding process and occasionally will transfer photos from my DSL to my phone but the quality just isn’t the same once transferring. Do you use anything special to transfer your camera photos over to your iPhone for Instagram please?

  • Hi Thomas,

    I clicked your “@willtravelforphotos” anchor text in your post and it took me to a strange Instagram with only 57 followers.
    Can you update the link please :DDD

  • Caroline says:

    Amazing blog, we learn a lot from it.
    Thanks for the tips! We try to use all of them, but one people identify the most on our IG is the color palette thing! Take a look : @crafccino =)
    Do you think people can get “bored” if we use the same color palette all the time?

    Thanks!

  • Alison says:

    This is awesome! Thanks for the tips!

  • Savannah says:

    Is there a specific way you and Julia edit pictures for her Instagram? I love her feed and am not sure how she makes it look bright but not too saturated.

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