The complete guide on how to build a brand on Instagram
Instagram is hot! Let’s work out a roadmap on how to build a brand on Instragram and get your first 1000 followers. We will look at everything about Instagram and what the quickest ways to move forward are.
Building a brand for your business is either one of the most challenging or the most enjoyable tasks you can have, depending on how you look at it. It is tough getting your voice heard over all the noise, but this is also the time when you can make your business whatever you want it to be. The brand is yours and yours alone. How amazing is that?
After all the hard work you’ve put into building your business from the paperwork and other ‘red tape’, the time’s finally come where you can make your statement, your brand, for your company.
How excited are you? You’re probably ecstatic and nervous, happy and overwhelmed, all jumbled together. It’s perfectly natural. You’ll soon see your way through as you build your brand through the multiple social media platforms to increase your online presence.
Nope! Not so easy. The above paragraph is correct for established businesses who have enough resources to tackle each platform. For a startup, you need to focus on a few and really nail those down before looking at other social media platforms. This is not only due to a limitation of resources but also because your product/ service will likely gel with only a specific community.
There are tons of social media platforms out there – but here are the elephants in the room: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, YouTube. Each of them has hundreds of millions of users on-boarded, global presence, business use cases and a high forecasted growth. And No, you cannot become a rockstar on each of them simultaneously.
In this guide, we will focus on Instagram, the not-so-recent, but growing-like-crazy photo sharing social network. It was reported to be the fastest growing social media network in 2015 (http://recode.net/2015/01/09/instagram-is-the-fastest-growing-major-social-network/). With 400 Million monthly active user count that is growing daily, Instagram is hot!
How exactly do you go about building your brand on Instagram compared to the other social platforms that are available to you today? Well, on the face of it, Instagram isn’t much different in building your brand than Facebook or Twitter, but there are some differences. To give you the best picture on how to build your business’s brand, we’ll go over everything you could possibly need to know, so your brand stands the best chance for success.
To begin this comprehensive how-to, we’ll start with the beginning:
Learn How Instagram Works
If you’re unfamiliar with Instagram and its platform (especially for businesses), you’ll want to read as much as you can on the subject. One of the best places you can find everything you need is through Instagram itself. It actually has a blog for this purpose, published for businesses just like yours, Instagram for Business (https://business.instagram.com/)
This blog is updated regularly, giving you plenty of access to the latest information. They’ll even show you other brands through spotlights so you can see what those brands are doing and how you can learn from them. (Upload the blog to your reader so you can have it at your fingertips for your own reading for for getting good material to share on social media).
Register & Build Your Profile
Just like all the other social media platforms, immediately upon registering, you’ll fill out your profile. And here in lies the number 1 mistake that individuals and brands make.
Most people simply choose any profile pic (more on that later) and leave it at that. No bio and no clickable link. As it is, Instagram gives very little real estate to showcase your profile and not utilising every inch is a huge mistake. Take a look at Gary Vaynerchuk’s profile below:
Notice 3 things:
- The profile pic is personal and approachable. Even if you are a brand, it pays to have a personal photograph as the profile pic.
- The Bio is detailed and impressive. One glance and you know that he is someone who has ‘been there, done that‘. Always showcase your credentials so that people are more likely to pay attention.
- There is a clickable YouTube link that goes to the latest episode of his AskGaryVee show. He changes the links to whatever he currently wants to direct the attention towards.
This profile page is the only place which can directly link your followers to your website or landing page. Use it carefully!
You’ll want to keep updating your profile so that it is always providing as much information as possible about your company, your brand, and anything else you can think of that’s relevant to your new Instagram account.
One of the first images any of your followers will see is your profile picture, so be sure that you have one that best fits your brand and what you’re wanting to show others of your brand in your profile picture.
Your bio can have 150 characters at max, and you should use this limit fully.
Don’t worry if you feel that the information will change down the road, just use what is relevant to your current audience. Many brands also experiment with using a landing page link in the bio to collect leads.
Consider the Audience while sketching out your brand
What do you want to show your followers? What kinds of photos will you use to entice them? What about your brand do you want your photos to represent?
Unless you know these answers, you will have a problem in creating a consistent brand. Many people fall into this trap and start posting everything from cute cat pics to business meetings! But then nobody really knows what to expect.
You obviously want your audience to fall in love with your brand – thereby creating new followers and making your brand stand out – but the process needs to be well thought through.
Since Instagram is completely a visual platform, choosing the correct images is easier for certain industries than for others.
For example, creative professions, fashion, apparel, photography, entertainment, travel & tourism – these sectors are perfect for Instagram since you will anyway have access to high quality photographs and the aesthetics of your brand are (hopefully) already strong.
With more than 35 Million followers, National Geographic is one of the top accounts on Instagram – and for mainly one reason – the images are stunning and resonate beautifully with a large audience.
photo by @joelsartore | Lions, tigers and monkeys, oh my! Don’t mistake this primate for the king of the jungle, despite their similar appearance. Check out this golden-headed #lion tamarin at the Dallas World Aquarium (@dwazoo). Females usually give birth to twins, but this species is still critically #endangered, largely due to deforestation in Brazil. #photoark #photooftheday #joelsartore
Then there are sectors that are not 100% compatible but with a bit of creativity can shine on Instagram. For example, Real Estate sector – perhaps all you sell are commercial offices. But, you can often make use of images of locales, beautiful houses/ offices as inspiration, ‘dream properties’ and so on.
Ofcourse, there are still businesses that don’t even have such options. Then you have to find out a common thread uniting your readers.
I actually started on Instagram very late (duh!), but we believe that for all entrepreneurs motivation to go that extra mile is critical – and this is where we focus.
You should brainstorm other branding angles and what you believe best represents your brand. Maybe it’s the day-to-day of your employees or it’s the products themselves. It could even be the users of Instagram that are following you that make your brand what it is.
As you answer the questions above, also think that the branding concept should be wide enough to fuel plenty of photographs since quantity and quality both are needed (at least initially).
Once you have this aspect figured out, you’re so ready to move onto the next step for building your brand.
Start Building Your Following
Here is the obvious truth about social networks – the more followers you already have, the more you can get. But when starting out, you need to go all out to have those initial hundred (or thousand) followers.
Building your following on Instagram is obviously an ongoing task, and one that you will have to continuously track and analyse.
First, connect your Instagram account with Facebook and Twitter (if you are active there). You want to be found and the fastest way to do that is through the followings you already have set up on these social media sites. Tell your Facebook and Twitter fans where they can find you on Instagram and give them a reason to check you out through a great hashtag, limited time offer or some other means. This is a great first step to building your brand as you don’t have to start from scratch and can pull from one social media platform to gain a following on another. Try to do a pinned post on both Facebook and Twitter for initial few days that links to your Instagram profile.
Instagram users can find you if:
- They are your followers,
- They search for your username (unlikely when you start),
- They search for your tagged location (tagging locations is an excellent way to increase reach)
- Or – most importantly – if they either look for the hashtag that you have used OR click on that particular hashtag when they are looking at someone else’s feed.
Hashtags are the bread and butter of your Instagram usage. Use your hashtags (will be discussed in further detail) to their full advantage. You will ofcourse use the ones that are directly related with your business, but also explore some shoulder niches where the images could be relevant. You can use upto 30 hashtags for a particular image on Instagram and people regularly use a number close to that limit.
At a later stage (remember while we are talking about how to build a brand on Instagram, we are focusing on your first 1000 followers) – you can narrow down your niche and start using more focused hashtags.
As you start typing ‘#’ followed by alphabets, Instagram auto-suggests popular hashtags. One interesting technique is to use a mixture of some really popular ones like “#health’ or ‘#fashion’ that have millions of posts and some less popular but more relevant ones. Keep experimenting to increase your reach.
Start Engaging with your Followers
These platforms are called social networks for a reason – you can’t simply push out your content without engaging with what others are posting. You want to show other Instagram users that your brand cares about others (and is not just a robot), so show that caring by checking out other users’ pages and like photos that speak to you and your brand. Comment on them as well. You’ll find that this is a great way to generate other followers.
In the Instagram world, Likes < Comments < Follows.
Liking images is great but the popular accounts get thousands of likes on each post, so chances of your name getting noticed are slim.
Commenting on images is much better, since not many people do so and your name shines to the original poster AND to people who visit that image.
But, nothing will increase your followers count as rapidly as following others.
Not only is there a one click option in the feed that allows users to follow you back, but a psychology factor is at play that will cause a high % of users to follow you back. Of course it will depend on your profile on whether 20% follow you back or 50%, but the % will definitely be higher than any other tactic.
As you like other users’ photos and follow them, make sure you’re also a little “choosy” with your likes and follows. We know you want more followers and more engagement with your photos, but you have your own preferences, likes and dislikes. Use them when you’re liking something. You don’t have to give every photo an approval from yourself. Show others you have a standard just like they do (hopefully). It’s truly okay not to like a photo posted by one of your followers or someone you’re following.
Instagram has limits on how many people you can follow daily and also a hard upper limit of 7500 that you can follow in total. This broadly means that if you are going after the ‘follow more to get more followers’ strategy, then you will have to periodically clean up your list by removing inactive/irrelevant accounts that you had followed.
Can you share the same images across your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts (adjusted for size dimensions)? Technically, yes – most brands have different audiences across each platform so the overlap is not that harmful. But do experiment with exclusivity and segmentation as well. If certain types of posts perform well in one place and not other, you should start filtering those out.
You’ll find that this is where your judgment will play a key role in your audience and how you want to build your brand with that audience. Increasing your audience doesn’t have to be painful if you take care with the do’s and don’ts of engaging and networking with your audience.
Give Your Audience Perks and Rewards
Did you know that most people like a reward or treat for doing something? It’s funny how us humans come off in this regard, but we all like to feel rewarded for our efforts, even if those efforts include just following one brand or another. We did put in some work by helping that brand become what it is today.
This is a great way to keep your audience happy and on top of your Instagram feed. They’ll want to know what new things are going on with your brand because they’ll never know what they’ll get for paying attention.
Make this work for you as you find some little perk or reward to keep your followers engaged with your Instagram page. It can be anything really like a free gift card, a promotional coupon, a store credit or you can make it something bigger. Maybe a small item that you can gift to your followers from your newest line of products. Or a pre-launch product. It all depends on your budget and what you believe you’ll gain by giving out this perk for being a loyal follower.
Whatever you choose as a perk for your followers, make sure it shows them how much you appreciate them and their continued following. You never know what they’ll share for you next, maybe even bringing you new followers because they’re touched by the gesture.
Choosing Your Photos
Awhile back you’ve considered the audience you’re planning to have based on the photos you’ll eventually post to your Instagram page. Now the time has come to start posting those pictures based on those relevant to your brand. You’ve hopefully been doing this as you were networking. If you haven’t, you’ll really want to start now.
Even though Instagram has a very basic web client and all images are uploaded via your smartphone, the images are no less high resolution and equally (or more) beautiful. You are in a tough competition to stand out.
Section 1: If you are taking your own photos
To create the best photos, you want to consider a number of factors that will make the best of your phone’s camera and the images that are right in front of you. How can you do this you might ask? Well, there are three ways you can shape your photos to your advantage for your page and your brand.
These include angles, filters, and lighting.
Angles – With different angles, you’ll find that the perspective of an image can change as you take the main image and move it somewhere other than the center of your photo. Maybe you have it off to the side or higher up in the frame. Each of these angles give your viewer a different aspect to the subject in question and change its importance or the emphasis of what’s happening within the photo. Playing with the angle can help change the perspective of your photo. It’s definitely worth changing up your photos every so often to give your followers something they haven’t seen from you before. Most people click photos that are facing straight so slight changes can bring high differentiation.
Filters – With over 20 filters for your use, you can find anything you might want to give your photos that extra touch. Like angles, you’ll find that changing it up every so often to new filters will give your followers a new and appealing reason to view your page. You can choose to go without a filter (#nofilter) or one that provides a glow to the image, maybe even gives it a rose-colored tint to age the image. Play around with the filters and use the one that you believe best works with what you want the photo to say. Remember different images will respond differently to each filter, so make sure they fit with the overall aesthetic sense of your brand. Ok, and please do not overdo the filter thing. Overuse is much worse than underuse.
Lighting – You don’t want an indoor photo to come dark when the light is poor or have an outdoor photo appear too bright as you capture the sun’s glare. Just as you considered the angles of the photo, you’ll also want to consider where the light is and how it’ll effect the photo before you click the button. If you’re indoors, is the lighting too harsh or too soft? If you’re outdoors, how can you make the sun’s light work for your photo? What time of day is it? Will you gain a different hue to your photos with golden tones or blue shades from the sun’s position? Ask yourself these questions as you set up your photos for your Instagram feed and see what comes from your play with lighting effects.
As you can well see, your photos can be affected by several aspects that you’ll want to consider prior to taking your photos. Use your phone’s camera like you would use a professional one, getting the best from these three aspects while also maintaining some spontaneity within your photos. You want them to look like you’ve just snapped a photo without any thought behind it while also capturing that perfect moment like it was your lucky day to see it.
Section 2: If you are not taking your own photos
Let’s face it – not all of us can be great photographers, or live in an exotic place with beautiful locales. In short, we can’t click our own photographs. Well then you have to use stock photo sites. And trust me, they are not as bad as some people make them out to be. We collected a lot of free resources to download high quality images here.
However, if you are using stock photos then you still have to work on them to make them your own. The best way to this is by adding text.
Always remember though that you are competing against professionals on these platforms so you can’t just place text shoddily. There are a number of mobile/ web apps available but I normally use either Canva or Pablo – both make it extremely simple to add properly aligned text.
Section 3: Striking a Balance with Your Photos
We’ve all heard that saying that all work and no play can make for a dull Instagram feed. Or something to that effect.
While all of your photos of your brand are probably fabulous and look great with the right lighting, angle, and filter add-on, have you considered what you could add to your brand by adding photos that are just for fun?
Maybe you have tons of pictures you want to share or have shared that give the best close-ups of your products or services at work, but what about ways to tell a story with those pictures?
Research has proven that people only share content that evokes a deep emotional response of some kind – humour, surprise, joy – work on these angles.
Do you have a way to add something cute and adorable to your photos to give your followers a new perspective? Maybe you just want to add something fun to your page that still stays relevant to your brand, but gives your audience a change of pace.
Just make sure that your item isn’t something obviously out of place, of course.
You may be surprised by the results of the fun image compared to one of your more business-like images. You may even be more surprised by the combination of the two as you engage your audience with one and follow up with another.
Posting Rules for Your Brand
If you research how often you should post on Instagram, you’ll find that there are many who will say once a day at most. Yet, there are others who will tell you to post five images or more.
How confusing is that for advice? So, what is the right number?
Well, this is the best answer for that question: it’s up to your audience and how connected they are to your brand and your Instagram page.
If you find that your followers only answer to one image you post a day, you’ll want to keep posting at that time, but you shouldn’t just limit yourself to that one post a day either. Just because you have a nice following at, say 6am, it doesn’t mean you can’t have the same following or an even better following at 8pm either.
This is the time for you to try out different times of the day and different days of the week. You can also change up the types of photos you’re posting based on their lighting or filtering you’ve used on them. Play around with this one and soon you’ll discover what works best for your brand and its followers.
My Thumb Rule: Start with around 3 images a day and then adjust based on response.
Conversation Starters: Your Captions
The Screen after you choose your filter – the ‘Captions’ place is not only for filling up with hashtags. You can add a nice backstory to the picture. In fact, it doesn’t need to always be a story, you can ask for your followers’ advice based on something that’s appeared within the photo or even seek recommendations to engage your followers in contributing to the conversation.
This is a great place to add where you took the photo (tag location) and who was with you at the time (tag people), especially if that person is a follower of yours. You can even tag followers you know would be interested in the photo so they’ll be more likely to see the next time they’re going through their Instagram feed.
Of course, you can and should also use the caption to add the appropriate hashtags for that photo to get your followers and potential followers to search it out and find the photo. Just be sure that you’re using your hashtags appropriately by following some basic guidelines:
Only use ones that are relevant to your brand and the photo itself. There’s nothing worse to annoy your followers than if you use hashtags that have nothing to do with your photo or your brand. This will actually make you look a little desperate for attention, which isn’t the look you want for your brand. So, pick the right hashtags for your brand and the photo.
As hinted earlier, you can use a lot of hashtags when starting out. But there is a downside as well, not many of your followers will enjoy seeing a ton of hashtags marking up your description as you try to tell them a story or ask something of them. How many times have you read something and wished they’d just get to the point? It’s the same thing here. As you grow, start narrowing down your hashtag list.
Building your brand through your photos and their captions is one of the best ways to engage your followers and convert them to customers for your site. While you’re posting photos and adding captions, be sure that you’re having fun as you create some cute descriptions and useful hashtags.
Keep It Consistent.
We are creatures of habit for the most part. We like the things we do and come to expect them time and time again. Once you star a posting schedule – keep it consistent for most parts. Don’t post 3 times per day for a week and then disappear for a month.
If your industry and schedule mean that you can only post once per week, then so be it and keep to that schedule. In many ways, Instagram is much more forgiving for inconsistent schedule than other networks or something like blogging. Still, you want your followers to build a habit of seeing/ liking your posts and spreading them too think would likely work against you.
Build Suspense and Give Your Followers Sneak Peeks
Even the best images become monotonous after some time. You have to actively build up interest for an upcoming event. Have you seen all those ‘Coming Soon’, ‘Limited time offer coming tomorrow’ and ‘Watch this space’ adverts? All of these are to drum up interest!
Maybe you have an important event coming up for your business and you want to get your followers interested. How do you go about this? How can you make them interested in this exciting event?
Depending on the event that’s coming up, you’re sure to find some way to capture your followers interest.
Excited about an upcoming news story all about your brand? Post an image of your brand and the reporter giving the interview as well as way for your followers to see the whole thing through your website or your blog, maybe even YouTube.
Maybe you have a new product or line of products? Find an aspect of this product that you can create some mystery with and use that image to capture your followers’ attention. You can do the same for an event your business is having, such as a gala or book signing.
Whatever has you and your brand in an uproar of enthusiasm, make sure you capture it and pass it along to your followers. They want to know what’s new within your world and what’s new with your brand.
Give them something to talk about and look forward to as you and your followers anxiously await this great day for your brand. Gaining recognition for your brand isn’t a small thing. Don’t let this opportunity pass by without taking advantage of it on your Instagram page or any other social media page for that matter.
Make Use of Videos on Instagram
You can now make small videos of 15 seconds that you can post to your Instagram page and even embed into your website, blog, and other social media accounts.
Do you know how much you can do in 15 seconds? Quite a lot actually. Make the most of those precious seconds to shoot a small film about your brand, showcasing some of your new products. Maybe show off your behind-the-scenes action that goes into building your brand or business.
You can capture your employees working on new creations for your brand. You can show your followers your thought process as you take them through a storyboard-type setup (if you have such a thing). You can even show them your work station(s) to give them an idea of what goes into your brand.
Show them these behind-the-scenes through your videos or give them something they can look forward to seeing in the near future from your brand. If you have a new line you’ll be debuting soon, you can always give them a little taste through your video. Teasers!!
Give them a taste on Instagram even as you direct them to your website or blog for the full details. You never know what you might discover about your followers or what they might discover themselves as you build their excitement for your brand and all of its offerings.
Create Fun Photo Contests
Contests are great for your followers because a little competition can be just the thing to engage them in your brand. Find a way to build your photo contest around a new product your brand is offering and maybe even use that product as the prize.
When you have the photo contest you want in mind, you can create it on Instagram and promote it on Facebook. Why Facebook? Really, why not? The Ads on Facebook and Instagram are now so tightly coupled that you can make them from the same interface.
While you can use other social media sites to help you with your Instagram contest, Facebook can prove the most beneficial as you take your status updates and keep your fans excited about your photo contest. The links you use in your Facebook page can take directly followers directly to your Instagram page and your contest. However, you can use other forums. It’s your contest and you should do what you believe is right for your brand in spreading its awareness and its great contest for something really cool as a prize.
How can you keep track of your contestant entries? One word: hashtags. Choose a unique hashtag that they can place with their photo so you’ll find them when you’re ready to look through them. It also helps other followers find them as well so they can place their own votes for the best photo (or weirdest or scariest, it’s your contest).
You may want to give your contest some time to catch on while also generating new interest in the contest by picking out your own favorites or the ones with the most votes from a specific timeframe. Keep promoting or liking the entries that you love. The length of time you choose for your contest will depend on your brand’s release of a new product or maybe a holiday that’s drawing near.
Show Your Brand’s Human Side
Much like you were balancing your fun photos with your business ones earlier, you want your followers to see that your brand and the people behind it also know how to have fun as well.
Life’s not worth living without a little fun, now and again.
When you find your employees and you are out having fun, maybe celebrating a win for your business, you’ll want to capture some of those moments (the appropriate ones, anyway) so you can post your photos to your Instagram page with the right hashtags and captions. This is extremely important for brands that function in a sector that is in itself not the most suited for Instagram. Let’s say you run a healthcare centre – you might not have enough material to create a complete Instagram portfolio, here you can show your employees having fun or enjoying their job.
Giving your followers a chance to see your human side will allow them to connect with your brand on a deeper level than just through viewing the professional side all the time. Providing them with the behind-the-scenes, as mentioned earlier, will also help in this regard as your followers put faces to your products and your brand.
Build your followers trust and loyal by giving something of yourself, your employees, and your brand that many don’t get to see every day. You’ll find that the reception is pretty warm and welcoming when you give them this other side of your brand.
Analyse Your Progress
As you build up your fan base and your gallery of photos, you’ll soon want to know how your photos are doing with your fan base. Which ones work and which ones don’t.
You want insights into your images that tell you where you need more focus while also telling you what types of photos get the most comments, the most likes. These insights will tell you what you need to know about your photos and how they resonate with your fans.
Why do you want this?
Well, if you find you have one photo or image that’s doing incredibly well, you can take that image, maybe tweak it some, and use it for further advertising of your brand on other social platforms to gain new followers and fans. It also shows you your brand’s weaknesses so you can improve your brand’s presence on Instagram itself. Depending on the app you use, you can find out all the details and insights you need about your brand and what you need to strategize for in the future to keep your brand relevant.
Analyzing your brand’s progress is the best way for you to build your presence the way you want on Instagram and other platforms. So choose the app for you and see how well your brand is doing today.
We’ve done it. We’ve finally reached the end of this how-to on Instagram and your brand. With each of these steps, you’ve learned what you can do on Instagram to build the best brand possible for your business. How do you think these steps rate in terms of your brand and its current needs?
With the importance of social media today for advertising our brands and gaining the attention of younger audiences, having a game plan for any of them as we work our ways through the building of our brand can help us remain focused on the end goal.
With this how-to, that goal was building our brand into one that can be found easily and followed with great loyalty because we’ve put in the right efforts to keep our followers coming back for more of our brand.
Let us know what you think about these steps to building your brand in the comments below. Are there ones we missed or new ones that haven’t been considered yet?