Succeeding on social media is extremely hard in this day and age. Especially on Instagram.
Back in the day you could post a few quotes or funny images, and you would be set. The algorithm didn’t exist yet, and each post got the about same amount of exposure.
Now there are literally hundreds of millions of accounts on the platform. Every brand, company, and person you know has an account of their own. Some even have two! So each of your posts are fighting millions of other pieces of content for attention. It’s a nightmare for any new, or seasoned, marketer.
However, one of the best ways for your brand to fight back against this explosion of content is to have a strong brand voice.
A voice that stands above the riff-raff and low quality posts.
A voice that your followers want to see in their feed and interact with.
And a voice that your followers recognize immediately.
That sounds great, right? But not sure where to start?
Well, it’s your lucky day cause I have 4 tricks to help you develop a strong brand voice on Instagram.
4 Simple Ways to Develop a Strong Brand Voice on Instagram
1. Start with a real plan & goals
One way to guarantee failure on Instagram, or really any social network, is to start without a plan. Randomly posting memes, funny quotes or GIFs is not going to cut it anymore. That MIGHT have worked 5 years ago, but these networks and followers have evolved.
Especially when everyone and their grandma is on Instagram now.
That is why you need to start with a well thought out plan, and stick to it for at least a few months.
Now, I’m not going to outline how to build a social media plan from scratch. That would take way too long. But there are a few things that I would like to highlight that should help you develop a solid brand voice.
First, in this plan you should outline what the purpose of your Instagram account is. Or what goals you would like to work towards. Kinda like this, but a little more in-depth:
Outlining goals and objectives from the beginning will help you make better decisions on the content, and give you some important metrics to track successes and failures.
Now not every brand is going to be working towards the same goals.
For example, I’m guessing that this account’s goal is to drive followers to it’s blog post with a link in the bio:
But this account just wants to give daily insight into the company:
And this one is used to announce new games or features:
Each is going to have very different goals and Instagram metrics to track. One may care deeply about engagement on Instagram and the other about blog readership. Which, in turn, influences what kind of content each account posts. And how they want to develop their voice.
So before you start posting, ask yourself if you want this account to be just a fun window into your company or actually used to increase a certain metric. Or something in between.
Make sure those goals are clear to everyone on your team. Otherwise, the content you post could be all over the place.
After you set some simple goals, outline the ideal customer or follower you want to reach.
Taking the time to outline your ideal customer will make building a social media or posting plan a lot easier.
Creating content for a specific group of people that you want to target is a hundred times easier than creating generic posts. Plus this helps you create a single brand voice that speaks just to these customers.
One of my favorite coffee shops in the entire world has identified their target customers on Instagram pretty well. I’ll let you guess who they are trying to reach:
If you guessed trendy designers, creatives or artists then you win…an awesome Instagram account to follow. You’re welcome 😎
The mix of professional images, incredible typography and coffee will pique the interest of all of those people. I know it brought me into their shop, pretty easily actually.
But in all seriousness, they know exactly who will enjoy or frequent their coffee house and share images that those people will like. And uninspired pictures of coffee or their typography would not have the same effect.
So before you start creating content, or finalizing your brand voice, ensure you know your ideal customers.
2. Create a guide on how you want your account to feel
After setting some goals and planning out how you are going to dominate Instagram, you need to determine how you want your account to feel.
Some people may call this the theme of your Instagram feed, but I think it’s so much more than that.
The feel of your account emcompasses:
- How your account is visually composed
- What kind of content you post
- How often you post this content
- The written voice of your posts
- What feelings it should invoke
- How you want followers to view you
- How you stand out from the competition
- How you interact with followers and other accounts
- What kind of user generated content you post
- How each post ties back to your brand
- And much more!
As you can see, there are a lot of things you should think about before the first new post goes out.
And honestly, this decision will influence every post you make for the foreseeable future. So don’t take it lightly, or blow it off. It will only come back to hurt you in a few months when you have seen no growth.
However, if you want to create a strong brand guide, you will take the time to determine how you want your feed to feel as well.
I know starting from scratch is a little difficult, so I came up with a handful of questions that should get the creative juices flowing. Obviously there are going to be more in-depth questions you should answer, but I believe this is a great place to start.
You can start by answering or thinking about these 8 questions:
- What type of content will you post?
- Will they be photos, graphics or something else?
- What color palettes, creative influences, or visual ideals will you stick to?
- How can you blend your visual brand into every post?
- How do you want followers to see your account?
- What emotions or ideas do you want your account to invoke?
- Can you take advantage of user generated content?
- Do you need a professional to help produce these images?
Still not sure what your feed should feel like? Need some more inspiration? Well, it’s your lucky day.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of answers you can give to those questions.
What type of content will you post?
This sounds like a very open ended question but it can easily be answered in a few words. Either your content is going to be strictly promotional and part of your marketing plan, like with Iconosquare:
As you can see, this post is used to push readers back to their blog posts to learn more.
But you also can use it as a fun way for followers to connect to your company and help build your visual brand:
Barkley, another KC native, does this extremely well across their posts. And they make a big effort to show off the real people that make their company great.
Or even a mix of the two. But a mix of the two is definitely the hardest to pull off, so I would recommend sticking to one or the other. Because you will end up sending mixed messages to your followers with each new post.
Once you answer this question, the feel of your visual content should come together pretty easily though.
What color palettes, creative influences, or visual ideals will you stick to?
Next you should probably create some guidelines on how each post should look and feel.. This can be as simple as saying each post should feature a certain item. Like a Leica camera:
The official brand colors, blue and yellow for Best Buy:
Or get as complex as what tones, composition, and filters each post should have. Like in these examples from Art of Visuals, which all feel very similar:
It’s almost like they came from the same photographer, while also being different enough that they are not boring!
The visual influences you choose to emulate is really up to your team, and may take a few brainstorming sessions to get right. However, whatever ideals you decide on, be sure they reflect your company values, ideas and mission. Don’t just follow the newest trend or fad.
How can you blend your visual brand into every post?
You have already spent a ton of time and effort building a strong visual brand, so use it on Instagram.
Not sure where to start? Take a look at your brand guidelines for some inspiration.
For example, Hubspot is literally known for three things: marketing, sales and the color orange. They use orange so much they have pretty much claimed it in the marketing and sales industry.
If you see an orange post in your feed, you can almost be certain it came from those Boston marketing gurus.
The same, to a lesser degree, can be said about Robinhood, as you can see below:
They have embraced the neon inspired futurism look that fits their brand pretty well.
But a visual brand is not just built on colors palettes, fonts and logos. It also includes what kind of images represent your brand.
Airbnb’s visual brand puts the houses or locations at the center of their visual branding across platforms. Like in the examples below:
With each of their posts they want you to remember what their core mission is all about. That is why people and things are always in the background, or slightly out of focus.
Can you take advantage of user generated content?
A lot of brands run out of steam on Instagram because they don’t have enough interesting things to post.
But you know what you can never run out of? That’s right, user generated content!
If you have an established customer base that is crazy about your product I would recommend using some of their content! Like LaCroix does, almost effortlessly:
And GoPro as well:
Both are able to post something that is fresh and new almost every day, without creating something new.
This is great for overworked marketing teams, and those that don’t have the time to create a ton of extra content. And because it’s all organic content, it will feel genuine to your fans! Plus, your followers will pumped to be featured, and will share the post across other platforms. This will Increase your reach exponentially, without a ton of extra effort!
3. Be overly consistent
One of the best, and easiest, ways for you to develop a strong visual brand is to be consistent.
This is extremely important on Instagram and other social networks.
I mean, look how much effort Twitter puts into being consistent across their feed:
Extremely unique content is interesting but it can actually hurt your visual brand over time. Do you really want to be so unique that people have no idea what account that content came from? Or do you want your followers to instantly recognize your content in their Instagram feed?
If you’re guessing the second option, you would be correct.
When you are fighting millions of other accounts for their attention, the quick recognition can help immensely.
We have already talked about how you can spot shares from Hubspot almost instantly. And that’s because they are extremely consistent about the content they posts. From the orange color palette to the quotes, and even the light feeling each post invokes:
This consistency is not an accident at all. Their social media marketers know that Hubspot have a strong visual brand and will use that consistent branding in all of their posts.
So when it comes time to start posting on Instagram, remember that what you post doesn’t matter as much as if your posts are consistent. Both in content and the way they make people feel or react.
Another great example of consistent posting from my feed is Sony Cameras:
If you couldn’t guess from the name of the account and the examples, they mainly post pictures of Sony cameras. Literally, that’s all they post, with a few exceptions.
I know it sounds a little boring but they get a TON of engagement on each posts.
But best of all their followers know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they follow.
The creators of this account have built a strong following and visual brand just by keeping their Instagram content consistent, almost to a fault. Now when they break from that consistency, the engagement plummets:
Probably because their followers don’t instantly know that this example came from Sony Cameras. In my opinion, it just looks like another photo from a generic photography account. And that is not what their followers want to see.
Before we end this section I want to also bring attention to posting each day.
Keeping your posting schedule consistent is almost important as keeping the content similar. Because if you truly want to grow your brand or visual voice, it needs to be in front of people as often as possible.
Everyone’s favorite burger place, Shake Shack (DM me if you disagree), already has this daily posting schedule down:
I actually have to go pretty far back in their feed to see when they have missed a daily post. But as we have seen with other large brands, they rely on user generated content for a lot of their posts.
So I guess the moral of this story is: build a strong enough brand that people want to share their experiences with.
4. Find & fit your niche
The great thing about Instagram is that there is always going to be a place for niches to thrive. From the humble brand accounts, to those devoted to only a specific sneaker or food.
I’m not sure that other social networks have such a devotion to über-specific niches. And you can use that propensity for the specific to your advantage, especially when it comes to developing a strong brand voice for your company.
As I have mentioned above, it’s a lot easier to specific content when you have some guidelines or rules.
Now it’s very likely that these niches and industries already have some rules or best practices established.
For example, if your brand is in the design space, like Logo Inspirations, there are going to be some established rules for you to follow.
Things like high-quality images, professional looking logos and more, are expected by their followers. These people are going to be designers or other creatives, so bad content is not going to cut it.
I mean, they wouldn’t have been able to grow to 643k followers if they only published mediocre logos and designs.
The creators of this account found their niche, tailored their content to this niche, and built a strong brand voice. Now anytime I see a great looking logo in my feed I know it came from them!
Another account that found their niche and fit it extremely well is Apple And Coffee:
They were able to identify that people who like Apple products usually also like a lot of coffee and aesthetically pleasing photos. So that’s all they post.
And best of all, all of the content is user submitted.
So Apple And Coffee has built a strong brand on basically pictures of coffee and overpriced devices. But it works for them, and as you can see they used that simple formula to grow to 137k followers.
And there you have it! Four simple, but helpful, ways for you to develop a strong visual brand on Instagram.