Remember how just a few days ago (or was it even yesterday?), you were bored at your desk, lazily scrolling your Instagram for inspiration, and then suddenly, this image popped up on your feed, you clicked through, landed on a profile, and there it was: one of the most beautiful Instagram themes you ever saw. Honestly, it was perfect. The color palette was spotless, the balance between the pictures was flawless, the content itself was original and super high-quality.
And there you were. At your desk, scrolling through Instagram, scratching your head trying to figure out what you need to do to create an Instagram theme like that.
I feel you.
Building a consistent Instagram theme for your feed is a tough nut to crack. And yet, it’s very important to get it right for any brand out there on the lookout to become Insta-known.
Just take a look at these stats:
- Over 80% of Instagram users follow a business on the platform
- 2/3 of profile visits to Instagram Business accounts come from people who aren’t following that business
- Almost 50% of Instagram users do product research on social media
- 30% of users have bought something they saw on Instagram
These stats show that more and more consumers are turning to Instagram instead of Google when they’re researching and buying products. And just like the goal of your website would be to not let the visitors bounce away, the goal of your Instagram page is to attract visitors to stay, impress them with your overall feed, and make them want to click that “follow” button.
This is why it’s oh so important to have a consistent Instagram theme and a complete Instagram profile with a killer bio. The truth is, those who already follow you, never really evaluate your feed overall anymore. It’s your future, potential followers that see your feed first and decide, based on its’ looks and the impression it creates, whether they should follow you.
In other words, brushing up your feed, improving its’ appearance, and working out your own, authentic Instagram theme that will immediately represent your brand, is not just an option — it’s a must.
The good part is, you don’t need to be a super skilled photographer to be able to develop a killer feed. All you need to do is to follow the simple 5 rules to creating an Instagram theme, that I’m outlining in this article today.
In this article, you will learn about:
- The importance of having a good Instagram feed
- How to align your Instagram goals with your Instagram theme
- How to choose an Instagram theme that makes sense for your brand
- What are the useful tools, tips and tricks to use to create and plan an Instagram feed
Sounds good? Then let’s dive in!
1. Choose WHAT to post first
Before you even start taking pictures, editing them, and arranging them in a feed, there’s homework you need to do. We previously talked about the importance of an Instagram audit, an essential part of which was to review your business goals.
Your Instagram theme should reflect what makes sense for your business and be aligned with your business goals. What is it that you need to sell and promote? Is it a range of products? Or certain services?
Remembering why you’re actually on Instagram and what you’re hoping to achieve will determine your actual content.
Because the thing is, it’s not about how you edit, but about what you post.
Let me say it again, so that it stays with you: it’s not about how you edit, but about what you post.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going to apply the same filter over and over again to all of your posts, trying to create that “consistent feed look” everybody’s talking about. If your actual content sucks, you just won’t be able to create that memorable Instagram feed.
Thus, Instagram theme creation starts with deciding what content you need to produce, deciding what should be the main focus on your feed.
In order to make that decision, you can take a look at what has already worked well for you and what posts your followers engage most with. Judging from National Geographic, for instance, their followers engage most with posts showing animals — especially if that’s a close-up. In stark contrast, they’re way less likely to engage with photos portraying people, particularly if it’s a far-away shot:
The social media team at National Geographic seems to understand that pretty well, since, if you take a look at their overall feed, they tend to feature more animals than people.
Build your Instagram theme from posts that have proven to drive higher engagement. There are two ways to identify those posts.
- Take a look at the last posts from your Instagram feed
- Separate your photos into categories (e.g. people, nature, food, cityscape, product, etc)
- Calculate the engagement rate that each photo from each category gets
- Go to Iconosquare → Analytics → Engagement
- Select a desired time period
- Scroll down to “Most engaging media” at the bottom. You’ll see 4 posts with the highest engagement rate
- Click to download the report on your most engaging posts (the CSV file)
- Analyze your insights
Matt Benfield, an Instagram lifestyle influencer with over 50K followers, gives the same advice, but also reminds us not to forget about quality. Regarding his own Instagram, he says:
“There’s a lot that goes into deciding what to post on any given day. As you can tell from my feed, all of my posts have myself in them. The fact is, that’s where my highest engagement lies, as opposed to food or other kinds of lifestyle shots. But above all, no matter what kind of post I put up, quality is the name of the game. If I have a photoshoot and don’t get any quality shots from it, I’m not going to just post for the sake of posting. Even if I don’t post on Instagram for a couple of days because I’m trying to get the perfect shot, that’s worth it to me. Quality always comes over quantity for me!”
If you can’t identify your best-performing posts in your Instagram history (say, you’re new to Instagram, or you’ve been posting a bit inconsistently), experiment first. Build some content up, use a variety of formats (photos, carousels, videos) and a variety of content types (people, nature, products, etc), to see which works for you.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the creative angle of what you post. Marko Medic, an Instagram lifestyle micro-influencer, says that one of the key ways to create a killer Instagram feed is to take a different approach to everyday situations. Think outside the box — push yourself to create something new, even if you’re shooting a conventional product, in a conventional location:
“I’m always trying to push myself to create something that you cannot see in every other feed, as well as trying to put “artistic self” out there to the world.”
To sum up, when you decide WHAT to post, make sure that each post is:
- Consistently aligned with your business goals (i.e. don’t post lifestyle/food pics if your brand is a B2B business)
- Is of high quality (i.e. don’t post bad resolution pics)
- Offers a creative angle (offer something new and creative)
- And, most importantly, appeals to your target audience (i.e. you’ve done your audience research and know what kind of content your followers like to see)
Those are, in a nutshell, the three key elements of a successful Instagram content strategy which leads to a successful Instagram theme.
Once your content strategy is clear, the next thing to remind yourself of is your branding, specifically your colors.
2. Choose a color palette
Integrating your brand colors into your posts is ultimately the easiest way to build a consistent-looking Instagram theme. Here’s a quick example from Shopify, which uses turquoise, one of its brand colors, once in every row of the feed:
This way, the brand is creating a consistent color palette, which is easy to rely on when you need to decide what to post next.
There are millions of examples on Instagram, where a user or a brand has chosen one (or just a few) particular colors and stuck to it. You’ve seen them.
Sometimes it’s yellow.
Sometimes it’s brown.
Sometimes it’s pink.
What’s important is that you choose a few main colors (up to three) that will dominate your feed and be present at least once in every row. You can also choose two main colors (in the example above those are pink and blue, for instance), but no more.
If you struggle to identify your dominant feed color, check out these two tools that will analyze your feed and fetch a few colors you’ve been using the most:
If you can’t figure out what your color should be, don’t stress. According to Alex Armitage, a photographer from Fstoppers, you can experiment first to identify what works for you:
“My Instagram theme is constantly changing. Before, I was posting in blocks of 9, where everything in those 9 photos matches, be it black and white, blue ocean scenes, sunrises, etc. After, I tried something new: I posted 30 photos in 30 days with all the same look to see the results. And now, I’m trying a blue/green/orange layout to see how that’s going to play out.”
3. Shoot in the same light
Another question to ask yourself is: are my photos cold or warm?
Now, I know what you think: “Measuring my pictures’ temperature? Olga, you feeling alright?!” 🙈
Bear with me, please.
While your content’s temperature might be a little less obvious than the color palette, choosing a warm or a cold tone for your feed is a great way to build consistency. Applying warmer shades will give you yellow undertones, while cooler colors will look slightly more blue:
Anastasia from @amsta.gangsta, an Amsterdam-based lifestyle influencer, says she always shoots in daylight to make sure that the pictures have the same temperature:
“I shoot in daylight, and always try to have something white on the background, for the photos to match. I also try for pics to be of the same temperature (slightly cold during winter, a bit warmer during summer). And I also have a second, private account which I use to see how the feed would look beforehand.”
If you take your pics during different time of the day, they will feel different. You don’t want that. What you want is to achieve a consistent feel for the whole feed.
It can be tough to shoot in the same lighting if you live in places like London, for instance, where the weather is unpredictable.
4. Edit similarly
Now, once you’ve shot your pictures with the same lighting, you need to edit them the same way to achieve that consistent look.
Most professionals on Instagram use Lightroom.
Meredith Braden, photographer with over 30K followers on Insta, revealed: “I work professionally as a Photographer and Graphic Designer, so I shoot everything with my camera and then edit using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. I make sure that the editing is cohesive and tones work well together. Only Instagram Stories are shot and edited on my phone!”
Apps to edit photos:
- A Color Story (lots of filters + light flares)
- Snapseed (has a very good editing brush)
- Litely (from the creator of the original Instagram filters)
In all of these apps, you can create and save your own filter combination, to apply it to your pictures again and again.
If you choose to stick to Lightroom, a more professional editing software, you can also browse Creative Market for Lightroom presets, which can cost from 12 bucks on.
5. Balance your feed out
Now that you know you’ve got to shoot in the same light and edit the same way, the last step is to space out your feed to achieve the perfect balance between the pictures.
By that I simply mean: don’t post the same type of thing over and over again. Instead, rotate your posts for variety — that’s a piece of advice from Kelsey Simone, a fashion and beauty vlogger with almost 800K Instagram followers. She says: “I categorize [my photos] into selfies, outfit pictures, product shots, and fillers. It’s a rotation. For example, if I post a selfie, I don’t want to post a selfie right after that. So I’ll post a selfie, I’ll post a product shot, an outfit picture, a filler, and I’ll keep that going.
In other words, while it might be tempting to want to showcase your product over and over again, you need to space it out and mix your product shots with inspirational shots or lifestyle content — or anything, really — to not appear as annoyingly repetitive, but also to create a more holistic representation of your brand.
To space out your feed, you need an app. Apps like UNUM are great for visual feed planner.
However, if you wish to save time and not only plan the feed, but also automatically schedule your Instagram posts, you might want to check out Iconosquare’s Instagram Scheduler, in which you can drag your content around to see what looks best together, and then preview your feed in advance:
Another point: when you space your pics out, the rule is to pace them out. By that I mean, don’t publish busy photos side-by-side — your feed will look cluttered. Utilize the so-called negative space, i.e. empty background or borders, which aren’t filled with any elements. This will help you achieve that balanced look in your feed.
6: Plan & schedule ahead
Final piece of advice. While we did kind of touch on it a couple of times, it’s worth to mention that, when you’re planning your own Instagram theme, you should always keep in mind the rate at which you’re able to produce quality content. In other words, keep in mind your posting consistency.
When planning the feed, it’s easy to get carried away in your content strategy and assume you can do more than you actually can. If you start posting once a day, or even several times per day, your followers are going to expect you to keep up with the schedule you set up for yourself. But if in a month or two you start running out of content and struggle to create more at the same rate, your followers will hit that ‘unfollow’ button and probably never come back.
Plan ahead. Have a calendar. That’s what cool Instagram kids do.
Developing an Instagram theme might be tricky at first, but if you follow the 5 rules outlined in this article, it will become easier to work it out. A good Instagram theme starts with the right content strategy — followed up by applying the right tactics and using the right tools. The rest is just a matter of practice.