So what's the key to success on Instagram? According to Instagram itself:
"There's no big secret to creating content for Instagram-good and effective creative is just good creative. The same creative principles that apply to any marketing channel apply to Instagram, like being well branded, concept-driven, well crafted and well targeted."
In other words, creativity is key to Instagram engagement - crafting thoughtful and thought-provoking images that grab attention, and communicate your brand message through your visuals alone. Your images need to be 'good enough to eat', they need to have a tangible quality to them, beyond the aesthetic value alone. And while that may sound hard to do, there are some simple ways to express emotion and story through Instagram content. And if you're able to harness them, you'll be on track to reach an audience on the platform and build an engaging, resonant presence.
So how do you do it?
Instagram breaks down the core creative principles of the platform to three focus points:
- Branding content with your logo, colors or iconography drives awareness
- Creating a concept that tells a story aligning to your business goal drives brand lift in areas like perception, message association and favourability
- Making your creative polished and well crafted amplifies results overall.
When broken down so specifically, the concepts are easier to conceptualize, and hopefully apply to your own Instagram posts. Here are some notes on each to help you get started:
1. "Branding content with your logo, colors or iconography"
The most successful brands on Instagram maintain a color palette that's in line with their brand - check out Oreo's Instagram profile for example.
Notice how there's a distinctive tone and consistency that flows through each image, that blue hue, those pastel colors. By maintaining that familiarity - through a specifically chosen palette range - Oreo is working to build their brand with each post, to imbue a sense of the brand throughout their Instagram images.
Tresemme Indonesia approach their Instagram feed in the same way, with a visual consistency to how they present their posts.
To do this yourself, you should decide on a distinctive tone that you want for your Instagram presence, a color theme that works with your brand image and identity. You can do this by using a basic color wheel - this interactive color wheel from Adobe covers the basics of complimentary tones in varying themes.
There's a range of other options too - even the paint wall at your local hardware store can give you some ideas. Once you've decided on a tone, let that guide your image direction and ensure you use relevant filters and tools to help maintain a consistent approach to build your brand presence.
2. "Creating a concept that tells a story aligning to your business goal"
As with all social networks, deciding on the 'personality' of your brand presence will play a significant part in the approach you take to your content and interactions. Think of it this way: one of the key terms of 'social media' is 'social', and being social is about interaction. In order to interact, you need to have a way to communicate, a voice, and that voice will ideally shine through and communicate not only what you do, but why you do it.
It can be a more difficult concept to get grasp of, but you need to get a handle on what your brand's about, what role it plays in the lives of your consumers, then use that as the motivation behind how you approach your content.
On Instagram, that means conveying your brand voice within your images.
For example, Burt's Bees aims to share a sense of fun in their Instagram feed, with each image aligned with their natural message (lots of flowers and leaves), but shared in a creative and joyful way.
This immediately gives you a sense of what the brand's about and helps align fans to their core purpose with every post.
Sharpie has a similar focus on fun and creativity, and that purpose is shared throughout their Instagram content.
These Instagram feeds are fuelled by a clear purpose, a brand mission statement that underlines not only what they do - in terms of the products they sell - but why they do it, and that underlying ethos helps build their presence with every post.
3. "Making your creative polished and well-crafted"
And the last one's pretty self-explanatory. As you can see from the examples above, it's worth taking the time to ensure your Instagram images are great. It might take more test shots, different lighting, it might mean adding in and taking out additional props. But don't settle for second best when creating content for your Instagram feed.
Attention to detail is the difference between good and great - and worth noting, most of the people on Instagram aren't on the platform to stay up to date with your branded content. People are on Instagram to see great, visually stimulating posts - they're on Instagram to see art, essentially. Therefore it makes sesnse that the best way to reach them is to approach your Instagram posts as art. If your content is great, people will welcome it, regardless of whether it's branded material or not, and that will help you reach a wider audience and spread your brand message, and awareness, throughout the Instagram network.
It's the same as with blogging - if it doesn't feel right, if you're not adding something new to the conversation, then you're just adding to the noise. If you're posting content to Instagram that's just the same as everything else, that's not as good or styled as it could be, then you're setting yourself up for lesser impact. It depends on the purpose of your presence, of course - some brands are seeing great success on Instagram through sharing behind the scenes type 'in the moment' photos. But for those seeking to boost brand awareness and response, among users who are not already fans, a focus on image quality is a must.
Maybe that means taking a photo in the morning light as opposed to the middle of the day, maybe it means taking 100 shots and working out which fits best. Maybe it means scrapping an idea that you've worked hard on because it's just not coming together. Ultimately, you have to be driven by your own artistic intentions and integrity, but the general rule of thumb is if you don't feel your content as good as it could be, your audience will sense that too.
It takes work, but the extra effort and attention to detail will pay off in the end.