What began as a niche, hipster medium for telling people where you were and what you were doing has become a hugely valuable tool for companies to flesh out their brand persona - much, I suspect, to Instagram’s dismay. And while Instagram may not love the fact that brands have become a substantial presence on their platform (they have yet to include a function for easy login between multiple accounts, or allow multiple profile sign-ins from any outside app) your company’s presence on the image-sharing app is an incredible opportunity to connect with your audience on a cultural, rather than simply business, level.
This goes for you even if you’re a business that sits outside the creative industries - you may not think an accounting firm would have much to do on Instagram, but I guarantee that people who USE accounting firms are on Instagram. That’s your opportunity to stand out and make an impression. Make people feel like they have an affinity with your core values, your aesthetic, your sensibilities as a corporate culture, and they’re more likely to bring their business to you rather than another company with an identical offering but a less obvious culture fit.
I manage or contribute to four different Instagram accounts: The BizDojo, Neck of the Woods, Familiar Strangers, and my personal account. While these are all vastly different ventures and distinct brands, all are invariably strengthened by their presence on Insty.
Here are my 5 tips for fleshing out your brand persona on Instagram:
1. Managing multiple accounts.
As mentioned, Instagram doesn’t have a handy way to switch between user accounts like Twitter or Facebook. (This is certainly intentional, to dissuade heavy brand use of the platform.) There are two ways to deal with this:
a) suck it up, give your short-term memory a workout, and do it manually every time; or
b) use a third-party “viewer” app to post to various Instagram accounts for you. There’s a good list of those here.
I personally go with option A, but that’s primarily because my phone is too full of photos (fodder for said Instagram accounts) and I have no memory for apps anymore.
2. Which brings us to… managing multiple ‘voices’.
Switching between accounts is more than just how you log in - it’s also about adapting your ‘voice’ to each channel with intention. Your voice includes the kind of content you post, how you caption it, and the tone you use to interact with your audience. In the same way that your content should be bespoke for each channel (Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Instagram), it should also be bespoke between user accounts. For example: the account I run for Neck of the Woods isn’t shy about using profanity and regularly uses highly current urban slang. The BizDojo account would never include profanity, and uses colloquial speech that’s more accessible to an older audience.
3. What kind of content should your business be putting on Instagram?
Instagram is built for ‘behind the scenes’ content. In other words, it’s perfect for showcasing the human face(s) behind your business. The magic of Instagram is communicating context - for example, if you’re trying to tell people about a product launch or an event, publishing the poster on Instagram is not the right move. Publishing a photo of an employee distributing the poster, or preparing something for the launch, is a much better play. Activating the ‘behind the scenes’ serves to flesh out your brand, and as I mentioned above, help create a feeling of affinity with your brand on a cultural level.
It’s also a great tool for showcasing brand alignment with other businesses. A beautiful shot of the coffee that you’re drinking on the weekend serves not only to humanise your brand (we’re people too!) but is also a great opportunity to align your business with other like-minded organisations.
4. Aesthetics are important.
Having the right content is important, but so is the quality and composition of the images you post. This is, after all, a photo-sharing app at heart, and people are much more likely to like and pay attention to a beautiful image. Obviously having some capacity for photo composition is a necessity, but if you struggle with this, use the handy grid that Instagram provides in the re-sizing stage of posting - centre the focal points of your image at the intersecting gridlines. I’m also a devoted user of Instasize, which allows you to post an image at its original dimensions with a white backdrop rather than cropping everything into a square. (It has border and collage functionality as well.) There are plenty of other tools out there as well that allow you to manipulate and customize imagery before posting it to Instagram - here’s a good place to start your search if you decide you need a little something extra.
5. Tagging! Two kinds of tagging are important.
a) Tagging other user accounts - to gain followers from both individuals and brands. This one’s a no-brainer.
b) Hash tagging - the use of hashtags (#hashtags) is worthy of an entire blog entry itself, but if you’re not super familiar with the origins and current colloquial use of hashtags, read this excellent piece from the NY Times before you go any further. I like to mix functional, literal hashtags with one or two ‘in-joke’ hashtags. Example: a post from someone goofing off at a weekly BizDojo team meeting will include the hashtags #coworking and #kroad, but also #delirious and #friday. Too literal, you’re uncool. Too ironic and you’re not easily searchable. Find your happy medium.