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Grow Your Presence on Instagram: Creating Good Content

In Part 1 we talked about how Instagram has become a vital weapon to keep in your marketing arsenal, and we also talked about how to get started. Now let’s move on to the fun stuff — creating good, engaging content.

Creating good content

Content is king. Like any other piece of marketing, what you post matters. Take time to craft something that your audience will connect with, whether it’s funny, poignant, or practical.

Develop your voice

Your voice is a natural extension of your brand. Your experience marketing your brand will act as a natural guidepost, but each platform is different — don’t be afraid to tailor your voice to fit.

Set yourself apart

Trying to figure out what to post on Instagram about? Try thinking about what you or your company can offer that no one else can. You may be one of a jillion widget-makers, sure, but there’s something about your widgets that sets them apart. Align your voice — and visual style — around that.

More than just product shots

It would seem to make sense to use Instagram as a direct promotional tool for products and services, but the smartest, best brands aren’t just posting product shots and calling it a day. What’s the fun in that? What’s the use in that?

Give followers something meaningful to grab onto. Think of Instagram as a method of indirect promotion using these content frameworks:

  • Microblogging platform
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Featured stories/partnerships
  • Sharing tips, ideas, quotes, and recipes
  • “Insider” scoops and sneak peeks

Lean on tried-and-true topics

Everyone needs some “old standbys” in their content arsenal to fall back on, and these are good starting places:

  • Event coverage: Also known as “newsjacking,” Wendy’s did a stellar job of using of the epic “polar vortex” weather story at the beginning of 2014 to their own promotional advantage. Anything lots of people are talking about — the Super Bowl, a blockbuster movie, a holiday — can be used as fodder.
  • Office life: Get personal with a look at some of the people and places behind the brand. Glimpses like these help humanize your brand in the eyes of followers.
  • “Behind the scenes” shots: This could be your product in the process of being made, setting up a booth or table at a conference, a photo shoot in progress, a celebration of a company milestone — anything that helps tell the brand story.

Make good great photos

You don’t need complicated, expensive equipment to take great photos. All you need is the camera on your smartphone — and the right set of tools.

The best thing you can do to help your photos is run them through some photo editing software before you even get to Instagram. Snap a pic and then import it into one of these fantastic apps:

  • Snapseed (free) — This is one of my go-tos for making any photo look better. Use it first before applying any filters. I get a lot of mileage out of the “Tune” section, where settings can easily be dialed up to add warmth and brightness.
  • VSCOcam (free) — This app is like your cool art school friend. Elegant presets that are adjustable in strength make it simple to get just the right unique look.
  • Camera+ ($1.99) — An easy way to instantly fix your photos’ lighting with modes like “portrait,” “scenery,” and “food.”
  • Afterlight ($0.99) — A fun app with powerful filters, effects, and frames to set your image apart.

I usually play with a photo in 2-3 apps before sharing it on Instagram. Don’t be afraid to layer on the filters, but stay on the side of sanity — heavily-filtered photos usually look too garishly “fake” for followers’ likes.

Case study: Anthropologie

Anthropologie (on Instagram, @anthropologie) is an apparel and home goods brand that is doing content on Instagram right. I’ll leave you with a few examples below, but make sure to check back for the next installment in this series on expanding your Instagram reach.

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This post combines crowdsharing (a “regram” of someone else’s photo) with indirect product promotion (Anthropologie sells the striped dress the subject is wearing), all wrapped up in a compelling, artful composition. Nice work.
anthro-ex2
In this post, Anthropologie directs traffic to their blog with the promise of some tips for thank-you writing, timed just after the holiday gift frenzy. The creative composition of the image stays true to the “lifestyle” the brand wants to project.
anthro-ex3
Here we have a fun example of newsjacking (this was posted just after the epic winter storms at the beginning of 2014) with an added peek into office life (the photo was taken just outside of the company headquarters).

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