Defining Brand Guidelines to Grow Your Instagram Following

It's all about the feed. These days, one of the first things a potential client, consumer or collaborator checks is your brand's Instagram account.

First thing's first, establishing the "you" is really important. Is your company a straightforward product- or service-based business? Do you have a 'face' or brand representative? Are you, yourself, the brand? Like I... am OB, in this way. Once you've established the subject, or 'who' of the brand, 'what' or 'how' is it represented on social media.

As part of the initial branding phase that I undergo with each new client--well-established brands and start-ups alike--outlining brand guidelines proves relevant in most cases. While this may be defined within a brand book that'll guide all visual communications, including press kit and printed materials, for the intent and purpose of this discussion, let's focus on social--mainly, Instagram. And it goes beyond just the aesthetic, of course.

Here's the key factors to identify when determining your brand guidelines to help create a beautifully cohesive, widely followed and highly engaged Instagram feed:

Sample Instagram calendar adhering to a color scheme

Sample Instagram calendar adhering to a color scheme

  1. The Bio: When crafting the bio, it's really important to establish and make use of the "brand voice" because word choice affects consumer perception. Do you want the tone to be lighthearted, optimistic, playful or pragmatic (etc)? What defines the brand, in terms of content? Is it important to place yourself geographically, or make mention of when it was established? Also, it's incredibly important to not forget a unique brand-specific hashtag. Try to come up with something completely original, or something less populated that you can "take over" in time. It's not for a superficial reason that I say this... if/when followers actually catch on and begin to use that hashtag, you, in turn, open the doors to a world of very, very valuable user-generated content. Content creation is incredibly difficult, but content curation can be a beautiful thing. 
  2. The Content: Determine the types of posts that you're going to feature: product shots, compositions, user-generated photos, quotes, lifestyle images, landscape/scenery (specific to a particular location), so on and so forth. This list will be helpful when coming up with a content calendar, since you'll want to actively rotate amongst these categories.
  3. The Frequency: Social media is a full-time job... one channel alone. Determine the frequency at which you want to post and be consistent. If you want to post daily, make it happen. I aim for five times per week, usually. Whatever you choose, consistency is key and that could mean the use of a scheduling app. I use Later (as well as their LinkinBio service), but there are plenty of other options, including HootSuite, Buffer and Publish.
  4. The Color Scheme: This is really essential as far as the overall feed goes. This means two things: it is both the actual colors you choose to feature, as well as the edits/filter you make on each image. Again, consistency is the name of the game. And, according to color psychology, people respond best to a limited quantity of colors, about four max. As a brand, sticking to a particular color palette also makes feature posts really pop (if you highlight a color that's not standard on your feed).

Building these guidelines will make your account look so much more professional, less messy and more attended to. It's one part of increasing your following, in addition to using the right hashtags (not overly used ones), liking other photos, answering comments and engaging with your audience, and participating in giveaways or cross-promotions with well-aligned brands.