Because you can't run on #regrams alone, at some point you're gonna have to bite the bullet and create some original content.
Let's see how you can become a social marketing content creator, now shall we? 💁
Shews in the wild... now THIS is how you do a product shot.
some most Instagrammers fancy themselves photographers, there are innate skills that certain people are born with that cannot be taught. Like a great artistic eye for composition, for example. But other things, such as say, a technique, can actually be learned. Heck, it can even be mastered.
If you need to create original content for Instagram, but didn't come into this world blessed with an eye like Patrick's, we're going to be solving your problem today. We're imparting wisdom on technique, as well as on how to practice some form of aesthetic artistry. You heard it here first: the one true obstacle standing between you and Instagram success could simply lie in a few snapshot tips.
First, Let's Talk What Works
Some brands have an entire creative team of folks that's in charge of crafting really beautiful content for the company's social manager to post on their channels. For those who are blessed with such a department at their disposal, it's no doubt that having visual experts designing really stunning Instagram pictures is a huge help, but be forewarned: what is deemed amazing, high standard brand material by creatives does not necessarily resonate on Instagram. Yup.
While genius and immaculately composed visuals are indeed a really great way to propagate a brand's image and instill its position on the market, save those for other channels. Instagram users don't care for overly produced shots, no matter how beautiful they are. There is a balance to strike here, which is something you should let the data whisper to you.
People who follow brands want to see photos and videos that depict a context. While product shots can be successful, it's important to remember to approach Instagram content from a lifestyle perspective. How does your product fit within everyday life scenarios? What is your brand's point of view and journey? Why is your brand interesting? This is precisely the reason why influencer marketing is such a prevalent (and effective) practice and why UGC performs 50% better than those professionally produced images.
The smart marketers at Parachute Home are not just showing product shots of sheets, they're actually providing a context around how their sheets can fit into their audience's lives.
So, What Does it Mean to be Successful on Instagram?
Measuring Instagram success is obviously a multi-faceted undertaking, but the utmost important criteria that brands should take into account is content performance, aka engagement in KPI speak. Why? Because it is the percentage of your audience that interacts with your content by either liking or leaving a comment. And that is in direct correlation with whether or not your audience cares about what you post. Instagram marketing strategy 101.
If your visuals don't resonate with your followers, what's the point? Some brands really get it, while others seem to fall behind, likely due to their account being managed by someone who doesn't get it, or by someone who is being overridden by people who don't get it. Woof. 🙄
When your audience starts to really pick up what you're putting down, then there's no stopping the growth opportunities. Your community can and will make or break you. Some accounts really know how to build on momentum, and spoiler alert: that starts with a really strong content strategy. Beyond what you or your creative team thinks looks the prettiest in the gallery.
But hold up. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be mindful of aesthetics. In fact, the overall appearance of your grid should rank high on your list of priorities. Both the individual posts themselves, as well as how they will all look together within the page. The latter is less important because your followers are not necessarily visiting your profile and seeing all your photos at once, but it's vital when it comes to being able to acquire new followers who land on your profile... First impressions are everything, after all.
It's just that you have to remember that what works on Instagram has nothing to do with your other visual touchpoints. Now with that in mind, here's how to create really amazing content for Instagram that will have your followers double-tapping and clamoring for more, more, more. 😍
1. Use Your iPhone
Organizing professional photo shoots is all well and good, but real talk: your iPhone can also do a solid job at capturing the right moments and delivering them in a pretty, edited package. So long as it's a generation 6 and up. Making the use of your iPhone even more appealing is the fact that
sometimes most times, those are the photos that will earn you the most engagement because of —not in spite of— the more authentic vibe they yield.
2. Plan Things Out
You should always keep an eye out for capture-worthy moments that could be on-brand and interesting to share as a part of your account journey. That said, genius Instagram ideas demand planning, no matter how organic a picture can seem. Arranging photo sessions in advance will help make your job easier, and ensure that you have the visuals you need to build your gallery according to your content strategy. This will also simplify your life as it relates to scheduling foresight.
The beauty of iPhone photography? You don't need to hire an expensive crew and editor. All you need is to block off a day or a few hours, do some proper location scouting (even if that means in-studio), determine the necessary props (pink contact paper? bouquet of fresh blooms? vintage bicycle? marble board?), and finally, an outline of the types of shots you need.
Just you, your phone and your strategy. ✔️
Blue Apron's gallery is highly likely all scheduled in advance according to the timing of their boxes. That means planning ahead for shoots too, iPhone or DSLR.
3. Think Outside the Box
It's important to think of what story you want your images to capture and convey. Instagram is all about visual communication, and your photos and videos should showcase your brand's personality. Always ask yourself how your visuals can contribute to your narrative in fresh and innovative ways.
4. Mind the Frame
Framing is something you should be particularly aware of when you're capturing a piece of content. Is your camera straight? Are you cutting something off that shouldn't be cut off? Alternatively, experiment with unusual photo angles to make the image even more interesting if the scene calls for it. Use the camera grid if you're unsure (it can be switched on in your settings), which will also help you follow the rule of thirds, if you're into that sort of thing.
Whatever your goal here, it's crucial to concentrate on framing when clicking. Failing at this will give your amateur status away right then and there.
5. Mind the Composition
Once you've got your framing figured out, it's all about the composition. What are you including in the frame? What elements of the background are you looking to have in your shot? Are the items placed correctly? Is the light coming in right (more on that in the next point). If you've identified a cool scenario you want to capture, make sure that what you're taking a photo of is better than what your eyes are seeing.
Fresh be getting that composition just right.
6. Mind the Lighting
A photo is worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to spreading your brand message. But it ain't worth nada if the lighting isn't on point. This is probably one of the hardest things to get right because it's a bit technical, whereas the previous points are a matter of being mindful.
If things are looking shoddy on the lighting front, you can lock the exposure and focus on your iPhone camera setting by holding down the screen in the spot where you want it. Another trick is making use of that elusive HDR functionality. Never thought you'd see the day, now did ya. It stands for high dynamic range, and it can be a real savior when you want to take a photo of a scene with strikingly contrasting light sources. In technical speak, what it does is it takes a bunch of photos at once using different exposures, merging them all into a single photo. This results in completely uncompromised lighting.
Pro tip: if you've tried everything and the lighting still isn't on point, but you really love the photo, changing it to black and white could potentially salvage the image and render it Insta-worthy. Worth a try, but not a guarantee.
7. Stop Using Instagram Filters
If you've already moved on from Insta filters to a really high quality photo editing app, then you can skip right over this tip. But if you're putting your head down and nodding in shame because you're feeling called out: let this be the moment where you finally download the VSCO Cam app and say sayonara to those tragic native IG filters.
Now it's time to play around with the app to discover a whole new world of possibilities. Find the filters that suit your brand's aesthetic and stick with it to create a beautifully edited, cohesive gallery.
8. Have Fun
Biggest rule of thumb here. Visual storytelling is a matter of communicating with your audience through photos and videos. If you're not feeling it, somehow, some way, that detachment will be super apparent to your followers and they will not be compelled to engage with your content. Be cheeky but stay true to your voice, don't be afraid of a little humor, include your followers by prompting them to take action around something, talk to them like a friend and not like a robot.
This is your opportunity!
Authenticity and humor can be on-brand for any account, just put your own twist on it.
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Instagram is a unique entity that cannot and should not be treated like any regular visual touchpoint. The content that resonates with users on the app is like nothing we've ever seen in the past, especially as it relates to branding and reaching audiences.
Your followers are interested in seeing visuals that are a balanced blend of relatable, inspirational, and aspirational. No matter what kind of products or services you are offering, that is the most important commandment to live by when you're crafting Instagram content. Well, it is if you want your engagement to rise.
Want to learn more about Instagram and visual touchpoint best practices? Get in touch today (right after you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below 👇).