In the last post, I talked about defining your business personality with words. It’s fun, did you have a go? How many words did you come up with? If you’re anything like me, I can find an enormous list of words that fit aspects of what I do. I’m so complicated LOL! (I’m the same with colour – it’s so hard to limit myself to just a few). But with your business, you need to be clear-sighted and cull those words down quite a bit, to get to the essence of who and what you are (6-10 words is great).
To explain how that business personality is expressed visually, I thought it would be useful to look at a few great shopfronts and websites. As I said last post, Business Personality and Business Identity work hand in hand. With the visual stuff we’re getting more into the area of Business Identity here – the colours, fonts, imagery etc that you use in your branding, but the point is that it should be very expressive of your business personality.
If you’ve been hiding under a rock, The Collective is part magazine and part inspiration for business-minded creatives. It’s the brain-child of Lisa Messenger (and if you’ve never heard her story, you should – it’s a gob-smacker).
The Collective labels itself as “game changers | thought leaders | rule breakers | style makers”. It’s aimed at 35-ish creative folk who are intending to go places, completely on their own terms. It’s glossy, romantic and big. So, it uses lots of stylish, large-format vista-type images, with a bold, hand-painted script font. It’s lots of black and white too, which further emphasises strength. Black and white is uncompromising.
MEET ME AT MIKES
Meet Me At Mikes is a blog about life, crafting, and a whole bunch more, written by Pip Lincoln who is the author of several books on crafting, and writer for a number of other well-known places such as Kidspot and Frankie Magazine. It’s completely colourful, cosy, homey and happy. I love this header! Its collection of bright, clear colours are wonderfully cheery, its shapes are simple and clean. Using a variety of colours in this way conveys inventiveness and a vibrant interest in living, and there is always tons of colour throughout her blog. The scattering of blocks on the end only add to the whole playful effect. Her imagery is filled with retro, cute, and lots of closeups of homespun textures. It’s like she’s inviting you into her home.
THE DARLING TREE
The Darling Tree is an entirely different kettle of fish. Jo Klima founded The Darling Tree as a shopfront for her design services (which she still offers), but has more recently extended into surface design and products printed with her patterns. She has shifted from a quite feminine, gentle style, to one that is more expressive of her spiritual journey, and focuses on a vibrant palette of purples, pinks, and aquas, in a variety of bold, painterly patterns (her site loads a different pattern in the same palette every time you refresh). Like The Collective, Jo chooses a bold, handwritten font to be expressive of individuality and strength. The whole suggests artistic expressiveness, femaleness, strength and daring.
THE PAPER MAMA
Chelsey Andrews is the force behind The Paper Mama, which focuses on DIY crafts, personal style, and food. As well as her own blog she writes about DIY and craft for companies like HP Create and Better Homes and Gardens.
Her style is definitely very feminine, with tons of flowers. Her colours are warm, rich, with some lovely soft textures in both the aqua background and the handpainted header. They are also not overly bright and a bit muted, giving a sense of the old-fashioned. The handpainted header and the not-quite-straight hand drawn chain circling her photo all evokes that retro homey, DIY attitude, with the big blooms making it full and sensuous and very girly.
Now, if you’ve got an Etsy shop or similar, it can be a whole lot harder to convey your sense of brand personality, because so much of the screen space is taken up with Etsy’s set format. While it can be harder, it is not impossible as these shops show inventive ways to use their header space.
Within Etsy, you’re mostly limited to your shop banner to convey your brand, unless people choose to scroll down. But POAST (who I featured a little while ago here) still manages to create a space that is cool, modern, and very definitely Scandinavian. The Etsy banner space is quite long and not very high, so you need to use an image that uses horizontal space well. Laurie has used a misty image of the mountain forest to great effect, choosing one that has virtually no colour to complement her mostly white ceramic style. The shop name is in a clean and modern san serif font with the horizontal removed from the A, making it both distinctive and classic at the same time. It is also smack bang in the centre, giving a sense of balance and maturity.
Many people choose to use an image of some of their work for their header, and if it’s done with care, this can be a great idea as it can instantly capture your mood and colours. Theater Clouds (who I wrote about here) has evoked the whimsy and serenity of her work with an image of tiny sailboats. The image is beautifully lit (as is all her work), has a lovely horizontal flow to it, and is warm and inviting with the use of soft red in the boats and text.
WIRED BY BUD
A bit more “blokey” by the very nature of using hulking buffalo as his subject matter, Wired By Bud has created a scene specifically for use as a header. It’s kind of humorous and fun, and shows off what he can do. His shop name is in a strong, classic font that contrasts well with the wire shapes. The only thing I would tweak is the quality of his banner image, as I find it fuzzy and grainy and that’s distracting.
I know Etsy does compress images so you might not get it perfect, but if you are having any similar problems, try uploading your images as the highest quality .jpeg, or even a .png file.
Of course, you don’t have to incorporate any of your work into your banner, or even any images. Ceramicist Jeanette Zeis relies on an extremely simple, hand drawn banner of her name. Why this works is that it strongly echoes her ceramic style – there is evidence of the hand-made in its uneven lines and edges, it is soft yet strong, with a touch of the classic in the wreath of leaves, reminiscent of ancient Greek crowns. Overall it looks open and gentle, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Got any questions about ANYTHING in this post? If you do, pop your questions in the comments below. Do it! You never know who else might be wondering exactly the same thing but be too shy to ask.
Let’s help each other!
(p.s. I’m just about to launch into Brand Coaching for you! With Questionnaires, Skype sessions and a whole heap more. If you’d like to be in on the ground floor AND get a substantial discount on this service, get on the mailing list below!)
Business Personality? Yes, it’s a real thing. Your business does indeed have a personality; it’s part of your brand. It’s conveyed in everything you do to present yourself to the world. Even if you choose to ignore it, your business will still convey some kind of personality anyway – like confused, messy, or downright boring. Want that? I thought not.
(And please note – this is different to your Brand Identity, which is all the elements like colours, fonts and imagery that you use in your brand. Personality and Identity work hand in hand, so read on.)
You need to take control of that personality and present a cohesive, positive self to the world because it’s tied to how you want your customer to feel – i.e. their emotional response to your brand. And once you’ve figured out what your personality is, you can move on to choosing the visual aspects of your branding that confirm and project that same personality – so it’s kind of important to get your personality sorted out first! Personality also helps you decide the sort of tone or voice you should use when you’re talking to your customers.
Defining your BP is not a new idea, and it does depend a little on the country you’re targeting. But some qualities you might want to focus on as the underlying driver of that personality include sincerity, excitement, competence/skill, sophistication, or ruggedness/durability. Something else to keep in mind is that usually (but not always), your brand’s characteristics reflect the characteristics of your target customers – for the exact reason of being immediately relevant to them; your customers can easily relate to your brand.
Figuring out this personality is all about YOUR business, so think what personality words first come to mind when you’re thinking about your brand. How would you describe your business when meeting someone for the first time?
First of all, you can decide whether it’s traditional or modern. Then, think about other identifiers, such as male or female, an age group, and general terms such as happy or serious.
NOW comes the real bit – list down everything you want your business to project – choose words like sophisticated, socially responsible, friendly, boisterous, classic, serious, offbeat, high-tech/geeky, and more. (If you’re struggling with coming up with words, here’s a list of more than 800).
Once you have a list, project those qualities onto an imaginary person – and then think about how they would speak to your customers. Would they be offering serious technical advice, or would they be inviting you on a fun adventure? Would they be offering you ideas and encouraging personal expression, or would they be offering a solid, trustworthy structure for you to work within? Are they giving you a glimpse of strength or whimsy? Keep on listing those words down!
Awesome! Now you’ve got a list of words to describe your business personality, you can use them to help you decide on fonts, colours and imagery to go with your brand (I’ll go through that in more detail next post, using real examples). You can use them in other ways too – when you’re writing your “About” page, or your product descriptions for instance. But we’ll get onto that in the next post too.
In the meantime, here’s a couple of other fabulous resources for you to check out to help you figure out your Brand Personality.
- BigBrandSystem has got a great quiz to help you decide where your personality lies on the spectrum.
- 99designs has got some excellently fun games to help you decide what your personality is.
- And A List Apart has some wonderful case studies (written by one of the guys from MailChimp), so you can see how big businesses put together their personalities! He goes right back to Gutenburg in the 15thC and the invention of moveable type – it’s quite fascinating.
Next week, I’ll be pulling apart a couple of beautiful brands to see exactly who they are and what they’re saying, so stay tuned!
Do you have ANY questions about how to figure out your brand’s personality, or how it can translate into everything else – your writing style, your font choices, your colours….? If you do, pop your questions in the comments below. Do it! You never know who else might be wondering exactly the same thing but be too shy to ask.
Let’s help each other!
Oh hey! You’re still with us? Welcome to the third post in this series on getting started with Instagram. 😀
In Part 1, we looked at how to write a great Bio – you only have 150 characters, so what you say needs to be to the point and interesting to potential followers. We also looked at your images – because images are what it’s all about, hey! We investigated what sorts of images should you be posting, how often, and some photography tips to make sure your photos are beautiful. In Part 2, we explored the types of people you might like to follow for inspiration, and how to build up your own following through following others, through hashtags and by connecting it with your other social media. We also looked at sharing other people’s photos (which is a great thing of course – the good stuff should be shared!), and how to do that in an ethical way so that everyone wins.
Today’s post is about engaging with your Instagram community, because (a) it’s social media, and (b) that’s how you build your followers and turn them into loyal, paying customers.
ENGAGE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
Like all social media, it’s not all about you. When your followers like your images a lot, they’ll often take the time to write a comment. So be nice to them and say thank you! Let them know they’re appreciated. You need to mention them by their Instagram handle – @theirname – for them to see your reply though.
More engagement creates a sense of community, so think of questions you can ask them, or post something thought-provoking like a great quote. Sparking conversations in this way is good for everyone – you get to know your followers a bit better too.
Hashtags again! As mentioned in Part 2, they’re great to help others to find you in the first place. But they can be used in lots of other ways too – for instance, create a hashtag that your followers can contrbute to. FatMumSlim has the long-running and extremely popular #fmsphotoaday, and she publishes a list of daily photo prompts on her blog. Jess Van Den of CreateAndThrive has recently started the very beautiful #MakerKinMonday – it’s a lovely opportunity to share the work of other artists/makers you admire. Spreading the good stuff around is beneficial for everybody – those makers you admire will be chuffed you love their work so much!
ENGAGE WITH CONTESTS
Running a contest or giveaway is a great way of getting exposure for your Instagram account and your business. There are lots of ways you can so this, but the important thing is to make sure everybody is clear on the terms and conditions. These are things such as such as what they have to do to enter, the deadlines, and when the winners will be announced. You can put the basic entry requirements into the slide (use another app capable of adding text to your image, such as PicsArt or MadeWithStudio), and in the text of your post, you can also direct them to your website page that has a full list of terms and conditions.
A competition can be as simple as putting up a photo of one of your items and say ‘Like’ the photo to win the item. You ask them to comment on your photo too, and this can also be a great opportunity to get valuable feedback.
If you want to increase your followers, you can say that one of the requirements of entry is for your followers to tag a friend in the comments, and this will increase your organic traffic. If those friends like what they see, they’ll follow you too!
You can ask them to repost one of your images (using one of the many repost apps) and tag you for an entry to win.
You can create a special hashtag, and ask followers to participate using your products in photos or creative situations where your products might be used. They will need to tag you too, so that you can track their entry. For instance, I might ask them to put up a picture of them with one of my bags in an exotic location, and use the special hashtag #tractorgirlonholidays. They would also have to tag me @tractorgirlmakes so that I know they’ve entered. Add extra hashtags to ensure the comp gets outside attention, such as #instagramgiveaway, #giveaway, #contest, and #(YourBrandName). This not only provides better exposure, it’s also great for tracking the spread of the competition.
Importantly, don’t make your hashtags too long or complicated! They can get misspelled and therefore lost, and if they’re too hard to remember, your followers can just give up and not bother.
Instagram has a few fairly basic, sensible guidelines for running comps as well, so do read them.
I must confess I haven’t explored this on Instgram as yet, but I most certainly will in the not too distant future! And here’s why.
At SociallySorted, founder Donna Moritz interviewed a number of people who have made huge gains in their businesses through using social media. LOTS of them said that video and moving images were particularly great, because of their ability to grab attention. The people she spoke to included travel bloggers, chocolate makers, and a zoo. Truly! The short snippet of a brand new baby hippo is a winner.
Instagram allows you up to 15 seconds of video – which doesn’t sound like a long time, but it is more than enough to get your message across if you have a mesmerising image and/or use a bit of smart editing. You don’t always have to make new material either – some suggested repurposing some of your old YouTube footage, because your YouTube watchers are not necessarily the same folk as on your Instagram. (Of course, take that one step further, and share your YouTube footage straight to Facebook too!)
If you haven’t got any old YouTubes hanging around (I’m putting my hand up here), what can you take a video of? Same as for your photos of course – show off some of your process! A video of your beautiful workspace! People LOVE seeing behind the scenes. Another fantastic idea is to demo one of your products, or answer some FAQs. (If you’re feeling up to it, when you share your workspace you can even stick yourself in front of the camera and say hi! Your customers will love connecting to a real person.)
Video on Instagram has a couple of great features too. You can scroll through your video on IG and choose a still from the video to be the cover photo, in order to make it more enticing to viewers. If your video is more than 15 seconds long, you can choose which segment to show, and you can also also add any of Instagram’s filters to convey a particular mood.
Another advantage is that it integrates with Facebook (because FB owns IG) so that it plays in-line and people don’t have to click out of Facey to watch.
ALSO in the moving picture category is Flipagram. This allows you to combine a number of images into a flipbook-style slide sequence, and this is great for lots of situations. For instance, you can use it to create a short portfolio of your work. Or, when you’ve got a large number of images from an event (a market, a conference, etc), rather than annoy your followers with a million posts all at once, stick them all into a Flipagram and then do a single post.
SCHEDULING AND STATISTICS
When you’re really stuck for time, and/or you just want to get super-organised with your social media, you can schedule all your posts up on Latergramme, and even better you can use it to organise and schedule multiple Instagram accounts if you have them!
Iconosquare is my all-time fave Instagram managing tool. It works on your desktop, so it’s super easy to see your last hour or two of feed, and super super easy to like and comment, so you can engage with the people you follow quite quickly. Better still, it has a fantastic array of statistics for you to explore, showing you what are the best times for you to post, your most popular posts, your growth rate, who’s unfollowed you (this is fab because you can have a think about WHY they’ve unfollowed you and whether you need to lift your game), and heaps more. Best of all, it’s free. (*Although they do have plans to split some of the services off to premium users only later in the year, so get onto them now.)
Lastly, here’s a couple of great infographics on other ways of engaging your followers –
* Quicksprout – How to increase your Instagram engagement This has some great tips on the types of images that get the most likes and shares, and has lots of great tips for hashtags too.
* Fast Company – how the most successful brands dominate Instagram – some excellent ways to use Instagram, including showing off customers using your products, and some great statistics on why Instagram is better for business than some other platforms.
* TWMG – A fab infographic on how to create an optimal feed .
SPAM ( 🙁 and other nasties)
As with all other SM, there are spammers. Spammers are yukky. Don’t be one of them. And if you see it report it.
You can delete comments on your own posts, report abuse, and block spammers.
Keep Instagram nice for everyone!
OK, that’s it for this three part post. Hope it’s helped you make your Instagram experience just that bit more beautiful! As always, if you’ve got any questions about anything, just let me know in the comments below, and I WILL find you an answer!
And you can connect with me on Instagram over at @tractorgirlmakes. See you there 😀 😀 😀
Instagram is great fun, it’s true! But if you’re using Instagram for business, you really need to be strategic about how you use it – you do not have unlimited amounts of time to faff about, no matter how much fun it is. These tips are aimed at helping you get the most out of it, by pinpointing the most effective methods of building your audience and your brand style.
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about WHY Instagram was great for business – including its rapidly growing rate of new users, and the fact that everything you post gets seen by everyone who follows you, unlike Facebook and its tricky and limiting algorithms. This post is about how to find your ideal followers on this great social media platform, to get your best business advantage.
It’s true that the fastest, ethical way to build a following on Instagram is to follow other users and interact with them. However, don’t just follow anyone! You need to concentrate on the people who fit your brand. Not only do you feel way more comfortable with and genuine about interacting with them, you are more likely to attract them as a customer.
But Instagram for business is not all about having customers either – there are a few types of people you’ll want to follow, including those that totally inspire you (so many good ones! but some faves include @LisaMessenger, @sydney_jewellery_school and @swallowsanddamsons), and your peers (people around the same business level as you – great for cheering you on your biz journey!).
Don’t go overboard on following tons of people in a short space of time. There’s no official word from Instagram, but anecdotally there are several folk who say that there’s a limit of about 150 new followings per hour, and if you go faster than that your account will be limited, stopped, or removed. In any case, there is an official total limit of 7,500 users you can follow with your account now, and Instagram states that this is to stop spam and bots.
From this post on Shopify, the rates of follow-back increased substantially in direct proportion to the amount of effort you went to in interactions – i.e., for just a follow, the author got a 14% follow-back rate; for a follow and a like or two on their images, it jumped to 22%, and for a follow, some likes and a comment, it jumped again to 34%. But when you’re commenting, don’t just stick in something lame like “lovely” or “cute”. Spend some time in crafting something a bit meaningful, and a better response is guaranteed.
SHARING OTHER PEOPLE’S PHOTOS
Instagram doesn’t actively promote sharing, and they have no tools to do so within their app. They DO always encourage people to post original content, and they care about copyright, which is all good!
Of course it’s great to give props where credit is due, and sometimes there is totally beautiful stuff that you’ll want to share. There are also times when the people you follow actively encourage you to repost (for instance with a competition). However, don’t just take a screenshot and feed that in, because a lot of users scroll through pretty quickly and it can kinda look like it’s your photo if they don’t bother to stop and read. But there’s ways to share and keep everyone happy. And you should share – other people love being recognised for what they do! I’ve been taking part in an initiative by @CreateAndThrive, called #MakerKinMonday, where every Monday you share an image by another maker/designer that you admire, and also describe what it is about their work that you love. It’s fab! You get to see a whole bunch of beautiful new work from makers around the world, and everybody wins.
There are several apps that you can use to repost if you wish. These are great, because not only do they help people to share the good stuff, it’s also very obvious it’s a repost because they add a noticeable graphic to the image to let everyone it’s a repost, and they also give a text credit to the original Instagrammer. My fave app for this is Repost App. It stamps the image with a graphic, copies over the original text with credits, and also lets you edit that text so you can add further info if you want before reposting it into your timeline.
CONNECT IT UP WITH YOUR OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA
This is almost a no-brainer. These days, you can set up most of your social media accounts so that when you post on one, it will automatically feed through and post on your other sites as well, saving you a lot of time in getting your images and messages out to all your followers.
On Instagram, it’s super easy to connect it up – click on the little cog icon at the top right of the screen, and scroll down to ‘Linked Accounts’. Click through, and it will come up with a list of several popular social media sites. Click on the ones you want; Instagram will ask you to log in to that site, and then just follow the prompts. And if you have more than one Facebook account for instance, you can decide which one you want Instagram to post to.
Then after you’ve set it all up, when you post to Instagram it gives you the option of pushing your image out to your chosen social media sites as well.
Hashtags are a great way of finding other people to follow, and getting other people to find you too. Just click on one, and Instagram will bring up all the images that have been tagged with that word most recently.
There are several lists out there of what are the most frequently used hashtags, but really those sorts of lists are not very helpful. They do include really broad ones, like #photooftheday and #design which are kind of OK, but they also include ones that are next to useless if you’re trying to get like-minded folk to search you out. Who’s going to do a search on #me, #selfie or #day? And as I noted before, you’re not trying to just get numbers, you’re trying to narrow in on your target market – #followme, #like4like, #tagsforlikes aren’t going to cut it either. You want genuine followers who are following because they really like your work – i.e. potential customers; you don’t need random heads or worse, bots.
Using general tags that are a bit more specific to what you do is more useful, for instance #handmade, #kidsclothes, #handmadeaustralia, or #vintagefabric. You can also use ones for things that you find visually interesting, such as #colourlove, #patternonpattern, or #landscape, because chances are if you find those tags interesting, someone else will too and will find you. Another good one to use is your location – e.g. #Australia, #Riverina or #WaggaWagga – so you can help local folk to find you. But only ever use tags that are relevant. What’s the point of tagging your handmade chocolates with #design, just because it’s a popular hashtag? People who search for #design aren’t searching for chocolates, so they’re not going to bother with you (well… maybe. Because chocolate. But you get the idea?).
You can even make up some tags that are completely you, such as #tractorgirlmakesnewtops. I tag all of my clothes with this on my IG account, so that people can easily click on that and see all of my clothes together, instead of having to scroll through my feed – and I also mention it in my profile blurb.
Don’t get carried away with hashtags – around 4 or 5 is enough. Those posts with around 20 look like you’re screaming for attention. Take some time to check out what hashtags other people in your niche are using too, and use them as well. When you’ve compiled a list of relevant hashtags, note them all down somewhere (like an Evernote file) so that next time you post something you can just copy and paste – you’re not scratching your brain trying to remember what the hell all those good tags were.
That’s all for today, but I’ll be back with the third and final post in this Instagram series real soon! (Part 1 is here.) Part 3 will be all about how to engage with your community (and you absolutely most of all want to build a sense of community into your business), so stay tuned…
And in the mean time, catch me over on Instagram at tractorgirlmakes. Let me know you found me via the blog – I’m always up for a chat and I love connecting with you all!
Have you got any burning questions about Instagram? Please ask away! Let me know in the comments below and I will find you an answer. Guarantee!
With love, Julie.
Instagram. It’s all about the image, so make it work for you!
It’s a great business tool, and I’ll get to why in a minute. But you don’t have to – of course you can simply use Instagram for your own amusement and to share your life with friends because it IS a lot of fun, especially if you and your friends enjoy a bit of good photography. You could even consider having two accounts – a public one for business, and a private one for family and friends (find out how to set an account to “Private” here).
If you want use it for business you need to be a bit strategic about the quality and types of images that you share. You should always be aiming for high-quality photos, because that’s what gets the likes, the comments and the reposts.
First up: like all social media, there are no legitimate, quick ways to build up a genuine audience. It can only be done with time; by following other accounts, liking their images and commenting. And it takes lots of time, so don’t think it’s a quick way to get your message out there.
The good news is that according to Search Engine Journal, Instagram has the highest rate of growth of new users, growing by 9% over 2014, whereas Facebook didn’t grow at all. And if you’re using it for business, consider that Facebook uses algorithms to filter what gets into people’s feeds at the moment, whereas Instagram still feeds through everything, so that all your images get shown to all the people who are following you (if they’re looking at the right time).
And if your audience is young, the news is even better. Roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram. On top of that, instagrammers are a highly engaged audience too – half 0f ALL users (49%) use the site daily.
It sounds so good, and you want to be there, right!? So, how do you get people to follow you? How do you build an audience of adoring fans?
As I said, it does take time. But there are lots of ways you can optimise your chances of being found, and today we’ll go through the two most important things – your Bio and your Images.
Just like your “About” page on your blog, you need to make sure your profile is complete because your followers want to find out about you!
Absolutely include your profile pic, and make sure it’s one that fits your brand. If you’ve got a professional pic, here’s the place to use it – if it’s the same as you’ve used on other social media, all the better. You want people to recognise you/your brand!
As for your description, you only have 150 characters for your bio, so make sure it says exactly what you’re about, and make it vibrant and interesting. You can use it to add in a special specific hashtag, as I’ve done – “For my latest work, follow #tractorgirlmakesnewtops” – or you can use it for a call to action (e.g. point them to your opt-in), or another web link.
I love my friend Sarah‘s bio – “Most days you’ll find me at home. Just knock.” Now I know it doesn’t tell you anything about what she does – but it is so welcoming and friendly, and it is too sweet to resist. Even though she doesn’t say what she does in her bio, it is completely apparent on her feed – all her images are of the things she’s made; clothing from gorgeous vintage fabrics. Her username, APieceOfPieShop, also let’s you know that she’s selling it, and of course, she’s got a link to her shop in her bio as well. YES there’s a spot to list your website, so USE it. Make sure your potential customers can find you outside Instagram.
Another great bio is from Jess Van Den of CreateAndThrive. Her bio reads “Practical, actionable info to help you build a thriving handmade business. #CreateandThrive Blog + podcast + guides + courses + #ThriverCircle”. It says EXACTLY what Create & Thrive does, and offers you two hashtags to explore straight up as well.
If you’re a photographer, and think (like my friend Lisa) that you feel you’re somehow cheating by taking a little snap with your phone because it’s not a ‘real’ camera, think again.
Your iPhone is not a substitute for your ‘real’ camera; think of it as another tool in your arsenal. It is a different beast, and you should consider it as a separate medium to your camera-based photography – just as knitting is different to crochet, or poetry is different to prose. Consider its parameters – it is a fixed small, square format, and there are limited aspects you can tweak with regard to lighting, colour, and focus. So think about those parameters as challenges to your creativity, and see what you can make with them! And remember that if you’re a photographer you already have an advantage over lots of other instagrammers, because you understand composition, don’t you!?
Still feel like you’ve lost control over your images? Stop grinding your teeth in frustrated angst. You CAN get more control over your images with some cool apps, such as VSCO CAM, Afterlight, and SnapSeed. But it really depends on what you’re after – my photography is pretty simple, and I find I don’t need the extra fancy stuff. Apart from taking the images with the Camera function on my phone because it has better basic edits than Instagram, for the moment I’m happy simply using the cropping tools, and just tweaking the lighting and contrast.
I rarely use filters either, but if you choose to go that way make sure you stick to the same one or two for all your images, as you want your feed to have a cohesive feel to it. Why?
my morning view
I’m glad you asked. If you’re using Instagram for your brand, you need to start with a clear focus on what you intend to put into your feed. Sticking to a clear theme means that whoever comes across your account will know what you’re about and jump on board if it resonates with them.
It’s important to take lots of photos, and then choose the best ONE to share. Edit your pics before posting – straighten horizons, crop out unwanted details, tweak the contrast and lighting, etc – it can make all the difference between ho-hum and beautiful.
You also need to build a particular photographic style. You can do this through how you style your products, whether you add text to the images (marbleandblossoms does this cleverly by adding in a printed card to the photo), what colours you use, and so on. This is why it’s important to stay with the same few filters – they are all quite different and can alter the mood of your images substantially. Personally, I love clean lines, textures and patterns, and more minimal, balanced compositions, and I always try and present my landscapes as well as my products that way.
Having said that, the other thing is not to be boring. Don’t keep on posting the same old stuff just because you know it’s going to get likes. Mix it up! Oh, and pleeeez don’t post endless photos of your feet, of your morning coffee, or of your duck face.
Ensure your feed is consistent in quality. Would people choose to follow you if they scanned it now? Quality is much more important than quantity. It’s so easy to check out someone’s feed, and make a snap decision as to whether they’re worth following or not – so make it beautiful. Stick to your brand persona and show off your talents.
Now, I’m not a smartphone expert, but if you want particular advice about how to get the most out of your phone’s camera, you can try these articles.
* Lauren Conrad – How to take the perfect Instagram: Lauren shares a few great photography tips, as well as some tips on how to use Instagram’s own photo editing tools. AND she doesn’t often use the filters – most photos don’t need them.
* iPhone Photography School – 10 Quick Tips – they might be quick in the sense that they are explained succinctly, but they might not be quick to do. Like a lot of things in photography (or any other creative field), these tips may take a long time to master. But once you’ve got the ideas in your head, they are awesomely powerful.
* Artifact Uprising – Mastering Mobile Photography – Another excellent collection of photography tips for mobile phones.
What to show? Of course, show your work, and work in progress. You can also share sneak peeks of new products, and a great one is to show off your items being used by happy customers. Include scenes from your everyday life too (we want to know you’re a real person, and what you’re interested in!). Use it to introduce your team members – even if that’s just you and your cat….
green plaid top – detail
Plan your content (I know I’m really the worst at this and I tend to do it ad hoc – it’s a case of putting up my favourite pic from the last day or two of landscapes from my farm, or details from around my house, and sometimes the latest thing I’ve made). OK yes, so I plan to get planning ;D ! The best advice I’ve come across on this is to have a mix of planned and spontaneous. For instance, you could have a theme for the month, and intersperse it with snaps from your workbench.
Post only one or two pics per day at most (don’t overwhelm you followers), and not less than one every few days. If you want to build a following, you need to constantly be adding new content!
Once you have a collection of images (like about a hundred or more), go back through and see which ones were the most popular (the most likes, the most comments) – Iconosquare can tell you this stuff. Then, try to think about why they got that attention. People often respond for emotional reasons – was it beautiful, funny, intriguing? Is it something about the subject matter? If you hit on what’s working for your business, do more of it!
Iconosquare can also look at what times of day and days of the week are best for you to post, and in fact has a great range of statistical tools to help you analyse lots of stuff about your Instagram account.
So that’s about it for today. There’s lots there to work on, and I’ve still got two more posts to go on this subject!
So get cracking.
And in the mean time, catch me over on Instagram at tractorgirlmakes. I would love to connect with you!
Have you got any burning questions about Instagram? Please ask away! Let me know in the comments below and I will find you an answer. Guarantee!
With love, Julie.
PicMonkey Alignment Grid
free downloadable picmonkey grid
You know how in yesterday’s post I was bemoaning the fact that it’s stupidly hard to align and centre objects in PicMonkey because they don’t offer any tools to do so, or any kind of grid? Well, I’ve fixed that! I’ve put together a really simple tool – a grid as a transparent overlay, marked in convenient halves, thirds and quarters. I’m providing this as a FREE DOWNLOADABLE, so use it for yourself with your next project, and/or you are most welcome to share, share away!
How to use it.
1. Download your transparent grid HERE, and save it to your computer in an appropriate folder.
Make sure it’s saved as a .png file, so it retains its transparency (saving it as a .jpg will automatically give it a solid white background).
2. Open your background image in Picmonkey.
3. Click on Overlays, and Your Own. Choose the grid (it’s called “picmonkey alignment grid”), and click on Open.
4. Resize to cover your whole image by dragging the corners to the edge of your background image. My grid is square, but if you hold the shift key down while you drag the corners, you can change the proportions so that it will cover rectangles too.
5. If your background image is dark, the grid might not show up very well – no probs, just play with the Colour settings and Blend Mode in the Overlay pop-up box until it’s got the best contrast against your image.
Overlay colour set at black shows the true colours of the grid. Some lines on the grid are difficult to see.
Overlay colour set at white shows the grid much more clearly.
6. Add your other elements, and align them with the grid by dragging them around when you see the four-headed arrow, which should appear when you hover over the highlighted object box.
7. Delete the grid. You should be able to select it by clicking on the solid circle in the bottom right of the grid.
And there you go! Perfectly aligned text.
(p.s…. You can also download my beach pic as a free stock photo, here.)
How easy peasy was that!? I’m actually a bit gobsmacked that nobody’s thought of making something like this before. But I’ve searched and searched… aaah well. Now it exists! Hooray!
Now. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say if you’d like better alignment tools in PicMonkey, then just don’t. Get yourself onto Canva instead. PicMonkey is set up for photo editing (especially photos of people – and it’s fab for this) but not graphics; it’s unlikely they’ll be adding any alignment tools anytime soon. Canva, on the other hand, is specifically set up for graphics; it has a fabulous ‘snap’ functionality which allows you to have text and images that line up perfectly, every time. It also allows you to put in your own guidelines, display grids, and you can display the pixel position of any element. And it’s free. Yes, there are some things it can’t do (the paid version has more functionality of course), but there are workarounds to just about every shortcoming.
I’ve been teaching people how to use Canva over the past year or so (and no, I’m not affiliated with Canva in any way; I just want people to make better graphics). If you’re interested, my free 5-day challenge to ‘Conquer Canva’ is starting again soon. It’s aimed at teaching you the tech, as well as the design skills you need to create great graphics, so you don’t have to waste time learning everything by trial and error, AND you learn how to create beautiful images your audience responds to and loves. You can find out more about it here – bit.ly/ConquerCanva4.
See you there?