If you spend time on Instagram, you’ve likely already seen the beautiful, branded content that your favorite brands create and share. As inspiring as their streamlined social media style might be, it can also be intimidating; especially when you realize that your own brand lacks a cohesive aesthetic, and the content you share isn’t as original or eye-catching as you might like it to be. While the quickest way to see your content goals come to fruition is by hiring a Content Marketing Strategist, enlisting professional help might not fit your current budget. If you’re tackling this task on your own for now, there are a few things you absolutely MUST do if you want your brand’s social media content to stand out, reflect your company’s aesthetic, and most importantly attract new followers and potential customers.

Choose (and stick to) a Color Palette

Even though Coca Cola is brown, when we think about the soda brand, the first color that comes to mind is Red. There’s a reason for that. Coke has used the color red in every component of its brand advertising since early in the company’s history. Besides being a scientifically “appetizing” color, there’s nothing inherently connecting the color red to Coke. After all, Coke isn’t made of any red ingredients, and the flavor isn’t associated with a red fruit like a cherry or strawberry. We associate red with Coke simply because Coca Cola worked hard to align the color red with their brand image.

They chose the color, and more importantly, they stuck with it. Now I know what you’re thinking. Coca Cola has a huge budget for creating commercials and advertisements. They have a team of talented professionals who are constantly working to build and maintain their brand identity; but even if you’re the only one creating content for your brand, it’s  still entirely possible to align your brand with certain colors through your social media content.

Find the Hue for You

First, you need to choose and adhere to a color palette. It sounds easy, but this is the hardest step for most of us, since different colors appeal to us during different seasons. Since one color can get a little cloying or boring, I suggest picking one “Theme Color” which includes a few shades of the same color, and then 3 “Supplemental Colors”. These should compliment your Theme Color and be used as pops of color, text color, etc. Google image search “color palettes” for some easy inspiration, or check out Color Hunt, an online resource for beautiful color palettes you can use for your brand!

Once you’ve chosen your color palette, the real challenge is sticking to it. By only creating and sharing content that adheres to your color palette, you’ll give your content a clean, branded look that still reflects the style, mood, and energy level that you’d like your business to align with. Below I shared my own color palette, along with a snapshot of my Instagram feed so you can see how I have stuck to it for a clean, consistent result.

Become an Accomplished IPhone-tographer

When it comes to sourcing photography for your website, your products, your print advertising, and your headshots, you should enlist a professional photographer, and supplement with high quality, purchased stock photography when necessary. For Instagram content creation, many businesses choose to work with a professional photo stylist and content creator to ensure quality, but if you don’t yet have the budget to hire anyone, your smartphone camera can become your new best friend! Creating your own photographic content reflects authenticity, but the fear of imperfection can keep many of us from posting our photos on a regular basis. It’s time to take out your smartphone and overcome that hurdle!

You’re a Photographer. Trust me.

The two most important parts of taking great content photos are lighting and theme. Natural, outdoor daytime lighting always produces a crisp, clear image, so it’s best to find an outdoor space to shoot photos. For many, it’s a patio table, a back porch, or even a balcony. The next step, of course, is choosing what you’ll take a photo of. For balance, try capturing a mix of lifestyle photos (you, your office, a business travel destination), and subject photos (a page of your weekly planner, your new briefcase, a page of brainstorming notes, etc.) Lifestyle photos can be shot from further away, whereas subject photos (sometimes called flatlay photos) are shot from above, and closer to the subject. Here are examples of lifestyle photos and subject/flatlay photos from my feed.

Commit to Quality

In order for social media content to attract clients and customers, it needs to be eye-catching, unique, and shared consistently. Reposting someone else’s content without explicit consent isn’t ethical, nor does it reflect the sense of professionalism and originality that your company must portray. It’s always better to take your own photos, even if they don’t immediately look like what your competitors are producing. After all, what makes your brand content different is what will ultimately make your business stand out! Photo editing apps for your phone like Pixlr will help your images look the way you want, no expertise required!

Using the app Colorstory, you can create a grid that mimics your instagram feed, allowing you to see how photos will look next to each other before you post them. Tools like these will help zap your content creation anxiety, while helping you master the techniques that finetune your photos.

Captions and Hashtags

To clear up a few common misconceptions, captions don’t have to be long, and you don’t need to include 30 hashtags. These myths tend to scare people away from sharing their photos, because they don’t know what to say about them. In truth, a lot of viewers won’t read your caption at all. This is mainly because most Instagram users scroll through content quite quickly. This doesn’t mean you should skip the caption, but you can definitely skip the anxiety about making it perfect. For lifestyle photos, just write a summary of what you’re doing, or your plan for the day. For flatlay/subject photos, you can describe what the viewer is seeing in the photo, and maybe ask a question of your audience. For example, let’s say you’re sharing a photo of your weekly agenda. You caption could be “I love planning my week! It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by my busy schedule. Do you use a planner or weekly agenda?” 

When it comes to hashtags, I challenge you to start with just 5. Instead of cramming in a ton of hashtags relating to your photo, try choosing hashtags that relate to your business offerings. After all, you’re trying to attract viewers who might become customers, rather than viewers who simply like your photos because they’re pretty! Try to incorporate one hashtag in your caption, then place the other 4 after your caption. After you get comfortable with this, you might add a few more hashtags each time you post a photo.

Ready to Get Started?

I know you’re busy, but if you’re going to take social media content creation into your own hands, then you need to set aside some time for it. As a general rule, if you can’t find the time for it today, then you should just wait for tomorrow instead of rushing to post something. Rushed content always looks rushed, and unplanned content tends to look… you guessed it:  unplanned. Your viewers will notice, and it will negatively impact their view of your business. If you had a brick and mortar storefront, you wouldn’t throw together a sloppy window display, right? You would set aside time to make it beautiful, eye-catching, and capable of attracting new customers who might otherwise just walk by. Social media content is the window display of your online presence, and it’s worth your time, effort, and creativity. Developing your brand’s aesthetic takes time, but no matter whether you post twice a week or 5 times per week, it’s time well spent.