Recently we have reviewed our Instagram strategy for some of our clients and we are seeing significant improvements.
We have called this new approach the On-Brand strategy.
It helped us increase the number of post likes by 115% in a month
The same approached generated an increase of 2 new followers per day (on average)
In this blog post we are going to show you how we did it, step-by-step, so that you can also benefit of the On-Brand strategy.
But first let’s take a look at the Instagram account the month before our case study. The number of new likes was dropping (-21% on the previous period). New comments were also down -24% and the number of followers was growing at a slow 1% rate.
Our content for this account has been a mix of bespoke photos and videos, that we produce monthly if you are on one of our social media plans, and user-generated media. We have always looked for quality photography and videos but somehow this was not working. This was…
Before the On-Brand Technique
Before reviewing our strategy and seeing the results, our typical post would look like this:
As you can see the image is of good quality but the engagement is a very low 15 likes and zero comments. This is the pre On-Brand world.
A similar post, published two months later, but this time created by following the guidelines of our custom strategy, showed much improved numbers with 34 likes and 1 comment
Let’s disassemble the post(s) and see how you can also improve engagement and growth for your Instagram account by following a few, simple steps:
Step #1: Remove the Logo
Business owners love their logo. They would like to put it on any hard or soft marketing material, including their social media photos. Personally, I always thought it was a bad idea in general but especially on Instagram.
Instagram is visually pure. It’s not a billboard. People don’t need to see your logo to appreciate the image is coming from you. Putting the logo on your images makes them look like a banner ad. Instagram users feel cheated. And they don’t like it.
To prove this statement, let’s look at some other posts before and after our On-Brand strategy. Here’s one from Cactus Jacks. First the one pre-strategy:
Then the post-strategy one. As you can see the subject of the image is exactly the same but the numbers are doubled in a very similar fashion to the post for the Bailey:
The Cactus Jacks logo was very small and much less-intrusive than the Bailey one. Nonetheless, the number of likes the logo-one got was much lower than the one without the logo.
Can this simple step have had such a massive impact? Yes, especially if combined with step #2:
Step #2: Remove All the Graphics
We found that just as logos and Instagram didn’t really get on well with each other, the same could be said for graphic elements.
Unless you are a graphic designer or you only post quotes, we found that removing all unnecessary graphic elements from the frame contributes to an increase in likes.
See for yourself in this example from Fiberseal:
The post had two graphic elements. In addition to the logo you can also see a text overlay covering half of the image. The result is very few likes and no comments.
Take a look at this other post instead:
In this case we removed both logo and graphics and as a result the number of likes almost tripled!
Removing the logo and graphics generated an increase in engagement and number of likes but if you want to take your Instagram account to the next level, you need to follow step #3….
Step #3: Create a Custom Filter
An external observer asked who was doing social media for the Bailey. His comment was that the content was always ‘on-brand’.
On Instagram, keeping the content on-brand means creating consistency and repetition visually.
One of the problems our bespoke content had was that although the photography was of really good quality, it lacked of consistency. The photos would be taken by the same photographer but visually they would be very different from one another.
The solution? Creating a custom filter reflecting the colours we want the brand to be associated with.
The first thing we need to do is identifying these colours by creating a (simple) branding document with the colours belonging to and compliant with the brand. Here’s an example below:
For our Instagram account the most important part of this document is the Palette or Colour Scheme.
If you don’t have any brand guidelines, the easiest way to create the palette is to go over to your website and pick all the colours that you find. You can use a tool like Colorzilla, available as an addon on both Firefox and Chrome.
Once you have the colour scheme done, you want to play with your adjustment settings and create a filter that you can apply as an overlay to all your photos before posting them.
To do this, you will need to use a premium photo editor like Photoshop (or free alternatives like Photopea or GIMP). If you are not familiar with these photo editing tools, you can also use Canva, a less-demanding image editing tool, like we did in this screenshot:
If you are using Canva, play with the Tint setting to enhance one or more colours.
A custom filter will allow you to create your own, personal visual style.
When you are happy with your adjustments, save your image as a template. Each time you post, simply replace the photo for the adjustment settings to be carried over.
We use these three steps for the majority of the Instagram profiles we manage but images alone wouldn’t make such a difference if you didn’t follow step #4
Step #4: Tone Down the Caption
The perfect combination of a post on social media is a captivating image PLUS a relevant caption.
This is true also for Instagram. Let’s take a look at another post:
The image is of good quality. There is no logo or any graphic element and there is a custom filter applied based on the brand colour scheme.
So how come this post got us only 18 likes? Let’s then look at another, apparently similar post, and compare…
111 likes for a very similar post. Can you tell the difference between the two?
This is questionable but the only difference we could find between the two posts is the caption.
In the first, we tell our audience how ‘gorgeous’ the product is and we include a call to action for people to visit the showroom.
In the second post we hint at creating the dream bathroom and we point the customer to the corresponding page on the brochure (downlodable from the website).
It’s up to the audience to decide how gorgeous the design is; and it’s up to the audience to design whether they want to visit the showroom or not.
The result? The audience appreciated the toning down and rewarded us with a massive increase in likes.
It seems we have found the perfect formula is bespoke, beautiful photography + custom filter + neutral caption but this would not be complete if we failed to mention step #5
This step is often mentioned in posts about taking your Instagram profile to the next level.
Here we are just going to mention two basic rules we follow before choosing an hashtag:
The first thing we do is checking how relevant to your account the hashtag you are using is. For example, let’s look at the following post:
In this post we use, among other hashtags, ‘tenants’. The reference is to the businesses that are tenants at Citywest Business Campus.
However, if we research the hashtag by clicking on it it turns out the content is not relevant with the brand at all
This hashtag won’t bring us followers or extra engagement and will be removed.
Once we make sure that the hashtag is relevant, we then check that is also local.
Getting 100 followers from the US won’t bring much engagement or business to your brand.
To check how geographically relevant the hashtag is we simply click on it and check the first 6-9 posts individually, like in this example
The hashtag #tenants not only it’s not relevant to our brand but it’s used by people in a location completely different from our client’s.
Using such hashtag won’t help our Instagram strategy at all.
I hope by now you have learned how you can optimize your Instagram account with a few, simple steps.
Now over to you. Go and apply some of these steps and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below.
Or feel free to ask any questions you might have about the topic.
Featured image: Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash