How to Craft an Instagram Brand Like a Pro


Though beautiful product photos are immensely valuable to your brand’s Instagram feed, you should never be afraid to experiment with other strategies. Here are a few fresh ways to make your Instagram feed pop. You might just engage a wider audience, too!

Nobody defines a brand more eloquently than StrawberryFrog’s Scott Goodson, who has worked with many a company on their branding strategy. “Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to a trademark,” Scott writes. “Products have life cycles. Brands outlive products. Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience.”

They’re multifaceted, which makes them extremely valuable. And since they are so valuable, branding has gone from a smart business tactic to a necessity. It’s just plain hard for a company to have a soul without this kind of strategizing.

Whether you’re an artist trying to sell lapel pins or a corporation peddling furniture on many parts of the globe, branding really is everything. It humanizes your cause, boosts trust and invites your target audience to participate in the conversation. More importantly, though, it generates quality leads that last a lifetime.

Instagram is one of the best tools to use for building and maintaining your brand vision and expanding your reach, and chances are good that you have an account set up already. Here are a few stress-free ways to build your Instagram brand like a pro.

Spice things up with quotes

Source: Instagram

There are a good amount of branded Instagram accounts racking up followers with quotes from inspiring folks — and you can have one, too!

Quotes really are a social media marketer’s friend. They’re engaging, timeless and highly relatable. Besides this, staggering your regular Instagram visuals with text-based posts diversifies your feed, keeping things interesting for your followers.

Tread lightly, though, as they can be trite if you don’t put much effort into posting them. Vogue’s Hayley Bloomingdale keeps it real when she writes that if your Instagram quote du jour is “You Have as Many Hours in the Day As Beyoncé,” it’s probably time to rethink your strategy.

First, be sure to source quotes from people that resonate with your audience and brand vision. Corny sayings that don’t actually add to the conversation are a no-go, but relevant ones can really boost trust and engagement.

After that, it’s time to choose a photo. Why not select one with a good amount of white space, and add your quote there? Just experiment until you find a picture-text combination that works. If you’d like to flex your creative muscle, you can also design an on-brand template to use specifically for quotes, as Babyation does below:

Just a friendly midweek reminder: you got this, mama!

A post shared by Babyation (@babyation) on

Source: Instagram

WeWork also posts beautifully designed quotes to supplement their regular Instagram posts, including this one from Maya Angelou:

You have an endless supply, now go! #tgim #wework

A post shared by WeWork (@wework) on

Source: Instagram

Feel free to play around until you find a template that works for you, but remember that consistency is key.

Repost user-generated content, whether it’s branded or not

If you’re not sharing user-generated photos and videos or ones posted on social platforms by fans or everyday people, you’re missing out on a content goldmine.

Sharing user-generated content (UGC) isn’t just a trend among the most seasoned social media marketers. Since 2010, brands are beginning to understand the value in mining UGC from social media platforms. Instagram itself is rife with valuable and beautiful content, whether it’s from the hairdresser down the street armed with an arsenal of Pravana hair dye…

Source: Instagram

…or a happy traveler with an Instax camera.

Source: Instagram

If Instagrammers are posting amazing, brand-relevant content or starting conversations with you, why let that go to waste? These photos do more than tell individual stories. They reach your audience in a more organic way.

Besides this, we just can’t talk about UGC without mentioning the state of microstock photography. Whether we admit it or not, most stock photos are both expensive and irrelevant to our audience. Cheesy stock photos have graced funny listicles too many times to count, and some stock photos have even transformed into viral memes (Harold, anyone?).

Our audience expects their favorite brands to raise the bar when it comes to the visuals they use, and it’s not difficult to figure out why this shift is happening. With their sterile lighting, forced expressions and lifeless pairs of eyes, stock photos often look more like government-issued propaganda than authentic pieces of content.

UGC flatlay with a Kinfolk magazine

Bland stock photography has no place on an Instagram feed. Instead, try a great piece of brand-relevant UGC instead.
Source:  @_aliceng/Scopio marketplace submission.

All that being said, keep stock photography far, far away from your precious Instagram feed. And when you start running dry on the content side, go hunting for great UGC to use instead. Simply pore through a great hashtag, pick out a photo and leave the photographer a friendly, transparent comment asking permission to reshare it.

Warby Parker asking for permission to use UGC

Warby Parker is no stranger to using great UGC to brighten their Instagram feed.
Source: Instagram

If you’re a larger company, consider creating your own branded hashtag and encouraging fans to post there. You can also cover all your bases and ditch the spam by using a platform created specifically for finding and licensing UGC or by opting for a website that has great UGC pre-licensed and ready to go.

Use niche hashtags for more reach

Rejoice: There is a world beyond the spam-filled enclaves of #travel, #fashion and #lifestyle — and that world exists in niche hashtags.

As of April 2017, Instagram boasts an astounding 700 million monthly active users, and it’s possible that it could soon join the billion club along with Facebook in another year or two. Just for reference, the US is home to about 326 million people. I’ll give you a second to process those numbers.

That is why open-ended hashtags such as the ones above tend to be messy and frustrating. It doesn’t help that spammers often use them because they still generate traffic. Although these open-ended hashtags might describe your brand, they usually don’t translate to much online. In fact, they might not even reach your target audience.

Even though there are hundreds of thousands of great photographers who use Instagram to display their work, they can’t all specialize in the same subjects or post on the same hashtags. Some folks focus on engagement and wedding photos or senior portraits. Others document city life and apply their own VSCO presets. Yet another segment captures images with vintage cameras and develops their own film.

If social psychology has taught us anything, it’s that people love to group themselves, and Instagram is no exception to this. Photographers follow along with this human instinct by creating and using their own niche hashtags.

If you’ve honed down an Instagram audience that you want to target, it’d be worth it to figure out which tags they use. This is made easy through websites like Display Purposes or apps like Focalmark, which suggest relevant, spam-free hashtags for you to use on your Instagram posts. If you want to reach a more targeted audience, just add relevant niche hashtags to your new Instagram posts. You’d be surprised at how much it boosts your engagement.

Run an Instagram contest or giveaway

An Instagram contest can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. But no matter how you run it, it’s a brilliant way to engage your old Instagram followers and earn new ones. In fact, the folks at Tailwind found that over a period of three months, Instagram accounts that held contests grew their follower base 70% faster than accounts that didn’t. On average, Instagram contest posts also earn 64 times more comments and 3.5 times more likes compared to regular posts on the app.

That’s partly because typical Instagram contest tactics — like tagging a friend, following a brand’s account or liking and commenting on the contest post — all spark growth and engagement.

Meowbox running their Instagram UGC contest

For this year’s International Cat Day, Meowbox gave away two of their mega-meowboxes to dedicated fans. All contestants posted a photo of their cat, tagged @meowbox and used their branded International Cat Day hashtag.
Source: Instagram

Beyond all this number-crunching, they’re also a great way for people to know just how much you value your following. Why be distant when you can engage a new audience and increase brand awareness?

If your principal aim is to increase your follower base, you can keep things simple by asking Instagrammers to follow your account, like your contest post and tag a few friends in the comment section. If you’d like to go a step further and mine content from fans, just turn your contest into a photo challenge.

After, you won’t just have a new base of followers. You’ll be able to browse through brand-relevant UGC and ask folks permission to use their photos on your Instagram feed.

It’s a win-win!

If you need some help editing your user-submitted photos, give Pixc a try for free.

Marlee Ellison author headshot

Author Bio

Marlee Ellison is a St. Louisan, hobby photographer and arts and culture journalist. She’s also a Content Editor at Scopio — the internet’s best place for UGC. Drop her an email at to chat about all things writing and UGC (or just to exchange cat GIFs)!

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