5 Steps to Make Your Instagram Better

Step 1: Forget everything you know

personal brand mobile
Lucy Lambriex/Getty Images

The age of anonymity is gone. A thing of the past. Eclipsed forever with the analog days of yore. Our lives are dominated by our insatiable desire for information that comes at lightning speed, and lucky for us, the dependable interwebs are always at the ready to quench it—anyone can take to the Google for a swift (and endlessly satisfying) investigation on literally any human. 

Swiping right on a Tinder crush? A quick search engine prompt will reveal where they eat, drink, shop and how often they take selfies.

Hiring for a gig? No doubt you’re checking in with the Internet before making any new employee official. If scrutinizing people online is routine behavior, then creating and cultivating a public personal brand is in our best interest. One that we’d want both our future boss and our future date(s) to see. 

Developing a personal brand is a way to control the dialogue about yourself, to steer the public’s perception of who you are. Social media, particularly Instagram, is the ideal medium to define that image for two simple reasons. One, everyone uses the platform and has the reflex to look people up on it and two, it’s pretty much all visual and, well, a picture is worth a thousand words. 

If creating and growing a personal brand on Instagram eludes you, keep reading. Here are five pointers that will help you inhabit your little corner of the internet with panache. You’ll actually want people to go sleuthing for you. 

1. Establish References

Yes, you are unique. But unless you’ve already got your shit figured out, you’ll need some inspiration. Identifying some accounts that you look up to and enjoy following will help drum up visions of your own potential Insta-image. Take note of what kind of visuals speak to you and what captions you find most engaging. Those little things will reveal what you should focus on when refining your own channel. 

2. Create a Voice

Alas, the ‘Gram is not all pictures and Stories. Gotta fill that caption box, too. Not everyone’s a great wordsmith, but building a voice is about more than just penning a Shakespearean-worthy quip. Crafting a tone of voice is an essential exercise for any business, yours withstanding, and it basically boils down to deliberately creating your account’s personality. 

Identity is intrinsic, but we all present ourselves differently depending on who we interact with. How you pal around with your friends might best stay private, catch my drift? We’re here to make first impressions and remain laser-focused—brand-building is all about being calculated. Think of what you want to share on Instagram (more on that in a sec) and how you want to come off, and define it: are you authoritative, friendly, the everyman, motivational, informative, a niche expert, playful, serious business? Your IG’s tone of voice will inform how you communicate your captions, and it’s what will draw your audience in, the way you’re drawn to those examples you identified in point #1. 

3. Craft Your Aesthetic

Aesthetic on Instagram is everything. As if you didn’t already know. Once you’ve narrowed in on what kind of image you’d like to have, you’ll need to make some visual decisions. This will ensure that you’re not all over the place and that strangers (cough, the cutie from the coffee shop, cough) who land on your profile understand your essence at first glance. No easy feat, but achievable through careful consideration of visual assets. 

Be consistent with your filters, keep your quality standards high, and when in doubt, use your tone of voice as a relevance barometer. It always helps to pick between four and six content categories and stick to those types of photos and videos that support your brand. This is what will hook and retain your followers.

4. Be Authentic

Ah yes, that word again. Overplayed and buzzy. But it doesn’t negate the fact that “be authentic” is a valid and important statement, especially in the precarious age of pic-or-it-didn’t-happen. If you’re not actually being yourself, or if the persona you’re creating is so far off, phoniness will transpire and eventually be your demise. And that goes for with your followers and the people you actually know IRL.

5. Out with the Old

A little spring cleaning never hurt anyone, no matter the season in which it takes place. Once you’ve set sail on your personal brand journey, you might want to revisit some of your past choices and hit the archive button a few times. Tidy up the randomness that used to populate your now succinct, cohesive grid, and marvel at how awesome it’s since become. *pats back*

Still want to share things that don’t fit with the public persona you’ve built? Keep a private Instagram account for friends and family—see: finsta—to post anything outside the realm of your brand, and everyone wins.

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