In our “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Branding” article, we talk about a brand (or brand identity) as being the way that an individual is perceived by those who experience them. Ultimately it is your personality, your aesthetic, and your ethical choices – and how you choose to display them through more physical means (like a logo, colors, imagery, etc.).
Once you complete the basics like defining your streaming goals and figuring out your core branding elements, it is time for you to start marketing yourself and/or expanding your reach through social media platforms. In today’s article, we are going to be talking about how to create effective branding using Instagram.
Introduction to Instagram
According to Adobe, Instagram is one of the largest social media platforms in the world. The platform has over 1 billion monthly active users putting it just behind Facebook (~2.5 billion) and YouTube (~2 billion).
Users can express themselves through posting online images or videos on their personal profiles, allowing them to interact with friends, companies, and their respective audience through viewing, liking, commenting, and sharing content. Instagram is comprised of several core components and features including the following:
- Profile Photo
- Profile / Account Type
- Photo Content (Posts and Stories)
- Video Content (Stories, IGTV, Reels)
Biography and Username
Similar to your Twitch username and biographies, you’ll have to think about the most important keywords that highlight yourself and create your biography and/or username around that. You will need to keep things concise though, as Instagram has the following character limits / restrictions:
- Biography character limit: 150 characters
- Username character limit: 30 characters
Keep in mind that when creating a username or biography, the more consistent you are on various social media sites, the better! Ideally if you could use the same username and/or biography on each platform (i.e., Twitch, Instagram, YouTube, etc.), it would help create a stronger, more uniform brand for yourself. However, if you are not able to, try to create a username and/or biography that is similar to your Twitch channel or main social media platform that you use.
Profile photos are displayed on your Instagram profile in 110 x 110 pixels. If you have a high-quality image or logo that you want to show off, you can upload a 1000 x 1000-pixel image and it will be downsized appropriately on your profile page. Doing this will allow for the highest possible quality image to be displayed.
For your profile photo, you will have to think hard about whether using a photo of yourself or your logo is going to be the best choice. You can always change the profile picture, however, most content creators opt to use an image of themselves on Instagram rather than their professionally designed logos.
Typically, content creators view themselves as personal brands rather than businesses, or personal brands first before businesses. Therefore, they want to connect with their audience and be known as an individual rather than a business. There is no right or wrong choice, you just need to figure out what profile photo is going to work best for you.
Profile / Account Type
As of October 2020, Instagram now allows users to create three different types of accounts:
- Standard account
- Creator account
- Business account
If you are just starting out as a content creator, choosing a standard account or creator account is your best option. A standard account allows users basic functionality like posting or interacting with their audience and retaining privacy options like making a user profile private (i.e., your profile is not viewable unless you grant your new followers access). However standard accounts do not offer any analytical metrics that may be useful for content creators (i.e., reach, impressions, interactions, follower growth, etc.).
If leveraging analytical data is important to you and you do not mind having a public profile, choosing a creator or business account is your best option. Both accounts allow users basic functionality but also provide access to analytical metrics. The main key differences are creator accounts give the user more flexibility in choosing an appropriate title that describes them best (i.e., influencer, gamer, entrepreneur, etc.) and receiving better messaging features. Business accounts give the user the ability to promote regular posts as ads and leverage third-party apps / tools like Buffer or Later for managing and automating the scheduling of Instagram content.
Photo Content (Posts and Stories)
General posts and Instagram stories allow users to upload a single image and customize them with in-app functions like text, filters, hashtags, and more.
Carousel posts allow users a way to upload a set of multiple images or photos together in a single post. Previously you would either need to create multiple posts or create a collage style post on Instagram to showcase a set of images sequentially.
Video Content (Stories, IGTV and Reels)
Stories allow users to upload short-form videos (maximum 1 minute long) and customize them with in-app creative functions like adding fonts, music, filters, hashtags, and more. These videos can be recorded while talking to a live audience similar to streaming, or be pre-recorded.
Instagram TV or IGTV allows users to upload pre-recorded long-form videos (maximum 15 minutes when uploading from mobile and 60 minutes when uploading from desktop) onto their profiles.
Instagram reels allow users to upload short-form videos (maximum 30 seconds long) onto their profiles. These videos can be recorded in real-time or be pre-recorded content. If you’re familiar with TikTok, then you’ll be right at home with using reels. Reels is the newest core feature on the platform meaning it is currently one of the best ways to be discovered, especially if you prefer creating video content.
Unlike Twitter using hashtags on Instagram are welcomed on posts, stories, IGTV, and reels. You will want to make sure that you use the maximum number of allowed hashtags for each type of content that you post to reach as many new potential followers as you can. The hashtag restrictions / limitations are as follows:
- Posts (30 hashtags)
- Stories (10 hashtags)
- IGTV (30 hashtags)
- Reels (30 hashtags)
Additionally, you can view how many posts on Instagram use a specific hashtag. Hashtags are typically categorized into the following group sizes:
- 0 – 50,000 posts (micro)
- 50,000 – 100,000 posts (small)
- 100,000 – 500,000 posts (medium)
- 500,000 – 1M posts (large)
- 1M+ posts (most popular)
Ideally you will want to keep track of hashtag sizes and try to use different hashtags that cover each of the five categories above. Leveraging hashtags in various categories may not get you the most possible impressions but it will allow for better discovery and more potential followers actually viewing your content. The best placement for hashtags is either at the very end of the description or caption section of a post or separately in a single comment after you post your content.
The last core component of Instagram is comments. While hashtags create impressions and reach on posts, comments are what personally connect you with your audience. Think of it as like talking or interacting with your chat when you are streaming. Getting new followers and viewers to your stream is great but getting reoccurring viewers each stream and having them interact with you means a lot more.
Instagram is no different! People that follow you and leave comments are interested in your content for a reason and want to interact with you. Replying and writing a comment back to a follower shows them you want to get to know them to some extent. Obviously you can’t always respond to everyone who comments but commenting back should not be overlooked.
We have covered the key components that make up Instagram. Now it is up to you to figure out how to effectively use these various elements and features to communicate your brand and/or brand identity to your audience. Figuring out the best content to post always takes time and is trial and error.
The most important thing to remember is consistency. As long as you keep posting new content regularly, over time you’ll figure out the best ways to connect with your audience and expand your brand recognition leveraging Instagram. Social media growth usually takes time so don’t give up after a few weeks or months!