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The Art to Building an Instagram Aesthetic

d custom instagram aesthetic

Instagram rolled out just a few days after my 12th birthday. I don’t think I’d ever imagined I’d be using it on an almost daily basis 10 years later, let alone for an internship. But here we are: It’s a decade later, and Instagram has been at the center of my daily work.

Instagram is a unique platform for brands to reach consumers. If you haven’t embraced it as a channel, now’s the time to jump on the bandwagon and start connecting with the 200 million Instagram users who visit at least one business’s profile at least once a day.

Instagram gives brands the opportunity to share not just ideas but beautiful, aesthetic visuals in the form of photography, illustration, videos, or comic strips. For brands that have a large number of visual assets like these, Instagram is the perfect channel for showing them off to your audience.

Related: Not sure whether a social media strategy is worth it? Here’s how to prove the ROI.

As part of my internship for D Custom this spring, I helped revitalize their Instagram aesthetic. Here are my steps for running your brand’s Instagram like a well-oiled machine and how you can use them to build an aesthetic for your brand.

9 Steps to Building an Instagram Aesthetic

Step 1: Have a Plan.

How do you want your feed to look? How do you want your posts to interact with each other visually? These are questions you ought to be asking when launching your channel.

If you’re refreshing a preexisting social presence, conduct an audit of your profile and archive any content that doesn’t fit your new Instagram aesthetic. You can also separate older posts from newer ones by using multiple posts that comprise a block. We did it with nine consecutive posts:

I spent a few days coming up with a way to present D Custom’s portfolio of work, diverse culture, and weekly blog posts through an Instagram aesthetic. We achieved this by creating a pattern through the grid-like profiles on Instagram. See for yourself by checking out our Instagram. (And give us a follow!)

Step 2: Establish a Frequency.

Posting three times a week is the sweet spot for our Instagram presence. Your profile on Insta is laid out like a grid with three columns, which makes it manageable for weekly planning. Three might not be enough for your business — or maybe it’s too often. Evaluate the amount of visual content you have that’s worth showing off and use that to determine your posting frequency.

Step 3: Develop a Calendar.

We developed a shared spreadsheet system to act as a calendar of our Instagram posts. The spreadsheet houses the visual for the post, spaces for the caption and hashtags, and links to any assets we might need to reference. Your calendar should look something like this:

Step 4: Gather the Content.

It’s easier to come up with a plan for something over an extended period of time when there are options. Gather as many preexisting visual assets as possible to help you start making that plan. My advice is to organize your content buckets into three categories. Ours were:

  • Work. We create a lot of awesome content for a lot of awesome clients, and we like to show off some of that work at least once a week.
  • Blogs. D Custom publishes a new blog every week, so we wanted to make sure we highlighted each one on our Insta. To keep up the Instagram aesthetic, I dig through every blog and pick a quote (a quippy phrase, a short nugget of wisdom, or just something funny) and feature it in a colorful, visual way that works with the other posts.
  • Culture. We spotlight a D Custom team member every other week or so to show off our brand culture.

Step 5: Create the Visuals.

The dimensions of your image should be 1080×1080. If your visual happens to be wider than that and you just can’t bring yourself to crop it, consider attaching multiple photos to the same post. This lets followers click through and see the whole image.

As for image size, keep it between 72 and 150 dpi. Anything smaller will result in grainy or poor quality, tainting your Instagram aesthetic. Anything above that is excessive — it’ll just be taking up space on your device.

Be ready to make a lot of tweaks. Save the .PSD or .AI files you’re working off of so work is easily tweaked. And remember: Shift+Cm+4 is your friend. My desktop is covered in screenshots.

Step 6: Write the Caption.

You may want to write your own captions, but I always ping our editorial team to craft copy as they relate to the visual. One editor writes the copy and another proofreads it. The copy is then passed along to our digital media strategist, who contributes tailored hashtags to optimize the post’s reach and searchability.

Since Instagram doesn’t allow links in the captions of your post (yet — fingers crossed for this feature!), we end almost every caption with the hashtag #LinkInBio. This lets our readers know that there is a link to see related content on our website via a link in our Instagram profile bio. It’s also acts as a tracking link, allowing us to see the progress and impressions made on our Instagram followers.

Step 7: Post a Test.

When it comes to a professional social media presence, everything you post publicly needs to represent the quality of your brand (especially for an agency that creates custom content). You start to lose credibility the moment you upload a granulated or unclear image.

To avoid an error like that, I created a “test” account that serves as a pre-post platform. It gives me the ability to check and make sure the feed is up to par, test the quality of the image, and give the final product one last quality check. I keep this test account private to avoid duplicate content floating around Instagram.

Step 8: Post!

Finally (finally!), I get to post on Instagram. I always copy and paste straight from the spreadsheet to avoid any chance of mistyping the caption. In addition to that, I make sure that I have the right tracing link to swap out in our bio. This swap is really important, because you don’t want to advertise content you did for one client and have your tracing link take the reader to something completely different.

Pro tip: Know what time of day to post. In the professional world, you can maximize outreach by posting when people are commuting or on a break. That means the best time for posting is before 9 a.m., around noon, and after 4:45 p.m. That said, the ever-changing algorithms could change this recommendation tomorrow, so stay up to date on those changes.

Step 9: Log Out.

There’s nothing more nerve-racking than nearly posting a story on your company’s Instagram about what you had for lunch. To avoid the embarrassment, log out after you post. Even if you think you’re a careful person, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.

Instagram is a fun platform for everyone, but utilizing it from a business standpoint gave me a whole new outlook on its value. From developing the initial plans to executing them, running D Custom’s Instagram has been a terrific experience.

If you want help building an Instagram aesthetic or want us to run your brand’s social media accounts, contact us.

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