It's no coincidence that visual content gets higher engagement than other forms of online media, such as listening to audio or reading plain text. Our human brains are hardwired to process visual information up to 60,000 times faster than when it processes words or sounds.
Another reason why we react strongly and remember images better than other forms of media is because of the emotions that visuals evoke. In his book, Designing For Emotion, Aaron Walter describes how these emotions - whether joy, pleasure, curiosity, or fear - are what make pictures feel more human compared to reading text, which can appear rigid and emotionless.
This information is particularly relevant to small business owners who are looking for ways to stand out on social media. With many SMEs turning to Instagram as part of their omnichannel marketing strategy, it's important to consider how making small tweaks to your posts could have a big impact on engagement. This is especially true for hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry, where an online aesthetic forms a large part of the overall brand image and can speak volumes about what customers can expect from their experience.
No matter what kind of small business you run, there are several simple ways you can tweak your business' Instagram feed to improve engagement and portray a strong brand image. Here are six steps to help get you started:
1. Find a consistent style
When you keep your imagery consistent, your audience will build recall with your content. This is what will get them to recognize your posts as they scroll through hundreds of other photos on their feeds. Think of this as a tone of voice, or style guide, but for visual content. Content creators today call this an 'aesthetic'.
Your feed should therefore have defining elements such as colour palettes, stylized fonts, or even the way you arrange your photos or videos into your Instagram grid. This is easier than it sounds - you can simply keep the colours in your feed consistent by applying the same filter or ensuring they all contain a pop of the same colour.
It's important to think about how your aesthetic ties in with your overall brand and what sort of message it portrays about your business. Whilst an old pub may want to go for rustic images and warm filters with a yellow-orange hue, a high-end hotel chain may opt for cooler themes and a focus on portraying fine details.
2. Alternate your feed with tiled content
A tiled grid looks somewhat like a magazine because of the clever way it integrates text and photos. To achieve this, simply alternate your posts between photos and text-only posts. If you post an image now, make sure to post an all-text post or a quote next and so on.
Alternating photo posts with text posts creates a light and breezy feel. You can even choose a colour palette, whether light and pastel or dark and mysterious, for your alternating text tiles. This is a great layout for brands who want to share more than just visual messages.
3. Take things row by row
Another simple way to manage your feed is to post three photos at once or to have one row depict one theme. This creates an orderly yet exciting feed because viewers get to absorb what the photos are telling them at once. All you need to remember is: one row must tell a clear story and the three photos must have one common theme.
4. Go beyond the borders to create a puzzle image
Another fun way to design your grid is to create the illusion of continuity by going beyond the borders of each post. This way, your feed is one whole image cut up into square parts. Not only does this layout style display your content to a maximum effect, but it also provides a fun and different way to portray your brand.
Don’t worry if some of the details don’t align perfectly because this actually creates a playful, more human effect versus uploading perfectly divided parts of one photo.
5. Add borders to accentuate each frame in your feed
Adding borders to your photos is another surefire way to create a neat and cohesive feed. You can play around with how thin or thick your borders will be, what colours they should have, and even use background patterns or other images to fill your margins. Whether you’re going for simple and sophisticated or something louder, borders are a quick and easy way to make your posts pop out.
Borders also create recall, which is the ultimate goal of social media feed consistency. Your viewers will get a hint that it’s your post even before they actually see your name.
6. Establish your online voice
Along with good photos and videos, you must also pay attention to how you write your captions, send messages, and even how you reply to comments. This takes a lot longer to build but it also creates a stronger link between the follower and content creator. If visuals alone have such a large impact on our emotions, just think of how effective good copy and images will be when they work together.
About the Author
Denise Langenegger is part of the team at Instasize.com - one of the leading mobile editing apps for images and videos for iOS and Android today. By championing individual creativity and brand consistency through editing toolkits made for social designers, Instasize is an industry thought leader for visual communication, digital marketing, and graphic design.