As I built my business around myself (i.e. my personal brand), I realized that I could leverage my Instagram as a business account. But to me, Instagram business accounts consist of inspirational quotes, stock images, and posed-but-also-candid photos (a.k.a. “plandids“). On one hand, that’s not the kind of person (or Instagram account) I want to be. But on the other hand, tailored Instagram accounts look more professional. So I asked myself: how do I naturally increase engagement and followers on Instagram in order to capture clients, but still stay true to myself?
Here’s my TL;DR answer: Find the intersection between what you want to communicate to potential clients and what your clients want, and make content that reflects that message. For a more in-depth explanation, read on…
Before I Changed My Profile
It’s an obvious statement: communicate your message via your social media. But if you take a hard look at what you’re posting about your business, how well are you achieving that? And taking it one step further: is it the same thing your customers want?
When I decided to business-ify my Instagram account, I attended Elise Darma’s free Instagram masterclass to determine whether to invest more in changing my profile.
What the Instagram Masterclass Taught Me
I need to answer my client’s needs. My tagline is I want to help your business grow and save you time. So how do I communicate that on my Instagram? This process has been a great exercise for me to solidify this statement, rather than simply use it as a nice soundbite.
I need to offer value. As a marketing professional, I offer so many different services, but what value am I providing to clients? This has been a question I’m always trying to answer, and is closely related to the first point.
After the masterclass, I decided not to pay for the InstaGrowth Boss program, mostly because I was still undecided about how to use Instagram for my business. But it gave me enough to start.
How I Changed My Instagram Profile
Here you can see what my account looked like when I made the change on 2 April:
I had already converted it to a business profile, but you can see how personal it is. If anyone visited my Instagram to learn more about my business, they would’ve learned about me (sort of), but not what I can do for them.
So to communicate who I am and what I can do for clients, I decided on five themes/types of posts to create:
Me and my work environment. Many people who find me on Instagram don’t personally know me, so I want to share more information about who and where I am.
My projects and clients. To help my audience (and potential clients) understand what I do, I decided to feature my existing clients on my Instagram feed – it helps us both!
How I relax. Part of “keeping it real” on Instagram means sharing a peek behind the scenes, so posting about the ways I enjoy my time off is like showing people how the sauce is made.
Events I attend. I find myself attending a lot of networking events, conferences, and workshops, so I want to share that knowledge and experience.
Quotes from my writing. Because copy writing is one of my primary services, I want to feature that work on this photo-oriented platform.
These five categories have helped me figure out what I want to communicate about myself. And that’s what I’ve really learned from this: no matter how business-oriented I try to be, my Instagram (and my brand) is about me.
What I Learned About What People Want
About five weeks later, this is what my account looked like on 13 May:
It looks a more professional with a new profile picture and description, but the content still looks a bit like a personal account. I published an image every 2-3 days, with a detailed post about the content of the image. And I stayed with my five themes, without repeating a theme twice in a row.
Throughout this change, I’ve had three major realizations:
I was surprised that my selfies received the most engagement
As of 13 June, eight of my 9 top engaged posts are of me. But they’re not just nice photos of me: 5 of them are “professional”-looking (my make-up is done and I’m doing something work-related), one is of me on King’s Day, one is a gym selfie, and one is a post specifically about not wearing makeup.
As the literal face of my personal brand, I am the first and foremost piece of value that I have to offer. It made me feel good to know people like me! And of course, that “plandid” has received the most engagement.
People like (detailed) stories on Instagram
I’m still trying to figure out the best length for an Instagram post, but overall, people actually respond to what I write. That surprised me because Instagram is an image-centered platform, and I didn’t think people read the posts.
But if people are engaging with both the image and the description, then that must be pretty good content.
I wasn’t gaining followers in my local area
I learned that 20% of my followers are from Atlanta, which is where I lived for five years. But I haven’t lived there since 2015, and I want more followers in the Netherlands. So in addition to networking with more people here, I now use Dutch hashtags and follow more Dutch businesses. As a result, I’ve connected with other entrepreneurs in Rotterdam and around the Netherlands.
How to Make My Instagram Better
I’ve resisted creating an aesthetic primarily because I don’t think it looks natural. (And also because I’ve been too lazy to do it.) But as I look at other content creator/digital marketer accounts, I have to admit: aesthetics look professional because they look curated.
And if I want my Instagram account to communicate professionalism, then maybe my feed should look more thoughtful instead of spontaneous. That’s where Instagram Stories play a role, right?
And speaking of Stories, I asked my followers “What convinces you to follow an account: An Individual Post or Overall Aesthetic?” Out of 127 people who saw it, all five people who responded voted for overall aesthetic.
Two additional people also messaged me personally to describe what they look for in an Instagram account, which was primarily content. So in the next few months, I’ll experiment with creating a visual aesthetic for my account and see how it goes.
Next Step: How To Build Trust in My Brand
If I’m trying to sell myself as my brand, as well as highlight my services, then it seems I need more high-quality pictures of myself (plandids?!). But back to square one: what is the value I want to communicate, and how does it satisfy the needs of potential clients?
Instead of spiraling on that recurring question, I’ll look at this as a learning cycle. With changing algorithms, trends, and aesthetics, there’s no way find a one-size-fits-all solution. We have to constantly adapt to the new challenges and evolve as businesses.
As I refine my services, my Instagram will have more focus. And now that I have an idea of what my followers want, I can tailor my content towards them, but still stay true to who I am and what I do.