Today, social media users want peaceful shopping experiences — where new brands and ideas appear in their streams, like sorcerers in an RPG. In this world, your social media profile is your storefront. How you dress it matters.
If you’re a sole trader or influencer, social media will likely be one of the first points of contact your audience has with your brand and will be key to expanding your reach to new audiences in the future.
Of course, when you run a company, time is in short supply. If there is a choice between client work and working in your business, I think you will choose the former. Growing a social following from scratch can seem daunting, especially for people with no design skills or social media expertise.
So, how do you create a social branding strategy that gets the right attention, but doesn’t turn into a full-time job?
We spoke with a successful solopreneur and two design experts from Vista Createa graphic design platform for small business owners.
Social media is your new resume – spend time on it
He is used to playing in intimate gathering with friends and warm little cafes, singer songwriter Samuel Adrick He was always told he had the talent to make it in the music industry. But, even with an amazing voice and a setlist of entertaining songs, how could she break into a scene where contacts and networking are everything?
Whether you’re a pipe musician, an aspiring startup founder, a fitness guru, or an extremely talented custom piñata maker, you need an audience to finally quit your job and pursue your passion.
“I put a lot of effort into making my branding cohesive. Because of that, I had people reach out to me on Instagram, asking for advice,” Andryk says. He now works part-time as a brand coach helping other entrepreneurs launch their business.
Your audience isn’t going to wait for you to send them your resume before deciding if they like you. They will spy on your socials. So it better be worth it.
“I even use mine Instagram profile when I meet people up close. It’s like a digital business card,” says Andryk.
You don’t have to be a designer
Perhaps my biggest surprise when I spoke with Andryk was that he had almost NO design skills and little experience with social media (besides his personal accounts) when he started. Instead, he turned to the free design programs that have sprung up to help solopreneurs, influencers, and new startups create high-quality graphics.
Reflecting on how social media design has changed, design expert Katerina Larina VistaCreatea free graphic design software for design beginners, pointed out, “today, graphics are much more complex with trends like maximalism, 3D shapes and more recently — the popularity of animation.”
Know how you want to make people feel.
But thanks to easy-to-use software and a plethora of ready-made templates to choose from, it’s much easier to create a compelling social brand. This gives entrepreneurs the space to play, experiment and develop their own unique brand identity. With so much room for creativity, the key things Larina wants you to keep in mind are:
Having a well-thought-out, balanced composition, a color palette that reflects your main idea, quality photos and videos, and interesting typography that stands out. This is the magic sauce.
When asked about the biggest trends in design, Larina said:
There is a trend that is gaining momentum and that is the Y2K aesthetic. However, if you are looking for a trend to continue, this is not the best choice. The Y2K design trend is huge and it’s here to stay, so it’s worth looking into, but redesigning your visuals to match an early 00’s aesthetic might not be right for your brand.
A similar trend worth noting is the ‘Trendy Zine’. It’s a much more versatile trend that will likely grow and develop over time. It gives you more room to express yourself and stay on brand, all the time following a popular trend. You can also choose a wide range of different elements inherent in this trend, such as neon or pastel colors, funky shapes, playful fonts, mixing objects and stickers and contrasting shades.
As the Instagram face gives way to clean girl aesthetics, Gen Z users are demanding more authenticity from social media.
“You know how you want to make people feel. For me, I want my Instagram to make people feel at home. So everything I share is meant to create those feelings of warmth, comfort and belonging,” says Andryk.
For him, that means neutral and earthy colors, and soft fabrics, lines and lighting (sunsets work beautifully). High-quality, intimate graphics taken at home or in nature with candles, friends and cups of tea help to evoke this atmosphere.
While this aesthetic helped Andryk appeal to the right audience for his genre, if you’re a punk musician or extreme sports influencer, you’ll want to consider completely different design options. Andryk says:
I think it’s important to recognize that there is a surface element to Instagram. The first thing you see as you scroll is the visual aspect, so make sure you have images that are visually appealing to the audience you want to attract. It’s all about finding a way to be authentic while still playing by the platform’s rules.
Use design to attract the attention of the rollers
In social media, attention is key. Remember, you only have a few seconds to make an impression before your post is absorbed back into the content void.
Consistency trumps planning.
“One trend that really stands out among leading brands and accounts is experimental typography. You can make someone stop scrolling through a feed, and unusual, contrasting fonts really help draw attention,” says Sandra Iakovleva, Head of Content at VistaCreate.
“Knowing how to work with typography and combine different types of fonts is an art in itself. When graphics aren’t enough, bold fonts and experimental typography are the way to spark more interest in your designs.”
While it may not be a fancy design trick, believe it or not, staying consistent is what will really help you stand out from the crowd. Iakovleva explained:
To better explain this, imagine the opposite – a social media feed that is quite random at first glance. If it’s a business, a potential customer doesn’t remember any particular post in a feed trying to play the catch-all strategy. Inconsistency leads to confusion about messaging and aesthetics, resulting in customers not knowing who you are or what you stand for.
Now, if we’re talking about a cohesive, consistent social media profile (with your own brand), you stand out in a potential consumer’s mind as someone with your own brand, personality, and tone of voice. All of these elements are vital to social media success if you’re trying to reach a specific target audience.
Consistency trumps planning. It’s what you post, what you say and how you represent your brand using visuals. Your unique aesthetic then becomes memorable, which can be a deciding factor for someone trying to decide whether they want to follow you and check out your product and/or services.
Create a strategy you can manage
Have you set your sights on a future of influence? Maybe you should get your eyes tested.
“When I first started, I thought it would be really easy to become an influencer,” admits Andryk.
I thought you had to be one to be successful, but really, you just need to post branded content, consistently.
Generating compelling content ideas takes a lot of effort. Andryk recommends limiting your scope so you don’t get overwhelmed.
“One of the things I do with new Solopreneurs is help them come up with some content pillars. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to post, try this guy here:
• 20% promotional posts – what are you offering
• 20% Lifestyle posts – how you live your life
• 20% behind the scenes posts – things you do to run your own business and/or take care of yourself that people don’t usually see
• 40% Posts about your Core Values, Beliefs, Vision and Mission
Just remember: it’s not quantity, it’s quality. Better to have a weekly post that encapsulates your brand than mindless daily posts.