A good Instagram strategy does not limit itself only on finding the best times to post, post a photo or an Instagram story or being on a 24-hour lookout for the competition. What many businesses and creators forget is that Instagram is a visual app. Just like Twitter has tweets and YouTube is about video content, Instagram is about the visual aesthetic.
Back when Instagram started, it was not called Instagram but Burbn. The main idea was to have a platform where whiskey enthusiasts would check-in on locations, post plans for check-ins and hangouts with friends, and shared photos. This photo-sharing feature was what made the app so unique. After securing funding, the founders decided to focus on the photo-sharing capabilities of the app, which later blossomed the what we know today as Instagram.
One of the biggest value propositions of Instagram to businesses is the ability to ground your brand’s aesthetics, to be creative and to tell your story in a visual way, which should be appealing to your audience. For this purpose, the Instagram grid should be use in your advantage. Most brands think of content as individual posts on Instagram, but they could retain more value by thinking about the bigger picture. A well-planned grid delivers your brand’s message within the first few seconds after entering your account and, also, serve as a portfolio.
While no one is required to show-off a flawless assortment of photos in pastel filters. There are many ways to plan your Instagram aesthetics without looking like… well, a mess.
Table of Content:
- Before planning the visuals, ask yourself these questions first
- Is everyone required to do grid planning?
- What grid planning is not.
- Useful tips to get you started with grid planning
- Examples of grid types
- What are your social media goals?
Why is this important? Well, different grids yield different reactions and convey different messages. A fashion brand would not relay the same grid experience as a newspaper. Likewise, a conversion goal should not be the same as an awareness goal.
- Who are you targeting?
You should know this already, but it is nice to remind ourselves “to who we are making this for?”. Accordingly, your content production will have to follow your audience’s tastes. For example, a self-care account might benefit from a ‘checkerboard’ grid type where they can mix quotes and pictures. On the other hand, a fashion brand might benefit from ‘puzzle’ grids where they can tell stories across pictures.
(Pictured below:@selfcareisforeveryone and @antonio_handmadestory)
- What type of content do you want to make?
At the end of the day, you should do what makes you comfortable and what represents your brand the best. Look within your capabilities of creative production, tools, resources, and budget. Ask yourself if you want to post every day, or once a week but multiple times a day. We are bringing this up because grid types like the ‘puzzle’ will require posting 3 to 6, or 9, posts in one go. The reason is that this Instagram layout heavily on the cross-grid aesthetic, so spreading posts throughout the week will make your grid look messy.
No. Like we have mentioned earlier, grid planning follows an Instagram strategy and depending on your industry and your goals, it will compliment your brand. There are brands that stick to a strict grid plan, change grid plans accordingly with new campaigns, and there are brands that do not.
- A limitation to your content production. A good grid plan will show flexibility through different types of content, while still looking polished.
- A one grid-fits-all solution. You do not need to have an overly coordinated grid with curated photos under one filter type, or placing quotes in the middle row, or follow a standard grid plan. Grid planning is ultimately about making your grid look polished in a way that enhances your message. Take as an example the grid below, what is Starbucks’ message? All though you see different types of content, the colours and graphics were intently chosen to display the arrival of autumn (with green and orange as prevailing colours) and later, all posts revolved around Christmas (with green and red as prevailing colours). Even the pictures were carefully curated for the grid themes: a girl using a brown jacket for the autumn grid, and for the Christmas grid there are two people wearing red and green.
1. Use a visual planner app
It is way more efficient to use an app or website that can help you plan a grid than a simple PowerPoint file. Why? Because Instagram has its own measures. How pictures will look in your feed respects their 1:1 size rule (1080×1080). So, what happens when your picture or video is 4:5 (1080×1350) or 1.91:1 (1080×608)? It is automatically centred and the image part will show a 1:1 square from the centre.
Here are some amazing apps to help you visualize your grid before posting.
- Canva: Canva is probably every content creator hero. It is a free content creation platform that helps you make the most amazing posts with zero design experience. But we can benefit from Canva further than that. You can create a template with 9-12 squares where you can just drag and drop pictures. As simple as that, use it as many times as you want, to visualize and plan your grid throughout the year.
- The Preview App: The preview app also allows you to visualize your feed before posting on their free plan. There is no limit to how many posts you can plan visually, and you can apply a filter pack to all the photos at the same time.
- Plann: Just like the above, Plann also allows you to plan your grid visually. Additionally, you can connect your Canva account to Plann account to be able to drag and drop your designs to your grid.
2. Find a theme and create a mood board
Your theme must match your brand book. If you do not have then start by defining how you want your brand to be viewed. Create a brand book highlighting your brand’s colours, visual elements, fonts and so on. Then, use Pinterest, other Instagram accounts, or similar platforms to look for content that fits your theme. See what is being done, save them as inspiration for your posts. On Pinterest, you can also find many Instagram grids for inspiration.
3. Choose your top three accounts for inspiration
There are 3.8 billion users on social media right now and the average number of accounts per person is 8.6. There is no need for constant competition. Learn from other great accounts and use them as a creativity hub for your account. By choosing a top three, make sure they have different aesthetics so that you can take notes of how they are playing with their graphics.
4. Use an editing app
There are plenty of good editing apps out there. The most popular one is Adobe’s Lightroom which already comes with a set of preset filters to fit different themes. You can also create your own filter and save it on your account to use in future posts. Other popular editing apps are:
5. Mix and match!
Make your grid interesting by mixing different Instagram content and graphic elements, for example:
- Photos of people vs aesthetic photos
- Crowded photos vs details
- Different fonts on different posts vs different graphic elements
Setting the tone with a colour scheme or filter
Influencers Sam Uchiro and Onyi Moss keep their grid consistent with one colour scheme and hue to their photos. We can easily deduce their personal brand identity from the first look into their account.
@self.practice abides by one monotone filter type throughout the grid as their aesthetic.
@selfcareisforeveryone uses the checkerboard type of grid by always inter-layering with white background images. On the other hand, @alishylishy uses pink background as the main colour for her checkerboard.
Cross-the-grid or Puzzle Grid
Puzzle grids are great for brands that rely heavily on their visual identity, storytelling, or campaigns with big visual impact. However, it is a tricky strategy to pull. To make the most out of this strategy, the posts need to be scheduled in batches of 3-6-9 at the same time. This way you do not risk having a dysfunctional looking grid. Instagrammer @matilda_finn does a great job showcasing her photography through the puzzle grid, creating a unique experience to her followers.
@portugal_manual and @mintcontent_ present two different row-by-row strategies. The account @portugal_manual displays small business products in a very efficient and appealing horizontal row approach. Here, each product gets one row to show-off different details in different environments and, therefore, turning this account into a portfolio. As for @mintcontent_ they use a vertical row strategy, where every post that goes in the middle of the grid is a lesson tip or a quote.
Colour gradient or Rainbow Grid
This is probably the most complex grid to pull-off. A top example of a gradient/rainbow strategy is from @sarah_peretz, where she masterfully created a beautiful grid fading into different colours. Mostly, devoted photography influencers like Sarah go through with this type of grid planning, but it is not something impossible for brands to make. Some brands might do it differently by attributing different background colours, or main colours, every month or season. Social media scheduler @planoly follows this rule.
This is a very common and easy way to make your feed look super polished. You can either opt for white borders and mix-match different sizes just like @lady.austin, or create your own borders like @artforlight and @michaelmessineo (images in order). The account @artforlight kept its consistent Instagram layout with one type of border and centred images on them to give them an extra feature highlight, while @michaelmessineo plays around with gradients and different graphic elements with a cross-the-grid/puzzle strategy on the borders.
This type is for grids that mix-and-match strategies to tell a story. A great example is @antonio_handmadestory, a Portuguese fashion brand that sells handmade bags and purses. This is a masterful example of how one can play with their grid and make it interesting. There are instances of cross-the-grid/puzzle strategy, row-by-row, white borders, and setting the tone with one filter.
If you’d like some professional help to craft a great Instagram strategy for your brand, contact us at Link37. We’re an agency specialized in many digital marketing services including social media marketing. Book a meeting with us to know how we can improve your social media game.