Creating an Instagram visual strategy: An expert's guide

August 31, 2021
Kyra Goodman

Your Instagram visual strategy is a roadmap to capture, convince and convert your ideal customers - here's how to create yours...

Sharing stylish graphics and sleek photography isn’t enough to cut through on Instagram.With so many brands competing for attention on this platform, the brands that will succeed are those that develop a compelling Instagram visual strategy.Think of a visual strategy as a roadmap that articulates exactly how you’re going to capture, convince and convert your ideal customers. Without this plan in place, sharing pretty images and visual content won’t serve any tangible benefits to your business on Instagram.Ready to get strategic about how your brand is going to succeed on Instagram? Keep reading to discover exactly how to craft a stand-out Instagram visual strategy for your business.

What is an Instagram visual strategy (and why it matters)?

Planning and preparation is key to any successful marketing campaign. And when it comes to crafting the visual identity of your brand, a strategic approach is what will help you meet your goals, reach the right audience and drive tangible business results.With over a billion people using Instagram every month, cutting through the noise has never been a bigger challenge for brands. And that’s where a compelling visual strategy can put your business ahead on Instagram.An Instagram visual strategy is the use of clever, compelling visual content to communicate with your target audience effectively.Essentially, a visual strategy is anchored in your brand’s goals and objectives (whether that’s follower growth, website traffic or conversions). With these goals in mind, you can handpick the most appropriate visual content to communicate your key messages and convince and convert on auto-pilot.So, why is an Instagram visual strategy worth your while? Let’s walk you through how this strategy can benefit your business:

  • It unified your brand’s visual identity: every piece of content your brand shares should feel cohesive. With a clear visuals strategy in place, your brand’s Instagram content will harness your existing brand guidelines to ensure every post echoes the look and feel of your website design, email marketing and other creative collateral.
  • It instantly communicates your brand’s values and personality: your brand is one of a kind and your visual content should reflect that. With a visual strategy in place, your Instagram content is guaranteed to champion your brand’s values and unique personality to help users recognise and resonate with your business.
  • It distinguishes your brand from your competition: with a strong visual identity and strategy in place, you’ll stay ahead of the pack on Instagram. That’s because every single piece of content you share has been carefully selected to drive a specific business goal, giving your content purpose and impact.
  • It builds powerful brand awareness and recognition: crafting a unique visual identity allows users to build a connection with your brand. By consistently using the same colours, fonts and graphic elements in strategy ways, users are more likely to remember your posts and forge a meaningful connection with your brand on Instagram.
  • It allows you to own your market position: your visual identity is what communicates your brand’s position in your market. For example, minimal and monochromic designs help to establish a brand’s premium offering and pricing. On the flip side, bright and colourful designs can help a brand to feel more approachable and accessible. These strategic choices are what will allow your brand to attract the right audience and most valuable customers through Instagram.

The more considered your Instagram visual strategy is, the more effectively your visual content will be in communicating your brand’s key messages. And in a competitive space (such as Instagram), finding ways to set your brand apart is what will help to drive stronger results, engagements and conversions from your Instagram content.

How to elevate your Instagram visual strategy

But, simply selecting a bunch of brand colours and fonts isn't going to deliver the best results. Instead, the best Instagram visual strategies understand the principles of visual marketing and use these to their advantage when crafting a compelling and strategic visual presence.Visual marketing is the act of harnessing eye-catching images, graphics and video to communicate messages and sell products and services. And by building the principle of visual marketing into your visual strategy on Instagram, you’ll put your business ahead of the pack and supercharge your results, too.As a visual platform, Instagram is the perfect channel to harness the power of visual marketing and use it to boost brand awareness, salience and conversion.In fact, 65% of your customers are visual learners, meaning a strong visual strategy is what will help you educate them about your products and services in an effective way.And here’s what makes visual marketing such an effective approach, particularly on Instagram:

  • Leveraging visual content allows you to communicate your key messages faster  
  • Visual content is easier for your followers to absorb, recognise and remember 
  • Producing visual content (from videos to graphics) is easier to do than ever before thanks to the rise of DIY content creation software

So, what are the principles of visual marketing that you need to consider when crafting a stand-out Instagram visual strategy?

  • Social media richness: this is the idea that the ‘richer’ or more engaging content is, the more effective it is at communicating your key message.
  • Brand equity: this is how your customers think about and react to your brand. This has a direct impact on user’s purchasing habits, which means fostering positive brand equity is key to driving strong results from your Instagram marketing.
  • Purchase intent: last up, purchase intent is about how likely someone is to purchase or buy something from your brand.

Ultimately, by building rich social media content into your visual strategy you can boost your brand equity and increase your follower’s purchase intent to supercharge the chances of a successful conversion.Not sure where to start? We’ve pulled together a stack of practical ways to embed the principles of visual marketing into your Instagram visual strategy.

Part 1: Tapping into social media richness

Are you more likely to remember what someone said after a face-to-face conversation or after reading an email? As you’d expect, the more engaging the format, the more likely we are to absorb the key message or information shared.That’s exactly what the first principle of visual marketing is all about: social media richness.Essentially, this principle ranks different media formats based on how well they communicate information. At the top of the scale is face-to-face communication, while at the bottom of the ‘richness’ scale is text-based content (like emails).To rank media formats, social media richness assesses four key criteria, including:

  • Capacity for personal focus: does this Instagram post address the specific needs, aspirations and challenges of the brand’s target audience?
  • Immediacy of feedback: does this Instagram post allow for two-way conversations (such as using interactive Instagram Story stickers or encouraging users to engage in the comments)?
  • Conveyance of multiple cues: how well does this Instagram post blend a variety of media formats (including images, video, text and graphic elements) to communicate a single idea?
  • Variety of language carried: does the language and visual identity of the brand’s Instagram post feel natural, authentic and memorable?

When it comes to designing a compelling Instagram visual strategy, drawing on the ideas of social media richness ensures your content is tailored, dynamic and relevant to your target audience. Plus, these principles will ensure every post you share engages and captures the attention of your ideal audience on Instagram, too.

How to apply social media richness into your Instagram visual strategy

Ready to put this new knowledge into practice? Keep reading to discover a stack of practical ways to build social media richness into your Instagram visual strategy.Tip 1. Show the human-side of your brandWhile face-to-face conversations aren’t possible on social media, getting in front of the camera and showing the people behind your brand is the next best thing.To build trust with your audience and give your Instagram content a personal focus, showing the human-side to your brand is essential. By crafting visual content that focuses on the people in your business, you’ll create a more meaningful, personal connection with your audience and humanise your Instagram content.Because here’s the thing: your audience is more likely to remember, trust and ultimately shop with your brand if they feel an emotional connection to the people running your business.And here are some tangible ways to showcase the human side of your brand through your Instagram visual strategy:

  • Invest in professional photography: crafting a bank of hi-res photography that shows your team at work will ensure your visual content feels bespoke, unique and personal.
  • Facilitate Instagram Stories takeovers with your team: give your audience a glimpse behind the scenes of your business and build rapport by running a series of Instagram Stories takeovers. Give a member of your team the chance to document a day in the life of their role to showcase their personality, build trust and spotlight the people in your business.
  • Show your face through punchy Instagram Reels: as one of the most exciting platform features on Instagram, Reels allows your brand to reach new audiences. So, use this visual content format as a powerful opportunity to jump in front of the camera, educate your audience about what you do and how you can solve their problems.

Tip 2. Add a visual call-to-action to your Instagram posts Want to generate strong engagement from your Instagram content? The key is to offer a clear call-to-action throughout your content. And that’s not just limited to your captions.In fact, one of the best ways to foster two-way conversations through your Instagram visual strategy is to design graphic overlays that encourage engagement.From Instagram Stories to Carousels to Reels, adding text and graphic overlays that motivate audiences to like, share and save your content will boost your engagement and foster meaningful connections with your brand on Instagram.Plus, it’s worth tapping into the power of interactive Instagram Stories sticks that allow your audience to instantly provide feedback and interact with your content. Whether that’s adding Polls, Questions or Quiz stickers, these graphic elements will bring your visual content to life and allow your audience to foster a one-to-one connection with your brand.Tip 3. Craft visuals and text elements that tell a united story Here’s the thing about nailing your Instagram visual strategy: you need to find ways to tell a seamless story between your captions and visual assets.These text and visual elements need to work together to communicate a single message. So, it’s your job to craft a visual strategy that finds unique and compelling ways to unite these content formats to share a single idea.Take this example: say you’re designing a Reel to educate your audience about a service you offer. In the video component, you could highlight the three key signs that indicate your audience needs the service you're offering. Then in the caption, you could explain the nitty gritty about what your service entails with a strong call-to-action to book this service via your website.By combining text and visuals, you’ll be sure to produce rich social media content that effectively communicates your key messages.

Part 2: Building brand equity

What is a user’s gut reaction to your content on Instagram? This is at the heart of what brand equity is all about.Essentially, the more positive a user feels about your brand, the higher their purchase intent. However, if users have a negative association with your brand, they’re less likely to buy from you.So, how does a business generate brand equity? In a nutshell, it comes down to these four elements:

  • Salience: does the user recognise your brand?
  • Performance: how well does your content capture the essence of your brand?
  • Judgements: how do users feel about your brand?
  • Resonance: how connected does the user feel to your brand?

Ultimately, every interaction a user has with your brand determines how they feel about your business. It’s like a scorecard: every positive interaction wins your brand points, while every negative interaction drops your score.In the context of your Instagram visual strategy, fostering positive brand equity comes down to two key things:

  1. How well does your visual identity foster brand awareness: this means your visual content on Instagram needs to be branded consistently and feel unique to your business.
  2. How smooth is your visual content’s customer experience: this means designing powerful visual content that serves your audience’s needs and guides users from product discovery to purchase.

Here’s the thing: it only takes 0.05 seconds for a user to form an opinion about your brand online. So, first impressions are key to generating positive brand equity on Instagram.

How to build brand equity into your Instagram visual strategy

Ready to boost your brand equity on Instagram? Here are a few practical steps you can take to generate positive brand equity through your Instagram visual strategy.Tip 1. Clarify the ‘why’ behind each piece of visual content This first step to designing strategic visual content is to understand the brand goals and objectives you’re working towards.By crafting a clear set of KPIs (key performance indicators) for your Instagram content, you can ensure every post you share is working towards tangible outcomes.So, what goals should you set for your visual content on Instagram? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Reach: how many new and existing users are seeing your posts?
  • Interactions: how many likes, comments, saves and shares are your posts generating?
  • Follower growth: how many new followers are you attracting through your posts?
  • Website traffic: how many website clicks are your posts driving?
  • Conversions: how many conversions (sales, email sign ups, app downloads) are your posts enabling?

By setting a clear list of KPIs during your visual strategy, you’ll be able to select the most appropriate content format for each post.For example, if you’re looking to boost the reach of your post, it would be most appropriate to craft a punchy, share-worthy Instagram Reel to boost the visibility of your content on Instagram.Tip 2. Focus on crafting a cohesive visual identity The more unified your visual content is on Instagram, the more likely users are to recognise and remember your brand.In order to build brand awareness through your visual content, you need to tap into brand guidelines that give structure and consistency to your Instagram posts. This involves:

  • Selecting a handful of tailored brand colours to be used across every visual asset your brand shares on Instagram (and beyond).
  • Choosing up to three brand fonts that will be used for text overlays throughout your visual content.
  • Curating photography and imagery that feels cohesive and aligned to your brand’s desired visual identity.

Another powerful way to add a branded look and feel to your visual content is to apply your logo at every opportunity. From Carousels to Instagram Stories, adding your logo ensures your content feels bespoke. Plus it helps to build brand awareness and ensure your business remains top-of-mind with audiences, too.Tip 3. Design graphic templates to ensure a consistent look and feel One of the best ways to take the guesswork out of your Instagram visual strategy is to craft a range of visual templates for your team to use.The best visual strategies are those that clearly outline how your brand should be represented visually on Instagram. With easy-to-use templates and frameworks in place, you’ll rest assured knowing every single post captures and shares a unified version of your brand.For the best results, it’s worth designing a range of graphic templates (using your brands fonts, colours and logo) across a range of Instagram placements, including:

  • Single image Feed posts
  • Multi-slide Instagram Carousels
  • Instagram Stories

The more cohesive your graphic templates are, the more likely you are to build positive brand equity through your visual content on Instagram.

Part 3: Boosting purchase intent

Did you know that 54% of social media users are scrolling these platforms to research new products and services? That means your business has a huge opportunity to capture, convince and convert users through strategic Instagram content.When we talk about purchase intent, we’re referring to the behaviours that indicate a user is primed and ready to make a purchase.A stack of studies have been done that show social media platforms (like Instagram) have a big impact on purchase intent. One study revealed that building trust through valuable, tailored content is key to shaping purchase intent among followers.Let’s explore three key way your Instagram content can shape and influence purchase intent:

  • Instagram content can build trust with your audience: we know that trust is an essential ingredient in predicting buyer behaviour. So, by crafting visual content that fosters a positive relationship with your followers will help your brand boost purchase intent.
  • Instagram content can leverage social proof: studies show that 81% of consumers’ purchasing choices are influenced by what their friends and family post to social media. So, a key component of your visual strategy needs to be encouraging, curating and re-sharing user generated content that taps into these powerful pieces of social proof.
  • Instagram content can streamline the path to purchase: research from Deloitte reveals that 29% of social media users have reported making a purchase from a brand on the same day they’ve discovered it on social media. That means your visual strategy needs to focus on ways to harness visual content to reduce friction in the conversion process through leveraging Instagram’s shoppable features.

How to boost purchase intent with your Instagram visual strategy

Looking to seal the deal and boost purchase intent through your Instagram visual content? Keep reading to find out how.Tip 1. Design a visual content strategy that focuses on building trust and providing valueEducation is key to building valuable trust with your Instagram followers. That means your Instagram visual strategy should prioritise ways to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise through our Instagram content.The most effective visual content on Instagram are posts that communicate new knowledge in engaging ways, including:

  • Hosting a video tutorial or how-to class via IGTV
  • Crafting a visual Instagram Carousel that explains a new process
  • Designing bespoke infographics that break down industry news or research

The more value you can share with your audience through visual content, the more likely you’ll be to build trust and drive brand preference through your Instagram visual strategy.Tip 2. Consider when is the best time to share your visual contentTo deliver the best customer experience on Instagram, you need to be serving the right content to the right audience at the right time.By understanding your audience behaviour and diving into your Audience Insights on Instagram, you can learn when your followers are most active on the platform (and most likely to engage with your visual content).Plus, this data can help you design a visual strategy that serves your audience the right type of visual content at the most effective time of day.Take this example: if your Audience Insights indicates your followers are most active later at night, you can use this insight to reshare longer-form video content (such as IGTV videos) or even save-worthy Instagram Carousels that they can engage with on a deeper level.Tip 3. Build user generated content into your visual content strategyAs we’ve mentioned, user generated content (UGC) is a powerful piece of social proof that can boost purchase intent on social media.Luckily, the Instagram platform is packed with a stack of helpful features to enable you to collate and reshare UGC. This includes designing tailored hashtags to allow you to easier review and curate your brand’s UGC as well as simple reshare features that allow your brand to promote this UGC via your Instagram Stories in seconds.By crafting Instagram campaigns that encourage and incentivise the sharing of UGC, your brand will score banks of high-value content that allow your customers to advocate for your brand in their own words.Need some inspiration when running your next Instagram campaign? Check out our complete guide to running a successful Instagram campaign. So there you have it. When it comes to designing a powerful Instagram visual strategy, leveraging the principles of visual marketing is what will keep your brand ahead of the pack. By designing social content that is rich, boosts brand equity and drives purchase intent, you’ll ensure every piece of visual content you share delivers tangible ROI for your business.

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