The Beginner’s Guide to Curating an Instagram Feed

Oh, to have a perfectly curated Instagram feed…With the identical hue, the perfect combination of photos that always seem to fit one another, the glossy graphic posts that add a little spice. 

Curating an Instagram feed is like the holy grail of being online: you feel proud that you could achieve a cohesive look, you feel giddy when you auto-stalk your profile to make sure it “still fits”, and you feel fuzzy when people compliment you on how great it looks.

We know what you’re thinking if the words “Instagram feed” sound unamusing…

“Curating an Instagram feed is reserved for the pros. Small business owners like me don’t have what it takes…”

First of all, YES YOU DO! You have everything it takes to do anything. We won’t tolerate that kinda talk around here.

Second of all, “for the pros” is a myth. Brain surgery is for the pros; curating an Instagram feed is for the positive-minded. 

But before you start panicking about where to begin, do this: take a seat, grab a drink, take a 💣 selfie, and keep reading…

…Because we’ve collected five of our favorite tips and tricks for curating an Instagram feed that’ll WOW you, your audience, your clients, and anyone else lucky enough to find themselves checking out your profile. 

Let’s dig in! 

The magic behind curating an Instagram feed

Let’s start with some basics: Instagram is a visual app. This means that it prioritizes content that looks “good” and that people enjoy looking at.

After all, unlike other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, Instagram doesn’t give much room for explanations. Sure, captions are a great way to speak to and connect with your audience, but the inability to share links or long-winded essays in them means that, on your Instagram feed, what you see is what you get.

This is especially important when you think about the way people interact with the app itself. By nature, Instagram is a quick-scrolling app. This means you’re on your phone scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, stopping briefly, double-tapping, and then scrolling on again. 

And, unless you catch their attention immediately with a mighty spankin’ bright visual, there’s a chance people won’t even bother looking at your caption anyway (so there goes the brief piece of text you had to tell your story). 

But not all is lost: say hello to “visual storytelling” or, in other words, the process of telling a story using images.

READ MORE: How to Use Effective Storytelling Techniques for Small Businesses

Visual storytelling is an art form, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to master or, at the very least, attempt, even if you don’t consider yourself an “artist”. And while this might seem like Level 658 of curating an Instagram feed (it kind of is, to be honest 😅), it’s always important to keep the concept of visual storytelling in the back of your mind.

People scrolling on Instagram will mostly be looking at photos, so what can you do to pull them in with just that?  

Five tips for curating an Instagram feed (like the pros)

Whether you’re thinking of revamping your look or starting a new profile from scratch (been there, done that!), here are five of our favorite tips for planning and curating an Instagram feed that aligns with your brand and keeps your followers entertained and engaged.

1. Choose specific content pillars

One of the best ways to ensure that curating your Instagram feed goes from headaches and confusion to joy and fun is to create content pillars you can pick and choose from to keep your content fresh and aligned with your brand vision.

A few content pillars you can choose from include:

  • Tips and insider knowledge
  • Success stories and client wins
  • BTS looks at what you do
  • New service & offer promotions
  • Media mentions (news articles, podcast features, etc.) 
  • User-generated content (UGC)
  • Motivational content (quotes, stories, etc.)

Honestly, this list could go on and on depending on your audience and the goals you’ve established for your brand. 

Personally, we’d try to stick with 4-5 main pillars that can then branch out into different types of content: video, graphic, photo, etc. Once these are organized, you can plug them into your Content Calendar to ensure that you’re varying your content and that people won’t get bored of seeing the same thing over and over again throughout the week, month, quarter, etc.

Looking for ways to create content that helps you and your business get visible? Our Converting Content Bundle is a go-to resource for business owners, advocates, and brands that want to dive into the content creation process to share their message effectively and connect with the right audience!

2. Establish a visual identity

In the spirit of full transparency, we’re here to share a GINORMOUS secret with you: most of the “curating-an-Instagram-feed” process relies on…filters. And color palettes. And learning how to combine and alternate these two to keep things looking as clean and tidy as possible.

This is why we suggest establishing a visual identity from the beginning and sticking to it (until a rebrand happens). 

How do you do that?

  • Pick a set of brand colors and implement them in your visual graphics. This doesn’t mean use the exact same template for everything, though. Just try to have these colors present in the pieces you create as much as possible (whether they’re quotes, bar graphs, lists, etc.). 
  • Choose filters that align with your brand’s mood. When it comes to regular photos, there are plenty of presents (the fancy version of filters) available online that you can choose from to stay in line with your colors. Bright and airy, dark and moody, colorful, sepia, high-contrast, low-brightness…the possibilities are endless.

Establishing a visual identity will help make your Instagram feed look like the photos you share were born to be together…even if they were taken weeks, months, or years apart! 

3. Quality over quantity, always

When it comes to Instagram, high-quality content is 👑.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean all beautiful photos all of the time. High-quality photos content also refers to purposeful content.

By purposeful content, we mean content that…

  • Inspires someone to take action
  • Teaches someone about something
  • Tells a story that you find interesting or important
  • Helps make someone’s life easier
  • Starts a debate or a conversation around a certain topic

So, before you hit publish on seven separate images just because they look good, ask yourself this: “What am I hoping to achieve with these posts?”. 

READ MORE: How to Create a Successful Content Creation System

If you don’t have a clear answer to that, skip hitting the “Share” button until you’re sure of their purpose.

4. Vary your content

This is where choosing content pillars comes in handy! When it comes to the upkeep of curating an Instagram feed, keeping your content fresh and varied is one of the most important things you can do.

Think of the Instagram feeds you find inspiring or visually striking. They don’t always share the same type of content, right? Even if it’s a dedicated photography account, there’s a chance they’re (at the very least) varying between portrait and landscape photography. 

Having 4-5 content pillars means you can vary your content accordingly without sacrificing aesthetics or quality for the sake of a dreamy Instagram feed. A great way to try this is by following a pattern that fits with your posting schedule.

Here’s an example to help you visualize it:

Each pattern/color is a content pillar. They’re posted one after the other, following the visual guidelines you’ve set for yourself, and it helps your feed look put together and professional without looking like you’re trying too hard.

5. Use a planning app

Free apps like Later and Planoly are a great way to visually organize your content feed so that it looks exactly how you want it to look. Taking it from planning to reality is also a great way to understand if the way you’ve organized your content works or if there’s a different angle you’d like to approach it from.

Once you’ve chosen your content pillars, picked out a color palette, found a filter/preset for your photos, organized a content calendar, and created high-quality, high-value content…it’s time to see your feed brought to life.

READ MORE: 4 Content Marketing Tools for Small Business Owners to Save Time

For example, a few things you might notice are that…

  • The content pillars you chose aren’t aligned with everything you have to say and you want to add more
  • Your color palette and presents don’t work together that well
  • There’s too much *insert color here* and you’d like it to be more *insert other color here*
  • Your feed isn’t looking as cohesive as you’d imagined and you want to move things around

Planning apps let you actually see beyond the theory of “what works”, which means you can continue curating an Instagram feed that works before it ever hits the real-deal Instagram world.

Rounding up the process of curating an Instagram feed

Listen, we understand that this might all feel like a lot…especially if the idea of Instagram sounds overwhelming. There’s definitely a lot to keep in mind and the pre-curation process can feel a little overwhelming because of all 👏 the 👏 planning, but there’s always a way!

Once you get past the initial fear of the platform and technicalities, curating an Instagram feed is actually…dare we say…FUN!

It can bring out your creative side, it helps you keep the momentum going, and it lets you take control of how people see your brand online. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get potential clients to see what you’re about right off the bat, which, at the end of the day, saves everyone a lot of back-and-forth discussions.

Here are a few of our favorite things to do when setting off on the exciting path that is curating an Instagram feed:

1. Choose specific content pillars
2. Establish a visual identity
3. Quality over quantity, always
4. Vary your content
5. Use a planning app

The first step, however, is to just go for it. After all, there’s no room for error and there’s no room for success if you never try…

What other curating tips have you tried and loved? Let us know in the comments so we can continue to grow this list!

Enjoyed this post? You might like these, too:
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We’re a brand strategy & copywriting studio for mission-driven, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and Feminist-run brands and businesses who want to increase their visibility and connect with their communities through the power of story and content. We share tips & advice on how to make marketing (and business) fun!

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