Today, social media users want serendipitous shopping experiences – where new brands and ideas appear on their feeds like wizened wizards in an RPG. In this world, your social media profile is your storefront. How you dress it matters.
If you are a solopreneur or an influencer, social media will likely be one of the first points of contact your audience will have with your brand and it will be key to expanding your reach to new audiences in the future.
Of course, when you’re running a business, time is of the essence. If there’s a choice between working for the client and working on your business, I think you’ll choose the former. Developing a social following from scratch can seem daunting, especially for people who don’t have design skills or social media savvy.
So how do you build a social branding strategy that grabs attention, but doesn’t turn into a full-time job?
We spoke with a successful solopreneur and two design experts from Vista Create, a graphic design platform for small business owners.
Social media is your new CV — make time for it
Accustomed to performing at intimate get-togethers with friends and cozy little cafes, singer-songwriter Samuel Andryk has always been told he has the talent to succeed in the music industry. But, even with an incredible voice and a setlist of soulful songs, how could he enter a scene where contacts and networking are essential?
Whether you’re a musician with the pipes, an aspiring startup founder, a fitness guru, or an extremely talented custom piñata maker, you need an audience to finally quit your day job and pursue your passion.
“I put a lot of effort into making my branding consistent. Because of that, I had people reach out to me on Instagram, asking me for advice,” Andryk says. He now works on time part time as a branding coach to help other independent entrepreneurs start their business.
Your audience won’t wait for you to send them your resume to decide if they like you. They will snoop around your social media. So you better make it worth it.
“I even use my Instagram profile when meeting people in person. It’s like a digital business card,” Andryk explains.
You don’t have to be a design whiz
Perhaps my biggest surprise speaking with Andryk was that he had almost NO design skills and little experience with social media (apart from his personal accounts) when he started. Instead, he turned to the free design programs that have sprung up to help solopreneurs, influencers, and young startups create high-quality visuals.
Reflecting on how social media design has changed, Kateryna Larina, design expert at VistaCreate, free graphic design software for design beginners, pointed out, “Today’s visuals are much more complex with trends like maximalism, 3D shapes and, more recently, the popularity of animation.
Know how you want people to feel.
But, thanks to easy-to-use software and a plethora of ready-to-use templates to choose from, it just got a whole lot easier to create a compelling social brand. This gives solopreneurs the opportunity 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:
Have a well-thought-out and balanced composition, a color palette that reflects your main idea, quality photos and videos, and interesting typography that stands out. It’s the magic sauce.
Asked about the biggest design trends, Larina replied:
There is one trend that is gaining momentum and that is the Y2K aesthetic. However, if you are looking for a trend to follow, this is not the best choice. The Y2K design trend is huge, and it’s here to stay, which is why it’s worth looking into, but redesigning your visuals to fit the early 2000s aesthetic might not be worth it. its place 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 space to express yourself and stay on brand, while embracing a popular trend. You can also opt for a wide range of different elements intrinsic to this trend such as neon or pastel colors, funky shapes, playful fonts, a combination of objects and stickers and contrasting hues.
As Instagram’s face gives way to clean girl aesthetics, Gen Z users are demanding more authenticity from social media.
“Know how you want people to feel. For me, I want my Instagram to make people feel at home. So everything I share is about creating those feelings of warmth and comfort and belonging,” Andryk explains.
For him, that means neutral, earthy colors, soft fabrics, lines, and lighting (sunset works great). High quality, intimate visuals taken at home or in nature with candles, friends and cups of tea help evoke this mood.
While this aesthetic has helped Andryk attract the right audience for his genre, if you’re a punk musician or extreme sports influencer, you’d want to consider completely different design choices. Andryk says:
I think it’s important to recognize that there is a superficial component with Instagram. The first thing you see when scrolling is visual appeal, so make sure you have images that are visually appealing to the audience you want to attract. It’s about finding a way to be authentic, while respecting the rules of the platform.
Use design to capture the attention of scrollers
On social networks, getting noticed is essential. Remember, you only have a few seconds to make an impression before your post gets sucked into the void of content.
Consistency goes beyond design.
“One trend that really stands out among big brands and accounts is experimental typography. You have a chance of stopping someone from scrolling through a feed, and unusual, contrasting fonts really help grab attention” , says Sandra Iakovleva, content manager at VistaCreate.
“Knowing how to work with typography and combining different types of fonts is an art in itself. When visuals aren’t enough, bold fonts and experimental typography are the way to spark more interest in your designs.
While it’s not a flashy design trick, believe it or not, staying consistent is what will really help you stand out from the crowd. Yakovleva explained:
To better explain this, imagine the counter opposite – a fairly random social media feed at first glance. If it’s a business, a potential customer doesn’t remember any particular post in a feed that tries to play the catch-all strategy. Inconsistency leads to confusion over message and aesthetics, resulting in customers not knowing who you are or what you stand for.
Now, if we’re talking about a cohesive, cohesive social media profile (with your own branding), you stand out in the mind of a potential consumer as a person with your own branding, personality and your own tone of voice. All of these are crucial to your social media success if you’re trying to appeal to a specific target audience.
Consistency goes beyond design. It’s what you post, what you say, and how you represent your brand with the use of visuals. Your unique aesthetic then becomes memorable, which can be a deciding factor for someone trying to decide if they want to follow you and check out your product and/or services.
Create a strategy you can manage
Do you have a future as an influencer in mind? Maybe you should get your eyes tested.
“When I started, I thought it would be super easy to become an influencer,” admits Andryk.
I thought you had to be one to be successful, but really, you just need to post content that’s on-brand, consistently.
Coming up with compelling content ideas takes a lot of effort. Andryk recommends narrowing your scope so you don’t get overwhelmed.
“One of the things I do with new Solopreneurs is help them design pillars of content. If you get stuck and don’t know what to post, try this formula here:”
• 20% promotional messages – what you offer
• 20% lifestyle posts – how you live your life
• 20% of 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% of posts about your core values, beliefs, vision and mission
Remember: it’s not quantity, it’s quality. Better to have a weekly post that sums up your brand, than thoughtless daily posts.