Capturing Your Brand’s Story, One Square at a Time

There are few platforms that can grow an organic audience as quickly and effectively as Instagram. Everyday, hundreds of millions of users log into Instagram and actively search for new content to consume. Putting your brand’s content within reach is the first step toward getting those users engaged, and fostering relationships that result in new leads, customers, and/or clients.

The vast majority of small business owners (especially here in Portland) fully understand the marketing potential of a killer Instagram feed. The problem is that unless you live and breathe photography and social media, it will be difficult to compete with those who do.

Paying the Experts to Do What They Do Best

Having an expert manage your account is, hands down, the fastest route to a stunning, high-performance Instagram feed. However, if you’re looking to up your game on an amateur level, here are 5 tips that will get the ball rolling:

1 – Follow the Leaders

Portland is home to a number of businesses that operate on the cutting edge of Instagram marketing. Follow them, and watch them closely. Don’t copy what they do, but allow yourself to be inspired by their content and to think about how their techniques and strategies might be translated to apply to your brand.

Three Portland businesses that have mastered their brand’s Instagram presence:

1. Tea Bar
2. Stumptown Coffee
3. Jacobsen Salt Co.

2 – Use the Right Equipment

Never use Instagram’s in-app camera function, as it captures images at a lower resolution than your phone’s regular camera. Use your phone’s default camera app, and if it’s available, shoot in square frame mode. This will allow you to ensure that everything you want to include in the frame will be there, plus, you’ll have a better sense of the final image’s composition.

Even better, if you have (and know how to use) a moderate to high-end digital camera, that’s going to be your best bet. You’ll notice that the three accounts listed above all share one thing in common: 100% of their images were created with professional-level DSLR cameras.

3 – Get Your Subject in Focus

Find something – anything – that’s visually compelling about your business. If you happen to make diamond-encrusted dog collars, that won’t be much of a challenge. If your business does something a little less glamorous, then it may require some creativity. But rest assured, every business has the potential for an effective Instagram presence. If you don’t believe it, just take a quick look at the official Honey Bucket account.

instagram tips for pdx business

4 – A Little Editing Goes a Long Way

Photo editing is an art form and a profession in itself, but familiarizing yourself with a few basic techniques will make a world of difference in image quality and user experience.

There are countless photo editing apps that I would encourage you to explore (including Snapseed and VSCO), but Instagram’s built-in editing tools are more powerful than you might think. Try adding just a touch brightness and contrast, and in many cases, your images won’t need much more than that.

Whatever you do, don’t use Instagram’s preset photo filters. They are far too heavy-handed and distract the viewer away from your brand’s voice.

5 – Using Tags (The Right Way)

Instagram allows up to 30 tags per post, but that does not mean you should use all 30! It looks spammy, and honestly, a little desperate.

The first step to a killer tagging strategy is spending some time going through hashtags that are relevant to your industry. Consider the quality, quantity, and consistency of the posts within those tags. (And be sure to include local tags like #portlandia or #pdxlife!)

After you have considered your options, make a list of 10-15 hashtags that you’ll want to use consistently. When tagging a new Instagram post, pull 3 or 4 of those general, industry-relevant tags and add 3 or 4 more that are more specific to the image being posted, for a total of 6 to 8 tags.

Post Away!

By following these suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to having the next must-follow Instagram account in Portland and beyond. It takes time, dedication, and a bit of a creative eye, but an effective Instagram presence is something that no PDX business should be without. Also — we’re pretty good at this stuff, so drop us a line if you ever need a hand.


Check out NOVEL Creative on Instagram, and get in touch with us today if your brand could use some help!

Published by Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is the founder of NOVEL Creative Agency. Fiction writer, editor, content development specialist, lover of the written word and more, Byloos has worked in SEO and web development since 2006. He's written about every kind of subject under the sun, for clients both large and small. Together with his partner Carrie Seitzinger, he publishes NAILED Magazine from Portland.

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