hashtag aesthetic: crafting your social brand

My sister is just four years younger than me, but when it comes to what apps people are using or social media trends, even as a social strategist, I feel old and out dated when I see her phone. So, when she mentioned to me a few months back the concept of strategically posting so that your profile on Instagram has a similar aesthetic, I A) felt old and B) completely irritated by the idea that my personal page needed to be strategically edited, posted and timed for optimal… aesthetic!?

First, I scrolled through some of my favorite Instagram accounts. You know the ones that are filled with white space and perfectly designed latte art, and I realized that their overall page had a similar vibe.

And up until that point, I was the proud user of whitagram, an app that allows you to post horizontal or vertical pictures on a white square background, keeping your whole image in one post. Even after Instagram’s update to allowing all shaped images, I continued to use the app. I just like the way the white border let my pictures “breathe.” But it made my profile look choppy and destroyed this illusive idea of profile branding.

I realized that not only did the pages I aspired to be like post photos that were pleasing to the eye, but they created a brand for their page by choosing a similar filter with each picture. Some even went as far as to post a similar image (ie: a quote on white background) every 4th picture, so they’d line up perfectly. That seemed a little extreme to me, but it did get me thinking about what my profile as a whole says about my personal brand.

***Important distinction***
I will admit that this school of thought is not for everyone. For many (and in fact what it was created for) Instagram is a place to post pictures of what you’re doing right now- right that “instant." But for those of us who find ourselves in careers building, growing and maintaining brands either of our own or of our employers, social media is a tool for a bigger mission, not just something to pass the time.

There is no better or right way to use social media, but it did strike me, that when I chose to use my personal page as a way to brand myself, my work and my story, I exited the realm of posting instantly and entered the world of strategy and that extends to my profile's overall appearance.

However, it seems people are divided on the idea of strategically planning your posts to not only reach your followers, but establish a brand. I posted a Twitter and Instagram poll asking people whether or not this really mattered.

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My first realization was how few people participated in the poll, which to me showed they either don’t care or have no idea what I’m blabbing about. But what was more interesting, was clicking on the profiles of the people who voted “definitely.” They were bloggers, photographers, freelancer, people who make a living off of their creative skills and control of social media.

cliff of My final conclusion is that aesthetic is important for my work. It doesn’t mean I can’t post pictures of my friends at a football game or my dog being plain cute, it’s my story to tell, but it reminded me that these tiny boxes are an opportunity to showcase how well I can craft a story. They are an ever-evolving portfolio for my work as a strategist, content creator and storyteller.

So think I'm crazy, yeah I get that.
But here are my guidelines to this thing we call Instagram aesthetic

  • Post photos in their full size or crop for a square. This creates a symmetrical dashboard for your photos on your profile.
  • Edit with consistency. Whether you use Instagram, VSCO, or the editor on your phone, find a filter that you really like and universally works for indoor, outdoor photos. Stick to that filter and differentiate your photos by the content, not the edit.
  • Leave room for scenery pictures. This was the hardest for me. I personally hate scenery photos, unless it’s the Cliff of Moher or some out of this world landscape, but it breaks up the faces that flood your profile.
  • Posts that support your brand/aesthetic are more important than posts that get a lot of likes.
  • You make the rules. Break them when you want.

And here are a few profiles that I really admire and embody that brand aesthetic I’m talking about.

@reganforprez: one of my bffs from middle school who is now a bad ass nashville photographer/content creator with a super cute hubby and golden doodle.

For me as a photographer, I like to share my life on Instagram, instead of just posting shoots I've done. I view it as my own little gallery. I put a lot of thought into my colors and my editing, but I also like following people who don't necessarily do that because I like to see their lives too! Everyone is different and views social media in different ways. - Regan McFarland


@thelatoyadsmith: stumbled upon this greenville, sc creative when she was featured in @GVLToday's story on must-follow blogs


@tentree: this great clothing brand plants ten trees for every item purchased, which I love, but they also have a killer Instagram feed. they understand that their audience is outdoorsy, hippie-types like myself and we love a good aesthetic.


Happy posting!

Comment, share or tag me in your instagram posts so I can check out your aesthetic!

- M