C… how to do it on Instagram

Today Instagram, the social media network that started out as a photo editing app for iOS back in 2010, has 500 million users, of which 60% use Instagram every single day, according to the official Instagram blog.

That’s an impressive number for a social media channel driven exclusively by photos and videos. It’s a channel that brands with a creative/design slant can’t afford to ignore. The key to a successful Instagram account is a strategic and consistent approach, underpinned by plenty of creativity and clear communication.

Creativity, consistency and communication are three of the five C’s Claire Brear of Bearista, a Cape Town based Instagram consultancy, highlighted in her talk as part of our Content Marketing for Shop Owners workshop (together with Shopstar) recently.

With more than 70 000 followers on Instagram Claire knows a thing or two about how to make the platform work for a brand.

Here’s a quick look at her five C’s for an effective Instagram presence:


Yes, your posts should be creative but determining the definition of creativity is much like trying to figure out how long a piece of string is. So rather follow Claire’s advice and think about ways of presenting your product and brand in a different way. You want something that will stand out from the crowd and draw interest and attention.

Claire pointed to the example of @white_onrice, the Instagram account of Cape Town adman turned origami artist Ross Symons with 107 000 followers. Ross Instagrams pictures and videos of his intricate origami work. It’s unique and creative and has led to commercial commissions and a very favourable positioning within the global creative industries.

Make sure to represent yourself creatively on Instagram. A picture speaks a thousands words after all.


Community is at the heart of what Instagram is about. It’s an inclusive platform that works particularly well when the needs and interests of a particular niche community are prioritised. This means making your community part of your offering. This happens through content, of course, but could take the form of events, collaborations, challenges, user generated content and brand ambassadors.


Content must be interesting and able to hold its own. On Instagram the visual content naturally comes first but don’t discount the importance of a beautifully crafted caption.

Artfully styled images that tell a story and create an atmosphere, while speaking to the brand’s ethos and objectives, are bound to do well. And this doesn’t mean the photography needs to be world-class, simply something of substance.

A great example is the account of vegan baker Cupcake Richard (@cupcakerichard) whose content does an excellent job of capturing the authentic essence of the brand.

When it comes to content, keep it realCommunication

The thing about Instagram is that you need to be on the platform. This means communicating with brands and individuals, particularly those that are strategically aligned to your own offering, in an authentic, human way.

To have a noteworthy Instagram presence you need to communicate all the time. This also means being clear about the brand’s offering, including product and business information, as well as making your location and contact details readily available. Claire points to the example of Durban-based Smith’s Bakeshop (@smithsbakeshop) and how they constantly give information about their products and whereabouts, while regularly responding to comments and question


It is important to understand that Instagram – as much fun as it is – is also hard work. To be effective on Instagram takes consistent commitment. If you’re going to be on Instagram make sure you’re posting and engaging regularly.

Claire used the examples of Lorraine Loots (@lorraineloots) who, back in 2013, committed to painting and sharing a picture every day for 365 days. Her commitment and tenacity (and talent and creativity) eventually got her to the 285 000 followers she has on Instagram today


hail the hashtag

What’s the #deal with #hashtags on #IG the #audience wanted to know… do they really work and is there a strategic way to go about it?

Simply put, nobody will see your posts unless you hashtag it. It’s important to use relevant hashtags, there’s really no point in being obscure if the point is to get noticed. Claire suggests doing a bit of hashtag research to determine which hashtags similar brands with a large following are using and to do the same.

Hashtag research can take one down a bit of a rabbit hole, Claire warns, but it’s the only way to make sure you’re categorising your posts in a way that ensures your target audience sees it.

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post but if you’re strategic and considerate about it then that is more than enough. Done right, fewer hashtags could also mean more.


And other secrets

For those brands really serious about their Instagram presence, Iconosquare is a useful resource for measuring and optimising Instagram performance.

When it comes to the most optimal time to post to Instagram, Claire says it depends on where your user is. For her own brand she’s found that Sunday nights are a good time to be on Instagram but views and metric on this differ across industries, audience personas and regions. In our own experience, we have found lunchtime, late afternoon and Friday evenings to be most successful.

Lastly, but importantly, is Instagram etiquette. It’s generally a polite and encouraging platform, built on community values, and it’s important to respect and honour that. While the follow-for-a-follow rule does not need to be strictly adhered to, it is polite to respond to comments as far as possible, Claire says.

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