Today, social media users want serendipitous shopping experiences — where new brands and ideas pop up on their feeds like wizened wizards in an RPG. In this world, your social media profile is your shop window. How you dress it up, counts.
If you’re a solopreneur or an influencer, social media will likely be one of the first touchpoints your audience will have with your brand and it will be the key to expanding your reach to new audiences in the future.
Of course, when you’re running a company of one, time is in short supply. If there’s a choice between client work and working on your business, I reckon you’ll choose the former. Growing a social following from zero can seem daunting, especially for people who don’t have design skills or social media know-how.
So how do you build a social branding strategy that grabs the right attention, but doesn’t turn into a full-time job?
We spoke with one 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
Used to playing at intimate gatherings with friends and cozy little cafes, singer songwriter Samuel Andryk was always told he had the talent to make it big in the music industry. But, even with an amazing voice and setlist of soulful songs, how could he break into a scene where contacts and networking are everything?
Whether you’re a musician with the pipes, future 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 cohesive. Because of that, I’ve had people reach out to me on Instagram, asking me for advice,” says Andryk. He now works part time as a branding coach helping other solopreneurs get their business off the ground.
Your audience isn’t going to wait for you to send them your CV before deciding if they like you. They’re going to snoop around your socials. So you better make it worth their while.
“I even use my Instagram profile when I meet people in person. It’s like a digital business card,” Andryk says.
You don’t have to be a design whiz
Perhaps my biggest surprise when speaking with Andryk was that he had almost NO design skills and little experience with social media (aside from his personal accounts) when he started out. Instead, he turned to the free design programs that have popped up aimed at helping solopreneurs, influencers, and young startups create high-quality visuals.
Reflecting on how social media design has changed, Kateryna Larina a design expert at VistaCreate, a free graphic design software for design newbies, pointed out, “today, visuals are much more complex with trends like maximalism, 3D shapes, and more recently — the popularity of animation.”
Know how you want to make people feel.
But, thanks to easy-to-use software and a plethora of ready made templates to choose from, it’s become much easier to create a compelling social brand. This gives solopreneurs room to play around, experiment, and develop their own unique brand identity. With so much space for creativity, the key things Larina wants you to keep in mind are:
Having a well-thought-out, balanced composition, a color palette that reflects your main idea, quality photos and videos, and interesting typography that stands out. That’s the magic sauce.
When asked about the biggest design trends, Larina said:
There’s one trend that has been gaining momentum and it’s the Y2K aesthetics. However, if you’re looking for a trend to hop on, this isn’t the best go-to. 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 ‘00s aesthetic might be out of place for your brand.
A similar trend that’s worth noting is the ‘Trendy Zine’. It’s a much more versatile trend that will likely grow and develop with time. It gives you more room to express yourself and stay on-brand, all the while adhering to 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 the Instagram face gives way to the clean girl aesthetic, Gen Z users are demanding more authenticity from social media.
“Know how you want to make people feel. For me, I want my Instagram to make people feel at home within themselves. So everything I share aims to create those feelings of warmth, comfort and belonging,” Andryk says.
For him, that means neutral and earth colors, and 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 vibe.
While this aesthetic has helped Andryk attract the right audiences for his genre, if you’re a punk musician or an extreme sports influencer, you’d want to consider completely different design choices. Andryk says:
I think it’s important to recognise there is a superficial component with Instagram. The first thing you see as you scroll is the visual aspect, so make sure to have images that are visually compelling to the audience you want to attract. It’s all about finding a way to be authentic, while still playing by the rules of the platform.
Use design to capture scrollers’ attention
On social media, getting noticed is key. Remember, you only have a matter of seconds to make an impression before your post gets sucked back into the content void.
Having consistency goes beyond design.
“One trend that really stands out among leading brands and accounts is experimental typography. You have one shot at getting someone to stop scrolling a feed, and unusual, contrasting fonts really help grab attention,” Sandra Iakovleva, Head of Content at VistaCreate says.
“Knowing how to work with typography and pairing different types of fonts is an art in itself. When visuals are not enough, bold fonts and experimental typography is the way to spark more interest in your designs.”
While it may not be a flashy design trick, believe it or not, staying consistent is what will really help you stick out from the crowd. Iakovleva explained:
To best explain this, imagine the counter opposite – a social media feed that is quite random at first glance. If it’s a business, a potential client doesn’t remember any particular post in a feed that tries to play the ‘catch-all’ strategy. Incoherence leads to confusion about the messaging and aesthetics, which results in clients not knowing who you are or what you stand for.
Now, if we talk about a coherent, consistent profile on social media (with your own branding), you stick out in the minds of a potential consumer as someone with your own branding, personality, and your own tone of voice. All these elements are crucial to the success of your social media if you’re trying to appeal to a specific target audience.
Having 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 decisive factor for someone trying to make up their mind as to whether they want to follow you and check out your product and/or services.
Create a strategy you can manage
Got your sights set on an influencer future? Maybe you should get your eyes tested.
“When I first started, I thought it was going to be super easy to become an influencer,” Andryk admits.
I thought you needed to be one to be successful, but in reality, you just need to publish content that’s on brand, consistently.
Coming up with compelling content ideas takes quite a bit of effort. Andryk recommends narrowing your scope, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
“One of the things I do with new Solopreneurs is to help them devise some content pillars. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to post, try this formula here:”
• 20% Promotional posts – what it is you are offering
• 20% Lifestyle posts- how you live your life
• 20% Behind the Scenes posts- things you do to run your own business and/or take care of yourself that people usually don’t see
• 40% Posts about your Core Values, Beliefs, Vision & Mission
Just remember: it’s not quantity, it’s quality. Better to have one weekly post that encapsulates your brand, than thoughtless daily posts.