When it comes to creating visual content for social media, I've always thought that product-based businesses had a distinct advantage. Though they still have to come up with their concepts and bring their ideas to life, they have a bit of a head start when it comes to the subject matter itself — namely, the fact that they have a product to feature. A little while ago, I put together some ideas for product-based business, outlining ideas for styling and photographing their products, touching on the classic product shots, aspirational and lifestyle-focused content, and behind the scenes content as well.
Today, I want to dive into what this might look like for those of us who run a more service-based business. Don't get me wrong — a lot of the concepts are the same regardless of what kind of business you run, and it's important to always go back to this idea of showcasing a lifestyle, positioning yourself as an expert and telling a story through your content. The question remains though — how do we do this when we offer something intangible, and thus, not easily photographed? One thing I do want to remind you is the importance of using both your photos and your captions. They should support and complement each other in order to tell your story and create captivating content that works to strengthen your brand. Think of the photo as capturing their attention, and then the caption as a way to draw them in further, providing more of the story. And don't forget to go back to the 5 C's of Creating Content if you're struggling with developing a look and style for your brand, as that can be a great place to start. Ready to dive in? Here are five tips for creating Instagram content for service-based businesses:
Selling a service is different than selling a product because your clients are going to be working directly with you, so using social media as a way to forge a relationship and build trust, while giving them a peek at what it's going to look like to work with you. You're essentially humanizing your brand showing them the face behind the business, who they'll be exchanging emails with, hopping on Skype chats with, or eventually meeting in person. There is so much value in that. So yes — personality matters here. Write your captions in the same way that you talk, and at least every now and then, show your pretty face in your feed.
Be that something practical like a recipe or an actionable tip, or something more emotional, like feeling uplifted or inspired. It can even just be learning something new. I'm a big fan of including branded graphics as part of your Instagram content strategy, and these can be simple graphics that include little takeaway tips or pieces of advice, inspirational quotes, examples of downloadables or other freebies, or even client testimonials. Lots of options. Set up a simple template in your graphics program of choice, stick with your brand colors and fonts, and design a few different options, so you have some variety. They're a great way to break up photo content in your feed and tie in your brand in a very intentional way, and are easily shareable as well, which is always a good thing! I love the way that PLANOLY incorporates these into their content, and that they're branded and consistent without being boring or too much of the same.
Now that you've already shown your followers who they're working with (by showing your face and showcasing your personality) and why they should work with you (by establishing trust and sharing value), it's time to show your audience what that will actually look like. Provide a way for potential clients to see themselves as part of your process.Take a minute, step back, and break down your process, whether that's your client process or creative process. Then, going through each step, determine how you might be able to create visual content to support it. Think outside the box and get creative here. Maybe you're a brand designer, and one of the first steps in your creative process is putting together a moodboard. Show that! Even if it's just an artful flatlay of scattered inspiration images with a few color swatches thrown in for good measure. Or tape it up to the wall and — ready for the bonus point edition?! — ask someone to take an over-the-shoulder shot of you placing images on your moodboard. Now you've shown your process and included yourself in the image.
Or maybe you're a wedding planner, and one of the first stages of your client process is sending the happy couple an information package. Photograph that! Print it off, style it up in a little desk shot flatlay, or photograph someone flipping through it for that human touch. Give them a peek at what they can expect. Or if you're sourcing props for a shoot or an event, do a quick flatlay and show a few peeks at specific details, like pretty flatware or fabric samples. Often the simplest photos do incredibly well with a little bit of attention paid to the composition and a brand-aligned backdrop.
Other ways to capture behind the scenes content is to show off your workspace and the tools that you use to do what you do, or share snippets of your workday as if you're documenting a "day in the life." Maybe you always break at 2 pm to pour yourself a cup of tea and step away from your desk — share that!
This might seem obvious, but I think it's often overlooked — don't forget to think of your Instagram feed as a mini portfolio and show off your work! How often now, after receiving a recommendation or seeing a photo credit somewhere, do you click over to a social media profile before visiting someone's full website? My guess would be — pretty often, so you want to make sure you're taking full advantage of that. People should be able to get a pretty good glimpse at the type of work you do with a quick glance at your Instagram feed. So if your service involves some sort of finished product that you're able to capture in a photo, make sure you do just that. These posts are especially powerful if you've documented the process along the way — link a final photo back to a moodboard you shared weeks ago and focus on taking your audience along on the journey of what you do. Get creative with tech mockups of design assets or websites on brand coloured backgrounds, make sure you ask photographers for the final, hi-res photos of an event you produced so you can share the finished product, or use the gallery display option on Instagram to showcase the before and after shot of a transformation you helped someone achieve.
I mentioned this briefly earlier, but I wanted to loop back around to it because it's so important. Your Instagram content should show off the lifestyle aspect of your brand, forming a connection with your audience and giving them a sense of how working with you will fit in with their current lifestyle or help them achieve the life they want to be living. Be sure to check out the tips in this previous post as well, and if you need some more prompts, take a peek at these ten brand personality questions to help you dive a little deeper into your brand as well. Once you have a sense of what the personality and lifestyle is behind your brand, focus on creating and sharing content that showcases that and adding it to your mix. That might be as simple as showing and talking about a pair of earrings that align with your brand style and might be a source of inspiration for a new project you're working on, or a way to talk about finding the balance between work and play, and how these sparkly statement-makers are your cue that it's time to celebrate with a night out.
And that, my friends, just about sums it up, and I'll be leaving you with these tips and ideas for creating Instagram content for yourselves. Take these ideas and do a little brainstorming on your own, remembering to think outside the box and beyond the literal. Focus on sharing your style and telling your story and the rest will follow!
Paige is the owner and creative director of Studio Bicyclette, a lifestyle blog and creative studio that aims to inspire and help brands and businesses find their magic, style their brand and tell their story. Her wanderlust and ability to find and create beauty in the unlikeliest places comes from a belief in fairy tales that started at an early age, a place where imagination is a tool that can be used to tell a story, spark creativity and solve any problem. When she's not styling a photoshoot or helping clients implement a social media strategy, you can usually find her dreaming up fancy cocktail creations, planning her next adventure or hunting for the perfect shade of pink lipstick.