No-Brainer: 4 Reasons You Should Start Using IG Stories Today

If you aren’t using Instagram Stories yet, you should. Even as haters are still mumbling about the Snapchat copycat, those that have jumped at the chance to broadcast a story are getting noticed.

It is different that just another Instagram post. And it’s just one more way you can stand out and get noticed by potential clients or customers.

In fact, I started watching IG Stories of people I had followed long ago — and forgotten about. They’ve either posted less on their Instagram feed, or the algorithm has buried their posts from my standard view.

But now that these folks are posting stories, they show up front and center.

Maybe you’re afraid to jump in front of your camera, still hesitant about video. Well, you can post images, add text — just like other visual content — and you don’t have to be on the screen at first.

If you still need some convincing to give Instagram Stories a shot, check out these four reasons you should get on board today.

1. Quick Connect— A quick way to connect with your (potential) clients and customers and deliver a quick tip. It is even more instant or immediate than a standard Instagram post for two reasons.

First, Instagram is pushing stories by default. Second, many brands are raising the bar on standard Instagram posts. They are becoming more stylized, beautiful, perfect. IG Stories is more forgiving, more “behind the scenes” that Instagram once was.

Just get out there and connect!

2. Personal Connection— A personal connection, adding your face to the brand. Especially with a business account … You can now allow your main profile feed to flow with a consistent, professional look. A coffee shop selfie might not fit your business feed, but it can fit into your IG Stories.

Still focus on giving your followers high-value content, but the delivery can be more candid.

Personally, I haven’t mastered the “put my photo in every post” like Gary Vee. While that does put your face front and center and help build a personal brand, it might be hard to accomplish without an endless supply of pro photos and a camera crew following you around.

But I can add my face into IG Stories in an instant. Show your face more to build that personal connection

3. Immediate CTAs— For a limited-time offer or a quick call-to-action- command, Instagram Stories is the perfect vehicle to deliver your message. Since IG Stories disappear after 24 hours, it’s great to post a “BUY NOW” limited-time event. If you posted about a limited offer in your regular feed you would have to go in and delete it. Otherwise it will look out of place and be stale fast.

4. Broader Topics— A niched-down focus rules on Instagram, but stories allow for broader topics. My Instagram feed @boldbrandfast is all about visual marketing. And my feed flows together in a systematic way as I share visual content creating tips and tutorials.

But as I continue to build a personal brand and connect with my audience, I want them to remember me. Fans become friends and they want to know more about you. Use Instagram Stories to post about other interests (that first cup of coffee, checking in at the gym, walking your dog) to come across as a real person behind the screen.

You’re living a life bigger than just selling something on Instagram.

Are you ready to try Instagram Stories?

How else could you use IG Stories to connect with your perfect audience and build your brand? Or, if you’re still hesitant, what are your biggest stumbling blocks in giving IG Stories a shot?

How to Set Up an Instagram Business Account Like a Pro (in 7 Easy Steps)

The last thing you want to do is sign up for Instagram and then tell everyone to follow you — without completing your profile or even posting your first post.

Incomplete profiles — missing contact info, photos, and such — tell potential customers to move on, because you’re not serious about your business.

Incomplete profiles — missing contact info, photos, and such — tell potential customers to move on, because you're not serious about your business.Click To Tweet

So if you’re ready to set up your Instagram profile for business, here are my 7 easy steps to help you get started.

If you have an account already, go back and check you’ve conquered all 7 steps.

And if you’re setting up a new Instagram business account, I suggest doing all 7 before asking for followers — no one will want to connect with you if you’re coming across half into it.

  1. Choose a consistent account name.
    Already on Twitter as @TheBizBee? Consistency is key. You should be the @TheBizBee on Instagram.
  2. Upload a profile photo. If you ask me to connect or follow you but don’t have a profile photo… Sorry, but I want to see who I’m following first. Bonus tip: As with your name, your profile photos should be consistent across your accounts.
  3. Fill out your bio completely. Tell me more about what you offer, why I should follow you or how you can help me. What makes you tick? What makes you different?
  4. Add a URL. At the time of this writing, the URL field in your bio is the only clickable link on Instagram. Use it wisely, of course. But definitely use it! If you’re leaving it blank, you’re missing out on an opportunity to get traffic to your blog post(s), YouTube channel, or wherever you want to send engaged eyeballs.
  5. Add 6-9 posts fast. Photos and videos… That’s the meat and potatoes of Instagram. The whole reason we’re there. So please don’t share your profile or ask me to follow you if you’ve got an empty feed. Post some photos first! I suggest 9 or more so when I view your profile on my phone, the screen is filled up with your content.
  6. Don’t neglect Instagram Stories. Once you’re all set up and you’ve posted a few photos in the regular feed, be sure to add to your Instagram Stories, as well. A great way to start is to do a quick welcome and intro. Tell us a little more about what you do, elaborating on what you wrote in your bio. (This is something you can repeat somewhat often as IG Stories disappear after 24 hours — and you’ll continue to welcome new followers as you attract more folks and grow your account.)
  7. Connect with others. Don’t wait for others to find and follow you. Go out and find new friends, your colleagues. Interact with them, like their posts, and leave valuable comments on others’ posts.

Now, head over to Instagram and conquer. What’s missing?

What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

So if you’re not on Instagram, what are you waiting for?

And if you agree that Instagram is a must and have an account setup already, be sure to check out my profile and follow me for more visual content tips and secrets.

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Learn how to get noticed as an industry expert with proven visual strategies — no design skills necessary.

Kickstart Your Visual Content Marketing Without Delay

No designer on staff. No funds to contract one, not even for a single project. And you think you have zero creative bones in your body. It’s no problem.

I’m going to share the fastest way to kickstart your visual marketing in the new year or to launch a new brand at any time FAST — no design skills required.

Now if you have your social media marketing plan in place and are chugging along, creating great content and graphics, then you can skip this post.

But if you’re like me, you don’t have your whole act together. You’re ready for a fresh start with a simplified action plan. But all the new goals, resolutions, suggestions, and to-do lists quickly pile up once again. Overwhelm hits once again.

You know visual marketing is an important part of your business, but you’re back to square one. Where to begin?

Well, it’s time to move forward. No marketing plan to set up. No strategy session first. You don’t need a logo — or even a “complete” website — to start marketing your business.

In a perfect world with lots of time and money, I would tell you to hire a designer to set up a style guide. Create a logo if you don’t have one. But only after you’ve researched your target market to get a feel for their favorite movies and restaurants. And you are following your competitors and constantly on top of everything that’s happening in your industry, right?

The list of things you could do goes on. And you should do these things at some point. But for now, I quote my man, Mark Twain. He said “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.” (Hint: That’s the when. Just jump on in. NOW!)

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. —Mark TwainClick To Tweet

I heard 2014 was the year of video. 2015 the year of live streaming. And 2016 seems to be the year of membership communities. It doesn’t matter what’s next… Whatever you’re doing or selling, you need more eyeballs. Marketing is here to stay. And visual marketing will get you there faster.

Why visuals? Check out these 16 eye-popping visual content statistics by Larry Kim over at Inc. magazine. His bottom line? Visuals are effective because they help people process, understand, and retain more information more quickly.

Okay, so now you might be wondering how? How do I jump into any kind of visual marketing without design skills or a designer on staff?

I’m not suggesting you jump in completely blind with zero plan, of course. But a general idea is all you need. You don’t have to have everything lined out. Nothing will ever be 100% and you will never launch. It’s best to start, and then adjust along the way.

The easiest way to do this, is to pick one social media platform and one color to brand yourself.

I’ve mentioned both of these ideas before, suggesting Instagram is the first place to turn regarding social media. And I’ve outlined some thoughts on the best color for your business, too.

If you’re not a fan of Instagram — or know already that your target market is more prevalent elsewhere – then all means go with what works. The method is simply to simplify. Start small and focus on one.

And if you don’t believe in the power of color, just head over to your local Target store wearing a solid red shirt. Let me know how long it takes before you’re questioned by a customer. All the employees wear read so everyone around will think you work there, too.

Yes, typography and photography and layout and “feel” and so much more can contribute to solid visual content and make your graphics stand out. All of these elements come together and help shape a memorable brand, but nothing works as fast as color. I feel so strongly about this in branding/business, I’ve started to dive into the psychology of color.

And while a multi-color scheme can work, I suggest one color — once again as part of a quick and simple process. It’s easier and quicker to select one color and run with it. It’s also easier to add additional colors or pick a completely new color scheme in the future, should you find your initial choice isn’t working.

Practicing what I preach, I use orange in my own @boldbrandfast branding and green in my apparel startup, Avocado Shirt Co.

Have you chosen ONE social media network and ONE color to represent you, your brand or your business?

Stand Out With Stock Photos: How to Use the Same Free Photos Everyone Else Uses in Clever, Unique Ways

If you’ve seen one list of free stock photography sites shared by one blogger, then you’ve seen them all.

To top it off, I’ve read many designers and photographers insist you should never use stock photography. (Job security, maybe?)

It’s true, uploading stock photos on your business blog — as is — right after downloading them, is NOT the way to do it. You run the risk of cheapening your brand, or blending in at the very least. Especially when many bloggers are using the exact same photos.

Never fear! I’m here to help you stand out and shine online and ease any concerns of using the same old stock.

It’s as simple as tweaking the photos in some way — any way — to make them your own.

Here are 4 Ways You Can Stand Out While Using The Same Free Stock Photos as Everyone Else.

1. Rotate and/or Crop Photos

Flip or rotate photos so we see it in a different way. And cropping in is a great way to emphasize a specific point, or focus on the part of the photo that best applies to your message.

The original photo I used in this Instagram post wasn’t as tight. And I believe there were more colored pencils in various colors. I cropped in to focus attention right where I needed it — and left only an orange pencil to match my brand color.

2. Add Color

And of course I mean your brand color. (You have chosen 1 color to represent your brand, right?) This could mean an accent stripe of color, a color border or a complete color overlay.

I think Rebekah Radice loves orange as much as me. See how she uses an orange background to make her quote images stand out?

3. Add Text

Overlaying a text headline on a stock photo is one way to set yourself apart — and a great way to start your blog post, as I’ve done with each of my blog posts. That way, when someone shares your blog post using that image, it has your headline attached.

Michael Hyatt and team does a great job of adding encouraging text quotes on top of stock photos. Notice the addition of Hyatt’s URL, too.

A photo posted by Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) on

4. Add Your Logo or Watermark

Adding your logo is a sure way to add brand recognition. But you could just add a URL or a specific hashtag… Whatever best suits your marketing message at the moment. Just remember the specifics and best practices of each social channel. (Pinterest doesn’t utilize hashtags, for example.)

Peg Fitzpatrick adds her iconic pink circle with her name to stock photos to set them apart. Bonus points when you’re stock photo uses your brand color(s), too!

5. Skip the Stock Photo!

This is a bonus tip, but doesn’t apply to stock photos at all… I’m suggesting to skip the photo! Try an illustration, an infographic or a text-only graphic that tells your story. Do this right and you’ll get higher engagement — no photo needed.

I love how Ben Requena adds his logo (and URL) in the upper left-hand corner of this graphic. He added a unique illustration for these “quick tips” he shares. placed some striking text — with all the above using his brand colors — and there’s no stock photo needed.

Any other tricks to make unique use of stock photos?

Share with me in the comments below. (I read every one.) Then, if you think others could benefit from this post, I encourage you to share it on your favorite social channel.

The 3 P’s of the Timely Instagram Image (And How to Create One on the Fly)

My boldbrandfast Instagram account continues to grow as I strive to create timely images and post consistently. I try and post engaging graphics with purpose about two times per day, every single day.

Now, most of us have a smartphone in hand 99% of the day. Of course it’s easy to snap a quick selfie or a behind-the-scenes shot and upload it fast. It’s one of the beautiful aspects about Instagram.

But today I’m going to show you the 3 P’s of timely Instagram images that look great — and are consistent with your brand, even on the fly.

1. Plan Out Your Instagram Content

Before you post another picture, plan  out your content. You need to have a big-picture idea of what your whole account looks like, who your target market is, and what valuable content you plan to share with them every day.

Sure, you want to be flexible to share the occasional selfie or pic of your lunch, but don’t be tempted to fill your stream with duck faces. It’s best to have a theme (read: strategy) and stay focused on what you post, as it relates to your brand. Instagram is great for sharing team activities, behind-the-scenes shots, and previews of upcoming products or coming-soon promotions.

Jeff Sieh, creator and host of The Manly Pinterest Tips podcast and show, wouldn’t use high-heel shoes to talk to his audience.

A photo posted by Jeff Sieh (@jeffsieh) on

  On the other hand, Jilleysue has targeted women, embraced pink and called herself the GIRLBOSS MOTIVATOR. High heels work for her brand!

In other words, the following steps (or anything else you post on Instagram) won’t matter if you don’t first plan and finalize your Instagram marketing goals.


3ps-instagram-graphics-bold-brand-fast-rob-russo2. Prepare Starter Graphics & Text

How do I have eight custom-designed, ready-to-go image templates saved on my iPhone, ready to be used at a moment’s noticed?

It’s easy when you prepare them ahead of time and (#ProTip) create them in batches.

Here’s an example of four images I’ve created and now keep on my phone to have at my fingertips. I like to call them backgrounds or Instagram image starters.

Three of these images, when posted in a certain order, tile together to create a bold orange stripe. The only extra effort required is to note the order of upload and plan out three posts that will fit together. (This is the little extra effort that really gets noticed.)

I have several others that are perfect stand-alone posts.

All use my brand color and logo. Sometimes I add a hashtag, such as #thinkvisualnow and/or my Instagram handle @boldbrandfast.

Besides these graphic templates, I have several notes saved on my phone (I use the Notes app on my iPhone) with saved hashtags and my choice of CTA (call-to-action) text. When writing the image description, I cut and paste as needed.

3. Pounce! Create Instagram Images with Ease

Now that you are armed with a plan and prepared with your custom-designed image templates and text, all accessible at your fingertips, you’re ready to pounce as soon as inspiration strikes.

I try to post organically at least once a day to my Instagram account. While I often plan out what am going to say with the image in mind, you never know when a timely update would be perfect for your brand.

Whenever I come across a quote that resonates or think of a tip I want to share, I can create it fast (usually in WordSwag or Typorama) by adding simple text over my pre-made backgrounds.

Here’s one example of a graphic I created:

So if you’re not on Instagram, what are you waiting for?

And if you agree that Instagram is a must and have an account setup already, be sure to check out my profile and follow me for more visual content tips and secrets.

Stand Out On Instagram - Visual Content Marketing Strategies to Get Noticed as an Industry ExpertStand Out on Instagram

Learn how to get noticed as an industry expert with proven visual strategies — no design skills necessary.