Personal Branding, Podcast

How to Turn Your Instagram into a Personal Branding Machine

Everyone’s talking about Instagram these days, but is the advice you’re being given actually making a difference? I truly believe that Instagram is as powerful a personal branding tool as a website, but only if you’re using it right.

In today’s episode, I want to talk to you about the 7 non-negotiable elements of a powerful IG profile and NONE of these things are “growth hacks” or dodgy tactics that might make you look popular on the surface, but mean absolutely nothing to your brand or business (and may even damage them!)

Don’t believe me? Spoiler alert — we’re talking:

1. On-point profile photos
2. Bios that attract the right people
3. Highlights that work like website pages
4. A visual aesthetic that’s easy AND attractive
5. Developing a natural tone of voice
6. Creating content that transforms
7. Creating content that gets shared

Extra resources:

Download my personal branding blueprint


Instagram: @iamkatelizabeth
Facebook: @iamkatelizabeth
YouTube: KatElizabeth


You’re listening to episode six, how to turn your Instagram into a personal branding machine. Now, if you are really sick of people telling you about how you need to post every single day and hacks on how to grow your following and you want just some real no BS advice on how to use your Instagram profile as a tool for personal branding that actually leads to opportunities, sales, meaningful relationships with customers and clients, then this is the episode for you. Welcome to The Personal Branding Project. I’m your host Kat Elizabeth, an actor and personal branding coach who is obsessed with helping creative entrepreneurs like you build personal brands that change your life for good, from attracting bigger opportunities, more joy and freedom in your life and the ability to get paid to do the things that you love most each week. I’m bringing you inspiration, practical advice, and the occasional dose of tough love so you can stop dreaming and start doing what it takes to make those dreams a reality.

I feel like most people aren’t really neutral about Instagram. They, their opinion is either that they love it and it’s the best social media platform ever or they just don’t get it. They don’t like it and they don’t use it. And look, that is totally fine. Not every social media platform is for everybody, but I do feel like if you can make peace with Instagram, it is a social media platform that is still growing and that so many people are on these days. And while I admit that I personally have a love hate relationship with it, the hate only comes from the mindset issues that I have and that I think a lot of you might have around frustration with following numbers, with the lack of engagement with trying to keep up with the Joneses and all of that kind of stuff. So I really want to talk today about this stuff that actually matters.

So we’re not going to be talking about these hacks on how to get as many followers as possible. I’m not going to tell you that you have to be posting every single day because I really don’t believe that’s true. What I know to be sure to be certain is that it does not matter how many people you have following you on Instagram because what you’ll probably find is that people with larger followings, myself included, only a very small percentage of those people are my people. Because you start to attract more and more spammy followers and and you have a harder time reaching your audience because your engagement, your organic reach is going to drop as you hit those higher numbers. Whereas when you’ve got a lower number of followers, you actually have these incredible opportunity to stay in touch with more people, to get seen by more people.

And more importantly, no matter the following number, we have this ability to treat Instagram like a mini website, which means that anyone that finds you, they can get an immediate idea of your personal brand. They’re going to see your visual aesthetic. They’re going to get an idea of your personality, of your offering. They’re going to be able to get a snapshot of your stories and your life and your business if you use it properly. And so that is what today’s episode is all about. I am actually going to teach you about seven key – actually you know what non-negotiable – elements that need to be taken into consideration for your Instagram profile if you want it to really build your personal brand. And when I say build your personal brand, I mean this isn’t just about developing relationships with the people already following you, but really making that brilliant, impactful first impression with people that stumble across you there.

And I really believe that this is important in this day and age because I have noticed that so many people go to my Instagram profile before they go anywhere else. And I can tell you this, it’s a fact because I have a mail tracking software that tracks the clicks in my email signature and I can see that Instagram is the highest clicked link and so many people skip my website altogether. And then what I find is that people will go to my Instagram, check me out, and then if they decide they like what they see, then they’ll go to my website. So that is why it’s really important that you treat your Instagram profile with the same weight, you know, with the same respect as your website. And if you don’t have a website, then even more important that you do this. So with no further ado, I’m excited to kick into these seven key elements of a powerful Instagram profile.

Let’s do this. Okay. So the first element that’s an absolute non negotiable is a fantastic profile photo. Now before you go rolling your eyes and going “yeah, duh”, let me just explain what I mean about a really good photo because not all photos are made equal and not all photos are going to suit Instagram. So keep in mind that the photo, the profile photo usually shows up in a tiny, tiny little round thumbnail. So photos that might look amazing of you when you can see them blown up, aren’t always going to look that great when they’re shrunken down. So it’s really important that you have enough of your head in that photo as in it’s taking up enough of the photo itself that even when it’s shrunken down, you’re kind of recognisable. And I also recommend that you have a really clean backdrop because again, once it’s that small, you can’t really tell what’s going on in the photo and the busier the background is, the more your head is going to get lost.

So I think it looks best to have a really nice clean photo of your face, maybe down to your shoulders with a clean backdrop and it should look professional. It shouldn’t just be a selfie. If you are really serious about building your personal brand, you’re going to make sure that this photo is a really great representation of you know, who you are, your personality, your level of professionalism, how approachable you are, all of those kinds of things. So if you feel like you don’t really have a photo that says that right now, then I highly recommend that you start thinking about having some photos taken, you know, in the next couple of months. Or maybe find someone, a friend who also needs to do some photos and you guys can always just grab your smartphones and go find a nice clean wall. And I think outdoor photos look fantastic as the light is fantastic as long as it’s not in, you know, exposed sunlight, you want to make sure it’s a little bit overcast or maybe you’re in a shaded spot and just take some photos for each other.

So you’ve got that as a starting point. Obviously if you’ve had professional photos taken you don’t even need to worry about that. But I’m just just trying to say that there is no excuse for not having a fantastic looking photo. Next up we have your bio and this is the area that seems to get the most people stressed out because there is a very strict character count, which can be frustrating and you want to tell people all the things. So one really common mistake I see is that you get a little bit stressed out trying to choose what to tell people about yourself. Because often, you know, so many of us are multi-passionate, we’ve done so many things. We are so many things we want everyone to know and we don’t want to risk people not finding out about the things that we do.

But then you just end up with this crazy looking bio where it has like a row of or column I should say of eight or 10 different things saying, I’m this, I’m this, I’m this, I founded this business, I do this, I’m this kind of thing. I’m this kind of thing. And it is completely overwhelming. And if you think about it in some ways it’s a little bit selfish because you’re making it all about you. And so if you listen to my earlier episode about the two biggest mistakes of personal branding, and one of them is making everything about you, even though it’s a personal brand, this is about the people who are following you. And so what they really want to know is what’s in it for them. And that is where your bio comes in. So yes, you may do a whole bunch of different things and that is awesome… you can definitely talk about those things when you’re posting.

But think about first impressions here and the kinds of people you want to attract and the thing that you’re eventually going to be potentially selling them. What is that thing? I’m guessing it’s not 8 to 10 different things. If it is, you might need to simplify your service offering or maybe you may need more than one account. But if you have one main thing or okay, let’s even take a step back. And it’s not even about the item, the product, the service that you’re selling. What is the transformation you’re promising your audience? This is really what you should be mentioning in your bio. So I help these kinds of people avoid this problem and achieve this. That is kind of the simplest formula for an elevator pitch. And that is really what should be in your bio in as few words as possible.

And then you want to save the rest of this space for a call to action. And that could be anything. It’s whatever is your link in bio. So for some people it might be like, watch my latest YouTube video or read this article, download this freebie, book a call for me. I actually have a mini website where I have a bunch of different things for different people and I, you know, there’s been arguments for and against having multiple links in your bio, I’ve found it hasn’t hurt me. But you know, you can experiment with that too. Ultimately I want you to basically just let people know what it is that you’re there to offer them and then you can get them to take one action after that. And if you can simplify, trust me, you’re just going to have an easier time attracting followers and also eliminating people who you don’t necessarily want following you because we don’t want everyone to follow us because if they don’t really resonate with what we’re talking about, they’re not going to engage with our content and they’re dead weight and that’s going to affect our engagement.

And that’s going to mean that the algorithm frowns on us. So really everything is about quality over quantity and just attracting the right people, which is why having a very clear, succinct bio is crucial. Area number three that we need to think about your highlights. Now. So many people either have them looking like a bit of a dog’s breakfast, like it’s all over the place. You know there’s no rhyme or reason. Like some of them are labeled properly, others aren’t labeled, some just seem to be duplicates. Like there’s just no consistency there. Whereas when you go to someone’s profile and they’re well labeled and they all look consistent, it’s so much more inviting to click on. So I want you to think about your highlights, like different pages on your website. So you’ve got to think first about, okay, like whether you have a website or not.

Okay. Let’s just say you’ve got a website. What kind of pages would you want to have to teach people about you? So usually, I mean we’ve got our home page, so think your homepage is your actual Instagram profile. You’ve going to have an about page. So really there should be a kind of behind the scenes or an about me type highlight. You might have services or products. You might have a page dedicated to your blog, to your podcast, your YouTube channel. So again, you could do that. You might have one dedicated to to free resources. You know the list goes on. If you have a look at my profile, that’s what I’ve done. And keep in mind that you can actually control the order of these. So if you have a couple that are extra important, then make sure you’re just creating a steady stream of content so you can freshen them up and make sure they keep popping up to the top and don’t start getting hidden down the bottom.

Whether you want to create actual custom highlights, cover images, or you just want to use photos of yourself, that is totally up to you. It’s all going to come down to your personal aesthetic. Now speaking of your visual aesthetic, this is point number four. So while the overly curated, highly perfect fake-looking feeds are a thing of the past. Thank goodness there is something to be said for a visually appealing fade. So like I just think the best place to start here to keep things as simple as possible for yourself, not to be stressing about it, is just to give yourself some visual guidelines. And a really great way to start this is actually just by creating a little brand guideline. You know, it could be just for Instagram, but if you create this, it’s going to be helpful for everything that you do. So every platform where you create content, it’s going to be helpful for your website.

And basically you just want to have a one page little document where you include brand colors that you are going to use all the time. If you don’t have official colors, then just choose a couple of colors that you think you’re going to stick with. Some fonts and some images that you think are really representative of what you do. And a bonus aspect would be some shapes. So little extra kinds of graphic elements that you would be pulling into your images. Once you’ve got this then it’s going to be easier for you to design templates for yourself if you wanting to create some actual, you know like quote templates. So something like that in your feed. And it’s also going to just give you some guidelines as well for the kinds of photos you post and how spread out they are. So a really simple rule that I use for myself because I’m not into trying to overly curate my feed ’cause it’s just stressful and it’s important — it’s just like impossible to keep up with…

Is I try and go a close up versus a further away shot and alternate between the two of them just as like a general guideline. And another way of thinking of it is having something with a really clean background. So a lot of white space and white space. I sometimes include photos in that. So a photo that was taken with a blank wall behind or it might be one of my quote graphics whereas something busy might be an outdoor shot or you know, something that with a lot more going on in the background and if you just kind of go, you know, a, B, a, B, a, B, it’s already going to just kind of make the eye relax when you’re looking at it. There’s just something that happens when we see crowded spaces and this is like, you know, it’s the same if you see a website like this, if you see a brochure where it’s just all images and it’s just packed with text, it’s so hard to read and it’s just kind of exhausting to our eyes.

Whereas when you get a lovely brochure, you’ll see a website and it’s just like a pop of text and then space and then a nice image and more space. You’re like, ah. Or is that just me? Am I a total nerd? But anyways, either way, I’m telling you right now that the easiest way to have a nice consistent, happy looking feed is to include plenty of white space. And one other really simple tip is just to make sure that you don’t alternate between filters on your photos. I personally don’t even use filters. I find that the photos that I get taken tend to be kind of nice and crisp and bright. And I like the aesthetic of that. If you prefer a different aesthetic, like for instance something that’s kind of really warm and like almost sepia toned, that’s great. But just make sure you’re using the same filter on with really similar settings on every photo.

So it looks consistent. And just a side note, out of respect to all of my photographer friends, if you do have professional photos that you’re sharing, I would recommend that you check with the guidelines of the photographer ’cause usually they would ask that you don’t share them with filters because it actually messes up their work. So that’s just something to keep in mind. And another reason you might want to actually avoid using filters in general in your Instagram posts when it comes to your stories. Go to town, whatever crazy filters that you want like that is totally fine. Next up, we’ve got your tone of voice and this is something that should not just be saved for the professional writers, copywriters out there. Everyone needs to have a tone of voice. We all have a tone of voice, but where it becomes more powerful is when you become a little bit more intentional about it and you start coming up with almost some, they don’t even have to be written guidelines, but just some unspoken guidelines for yourself around what you’re going to say versus what you’re not going to say.

For instance, there might be certain words that are like trademark words for you that you use all the time and using them consistently is a great thing because your audience starts to get to know them. If you’ve got nicknames or you shorten things and say things a certain way, then just like stick with that all the time. It’s great. I recommend the same thing with emojis. Don’t go bonkers with emojis, but if you use some emojis, find like maybe five of them, three to five of them that are like signature emojis that you use all the time and use those rather than like picking a different one every single time. It’s, it’s so minor but it just can make a difference because it just, it’s that level of familiarity that the reader starts to get with you. Some other fantastic advice that I was given from Erica Reitman — I’ll link her in the show notes so you can check her out.

‘Cause I think she’s just amazing is to use you instead of you guys. So when you write anything or even if you’re recording a video and you say, “Hey guys, “or “you guys blah blah blah”, we immediately feel like you’re just talking out to this group of people and we’re just one of many. Whereas when you say you, so everything that you write is literally just speaking to one person. Like how do you feel about this? We the reader feel like you’re actually talking to us. We feel more special and we’re more likely to engage. So I highly recommend that you immediately ditch you guys from your vocabulary on Instagram because it’s just not serving you. Point number six, and we’re finally talking about content, but when I say content, I’m talking quality over quantity. So I don’t want you stressing about how often you post my main rules there are to be consistent and to post as often as you can where you can keep the quality up.

As soon as you start trying to post so much that you’re scrambling for content and you’re stressing yourself out, well then you’re doing it too much. So for some people, one post a week is plenty. Other people it’s three, other people it’s five, for some accounts might be twice a day. There is no actual rule, but you can just track the response from your audience. Like if you start experimenting and you do more one week and you notice your engagement drops, then maybe it’s a sign that it’s actually too much content. But the point I want to make about content is this, you have to offer value. So the only way that you can actually use your account to be a real tool of personal branding where you know you attract those opportunities and those potential sales is if the content you’re putting out is selfless.

It’s generous. It’s written for the reader and not for you. So there are so many different ways we can do this. You know, we can make it about the reader because we’re sharing something that’s inspirational or motivational, encouraging. We could share some really practical lessons to-dos you know how-tos tutorials, we could be sharing stories with them about us, but using those stories to actually teach a lesson. You could be sharing something that’s funny that’s going to brighten their day. Whatever it’s going to be, I just want you to remind yourself every time you go to create a post, go, how am I helping someone with this post? Who am I trying to help? And if you keep that in mind, keep that as the focus of the content. You actually can’t go wrong. It’s going to work as a compass for you. Anytime you’re worried if you creating the right thing or not.

If you’re creating it with your audience in mind, then you’re doing the right thing. Sure. In time you can tweak it. You’re going to hone in on the stuff that’s really working, you know, double down on it eliminate or the stuff that’s not working as well. That’s, you know, those are more technical and advanced things that you can do as you become more confident on the platform that to begin with, if you’re wondering whether to post something, go, yeah, well what is my audience going to get out of this? And number seven is my one and only piece of advice. It’s actually going to help you get seen by more people in a really direct way. And that is to create shareable content. So again, like this is all going to have to be valuable stuff that people would want to share it, but you’ve got to really think about like what is the content that your audience seems to be sharing with their audience?

So you often will see in people’s stories that they’re sharing posts from other accounts, from other influencers. And often they’re going to be something that’s pretty like poignant. Whether that’s a, you know, a quote, something really funny, some really simple lesson. Like people love those, you know, misconception posts where it’s like, some people think this but this is the true for you know, where there’s two columns that they’re just going off at the moment. Um, I also really love content that is great for saving, um, because again, like people are gonna reference back to it. But ultimately if you can create some posts that are very share friendly, which means you’re probably putting extra effort into them cause it’s very unlikely people are just going to share your photo, like a photo of you with their audience. It’s very rare. Whereas if you’ve actually created something that, you know, share some sort of value and looks attractive as well, I don’t mean it has to be super fancy, but it does need to be visually appealing.

Even if that just means being super clean, like a white background with really clean black text. That’s, you know, left aligned, then you are going to start noticing that people start sharing your content and you’re going to get in front of more people. And if the people that are seeing it in those, you know, in your followers feeds like what it is, you know, hopefully they’re going to click through and they’re going to follow you. And so, you know, without any of these hacks for going out there and trying to get people to, you know, follow on follow and you know, all the things that people are talking about, how you can get a quick increase in followers, this one is actually legit and while it takes time, it’s going to be a slow burn. It will be worth it in the long run. Plus that kind of content is going to be really great to be saved in your highlights and things like that for when you know someone’s coming and checking you out for the first time.

And they might’ve missed that post originally, but they’re, you know, creeping through your archives, they’re going to be really impressed if you have that kind of content there. So once again, like if you really look back through all of the seven points that I’ve made, this is all about making it as easy as possible for your audience to learn from you, to learn who you are, what you’re about, what your kind of personality, what you’re teaching and what you’re selling. But everything is really just about trying to make their lives better in some way because the fact is like, Instagram is just like everything really crowded. There are so many people we could be following. And I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself, like if I see too many posts that annoy me from someone in my feed, I will either mute them or unfollow them depending on who they are.

So if you can really aim to have higher than average or above average content to all of the other people that you’ll follow as a following, you know, there’s a really good chance you’re going to start getting seen by more people. You’re going to increase your engagement anyway. And when you do have total strangers land on your account, they’re going to be really impressed and you’re hopefully going to be attracting clicks through your bio to go check out what else you do or DM requests. Asking more about you know who you are and how you can help them. And for me personally, I have found that while I don’t tend to make direct sales in Instagram, at least not right now. It’s something that I’m going to kind of test out in the future. I have landed some amazing opportunities and I have also had people immediately click through from like Instagram because they were impressed enough about what they saw do then go check out my YouTube channel to go check out my website and then ended up coming back and booking me for work.

So it does work. I am speaking from experience here and I want you to try it out and you know, I’d love to hear from you about what kind of improvements that you’ve made to your own profile from listening to this. Share a screenshot of the episode and tag me at @iamkatelizabeth and @personalbrandingproject and I’ll definitely reshare and I’ll go check out your profile and I would just love to hear how this helped — and as always, thank you so much for listening and make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss out on any other weekly episodes. We’re not just going to be talking about Instagram, we are going to talk about all of the social platforms and all of the different ways you can grow your personal brand in 2020 and beyond. So I’m really excited to share this little adventure with you. Chat to you next time.


Kat is a copywriter, brand & messaging strategist personal branding coach and the founder of The Personal Branding Project whose mission is to help you go from best-kept secret to in-demand brand.


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