7 Tips on How to Be “Real” on Instagram While Staying Professional
(Guest Post from Bonnie Bryant Creative)
If you’re a business owner, you’ve heard the same line for years – ya gotta be “real” on social media and in your marketing; show your “true self” to connect with your customers. And it’s true!
Customers or clients convert when they feel a genuine connection to you and your brand. But – and this is a huge, giant, ten-foot-tall but – you’re still running a business. And even if you have the coolest, chillest, BFF-worthy brand persona, you need to keep in mind that you shouldn’t take “real” so far that you’re turning off potential customers with oversharing, TMI, or baby diaper butt stories.
Today, we’re talking how ways to be “real” on Instagram while staying professional……and without being TMI.
First Things First: Understand the “Why”
First, ask yourself – WHY are people following me?
Most of the time, people follow Instagram accounts to see great content – pretty, interesting photos and good captions.
If you’re a wedding planner, they want to see wedding inspiration and pretty pictures of your work – not sweaty gym selfies.
If you’re a VA, they follow you to see tips on how to stay organized in their business – not unappetizing photos of your Chipotle burrito bowl (yeah, I know they’re delicious, but that pile of sour cream isn’t the nicest-looking thing on the planet!).
If you’re an interior designer, they want to see ideas for their home and images of the gorgeous rooms you’ve designed – not three blurry images in a row of your kids running around the yard.
It’s happened to me before – I follow talented professionals to see more of their insights or their beautiful work…then, a few days or weeks later, random pics pop up in my feed.
Who the heck are these kids? Whose freaking poopy diaper is that?! I don’t want to see that! Wait, why are there six pictures in a row of a random family reunion? Who are these people?
Then I migrate to the profile to figure out WHY I’m following this person in the first place…..and yup – it’s one of those professionals I followed to see their work – and maybe become a customer one day. They stopped posting on-brand images and started turning their feed into a personal family album.
And the hard truth is…I didn’t follow them for that, so I unfollow them and they lose me as a potential customer.
When working on your brand strategy, make sure you understand WHY people are following you, and make sure your posts and content speak to that “why.”
Not sure if you should post something on Instagram?
Check out this quick and fun flow chart to help you decide!
Tip #2: Use Your Copy + Captions to Show Your Personality
Instagram is a visual medium. Keep your images on-brand and attractive to retain your followers, but show your personality in your copy. The best way to showcase your brand identity and your super cool, friendly, and relatable self is by using your words! If you have trouble figuring out how to write in your brand voice, consider investing in a professional copywriter who can get you started and give you some pointers.
My friend Leonora of Yellow Heart Art does this brilliantly. She posts well-styled, professionally photographed images of her work, which is why she has over 7,000 organic followers – people want to see her gorgeous products! But her feed is definitely NOT cookie cutter. Her captions are hilarious, and as a follower, you really get to see Leonora’s fun, bubbly personality shine through.
Tip #3: Use #fridayintroductions to Show a Personal Photo, Without Overload
It’s a personal preference, but I try not to post too many selfies in my feed. I’m definitely not a professional Instagram “hot girl,” so I feel weird posting a ton of pics of myself in the “permanent” feed (Instagram stories are a different ballgame – we talk about that next!).
That being said, customers do like associating a face with the great pics and awesome captions you’re posting.
Friday Introductions is a great way to do that! Post your favorite personal pic on a Friday with the #FridayIntroductions hashtag. I don’t do it every Friday – usually once a month or so. But, again, that’s a personal preference!
When doing Friday Introductions, people usually post 3-5 fun facts about themselves. I would recommend doing 2-3 “personal fun facts” (like: “I’m double-jointed!” and “I used to be the mascot for my high school football team and damn, that shark costume was ugly!“) and 1-2 “business fun facts” – tying your caption back to your business (“It might seem weird, but I LOVE the bookkeeping side of my business! Type A, y’all!”).
Tip #4: Use Instagram Stories to Show More of Your Fun Side
Instagram stories are casual, fun, and temporary – they disappear after 24 hours.
I use them to post fun parts of my day, random funny things that happen, and pics of me with the Koala filter on. Since they’re not permanent, you can feel freer to show the “fun” side of your brand persona – within reason.
Probably not a good idea to post drunken, dancing-on-the-barstool stories, unless your brand is “professional party girl!”
Tip #5: Don’t Be So “Real” That You Turn Off Potential Customers
I feel like this is the biggest misconception when it comes to being “real.”
There’s a fine line between openness, transparency, and honesty, and just plain TMI that’ll have potential customers saying #BoyBye.
Yes, it’s important for customers to see your personality and that there’s a real person behind your business….but when you start to cross the line of professionalism, making customers have second thoughts about working with you? Not good.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re a wedding planner. It’s a really busy season and you feel overwhelmed. You post an Instagram post or weepy Instagram story about how you can’t get your sh*t together, you’re so unorganized with all these weddings you have to do, there’s not enough time to finish everything, and you don’t know how you’re going to finish on deadline.
We all feel that way once in a while.
…But your customers don’t need to know that!
Tell it to your biz bestie, not people who might want to hire you!
A bride who sees a post like that will likely think, “I do NOT trust this person to handle my wedding. If she’s okay posting this teary-eyed hot mess moment on Instagram, she really must not have it together.”
I strongly believe in keeping things professional.
Some customers might think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your raw, unedited struggle – but others might be totally turned off. This might be an unpopular opinion in some circles, but I definitely think that it’s important to stay on the safe side and keep it profesh.
Before you post a three paragraph caption about the worst week ever, ask yourself – is this necessary for my brand, or am I just venting into the ether?
All that being said, self-care is important, especially when your business is riding on your shoulders. If you’re struggling with juggling it all, consider joining a group like the Rising Tide Society. My local chapter, in Suffolk County, New York, is AMAZING. If you’re in the area, check out our Meet Up Facebook group.
We have such real, deep conversations about our business struggles and successes, and we all support each other. It’s important to find a tribe like that!
(Sidenote from Mariah: If you’re a Buffalo, NY local, join the Buffalo Chapter RTS Facebook Group….we’d love to have you!)
Tip #6: Tie Your Struggle Back to Your Business Journey
If you’ve lived through a major struggle or dark time from which you’ve grown, you can still share it with the world. But if you’re sharing it as part of your brand, make sure to tie it back to your business.
Show your readers or followers how much you’ve grown from it, or how you didn’t let it define you and were able to move on.
I remember a really great episode of Shark Tank from a few years ago. The entrepreneur on the show was in recovery from addiction, and she incorporated that struggle into her brand story. It was authentic and real, and because she wove it into her brand story, it made sense for her to talk about it on the show.
Tip #7: Be Real on Instagram, But Within Reason
Everyone’s brand is different, and everyone’s comfort level is different. If your followers love the baby butt pics or whatever, keep doing you. But most people follow businesses to see more of their product or service – so use your images to show off that and your great copy,
#FridayIntroductions, and Instagram stories to highlight your brand persona!
Want more Tips + Resources for Instagram?
About the Author:
Bonnie Bryant Creative is a one-stop shop for your business’s brand identity. Bonnie designs stunning visuals that tell the story of your brand with just a glance. She writes creative, effective copy that captures your unique voice and tells your customers who you are. Connect with her on Instagram or check out her blog to learn more about creative brand design!