How to Build A Sustainable Fashion Brand on Instagram

I always try to do my best to always answer the questions we receive via email and social media. Typcally the questions are centered around how to build a sustainable closet and what ethical fashion actually is but, as a PR and marketing strategist I was so excited to receive a question about social media marketing and how to build a brand on Instagram! 

Whether you're a designer, blogger/influencer, stylist, retailer, or online platform or you're building a personal or business brand -- Instagram is a great platform for visually sharing the BTS of your brand, expanding your audience and creating community.

When it comes to building your brand on Instagram, it all boils down to six things -- knowing your audience, posting relevant and quality content, being authentically you, having a visually appealing feed, engaging with your audience and being consistent.

If you're interested in learning more about building your personal or business brand on Instagram -- keep reading!

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01. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE (like the back of your hand) 
In general knowing and understanding who your audience/customer is is a crucial part of running a fashion business. Whether you’re posting on Instagram, designing your blog/website, pitching your brand to a magazine editor or designing a new collection, it’s important that you always create with a specific target audience in mind. In order to build your Instagram following you need to attract and keep the attention of the people that are interested in what you have to offer. The brands that are dominating the industry right now like Everlane and Reformation are the ones that have taken the time to understand who their audience is thus allowing them to not only know what their audience wants but what they'll respond to. 

The more specific you can get about who your customer is, what they like, what they dislike, their budget, their lifestyle, and other buying decisions, the better you’re able to connect with them and help them see value in what you have to offer. When you know who your audience is you can post content that you know they'll like and create products you know they'll want to buy.

// PRO TIP // How do you figure out who your audience is? Instagram is a great platform for getting to know your audience. Not only do they provide you with analytics (if you've switched your account over to a business profile) but they also give you the ability to simply ask your audience about their likes and dislikes via the poll and question features. Use them! You can also look at the posts with the most comments and likes to get an idea of what your audience enjoys.

Whatever you choose to post on Instagram you want to make sure that it aligns with your brand. For example, as a sustainable fashion platform if we were to post pictures promoting fast fashion giants I'm quite sure we would quickly lose all of our IG friends. Whatever your message and purpose are make sure that the content you post is in alignment with your core values as a brand. In addition to relevant content, always post quality content. Try to refrain from posting things just to post something. You want to make sure that everything on your feed is providing value to your audience in some way whether its humor, information, resources, facts, style tips, etc. 

Instagram is awesome in that it allows you to connect with people literally all over the world. Not only that, Instagram also gives us the amazing opportunity to see behind the scenes of our favorite brands however, it's also really easy to get distracted. Because it's so easy to see behind-the-scenes of other businesses sometimes it can make you feel like you need to change the way you do things -- change the types of content you post, change your brand voice, change your fonts, etc because it seems to be working for someone else. In an unauthentic world people crave authenticity. People don't necessarily want a 'perfect brand' they want to support people/brands that align with their own personal ethos. Define what your brand purpose and identity are and stay true to that. Across the entire fashion industry there are thousands of sustainable brands out there that are all promoting a similar message. How do you stand out? By being authentic to your brand, your story, your voice and what you want to share with the world. Your purpose and your story helps to give people a sense of who you are. It helps them to understand what your brand is all about and if their values align with yours, it helps them to fall in love with you and become a part of your community.

When it comes to visually branding your Instagram feed, there are many different options and Instagram themes (IG themes are a cohesive style that runs throughout your entire profile). Creating a theme for your IG keeps things consistent, shows a level of professionalism and helps your audience identify your brand. Some people only post pictures within a particular color scheme, some post pictures that change colors gradually as you scroll through their feed. Others crop their photos in to rectangles or only post photos if it contains a particular color, etc, etc. 

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. You can brand your Instagram feed however you want. The key, is that once you decide on an aesthetic, that you stay consistent. Think about the Instagram accounts that you follow. Chances are they have a visual appeal to them which is the result of them taking the time to determine their aesthetic and then consistently sticking to it. 

The first 9-12 photos on your feed are essentially the first impression your audience and potential customers have with your account. When someone clicks to your account because you were tagged somewhere or because your picture was on their explore feed, you want to give them a reason to stick around and hit follow. Every single picture you post on Instagram IS important and should be consistent with your overall marketing strategy. 

Decide what color scheme you want that also aligns with the overall visual identity of your brand (your website and marketing materials). Not only will this create an aesthetic for your feed but it will also make life so much easier when deciding what to post and what your followers will respond to because it's already a part of your branding process. 

When you take pictures for your feed, make sure you edit them all the same to maintain a consistent aesthetic. Not only will this create a cohesive feed, it'll also cut down on editing time once you've found a process that works for you.  There are many great editing apps available to help you create a beautiful visual aesthetic for your Instagram feed. Two of my favorite editing apps are Snapseed and VSCOcam. We typically increase the highlight and brightness and play around with shadows and saturation. 

//PRO TIP//  Lighting has a huge impact on how your photos will look. Always try to take your pictures in natural light. Try not to over edit your photos and use too many filters that the image is unrecognizable. 

// PRO TIP: Don't take your photos in the Instagram app. It's not the best quality plus, it's always a good idea to take multiple shots to get the perfect one. The Insta camera only lets you take one at a time. 

//PRO TIP: If you’re going to repost or ‘regram’ photos from other accounts, try to do it in such a way that retains a level of cohesiveness.  

Be social and engage with your followers and respond to every comment and tag. It’s called social media for a reason. The more social you are the more connections you can build. It can get tough once you start to get hundreds of comments to respond to everyone but if you’re averaging 3 or 4 comments per picture, there’s no reason why you can’t respond. If your audience is taking the time to comment and chat with you about how much they love that new dress you designed or, how much they enjoyed an event you hosted, why would you not respond? Additionally, the more comments a post gets the more likely Instagram will share it on the explore page. So engage and chat with your community. 

Being consistent with the type of content you share, the look of your photos, the tone of your captions and the frequency you post helps your followers get a sense of your brand and connect with you.

Some creatives are able to go with the flow and create visually stunning images naturally throughout the day as ideas come to them. If this is not you, and even if it is, I recommend creating a schedule for curating visual content for your social platforms and planning your posts in advance. Having a plan makes everything so much easier. It gives you flexibility, peace of mind and allows you to spend less time racking your brain trying to figure out what to post, or what to say in your caption. This will give you more time to focus on other parts of building your brand. Granted, things may change and you may see something that you want to post right now, but it’s far better to squeeze something in then to not have anything planned and have to come up with content ideas everyday.

A content calendar is essentially a calendar that maps out all the Instagram posts that you intend to publish within a specific time period. Content calendars help keep you organized, ensure that you consistently publish quality content in a way that is time efficient and stress-free and also helps you maintain the visual aesthetic of your feed. I use (and love) Planoly (app and desktop) which allows us to schedule content and visually plan out what our feed will look like. It also sends reminders and automatically posts at the scheduled time.

Did you find this post helpful? Are there other business related topics you want us to chat about? Do you have any additional tips for building a sustainable fashion brand on Instagram? Join the conversation and comment below!