Behind every polished social media account is someone taking time to create, innovate, and curate an image that speaks to a specific demographic. Now while this sounds pretty daunting and technical, there is a creative side to this that can be pushed and explored at the same time. Walking that fine line between the two is the trickiest part. Good thing we’re here to create a crash course on how you can better fine-tune your own content curation!
It’s easy to confuse your audience by not keeping up your branding image, switching from one mood to the next, and not keeping true to your message. One of the keys to a successful account is being organized in your principles. This leads me to the first step.
Step #1: Find Your Style/Mood
First, you need to ask yourself how you want to portray yourself or your brand. The best way to do this is to figure out your demographic and what their likes are. For example, let’s take a look at fashion and lifestyle influencer, @kkarmalove. Her feed is light and airy; lots of blush pink, whites, and soft colors; and her fashion style is a mix of boho/girly chic. Christine (@kkarmalove) shared that her largest demographic is females ranging in the ages of 18-24, which coincides with the content she creates for them.
Once you figure out your brand’s demographic and the types of imagery they enjoy and respond to, come up with a set of guidelines for your content to adhere to. Similar to creating a brand package for a business, you’ll need to specify a color scheme, a mood (mood boards are helpful), and a voice (how will you speak to your audience?). Following these simple guidelines whenever you create content for yourself should better direct you and make it easier to paint the bigger picture.
Some questions you can ask yourself:
1. Do I want to my feed to be monochromatic, colorful, or incorporate pops of color?
2. Do I want to be more personable in front of the camera or distant?
3. Do I want to portray my brand as a business or more as an individual?
4. What content does my audience best respond to and why did they respond to it?
5. What are other social media accounts my audience follows and how can I keep that same loyalty?
Step #2: Do Your Research
The next step to content curation is to research how you will achieve the results you want. It’s easy to visualize what you want, but execution takes time, preparation, and research. Scope out locations, style, clothes, props, decor, and if needed, models that will fit the vibe and mood. I’m sure we can all relate to jumping into projects head first without prior knowledge of the execution and then realizing afterwards that you wasted all this time and money on an end product you can’t even use. Don’t take research for granted.
Another part of curating is also researching other feeds that match a similar aesthetic to yours. See what they’re doing right and wrong, save inspiration, and make mood boards that you can later grab from to add to your content.
Step #3: Outreach
Another big way to step up your content is to do outreach: Outreach develops into collaboration and collaboration means cross-promotion, exposure, and working together to create amazing content. Two heads are better than one, right? It might give you insight to other creative areas unexplored, give you inspiration to push yourself to the next level, network, and elevate you from just a stand-alone curator to one that is branching out to do bigger projects.
Don’t forget to be true to yourself while you network. Be true to your image even outside social media and stay consistent in the principles/captions you preach. Listening to other curators around you, learning from them, and observing how they create their own content is a great way to get first-hand experience and to avoid mistakes that they might have made in the past. There are a ton of great resources for this, such as the International Style Institute, that host seminars for those interested in pushing their social media game further.
Step #4: Create!
Now that you have your branding down and your research all done, get out there and start creating some amazing content that people are going to stand by and love. Hard work is always appreciated and noted in the industry. Get some good working knowledge on the type of camera you are using as well so that you have versatility and flexibility at your fingertips. Ditch the smartphone and invest in a camera with a decent sensor so your photos on social media are up to par with the standards. Something like an EOS Rebel SL2 or an EOS M6 is a great place to start. Nobody will appreciate a blurry, pixelated photo taken on a potato (a squash maybe, but definitely not a potato).
Also, before you blow your budget on a million props you probably won’t use or need, plan out your shoot by mapping out exactly what you’ll be shooting. I personally love drawing out on paper what I will be creating and listing the props I’ll use right next to it so that I can knock out all the photos I need in one shoot. Time it right and you can create content for up to a month if you plan it out! It is also helpful to invest in large poster boards to create different backdrops for flatlays (photos where arranged items are shot from above). Some backdrops that I have for my personal collection include a poster board with marble contact paper, a white wooden pallet that I painted, another poster board with some patterned wallpaper I glued onto it, plain white poster board, black poster board, and chestnut/dark brown wood. This way I have a wide variety of “locations” to use without breaking the bank. You can also check out dollar stores and 99 cent stores for cheap props that can be redesigned to look expensive. Gold paint is your best friend, other than tacos. We all know tacos are bae.
Here is an example of a shot I created using my marble poster board and some props I found lying around. It looks like a well polished bathroom, but in reality, I’m squatting in my living room, shooting this setup.
Step #5: Plan out Your Feed
Shooting the content is not the end of the journey, my friend. Now that you’ve created the content, you must plan out the visual hierarchy. How does it lay out on your feed? Are there any specific shots that need to be timed on a specific day? Is there a good visual of lakes and rivers flowing throughout your feed? For those who are not familiar with the term “lakes and rivers,” it is a design phrase used to explain the eye’s visual path through someone’s work. It has to do with the negative space and how it flows within a frame; mainly, it is used to define typographic alignment in most cases, but I believe that the term can even be applied for social media composition. This is probably the most challenging part of this entire crash course but I’ll list a couple things that can be a rule of thumb for you guys.
These are some ways you can create a compelling feed and have the eyes drawn to these specific patterns. Similar patterns in subject matter, theme, or color palette draws in the eye and gives the sense of an overarching theme even if the surrounding photos aren’t completely related.
1. X formation
Notice how the orange color scheme pops throughout the feed and creates a sense of unity, even though the photos are not all related.
Even though the travel/wanderlust theme isn’t apparent in every photo, the fact that it is laid out this way creates the whole vibe of the feed. Soft pastel colors following one another in a vertical formation lends a nice palette for the eyes to group together.
This version is my absolute favorite style because it is also the most versatile. I use this on my own feed because, as a photographer, my photos aren’t always the same edits or theme. This pattern allows me to mix school bus vibes with Nevada canyons or girly lifestyle shots with minimal sneaker shots.
Probably the easiest pattern to execute, you create a clean feed by uploading three consecutive images so that the colors/themes just overlay each other like a colorful cake.
This is similar to rows, but a little more casual and less in your face. It gives more variation in the feed so it can still lend itself the uniformity without the strict boundaries.
Some great planning apps to consider are Planoly and Unum. They both allow you to upload images into a grid so you may adjust the layout before committing to it. They also allow you to schedule posts, write in captions, and transfer the images to your account so that you never miss your prime time to post. There are also apps specific to scheduling such as Hootsuite if you need to manage several different social media platforms.
Step #6: Respond and Adjust
Once you’ve locked in everything, the only other thing to do now is to learn from your mistakes, see how your audience responds to your content, and adjust accordingly. Nobody is going to nail their feed right off the bat and you will go through many trials and errors before becoming satisfied.
Now repeat the steps and improve every time. Good luck on your journey!
The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.
All images are copyright Jennifer Wu @xjenn3