3 Stealth Ways to Express Your Personal Brand on Instagram

Purpose, passion and a design that pops are all central to success on the social-media platform.

learn more about Haley Hoffman Smith

By Haley Hoffman Smith

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Many would argue that understanding how to express a personal brand on social media is one of the most challenging things to do, and yet it's necessary, and easier than you may think. A good rule of thumb? Think, "What would I do if I were a business?"

Although people and their personalities are fluid, adding consistency to what and how you post will equate your personal page with a brand to your followers. The important note here is to continue expressing the brand consistently, because it takes, on average, five-to-seven brand impressions for people to notice what you're doing. Compounded over time, your followers --even the ones who are strangers -- will start to feel like they know you, particularly if you follow these three guidelines.

Related: You Need a Personal Brand. Here's How You Build One.

1. Choose a cause.

While you may have many passions and interests, followers want to know what they'll get from you consistently. So, if your one big passion is sustainability, gear your captions and content towards that realm. If you suddenly add posts about digital marketing tactics, it gets a bit confusing for followers who come for your insights on sustainable initiatives.

Sometimes, a good starting place for this big question is considering what you most want to say. You're the one who will be creating the content, so what is in your heart that you want to teach or share with others? I know that this can be a bit muddy at first, so I recommend writing a personal manifesto. New York Times tech writer Thorin Klosowski suggests that the manifesto should lay out your topics (what you most want to focus on) and your principles (your beliefs and intentions) and do so with strong, affirmative statements. Rather than, "I want to be an authoritative voice for women in STEM," write, "I AM an authoritative voice." Put this manifesto by your desk or make it your phone wallpaper.

2. Choose your colors and fonts.

Companies create visual "brand books" with their logos, colors, fonts and overall brand feel. This is an important step in the creative process of building a business, because it engenders a sense of familiarity for the consumer over time. NDash Marketing VP Matt Solar blogs for Marketo that "the psychology of color can help [you] establish trust and familiarity by soliciting the right emotions … and increase the brand recognition with the desired reactions that they may provoke."

These colors and fonts can then be used on your Instagram story and any graphic-design posts within your feed. Again, the more consistent you are, the more quickly a follower will recognize that the post is from you when they see these branded markers.

As far as choosing the color goes, I personally went with a dark pink, simply because I like it. Studies find that colors like blue or red are the most popularly used for business brands, but this choice is all personal for you. If you choose a color you like, you're more likely to also have that color as your coffee tumbler or notebook color, so it keeps everything consistent. None of this should be calculated, necessarily. These are just ways to emphasize what you already love and express.

Related: Your Personal Brand Is Just as Important as Your Business Brand

3. Hone in on your "baked potato."

Finally, every strong personal brand has a product or concept that typifies its personality or is an extension of what the owner loves. For Spanx founder Sara Blakely, it's Cheez-It crackers, and for her husband Jesse Itzler, it's bananas. It doesn't necessarily have to be a food (although for many, it is), but the idea here is to ask yourself, "What do I love so much that my friends think of me when they see it?"

I accidentally discovered mine when I took to my Instagram story last year to discuss my baked-potato woes. As it is my favorite food, I had just ordered one singular baked potato from a steakhouse. For whatever reason, this really resonated with people. I started receiving pictures of baked potatoes with kind notes, and a school I spoke at even posted a picture of baked potatoes on their social-media feeds to announce I was cominng.

This is also something you can't overthink. Because it was a food I actually really liked, it was more probable that I'd be eating it more often and that I could enhance this marker of my brand with a picture on my Instagram story every time I did. It's silly, but it works. A client of mine drinks tea every night while she plans her following day, so I told her to get in the habit of posting the quote attached to her teabag. I now call this tactic the "baked-potato principle" -- accidentally establishing resonance with an audience because of a quirky thing you've always loved.

I'll reiterate once again: The secret here is consistency. The more you can create content in alignment with your passion, establish clearly visible brand expressions through color and font and find your own baked potato, the more the expression of your personal brand will become second nature. And your followers will feel they know you more than ever.

Haley Hoffman Smith

Speaker and Author

Haley Hoffman Smith is the author of the bestselling book "Her Big Idea" and was named by Forbes as one of today's most influential female speakers. She is a graduate of Brown University and the founder of Her Big Lash.

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