Grow Your Gram | Day 3: Cultivate {Part 1}

Well the plan was to have all 5 days of this class happen Monday-Friday of the same week.  One thing as a creative business owner I've had to learn.  Essentials and non-essentials.  Essential: you get all 5 sessions crammed full of actionable content.  Non-essential: you get it all in the same 5 day period.  Essential: my clients get their projects done on time and with top quality.  Non-essential:  I look like an online instructional rock-star.  Ya'll are ok with being real, right?

Thank you for all the well-wishes and prayers for my family.  One of the the things I value most is my business allows me to be there for them in their time of need. Both of my folks are dealing with simultaneous dramatically life-altering medical diagnoses.  At the same time.  It is a lot.  But we are taking one minute at a time.

OK, personal update over.  Now on to the good stuff.  This is maybe my favorite part of this 5-day series.  We have created an authentic visually branded identity.  We have curated an intentional and visually cohesive image feed.  (High fives for all of you daring ones who deleted images between reading Day 2 and here.)  Now we talking about cultivating your content and community.

Remember how I said you didn't need 5,000 followers to see success from using Instagram?  I mean I hope we both have at least that many followers one day.  BUT if you have 500 followers who are engaged and connecting in with your content and growing into a community, this is more valuable 1000 who don't get involved at all.  I am not saying numbers are not important.  I am just saying they are not the only way to measure true success of your online efforts.


Let me give you an example.  I want to build a community of flourishing creatives who want to have story-led businesses. I want to attract and encourage (1) creative entrepreneurs who want inspiration regarding branding and creativity, (2) wedding planners and brides who might like my invitations, wedding pros who might wind up referring clients to my invitations and (3) folks who might like hand-lettering and prints or be interested in licensing my illustration work.

Knowing this is key to all that follows. Why? Because it gives me clear guidelines of what content I am going to cultivate.  My content focuses on my illustration work, hand-lettered pieces, wedding invitations and targeted inspirational content.  I am not going to post snapshots of my dinner or my favorite new shoes.  Why? I am not a lifestyle brand, a recipe blog, a nutrition guru or a shoe shop.  Make sense?


You've cleaned, ahem curated, your feed until you have a cohesive starting place.  NOW what do you do?  You post only content with the right style and the right topic matter that is relevant and helpful to the community you want to build.

I recommend to my branding clients that they pick 2-3 targeted content areas aligned with their business goals.  People follow people who consistently produce quality content that interests them.  Moment of truth:  I have "unfollowed" almost every personal account I once followed with a very few exceptions.  I no longer use Instagram for my personal photos.  I share behind the scenes shots all the time and share my heart authentically.  But the only folks who get to see my dinner are the ones eating it with me.

My three content areas are:

  1. Hand-Lettering & Watercolor Illustration work
  2. Wedding Invitations/Design work
  3. Inspiration, Insight & Encouragement for Creative Entrepreneurs

If it doesn't fit into one of these categories, 99% of the time it will not get shared.  {With an exception of the occasional puppy pic of my 7.5 pound studio assistant, Charlie.}

How do these categories translate into content choices?

  1. Work in progress photos, studio snapshots, work space photos, finished product photos/mock-ups, close up detail shots, photos of tools being used, photos that are instructional in some way, photos of my studio pup (of course)
  2. Work-in-progress shots, product shots, finished designs, mock-ups, styled shots, photographs from styled shoots I've collaborated in, photos/screenshots/re-posts of where the invites have been featured.
  3. Quotes, photos that visually support what is written in the comments, tips and insight, shoutouts to other creatives I have worked with or admire, photos of what I am working on, brand snapshots of client work, announcements of sales/product launches (keep this to a low roar), etc..

PRO TIP 1:  If you very much still want to share snippets from your personal life, consider sharing them in the new Instagram Stories feature.  The content there automatically disappears after a day so it will not change the aesthetic of your feed.  You can also use this to talk more about your process or products. give a tour of your space or show off your stunning personality.  

PRO TIP 2: You are not obligated to leave photos up on your Instagram.  Maybe it contains content with a deadline.  Maybe you thought it was perfectly styled but then you look back 3 days from the post date and it doesn't fit like you thought.  YOU have POWER to DELETE any post any time it is no longer helpful, useful or cohesive.

Business like doesn't have to be boring and professional can still be personal.  It is all about building relationships.  Which leads into the second part of this post, Cultivating Community.  But this post is already long enough as is.  SO, how about I talk about that in a separate Day 3 post?

And seeing as I've not been able to keep to my schedule and we are at the weekend already, I'm going to leave you with a little homework I normally only give my clients.

Doing this will set you up for major success, not just on Instagram, but throughout your social media and online community building.  It will also help you drill down on your primary content areas.  Once you download and complete this exercise come back here and use your newly defined tribe to outline 3 major content areas and then brainstorm type of content you could cultivate in each of the 3 areas.  Just like I shared above.

It is time to intentionally Define Your Tribe.  You don't have to fill this out like it was a pop quiz or a job application.  I encourage to take time to put yourself into the mindset of each persona your identify, answer the way they would, journal about the response, even sketch out/paint out your responses.  I encourage all my clients to start a visual business journal, where we can build great strategy in a creative format they might actually want to revisit and build upon.  And I'd sure love to see what you come up with! 

If you care to share, tag me on Instagram @micheleperrydesign with snapshot of your tribe!