A basic guide to setting up your presence on Instagram

What I have learned over the years is that nothing goes without saying when it comes to branding-related issues. And, truth be told, sometimes clients get initially annoyed by the level of detail and the seemingly endless issues brought to their attention. I’ve often been asked what is so complicated about picking some colors, fonts and images when so much cool stuff is available. I try not to comment. 🙂

Given that Instagram is such a fast-growing social network, and a focus these days for many businesses large and small, I decided to set up a simple, no-nonsense outline that I show potential clients looking to set up a new account or revamp their existing presence.

I know, I know, it’s so basic that you wonder who doesn’t already know this stuff? The answer is: many people. I blame the platform and the exceptional talent out there for making the Instagram thing look so easy.

It’s actually not easy. And, rather than scare people with too many details right off the bat, an outline like this one serves as a gentle introduction. 🙂

Branding guide.png


How to create the best About page for your website


Although putting together a website is no easy feat, it all seems like fun and games until you get to the About page. I’ve seen so many clients struggle with this uniquely personal space and missing the mark.

Some overthink it. Some dismiss it as ‘filler’. Some get wrapped up in their poetic story or vision and forget about the essentials. Some overwhelm with information. And last but not least, some forget about design and user-friendliness.

Since the About page is typically one of the most visited pages on any site, it’s important to get it right. And you can absolutely get it right by understanding what users are looking for, evaluating and emulating well-crafted content, and avoiding common mistakes.

First, remember the About page is not about you. It’s about the person who clicks on a link that leads to it. There’s a difference between “This is who I am” and “This is how my being who I am benefits you”.

When someone visits your site, you have about 8 seconds to make a connection (check out the Time article), and provide a direct benefit to the person looking at your content. Whether you are solving problems, offering information, entertainment or inspiration, you must give visitors what they’re looking for.

On the About page, you have an opportunity to do this in a uniquely creative way. Your visitors want to see real people and a real company who will provide whatever product or service they’re interested in. They also want to know your values match theirs.

Regardless of company size or industry, the About page is where visitors go to find answers to these 5 basic questions: When, Who, Where, What and How.

So, answering these questions is your first priority. Whether you choose a list format, a gallery format, or a tell a story in a paragraph complemented by images, it needs to be short, engaging, interesting, and useful.

The key here is an authentic, honest voice – your voice. Good storytelling boosts conversion rates!

Take a look at SalemTown‘s approach to story-telling. It’s simple, short, interesting and informative.


As far as design, you want a clean, visually interesting and user-friendly presentation. Here’s another good  example of a well designed, simple and engaging About page by Rent-The-Runway:


As far as what to avoid, here is a list of some common mistakes I see again and again on About pages:

  • absence of photos, or photos that don’t show real people, reflect the brand and/or company culture
  • absence of names, address and other important contact information
  • impersonal, boring, generic context lacking real data
  • an abundance of pretentious language, corporate-speak, buzz words and acronyms
  • mostly self-congratulatory content
  • a loooooong story
  • brief, dismissive content
  • video only
  • no links or call-to-action elements
  • absent tag line or other benefit-driven element

Take a look at these two examples. First, one that surprised me – Huffington Post. What is your first reaction? Do you want to read all this? The italic font creates confusion, and it looks like the About Us headline accidentally fell on to the page. There’s nothing here that catches the eye except for the “Commitment to Inclusivity” bit.


The second example, Ultimate Staffing Services, is another visual failure. The headline, which is so important, is lost. The frames on the page are uneven and create confusion. Text is difficult to read because of the formatting, and the visitor is forced to wonder where the company’s bio might be in all this.

Ultimate Staffing

Now that we’re clear on what to avoid, here’s a simple list to follow when you’re designing the About page:

Headline or tag line
Simple rule here – tell me who you are and what you can do for me in one sentence that stands out and is easy to read. I will probably be looking at your page on a smartphone or tablet, so the first thing I see needs to catch my eye and interest.

Check out this great example from Twitter:


Images create an instant connection, and add visual interest to any page. I want to see you and your team, not stock photography or avatars. I want to see happy clients. The photos should reflect who you are and your company culture.

Check out this great example from EHD Studio (for both images and story):


Names, Address and Contact info
Don’t make me have to go to the Contact page to get an email, phone number or address. I am here to confirm your legitimacy, so make it easy for me.

Again, EHD Studio gets it right. (They also have contact info at the bottom of the page.)


Tell me When, Who, Where, What and How – and use emotional language
I want to know your story, in your voice. I don’t want to see something pretentious, I don’t have the patience to figure out acronyms. Make your story short and interesting. A timeline, a gallery format, a list, or a short paragraph will do the trick. Make me smile and like you. Be genuine and friendly.

(Remember, you must connect benefit to an emotional state. And, you want to maintain a conversational tone. You are talking to a friend, not delivering a paper at an academic convention. For example: you are helping not aiding; you are giving, not donating; your product or service isn’t superior, it’s better.)

Like everyone else, I love a freebie. Especially if you’re not asking for anything in return. That shows me you care about what benefits me above what benefits you. A video featuring something you provide that’s of use to me would be a great option. Just don’t let that be the only thing I see on your page.

Call to Action
I am open to offers that benefit me. If I’m looking for more information, I’d love to have it easily accessible. So, include a link to what is most relevant in your presentation. Show me something I can sign up for or find out more about, and ideally pair it with a benefit or discount. Or make it easy for me to shop.

(If you’re going to show me a pop-up, make sure you have the right launch time frame figured out, because I might be a low-intent user.)

Check out this simple, clean approach at Bulldog Skincare:


And now to wrap this up…

Getting the About page right – which means creating that eye-catching and memorable user experience everyone seeks – need not be a daunting task. You can have fun with it.

Stick to a simple list of do-s and don’t-s, show genuine interest in your audience, don’t be afraid to be creative, and stay honest about what makes you and your product/service special. The result will be fantastic!

Email ad samples

The boldness of call-to-action elements is a delicate matter.

Yes, we want people to ‘click-here’, ‘learn more’, ‘sign-up’, ‘reserve’ and ‘buy now’…but we don’t want to be pushy. We want a conversation – colors, words, the nuance of an offer or event within the unique atmosphere of a particular brand. We also want to avoid being predictable or boring, while at the same time, we want (hopefully) instant recognition.

A good email strategy ends up being a carefully choreographed contradiction: consistency must dance with variety, familiarity must dance with novelty, boldness must dance with artful shyness, and utility must dance with artsy-ness.


email promos

Rewards program project

A rewards program will benefit any business. It serves to reward loyalty, encourage purchases, attract new customers, encourage referrals, and keeps customers ‘in the loop’ via email/text – all with a minimal investment.

When launching a rewards program, some businesses look to immediately set up a complex system. My suggestion is to always start with something simple.

Consumers don’t have the time or patience to process complicated rules. A business should be in the business of attracting potential customers, and encouraging existing customers to shop/visit frequently, not put forth some elaborate marketing piece that’s going to bore and intimidate people. (You’d think everyone gets this, but that’s not the case. Often, we all get caught up in our intricate, wonderful plans, and forget about the golden rule of “make it simple”.)

Some companies offer reward programs where membership involves different tiers – usually silver, gold, platinum, etc. Customers must reach various purchase thresholds to attain and keep a status at the different tiers. Tier thresholds obviously relate to a dollar amount (or number of specific services bought) over a certain period – usually one year. Some companies segment purchase periods in weeks, vary them by season, or use 3 and 6 month periods. Points earned are redeemable for services, products or other offerings depending on many different factors. Some companies only offer their own products/services, while others include additional products/services via cross promotions.

A simple option to begin with is a straightforward rewards program that doesn’t have any membership tiers. The program is set up so customers can redeem points as soon as they get them, with the option of saving points for a larger purchase. Usually, a certain purchase threshold is expected over a given period, otherwise points and additional benefits that may be included are lost.

I always recommend starting with an ‘open’ rewards program, accumulating data over a period of 6 months – 1 year, and then upgrading/changing the system as needed. Any change should always be presented and perceived as an upgrade!

In the case of this project, my suggestion was exactly that. I also insisted we don’t apply a membership fee at this point. I recommended a system that applied 10 points per dollar spent (instead of 1 point), thereby enhancing the perception of value, so that customers who spend $25-50 (average for this particular business) would earn 250 – 500 points instead of 25 to 50.

Other point values were discussed, such as 10 points for every $20, or having a set number of points per service/product. This would have created an accounting nightmare, and as I sometimes say, nobody needs a headache they don’t absolutely need!

I suggested working out a plan to create incentives that encourage customers to save points towards a larger purchase they wouldn’t normally make, which can work out nicely as an up-sell.

A very important point here: my recommendation was to initially make whatever rewards earned be transferable. What a great way to get new members, and have them try products/services!

As I mentioned, in addition to the simple point redemption, the standard rewards could be enhanced with various other perks exclusive to members such as birthday points, special event discounts, etc. I also suggested testing double point offers, online-only offers, and discussed various options for applying restrictions on perks.

As far as what was needed for the program, in addition to a membership card (yes, people still use those), an app had to be developed and linked to the company’s site for use on phones and tablets.

Here are two design ideas at the first stage of development – two looks and formats to start the conversation about how to best represent the brand.

vip mockup