The Five C’s of Cultivating Your Brand’s Visual Voice on Instagram and Beyond

February 13, 2015

Cultivating Visual Voice

If your brand is on social, you’ve probably already put a significant amount of thought into your brand’s voice.

Defining your brand’s voice for social media messaging is standard planning, but as visual platforms gain traction, defining your brand’s “visual voice” is becoming just as important as defining a characteristic verbal tone.

Have you paid attention to your visual voice? If so, congratulations! You are ahead of the curve. Whether you’ve already started to think about it, or are a complete beginner, we’ve got some quick, easy to implement advice that will help you to cultivate a unique, strong and successful visual voice.

How to Cultivate Your Visual Voice: Consider the Five C’s



A well composed photo is always going to be better accepted than a poorly composed photo. Familiarize yourself with the rule of thirds and apply this rule when taking and selecting photos for social sharing.

Foreground and background are also important considerations when taking and selecting your photos. Avoid cluttered or distracting backgrounds that detract attention from the subject of your image.

Ask Yourself This:

  • Does your photograph have a clearly defined subject?
  • Is your image well lit?
  • Does your photo tell a story?

Jonathan Adler’s Instagram photos are always well composed and often tell a story or invite storytelling.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 5.22.51 PM


Images are cropped into a square on Instagram, but there are apps like NoCrop and SquareReady that allow you to post non cropped images. If you are re-using images on multiple platforms, this is handy. These apps add white borders to the image so that you can post the full rectangular photo inside of a square.

It’s a handy fix, but plan before you post! Use non cropped images occasionally only. Constant posting of differently sized/cropped images without some forethought, can result in a feed that looks choppy, mismatched and disorganized.

If the majority of your images are bordered/non cropped images, consider posting them in a set pattern – all vertical cropped images for a week, then all horizontal, or switch between vertical-horizontal-vertical for an interesting “basketweave” border effect in your feed.

Ask Yourself This:

  • Are most of your images square, horizontal or vertical cropped?
  • If you have multiple “crops”, what is your plan for arranging or spacing them out in your feed?

Lisa Leonard does a good job of mixing cropped and uncropped images (as well as personal and business images) without compromising the overall integrity and storytelling feel of her feed.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 5.05.58 PM


Aside from an association with your existing brand colors and logos, color use in images has both subtle and unsubtle effects on social media engagement.

It’s important to carefully consider the role of color in your posts.

Ask Yourself This:

  • Black and White, or full color images?
  • Does your visual voice favor pale or saturated colors?
  • Is there a set background color or preferred palette that would distinguish your brand images and best help tell your story?
  • Are there any specific filters or presets on apps like Snapseed, Mextures or Afterlight that you can use to define and achieve consistent coloring on all your posts?

Tieks weaves their signature color turquoise (seen on the soles of their shoes and on their boxes) and shots of bright white through all their posts



The content or subject of your images – what you choose to shoot and share – is a huge part of your visual voice.

Ask Yourself This:

  • What types of images do we share? Products? People? Places?
  • Do you share images with or without text? Are there standards in place for font/style of images with text?
  • Is there any tension? An ongoing story? Is there any reason to come back and see more of this content, or what happens next with the content?
  • Are there any popular memes (Throwback Thursday, Wanderlust Wednesday) or other self imposed posting schedules you can adopt that will define content expectations on a weekly basis?

Beaches Resorts shares holiday and themed events interspersed with images of what they are known best for – fabulous beaches!



Consistency is perhaps the single most important “C” for cultivating a distinctive visual voice. Some of the most unique and well followed visual voices are the ones that give us predictable content. When we look at their feeds we have a clear idea of what we will see and when we like it, it keeps us confidently coming back for more.

Look at your account in feed mode, several images at a time to assess consistency.

Ask Yourself This:

  • Can viewers expect to see a collection of similarly colored or filtered images?
  • Are your images cropped similarly, and if not, are the differences deliberate, forming an intentional pattern?
  • Is your subject matter consistent, if not in every image, in a weekly or monthly pattern?
  • Is your image composition and/or shooting perspective consistent and planned?
  • Is your brand’s visual voice in sync with written messaging on social?

ihavethisthingwithfloors hits it out of the park with their beautiful, disciplined, curated feed of floors. Who knew something so simple could be so visually compelling? While the feet and the floors may vary, the perspective and subject matter remains the same, and colors change gradually. It’s a fascinating and artful look at a single subject.

Many brands are present on the visual web but many are still struggling to establish and manage their visual voice. Don’t wait to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to increase engagement. Brands with a unique visual voice stand out!

Do you have any examples of great visual voice implementation to share with us? We’d love to see what your brands are doing. Tweet us @Hashtracking or leave us a comment.

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