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10 Tips for Creating the Perfect Social Media Content for Your Brand

As a brand, social media is one of your biggest assets. Here's some advice from the experts at VSCO.
As an entrepreneur or small-business owner, social media should be a top priority. From promoting your products to building a community to developing your brand's voice -- the benefits of having a solid grasp on your business's social media presence is essential to the success and appeal of your company.
But don't worry, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on fancy equipment or hire a third-party agency to do it for you. But that doesn't mean just throwing a bunch of random pictures up on Instagram either. Instead, it's important to be thoughtful, listen to your audience, learn a few quick and easy camera tricks (yes, you can use your smartphone) and eventually, build a voice, a community and a large following.
To help you achieve all of these things, we've brought in some help from photography app VSCO's Kendal Kulley, an assistant editor and photo curator, and Michael Lyon, a content manager and photo curator, who are also both photographers.
"You've just got to be honest, you've got to tell a good story, you've got to be human," Lyon says. "The brands that are doing it best are telling a story -- it goes beyond the product."
To start creating content and building your brand on social, here are 10 tips from VSCO's Kulley and Lyon.
1. Consistency is key.
Lyon: "The biggest thing is consistency in how an image is shot, what you're shooting and what you're saying about your brand through that imagery. The brands that are doing it best are the ones that are doing it consistently and creating a consistent look. For instance, [on] the VSCO filters, you can copy and paste the same edits onto multiple photos in the app. So that's a great way to create the same look on a ton of different images. So, finding your workflow, finding a way to create a consistent look and making sure that everybody who's working on that social team can access the same tools to create that look is really important."

2. Rely on your audience.
Lyon: "Rely on your audience to be your biggest spokespeople. So, let's say you're selling a T-shirt and you see a ton of people buying the T-shirt and taking pictures, and uploading and tagging you in them -- rely on that community to spread the word. But [also] leverage that content to feature on [your] social outlets."
Kulley: "Sometimes there are situations where you could license [an image] directly from [the] person that took the picture, which is a win-win situation. Or sometimes it can get you some footing into your community's persona and voice. Just get to know your user base."
3. Try to use natural light.
Kulley: "I like shooting in natural light for most anything that I can because it's typically better than artificial light -- unless you can afford fancy studio lighting or great flash equipment. But natural light is pretty accessible and reliable."
Lyon: "I used to shoot weddings and sometimes I [would have] to get really beautiful portraits in a really cluttered hotel room. A trick I used was to turn off all of the overhead lights and put the subject close to a window -- whether you're taking a portrait of someone or a product shot -- so you get that natural light coming in from the side. That's a really simple way to create a clean, consistent look."
4. Best ways to use your smartphone.
Lyon: "On an iPhone or an Android, if you know a couple of tricks like how to use lighting to your advantage, you can create some amazing content as a small business.With my iPhone and the VSCO editing app, I can create images that look like they were shot on a professional camera. I shoot like 99 percent of my shots on my iPhone. And when you're sharing to social media, it doesn't need to be the image quality as far as megapixels -- that doesn't matter since you're sharing it on a screen that's tiny. So realistically if you have an iPhone and the VSCO app, you can create some of the most beautiful imagery. It can be on par with the digital SLR that will cost you $2,000."
Kulley: "Spending a bunch of money on a really nice camera doesn't make you a really good photographer. It's not synonymous in that way. The tools are part of it but you have to know how to use the tools, and if you've got a great eye, it's not so much what you're doing it with but how you're doing it."
5. Find inspiration.
Kulley: "Spend a little bit of time consuming content. I do a lot of mood boarding to try to get a sense of what I want when I take pictures. Maybe I'm taking pictures of jello or something like that. And I had recently favorited a lot of food pictures that had really unique and funky lighting, and I would reference those and either use Instagram collection or VSCO's collection feature to pull them all together. I know that people print out pictures. I really like throwing stuff together in a visual collage on my computer screen. It's really important to know what you're going for before you just go for it."

6. Plan before you publish.
Lyon: "In the edit view in VSCO, you can lay out your [photos] in 3x3 squares and edit [them] there to get a preview before they publish. You know what it's going to look like [and] that the colors are going to go well together side by side."
Kulley: "Or you could do it in your iPhone -- favorite some images that you took, then create an album and rearrange them in the album. You can get a sense of your arrangement for maximizing space."
7. Take lots of photos, and don’t delete them.
Lyon: "When you're taking a product shot, take maybe four, five or more different angles. Each is going to translate differently on different social outlets. Maybe a horizontal one will perform better on Twitter, square might perform better on Instagram. Have those varieties, and [don't] be afraid to shoot a lot of different angles and a lot of different lighting scenarios."
Kulley: "Don't be afraid to keep all of your shots. Maybe you're going through your pictures and you took 12 portraits of somebody wearing an earring and one is the cleanest and best picture of that, but don't immediately trash the other ones. [With the other images], you could maybe crop in on those other areas for detail and focus on different kinds of images. [For example], maybe a stylist is dressing up a model and she's tying a knee-high boot up her leg. Instead of posting a picture of the boot to sell, post that behind-the-scenes picture of them getting ready for the picture. It's more of an experience. It's really easy to make the perfect photo but it's hard to know when you've made a really good photo on accident. I think that's where the magic is."
8. Be socially aware.
Kulley: "It's really important to consider issues that are going on in the world and not to be careless about posting something while maybe there's a natural disaster going on. Just be mindful about everything -- be a really, really good person. Don't be an asshole."

9. Don’t just try to sell.
Kulley: "One of the biggest things is [brands] not understanding their voice. That's really important and [often] overlooked. Words are really important. Pictures are very important. Pictures, I would argue, are more important in social media situations. People never want to be sold to. [For some brands], it's always about, 'Buy, buy, buy.' They're not passionate about it, they're passionate about making money, and I want to feel the more human nature in there."

10. Promote a lifestyle, not just a product.
Lyon: "The brands that do it best are the ones selling more of a lifestyle. It's not as much about the product as it is about how it actually adds value to [someone's] life. Look at Patagonia and the way they brand and sell their products -- it's almost like the product sells itself and they're just trying to sell the lifestyle around it. You've just got to be honest, you've got to tell a good story, you've got to be human. People's bullshit meters are so sensitive now, they know when someone's trying to sell something. The brands that are doing it best are telling a story -- it goes beyond the product."

Kulley: "My friend has a shop in Austin, Texas, called Olive. [Their account is] very well curated. It encompasses a lot. There's content from old movies, there's different angles or there's just a picture of a hand on a flower. That has nothing to do with what she's selling but it's about the feelings of the photo. It's all painting a bigger, deeper picture."


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