Class Notes: How To Build A Strong And Authentic Instagram Brand

Instagram is not something that Hacks to Happy has used. I could never wrap my head around exactly what to post on an Instagram account for a website. I enjoy looking at beautiful, inspiring, or drool-worthy pictures on Instagram, but I’ve never been able to create a plan for my own Instagram account. I enjoy writing, not social media. However, this site needs to branch out into the wonderful world of social media, and Instagram is the best place to do it. It’s not about spreading rumors or talking trash – it’s about telling a story through your pictures, and that sounds up this site’s alley.

The first thing I’ve done is take this class on Skillshare from Sean Dalton on the topic of building a personal brand that is strong and authentic. Sean Dalton has his own Instagram (obviously) where he takes beautiful pictures with a dark lighting to them. He’s very passionate about photography. He has classes on Skillshare, and he also has photography courses on his website here.

Notes For Instagram and Personal Branding: Establishing a Strong and Authentic Personal Brand on Instagram

This class is 57 minutes long and covers what Sean Dalton thinks makes a great Instagram account.

Interestingly, the class is meant to help you be more authentic with your Instagram account, and Sean Dalton was extremely authentic in this class, so that’s just good branding on his part right there. He knows how to be authentic, and if you check out the stories in his Instagram account, you can see that he lives what he preaches.

There are 6 main points that I took notes on.

1. The Theme

It’s important to pick a theme for your Instagram account. It gives you direction, provides consistency, and encourages followers because they know what they are going to see when they follow you. Sean says when you create a theme, it helps you create something that other people actually care about.

For instance, look how well a specific theme around frogs is doing? They rate frogs and have 87.9k followers. It shows that you can create an Instagram page about anything and if you have a theme, there will be an interested audience.


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A post shared by we rate frogs (@funkiest_of_frogs)

Of course, he says you can change up the theme if you want…. well, maybe not on the frog one.

For a while, Sean Dalton’s theme was coffee shops. When he created his Skillshare class, I think he was focused on photographing people. Now it looks like he’s focusing on landscapes.

I would say that for Hacks To Happy, I can’t pick one theme. I would like to pick gratefulness, inspiration, and happiness! I think they blend together really well, and they are all things I’m passionate about, so it seems like a good focus to pick.

2. Being Authentic

Sean Dalton says you can deviate from your theme in your stories. If you create more personal stories, it helps you to create a stronger personal brand. People like to see some authenticity in your stories as it helps them connect to you.

He also says that it’s important to be real and true to yourself. You should post content that you actually care about… content that means something to you.

Lastly, he says you should find a good balance between sponsored and authentic posts. He says that sponsored posts are good as long as you believe in the product you are promoting, however, if you do too many sponsored posts you are going to lose trust with your followers.

I can totally understand how followers would lose interest in you if you are too focused on making money. I have seen many Instagram influencers who post mostly sponsored posts. Sometimes they are well disguised and sometimes they are upfront and honest, but they are always noticeable promotions. And, while I personally understand the need to make money in areas where you devote your time (this site earns income through affiliate links and ads), I also think it’s important to create content that benefits other people so that when you do promote products, they trust you more.

3. Finding Inspiration

Sean Dalton says one way to find inspiration is through other people’s images. What are you drawn to? Why? Is it the lighting, composition, colors, styles, or how things are arranged?

I think by identifying what you resonate with, you can be more authentic in your own pictures. Instead of trying to create an Instagram account exactly like ‘fill in the blank’, you can create one that speaks to you with different lighting, composition, or styles.

This is a great idea if you are creating an account around a certain website, like me. You can see how other people are using their Instagram to get across their site’s message and come up with a plan on what you can do.

4. Content Creation And Visual Consistency

Sean Dalton has a very dark style on his Instagram. All his pictures play with the dark and light, with dark winning out. He says that the hope is that if someone else sees a picture that resembles his, they should associate it with him. It’s a brand identity when you are visually consistent with your pictures.

Besides consistency, Sean Dalton says that you should focus on a few other important things, such as:

  • Only post the best photos.
  • Make sure things in your picture are relevant to your theme.
  • Shoot in similar lighting scenarios.
  • Use one filter for consistency.

Now that I’m looking through popular people on Instagram, I can see how big of a deal consistency and choosing unique lighting is. For instance, I’ve never noticed that Pinch Of Yum uses darker lighting with their pictures on Instagram.


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A post shared by Pinch of Yum (@pinchofyum)

5. Your Instagram Bio

This tells people what you are about and helps them decide whether or not they want to follow you. It helps set up the theme that you’ve worked on and showcases a bit of your brand’s personality. It also allows you to put a call to action so that interested people can check out more of you.

For instance, on Sean Dalton’s page, he clearly says he’s a photographer living in Bali and teaching photography to students. And then he says that you can learn more about his mobile editing workflow for Instagram (that’s something people would be interested in!) on a YouTube video that he has linked.

6. Engagement

Sean Dalton says that you need to be as active as possible. You should be posting on Instagram at least once per day. This will give your followers something to look forward to and create consistency.

He also says that you should engage with other profiles and this will help you build up your brand and your audience.

I Liked The Instagram Class

Taking this class on Instagram helped me to see that there are a lot of similarities between blogging and Instagram. Although, Instagram offers a different way to express what you want to express.

If you are interested in photography, you will like Sean Dalton’s classes. You can check out all of his classes on Skillshare here.

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