If you’re wondering why other Instagram accounts look more polished than yours, here’s a secret: they’re probably gridding. Instagram grids are created by simply arranging your photos before publishing in an alternating light and dark pattern so your profile page has a checkerboard effect. If you grid, then no matter what the subject of each photo is, or the colors used, all looks neatly arranged. It’s the online equivalent of a tastefully decorated living room–but like such a room, living with it has its pros and cons.
An excellent example of an Instagram grid is from @goddessofoptix. She alternates beautifully staged white-background shots of her favorite frames with colorful photos of herself in all kinds of backgrounds. You may think this is restrictive, but she actually has a lot of freedom within the form; all she has to do is make sure every other shot has a white background.
The key background color for your Instagram grid doesn’t have to be white. At Be Seen Optics in San Diego, we use the owner’s favorite color, orange.
The eyewear line Thierry Lasry makes another kind of Instagram grid, which I guess you could call “striping.” Instead of alternating backgrounds on each photo, they post 3 similar photos at a time, giving a unified effect for each row.
How to grid
There are many scheduling apps (Iconosquare, Hootsuite, Later) and photo filter apps (A Color Story) that will let you preview your posts in a grid as they’d appear on Instagram. Those usually come with a subscription cost.
The free, DIY way is to do some simple Instagram grid planning with Microsoft Word or whatever word processing software you have. Just create a table with 3 cells to each row, then add your images, starting from the bottom right for your earliest image and working right to left, and bottom to top. Once you’ve arranged your images how you like them, make a second document that has a row for each image, starting from the earliest one, and write your captions there. Load them into your scheduler app, or post them manually from this second document.
There’s a more advanced kind of gridding out there, and it definitely requires an app. Here are two examples from @womenwithvision:
In these examples, several Instagram posts act like puzzle pieces and form a full picture, which one can only see if you go to that account’s profile page.
To achieve this look, you need an app like Grids – Giant Square Maker. It lets you upload your photo, slice it into every conceivable square or rectangular shape, divide it among Instagram posts, then save the result. It then guides you as to which of the image pieces needs to be uploaded in what order for the picture to make sense.
The downside of gridding
There are some definite downsides to that grid life. For one thing, you can’t be spontaneous and post whatever you want whenever you want – if your Instagram grid wants a white square, it needs a white square.
Gridding also identifies your content as pre-planned. If you prefer your audience to think of you as freewheeling and impulsive, posting photos as soon as you’ve taken them, then gridding is not for you.
Advanced grids present even more problems. Individual posts that make sense in the grid often don’t make sense to the user when viewed individually in their feed. This can lead to low engagement, and your posts falling a little further away from the front of the line for your followers’ attention.
And if, for example, you posted a large photo in a grid of 9 posts, posting just one photo on its own afterward throws the whole thing off. Your Instagram profile page will look a little like a puzzle someone dropped. To maintain the balance, you have to post 2 or 3 photos at a time (whatever the width of your grid is).
Will you grid?
Like most things in social media, deciding to grid is an individual choice. But give gridding a try and see if it’s for you. It’s a great way to add polish to a business account, or any account where post planning is a given. And you can always decide to give up the grid and go back to your freewheeling ways.
Want more social media tips and inspiration? Read our other blog posts.
Need help with social media for your optical business? Contact us.
Peggy is the founder of The Social Eye, a social media agency for optical businesses. She led social media efforts at ZEISS Vision US for 4 years, and prior to that created digital marketing for the tech and music industries. She has far too many pairs of eyeglasses, but can always find room for one more.