News, Ideas, Opinions & Design

How to Use Instagram for Retail, Restaurant and even B2B Marketing

Check out artist Idafrosk's food art and book on Amazon for inspiring Instagram photo ideas!Today I want to talk to business owners and marketers about how to better use Instagram for visual and effective “free” marketing without it being obnoxious to Instagram users. If you aren’t sure what Instagram is, or haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, head over to their site to view the FAQ.

Many businesses, when yet another social media platform is introduced, don’t want to be bothered with learning about it or adding another task to their day. But marketing is about psychology, and if you know about how people learn (some with words, some with pictures, and some with demonstrations) you will understand that the users of Instagram primarily like to view and understand things visually. Making use of this medium gives you another place to provide gentle reminders you exist, and have something to offer that people of like minds may want.

_cyclingshoes_Instagram_photos___Websta__Webstagram_The reason I say “people of like minds” is that unless you are a widely known and beloved brand (like Harley Davidson) potential buyers may not find you by a deliberate search of your name and following your account. On Instagram the primary method of finding things you enjoy is via hashtags, and if you think using a ton of hashtags feels too obnoxious, you need to view them a little differently on Instagram. As long as they are appropriate, these tags are very helpful to users hunting for, say, #cyclingshoes. Click on that tag to see photos people have labeled with it. Now think about how user recommendations or information work. If someone has the shoes in the photo or loves/hates them, they might get into a conversation or add info for others similar to an Amazon review of a product. All of which benefits you as the seller. Excuse me a moment, I have to go check out these gorgeous Adidas shoes. :-)

Your photos do not have to be shot professionally to be interesting. There are tons of tutorials for taking images using just your smartphone and using third-party apps you can combine photos into collages, turn photos into watercolor works of art, adjust photo settings so they appear more dynamic and brighter before uploading and even combine video with photos! (Awesome for sizzling restaurant shots or outdoor sports.) Doing this takes an additional few minutes after taking your photo. For images taken by users that you find online that feature your brand or product, you can use the Repost app to conveniently repost their images while giving full credit for the photo to the one who posted it.

Retail, Brands & Products

Taking a picture of a product on a white background and sticking it on Instagram is probably not going to be as effective as you would like it to be. Think of an Instagram photo as answering the question of “what are you doing?” For Macy’s around Thanksgiving, that means attending the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so they shared fun photos of the floats and scenes in NYC. On another day that might mean lusting over pretty new shoes, or going on a fall picnic in an adorable outfit, or even erasing wrinkles using some cool new cosmetics product.

Here are some accounts doing a particularly great job of mixing brand reminders, lifestyle images, helpful posts, and quirky fun stuff done by users that the brand shares with their followers, which helps build a community of fans, diminishing the feeling of being blasted with promotions.

Macy's on Instagram

Macy’s is using something that several large brands are trying right now that is a workaround to Instagram’s limitation of not allowing url links in your photo captions. It is called Like to Buy and you can read more about it on Econsultancy or check out the service here.

Martha Stewart on Instagram

Martha Stewart loves dogs, and that is evident on the brand’s Instagram account, which seems to feature a dog photo about every 5-20 uploads, sometimes via a user’s photo like this one of Manny the Frenchie wearying a Martha Stewart brand coat from Petsmart.


Coke has some really fun brand-focused photos and emphasizes the quirky over serious. They are sugar water after all… brands that are in a position to be expendable may benefit most by being memorable and amusing.

Corona on Instagram

Corona especially does a great job of creating longing for beach, friends and beer. I can almost smell the beer from here! Corona, quite simply, touches the inner call we all have for our own personal nirvana. For me, it’s the water, surf and sand so they could add even more hashtags that speak to finding bliss and reach more people seeking that.

Oreo on Instagram

Oreo is focused on the fun to be had with their products. From holiday campaigns to delightful finds within their customer base, they always seem to have something going on with this simple cookie that tickles their fans.


While a restaurant seems like an obvious user of Instagram, it’s amazing how few use it well or use it consistently, unable to see beyond showing a single plate of food. Any business with a lot of foot traffic has a built-in source of potential new content, from kitchen scenes to catering to photos of tables filled with happy customers that agree you can photograph them for Instagram. Mix in tantalizing food and drink shots as the icing on the cake.

Do not forget to add any appropriate hashtag you can think of (including ingredients like #egg or #scrambledeggs) and also to define the “location” so that anyone who finds you locally or while traveling can stop by to try what they saw online for themselves. Also, put your city and state hashtag on some posts… people may discover you who will be in your area this way. Everyday objects can also be made interesting when clustered together and unique compositions or surprising placement, such as this partial view of waiter on the street, can make your spot a must-visit for those who connect to what you offer once they find you.


Buvette, with locations in Paris and NYC, tops my bucket list of restaurants. Because, #brunch and #yolkporn! Their photos are exemplary and you can recreate their style by taking photos from an “aerial” view by arranging things on the table or counter and then standing on a chair or something a little higher to capture the arrangements, top-down. Such an effective way to include many items in the small square format you have to work with. Now pass me those eggs!


Cadillac Bar, one of my old haunts in Kemah, Texas is included here because they are such a sad example of having a great eye for what Instagram users would want to see, but not the vision to build community or even just blast out photos of delicious tex-mex so users could find them. Come back, Cadillac Bar… people need to find you and discover how amazing your veggie enchiladas are, among other tasty items. (BTW, I will see you in April when I’m in Kemah!)


Stumptown Coffee is full of pure personality and the kind of hipster product photos you’d expect from any self-respecting indie coffeeshop. If I’m ever near one I will make a beeline to check them out just based on their Instagram pics.


It’s a real shame Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles has stopped posting, because their photos exude a sense of playful whimsy along with, well, chicken and waffles, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re in LA, hit a location and tell them they need to keep showing off their wares on Instagram! Esquire Magazine would agree.

Forequarter on Instagram

Forequarter does one thing very well: it makes you want to go there. The people shots mixed with action shots mixed with enticing plates and libations provide a glimpse into the good time you could have here with friends.

B2B & Other Unlikely Instagram Suspects

When it comes to B2B or industry-specific organizations the keyword to think of is “niche.” The masses may not flock to your account, but people who are into or need what you offer will if you enable your content to be found. While creating visual content may seem difficult, there are probably examples that will nudge your creativity if you search for them. From user experience, kitchen design and travel agents to book publishing, all sorts of services and specialties can be found on Instagram.


GE focuses on technology, engineering and manufacturing on Instagram and the results are spectacular.


HarperCollins Canada demonstrates an excellent use of simple props and interesting photo arrangements of something that isn’t always easy to make interesting in a photo: a book.


Square’s feed may actually inspire you to go and open a local business, so view it with caution! By focusing on the “why” they exist, they have a never-ending source of unique and interesting stories to tell, right from within their own customer base. Web hosts, web apps, tailors, personal shoppers, accountants and service-based businesses of all types can draw lessons from this approach.


FreshBooks focuses mostly on events and employees, but could benefit from telling customer stories for even more content to use.

Final Food for Thought…

The most effective psychological tool used via these Instagram photos is emotion. What do you provide people emotionally? Focus on that and not what you want them to buy from you. What do they see in themselves via your photos… A great time? Looking sharp in a cool outfit? Some awesome high-tech sports gear? Being a better athlete? Bass-thumping music, so they feel like they are at a Tiesto concert? The most adorable doggy outfit in the world? Beautiful skin or hair? Meeting a need or satisfying a fancy and helping people find you via hashtags is one way to lure them into your world visually. Plus, it can be a fun and satisfying way to tell your company or brand story over time.

Just Fab? Or Fabulously Awful Customer Practices?

Just-Fab-ScamIf you are a girly girl like I am, chances are you’ve seen the Just Fab and Fabletics ads as you wander around the internet, offering really cute stuff for a fairly cheap price… pretty much the way to stop any card-carrying fashionista on a limited budget in her tracks.

Well, after ignoring these ads for months, this past week I got a wild hair and wound up setting up an account at Just Fab to buy a $9.95 pair of precious over-the-knee boots, in sort of a “I am a Girl!!!” moment to counterbalance the 85% athletic/triathlon/cycling gear my money is spent on these days, which is what I also mostly wear. The thing about swimming, biking and running is you must always be dressed for these occasions – such a pain!!

So I was excited, and shared this fabulous deal on Facebook. By signing up to get these boots for so cheap, I had committed to a VIP membership, which means that the 1st-5th of every month they send me a personalized “boutique” of items they feel are suited to my tastes, and I can select from those or find something else to buy for $39.95 a month (shipping is free over $39 so most months you should be able to get something for that amount.) Fabletics, owned in part by Kate Hudson, the actress, operates the same way but I think the monthly amount might be different. Fabletics features exercise gear supposedly on a par with the super-expensive and elite Lululemon but I can assure you the design is not the same.

Should a $39.95 a month subscription throw people off, the Just Fab site promises that you can “Skip this Month” and pay nothing, or cancel your account at any time. So…. nothing to worry about, right?? They have, at first glance, made this whole deal sound pretty good.

But………. don’t get excited just yet. A friend showed up on my Facebook post with a warning as she too, had tried Just Fab and found the quality of her order kind of cheap, but the bigger problem was it took a ton of effort to cancel. She waited on hold on the phone forever with no results (that’s right – no way to cancel online) and finally resorted to simply not updating her CC when the bank issued a new one so her membership fee would just bounce and they would finally get the hint. So that made me nervous and I did a little Google search. WOW. I should have done that FIRST.

Consumer Affairs lists 1648 complaints and reviews for them and the complaints all center around a) not knowing the user would be billed by default monthly… they disclose this pretty well so people just must not have read at all and b) hanging on hold with no one ever answering their call so they could cancel. TechCrunch said their checkout tactics are shady. Valleywag over at Gawker calls them “the biggest scam in online fashion.” And Literally Darling (fun blog) describes a gigantic cluster situation where ultimately she lost money with Just Fab because of system glitches and non-caring, non-listening customer support personnel.

I’m so glad they have my credit card number. Sigh.

So I kind of freaked out and decided to try to pull out before even beginning. That has gone nowhere. After several automated emails saying a fashion stylist would contact me, she showed up, answered my support email with a non-answer and when I wrote back and asked her to answer the question (and not ship my first order and cancel me altogether) she did not respond again. And the shoes have now been billed to me.

So I am going to follow this through as a user experiment, not that we don’t know where it’s going. Those damn $10 boots better be FABULOUS! Here is your user experience lesson for the day, retailers and commerce sellers. Take it to heart because though you may get away with shoddy, underhanded practices initially, ultimately you will bankrupt the company and it will be you, flinging yourself off the ledge.

Retailers, it is not enough to offer cheap, cute, whatever products that customers want. You must follow through with reasonable processes and practices and the Golden Rule perpetually applies… treat customers as you want to be treated, and you can hardly go wrong.


Handmade Fonts for Gorgeous & Quirky Typographic Style

If you know Fresh ID, you know we love hand-drawn, handmade, designs, fonts and illustrations. Something about the urge to add layers and texture to the rather flat nature of the digital screen is perhaps why.

We’ve collected some of our favorite handmade fonts from Creative Market, to give you some ideas for your next project. Most of these are on our long wish list of goodies to design with!


It’s funny that, surrounded by modern gadgets and devices, we just can’t get enough of vintage styling. Jackson & Brown was inspired by old potato sacks, and the Atlas font comes from old map typography.

display-1-o sdddsd-o nexarust-01-o

title-edited-01-o cm-harman-poster1-o true-north-1-o

atlas-o eighty-one-typeface-00-o wilder-pack-present-1-o


header3-sample-01-o trendhm-8-o header-1-01-o

sparhawk-complete-1-o provence-header-01-o madprev1-o


preview-1-o rmbike-myfonts-5-o lbsweetie-01-o

dasha-five-o 01_hipsteria-o brush-serif-julian-o


saltpetre-one-o  fontsofchaos-ninaketchup-01-o display-images-02-o

largecookies-o official_wood_preview-o franq2-o

Beautiful, Feminine WordPress Themes for Websites and Blogs

Need a little fresh and feminine inspiration for your site or blog? We’ve assembled a list of dreamy new ready-to-install WordPress themes from Creative Market sellers that might just fit the bill!


Something about Mosher is so easy on the eyes… the layout and white space is very pleasing and this is a favorite new theme.




For that subtle French-flavored chic feeling, check out Jacqueline, by BluChic, one of our favorite girly WordPress theme makers.




Not going to lie… we are obsessed with Foody. The post tiled gallery with recipe pullout quotes and Instagram integration make this theme tasty! If you are a food blogger who needs a fresh new style DO consider using it for instant modernization and please take food photos as gorgeous as these and send links. :-)




If you love vintage style, Daphne is a doily-bordered dream come true, in vintage modern fashion. The gallery options are tremendous if you want your own Pinterest-style presentation for images.




With muted, subtle colors and little ribbon accents, Rose is a nice blend of sweet, simple and minimal WordPress design.


Design Your Own Girly WordPress Theme

If you want to design and customize your own theme, we have a few PSD templates at Creative Market and will be adding more. Check out Provocateur and Plum, our latest pre-made brand templates for website designers.

provocateur-psd-intro-o   intro-plum-site1b-o

Handmade: Fenghuang… Our latest FreshKit

I don’t know if it’s the influence of the year of the snake, or the fact that for my Zodiac Girls store, I order supplies from China and Hong Kong, but I am in such an oriental mood. You can totally tell in the latest FreshKit, called Fenghuang.

I love the mythos of the Fenghuang, if you don’t know what that means, these are mythological birds that rule all the other birds in East Asia. This bird can be paired with a Chinese dragon, so in this brand you’ll see dragons, lots of birds, a bonsai tree, and of course… bright colorful grunge. It’s pretty esoteric and eclectic, but built with the seller of handmade goods in mind. Hope you like it! You can grab it at Creative Market!

Taking Risks for Business Growth in the Mobile Internet Age

Right on cue, after yesterday’s post on mobile app ideas for “boring” businesses like tire shops and dry cleaners, Inc. has published a great read on why you must take the risk of getting into the mobile game in order to continue growing your business – physical or virtual.

The article is a must-read and I suggest looking into the book coming out this week by Randy Gage: Risky is the New Safe. Change is inevitable, growth is not. Let’s figure this out together!

Free Mobile App Ideas for 4 “Boring” Businesses (plus How to Make an Affordable Mobile App)

Mobile internet usage is doing nothing but rising and will continue to for at least the next decade or so. At the bottom of the article there will be some links to stats and info about that so you can do some research, as well as platforms you can use to make an app yourself, more affordably than hiring a development company to do it from scratch.

What I want to talk about are some ideas that less-sexy businesses like dry cleaners and tire shops can use as inspiration to create their own mobile app, and how this can benefit you. So open your minds and get ready to think outside your box about new ways to market your products and services. Don’t worry about cost for now… we’ll talk about that after the ideas.

App Content & Features Ideas

Tires & Tire Services

Purchasing tires can be like purchasing underwear – you know you need them and have to buy them, but don’t necessarily want to as it seems like your hard-earned money would bring more satisfaction if spent on something pretty or fun… like a designer handbag or electronic gadget. So how does a tire shop possibly create an app that customers would want to use and ultimately would bring them into the store for tires or service? How about…

  • offering a daily or weekly deal in the app exclusively for app users
  • allowing fast inventory and price-checking
  • pushing out a reminder to a customer who needs their tires rotated or some other service on a schedule
  • pushing out seasonal tips about tire care
  • giving a “guide to long-lasting tire care” so people can save money & not have to replace them prematurely
  • letting customers schedule an appointment so they don’t have to call
  • letting customers tweet you a question easily
  • giving people a fun badge for checking in so many times using the app
  • randomly giving people a special incentive after so many checkins using the app
  • write a “tire buying for dummies” guide or something geared to first time tire purchasers to help walk them through it
  • allow parents to purchase tires for their college kids via your app, so all the student has to do is show up to get them put on
Mr. Tire has a similar app you can examine to give you some real-life inspiration! Note the wonderful way they keep track of all your vehicles and maintenance information (though they have a few comments about this needing a better user experience… take comments to heart and make corrections once an app is in the market.)

Modern Web Design Doesn’t Have to Mean Black, White & Minimal

So many website themes professing to be “modern” or Swiss-influenced are extremely stark, minimalistic layouts with no color at all. Black, white, gray… at a certain point it just becomes boring.

Enter Modernline. Though blue is certainly used in corporate web design a lot, the rarely-used pairing of dark navy and bright pink (sort of an Indian pink-red) is such a refreshing change it practically leaps off the screen. Let’s explore this brand (which appears to be a wholesaler or retailer of residential and commercial building materials) and take a look at some interesting design choices that make this brand a stand-out (even though I can’t read a word of it!)

Hitting the homepage is like stepping into a sleek modern showroom. The focus is on the color scheme and getting a glimpse of beautiful decor in different key categories. The brand names are featured at the bottom in grayscale for uniformity.

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Spotlight On: Watercolor Website Design

We are starting a new “Spotlight” series featuring a single style or element used in modern web design or brand identity that inspires and moves us. This spotlight is on watercolor website design, used to turn our everyday computing environment into something more rich and tactile.


Everything about Toggle is designed to challenge your expectations. The result is a gorgeous experience of user exploration enveloped in this lovely, soothing cream and blue.

Continue reading to check out more watercolor designs and fun design elements you can use to design one of your own if you’re not an artist (I’m not – I love having real art like this to use!)

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: XHTML Cafe

Today’s site is a true work of art, and you get the double benefit of it being quite handy should you need a PSD to HTML or WordPress conversion, because that’s what they do!

XHTML Cafe has gone the extra mile to appeal to designers, with its beautiful watercolor welcome…

Who wouldn’t trust their precious design to them after seeing the excellent job they’ve done on their own site?

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: Holy Cow!

Today’s site may or may not be pleasing to your senses, but it’s definitely interesting! Holy Cow, an Aussie design and ad agency, has a very bovine-flavored website… in hot pink, naturally. :-)

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: National Honesty Index

Today’s most gorgeous site is a little bit unusual. Brought to you by the Honest Tea brand, in a take on their name they decided to conduct  an experiment to find out where the most honest people dwell and what categories they fall into. Is Madison Avenue more honest than Wall Street? Is Wall Street more honest than the folks on Capitol Hill? You can discover the non-scientific answers to these questions and more at this unique site.

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How to Make Your Tumblr Look Like a Website

A lot of folks hit our site wanting to know how to make their Tumblr look more like WordPress or a traditional website. This is somewhat possible, in terms of navigation, but much harder to do if you want a “homepage” front door to your tumblr blog, as the way it is meant to function is as a chronological series of blog posts, the most recent on top. Here are the different methods you can use to make your Tumblr look more like a website.

Find a Theme That Already Looks Like a Website

Premium and free themes may exist that have the look and feel you want, but you just need to find them. Check out our recent list of theme sites and visit Tumblr’s Theme Garden, where you can preview each look on your blog before purchasing. Here is a good example of a Premium theme by one of our favorite Tumblr developers, Style Hatch. This is called Origin West.

You need to study the features offered by this theme, because these pre-coded bits of functionality are going to get you closer to the feeling of a website than many other themes provide. This is some of the stuff you need to look for in a pre-made theme:

  • built-in coding to display tweets and Instagram photos
  • built-in coding for post sharing
  • Disqus is set up to allow visitor comments (this is the only commenting method available for Tumblr sites, yet isn’t pre-installed so it has to be set up)
  • built-in Google Analytics and Clicky tracking (you will have to set up accounts on these sites and then enter your code, but the coding is here already to make it work)
  • uses Typekit for custom fonts
  • page links run across the top of the header, more like a website does
  • ends the site nicely with a footer area with content and search, like a website does

You will notice, though, there is no “homepage” – but if you want a sharp looking blog that is going to stand out, this theme is awesome.

If you’re a girly-girl like moi, check out Coco… this theme seriously could not be ANY more adorable! I think Style Hatch has my number. :-)

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Saturday Freebies! Attractive Bits for Your Sites & Apps

I have found some pretty things for you to download and enjoy for free (check licenses for personal, non-profit and commercial use) and today these are focused on web/user interface elements so you can dress up your search bars, forms, social media buttons and other elements that may be a bit too mundane right now.

Web UI Elements

These white outlined, smooth and beveled buttons from Invent Layout will most assuredly turn heads!


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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: Fuel America

Coffee bags that resemble old motor oil cans, Americana flavoring, and as the designer quips “Coffee for yer Pops.” Fuel America is the brainchild of Commoner, Inc., a Boston-based identity studio that makes logos and trademarks fun again. You could get lost for a while in their Dribbble account, but I recommend it highly. But let’s focus on this one brand identity for a moment, because it’s loaded with great inspiration and solid branding lessons.

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