Perfecting Your Design Agency’s Instagram Strategy

The creative agency Swift is pretty well-known for creating effective and contagious social/digital campaigns for clients like Starbucks, Pandora and Nestlé’s brands. It’s that same sense of style that makes its Instagram strategy particularly successful as a tool for expanding the agency’s reach and visibility on the web.

Here, Swift’s Chief Creative Officer, Alicia McVey, discusses how the agency’s social media strategies have evolved, and how a highly-curated Instagram account—and the informed use of features like Instagram Stories—can benefit any design agency (or creative professional) from a branding perspective.

What is your general approach and strategy to curating Swift’s Instagram?

In the three years since we launched our account, the way people use the channel has really changed. It used to be about documenting personal moments, like on Facebook, but now it’s a place for inspirational content, more like Tumblr.

We take a very deliberate approach and treat our brand like a client. Our agency has grown to 150 people and our following to 10,000 so it’s important to think about what is relevant to our audience—connecting content to cultural moments and trends while still keeping it true to our brand.

It is also a key way for us to celebrate our talent and showcase capabilities. Our in-house content studio allows us to concept and shoot assets following the same process we’ve established for clients. We highlight Swifties and share insight to our culture through recurring features such as Album of the Day and laydown shots of individuals’ desk things. Both hint at personalities and what it’s like to work here.


Objects found on Planner @ktsnie’s desk. Perfectly pretty and punk. #SwiftCo #AgencyLife

A photo posted by Swift (@swiftcollective) on

Are there any rules?

To authentically represent Swift and be good to our followers. Providing entertainment and inspiration is also essential.

Is Swift’s creative work featured on its Instagram?

The posts are either original work we specifically created for Swift’s brand or regrams that are chosen because we think they will resonate with our audience. We’ve only repurposed client work when a campaign is honored with an award. We do create original assets to show client appreciation, like spelling XOXO in negative space surrounded by SweeTARTS candies when we signed with the brand, or a grid wall of Union Wine cans in the shape of a heart. These shots reflect a Swift aesthetic and are distinct from work that expresses a brand’s visual identity.


We ❤️ @SweeTARTScandy, here’s to a delicious partnership. 🍬🍬🍬 #candy #sweetarts #swiftco

A photo posted by Swift (@swiftcollective) on

How would you describe the feed’s style and aesthetic? What is unique about it?

Each post has a clear point of view and is up there for a reason. Stylistically, we favor clean, artful compositions that are sometimes playful, sometimes abstract. We’re very intentional about color schemes and how posts flow and fit together. It’s also important that content reflects curiosity and observation of the world outside the agency walls. Part of our strategy is to regram interesting employee posts that might be connected to work travel or something that inspires them to stop, notice and document.

How does your Instagram feed represent or enhance Swift’s brand?

It’s probably the best way for people to get a sense of who we are and our passion for what we do.

How has the role of an agency’s Instagram account evolved over the years?

You’ve got to understand and respect the platform and be ready to adapt as new behaviors, trends and features emerge. We study our content and engagement and aren’t afraid to adjust the strategy.

How is the Instagram feed managed within the agency?

Once you start it, you have to feed it! And listen. And love. The strategy and content are run by our Swift Brand team and it’s set it up in a way that allows different teams to contribute ideas and posts for potential regrams.

What is your following like?

It’s heavily creative and quite engaged. We definitely regard it as a great platform for recruiting talent.

What is your approach and strategy to Instagram Stories? How do you see this new feature playing out in the social media ecosystem?

It’s not part of our strategy right now because we don’t think our Instagram audience is interested. We’re focusing on creating visuals and expressing ideas that our followers will find compelling.

Discuss other agencies’ Instagram accounts. To what extent do they adopt similar approaches? To what extent different approaches?

Most agencies fall into two camps: showing daily life through the eyes of employees or using it as venue to show their work. There are a few that seem to take a more intentional approach to what they communicate: Huge, Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister & Walsh (her personal account) and Pentagram. We also have love for fellow Portland agencies Instrument, Industry and Juliet Zulu.


A few products of @moconamblist’s last lettering night

A photo posted by Huge (@hugeinc) on

Overall, what would you say are best practices for an agency’s Instagram account?

Define your goals for the channel and check everything you post against them. And accept that your goals will shift as the platform and audience evolves.

Learn more about perfecting your Instagram strategy—and other social platforms—in these online courses and workshops from HOW Design University: