How to Create a Strong Personal Brand on Social Media

ep29 - How to Create a Strong Personal Brand on Social Media

show Dec 01, 2021

If you're lost on how to get started creating branded graphics, listen in! Karla tells us the key elements to creating a strong visual brand on social media.

Karla Colahan of The Inspired Foundry is a musician, designer, and brand strategist based in the midwest. With a goal of sending clients out into the world with confidence to embrace their own potential impact, Karla is on a mission to support artists and creatives who are doing what they love through collaboration, artistic alignment, and strategic design.

We cover:

  • The basics you need for a consistent visual brand
  • The one question to ask yourself when creating graphics
  • The key to having a recognizable brand



About My Guest:

Karla Colahan is a musician, designer, and brand strategist based in the midwest. With a goal of sending clients out into the world with confidence to embrace their own potential impact, Karla is on a mission to support artists and creatives who are doing what they love through collaboration, artistic alignment and strategic design.


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Megan: Hello, and welcome to Megan social media marketing show. I am here today to talk about how to create a strong personal brand on social media. We are going to talk to a graphic designer and personal brand guru.

Megan: I am so excited to talk to you about this because it is a sticking point for those of us who are not artistically inclined or weren't trained in this. How do we create a visual brand that is consistent, that people recognize when we're on social media, that people see you or recognize your graphic? Or your style before they even look at the handle and see who you are?

Megan: So this is a really it's a really important issue for us to talk about as entrepreneurs and people trying to build a platform online. So without further ado , Karla, tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.

Karla: Yeah. I'm Karla Colahan, I have a little design studio, Inspired Foundry. I launched this rebrand of my studio last October. So we were just about a year old, I hired my first team member this fall. And so we do brand strategy, brand design. I call it brand curation, for creative entrepreneurs in all sort of stages of their entrepreneurial journey.

Karla: But I especially love working with the people who have the spark of an inspired idea and figure out how to launch it and get it off the ground. Because that's where I live a lot of the time. It's like, "Oh my God idea, what do I do with it?" You know? And I love coaching people through that and helping them figure out the best way to move forward.

Karla: Lots of fun stuff. I'm also a musician in my other life. So I love working with musicians and helping makers of all kinds, look beautiful online and in their brand touch points. 

Megan: And you absolutely do that. If you all enjoy my brand, this is the beautiful work of Karla, here. So her and I don't, that has to be super math at work.

Megan: We're getting off on a rabbit trail already, but that must be super satisfying in your job to then literally see the fruits of your labor. Every time you open Instagram, I would guess.

Karla: It's so fun and it's, it's not even like, oh, I did that. It's like, oh, you're doing it. You are doing it. And you are making your dreams come true.

Karla: You're figuring out how to share your message in a beautiful way. And that's even more exciting to me than having my stamp on something. You know, it's like, I wanna, I wanna watch you do the thing and succeed and that feels valuable to me. 

Megan: Well, today we're talking about how to create a very strong brand. And I guess defining that in my brain is something that people recognize before they even see your handle, that when they're scrolling on social media, they know it's yours before they even have to look to see if it is yours, if that makes sense. So would you, would you agree? What would you define as a strong brand on social media?

Karla: Yeah, I would agree. I think it's, it's definitely when you, when you have that instant brand, someone clearly identifies that, oh, that's my brand. And you know it because of the colors and the fonts and how you use fun design elements in your brand and all of those things. Especially with personal brands, are uniquely you, you know, we come to recognize that and appreciate that about you and look forward to scrolling and seeing of your first, because we, we have that, you know, that brand, and so, yeah, I think a strong visual brand is all about owning who you are as a person and figuring out how to translate that and then showing up consistently that way.

Karla: I think, that keeps it strong. 

Karla: Yeah. 

Megan: Right. Yeah. I think maybe that's what a lot of people struggle with. Number one, if you're not a graphic designer, if you're not an artist at all, like all of it's overwhelming. So I do want to recognize that. But if you, if you know enough to know, okay, I need these things, I need fonts and colors. I need elements that are consistent. And then you go in and you try to create it yourself. Or you buy a package of things. What have you. That may not always represent you, like you said, initially, we come to represent, like, this is an extension of you. It may not feel that way. You know, like it may like be close, but not really.

Megan: Or that's where sometimes you see brands that are kind of like, whoa, there's this dissonance there between what you're selling and what you're, how you're presenting yourself and vice versa. So what would you say as far as the things that you need for the strong visual brand, what are those basics?

Karla: Yeah. Basic elements of any brand are fonts, colors, and design elements in some way, shape or form, whether illustrations or patterns or abstract shapes or you know, like if you think about photography style, I would consider that to be a design element. So when it comes to making decisions about those three different things, there are parameters that you can set, you know, give yourself some lists to choose from.

Karla: So for instance, for fonts, I usually choose three fonts for my clients, like a heading font, a subheading font, and a body font. Two of the three are often the same. So that brand consistency within your fonts you just treat them differently, like all caps or letter spacing or, you know, something like that.

Karla: And then my third, like actual differentiated font would be sort of special text, whether that's a script font or a display font, that's sort of funky and different. You can always use, you know, for a blog post title, but you might use an accent word or something like that. So those are fonts, two to three fonts.

Karla: For color, it's taken me a while to figure out like the rhythm of choosing and how many but I've come up with six. I like six colors. I like a main color or like your signature color. And then a secondary color that sort of is an accent to that, but that you use as frequently as you use the main color. So there's two and then two accents or sorry, accent colors that actually compliment the main and the secondary. 

Karla: And then two neutrals. So whether that's a cream or a white and black are kind of given, so you can leave those in your color palette you know, choosing something a little bit creamier or a little bit more gray something like that. So six colors.

Karla: And then for design elements it's, it's supposed to be a fun addition. It's supposed to be a like a like sprinkles on a cake or on, you know, like a froto thing, you know, it's, it's an extra splash of something that helps build that brand recognition, but also keeps things fresh and fun. 

Megan: Yeah. So, actually Jody had a question when I asked for what questions people would have to ask you and she says, I know that color consistency is important, but is it that way for fonts as well?

Megan: So you started to answer that question, but what is it about fonts that we want to be aware of or make sure we're doing to stay consistent? 

Karla: Yeah. Consistency with fonts is definitely important. If you are working with templates that you find in Canva, I would not suggest just sticking with those fonts. I will make the choices for yourself and then work with whatever template you want, but just change the fonts. So, I had mentioned a heading font, a subheading, a body, and a special text two out of the three. So, you want to treat, whatever text you're using, whether it's on a graphic or on your website, always in the same way.

Karla: So have heading fonts like this is my offering right there. It's an all caps or lowercase or however you want to treat it based on like the vibe and energy of brand. Always do it that way in every, you know, a possible platform you're on whether it's. With downloads that you have, these are lead magnets business cards, you know, marketing, collateral, all those different kinds of things.

Karla: I think font consistency is definitely important. And you just, you can make rules for yourself about how you decide to treat things and then just do it that way. Right. Makes sense? 

Megan: Yeah. And so we have a question here in the chat, what if your logo has a font you don't love, you don't have to use, do you have to use it for everything?

Megan: I have honey script as my font and it looks good in the logo, but I don't like using it in PowerPoint. 

Karla: Yeah. That's a great question. And I think there are sort of different schools of thought with logo fonts in particular. I have heard people say that logo fonts should not be the same as your brand typography.

Karla: So if you think about a logo, you want a logo to stand out. You want a logo to be instantly recognizable as you, and oftentimes that doesn't mean including those fonts in your brand topographies, that. Sometimes it does, like when I do tiny brands for clients and we add on a logo suite, I'm using the brand topography that we've chosen in their logos to create consistency, to make things easy as a really great starting point.

Karla: But if you already have a logo stated that has a font that you don't love to use elsewhere, then don't use it. Yeah. 

Megan: Well, and if it's honey script, I don't know what honey script looks like, what it is. If it is a scripted, that generally can't be used in a whole lot of places. That's usually it could be used as one of those accents fonts you were talking about, like joined now could be honey script, but only that. Not used in headlines because those can be hard to read there.

Megan: They can be difficult. What does that called legibility? That's not the right word... I don't care, anyway, you know, hard to read sometimes. So you do want to make sure that people can actually read your titles. That's an important, yeah. 

Karla: And if you use it as an accent, then it's a nice callback to your logo, right?

Karla: It's not a nod to it, but it's not everything. Right. So you can think about if it's easier for you to think about using logo fonts as your brand topography, you can do that. As long as you treat them well, but you can also think about having a logo, and then also having a set of two to three brand fonts that compliment your logo, but aren't exactly.

Karla: Yeah. Yeah. 

Megan: So, going back to what you were saying about colors. I just want to revisit that for a second, because I think people like six that can get a little off. So you just to review, you said like you should have a signature color, like something that's. Mainly that like green, green is mine. 

Megan: Yes. And the cream. So like really, if you think about it, essentially, it's only one main color and one accent color. Right. And then you can have. Like a lighter version of those top two and a couple of neutrals thrown in just like you think about an outfit.

Megan: I would think, you know, like your, have your main statement piece, and then you pair those some neutrals because you can't everything, can't be the stigma piece. It's overwhelming. Yeah. Okay. So you tell me if I say anything incorrectly here, when I jump in with those things. 

Karla: Okay. It's absolutely true.

Karla: And I think that's a fantastic way to look at it, a color and an accent and a couple lighter versions of it. If you want to go deeper, there's like color theory. You could do a cool and a warm contrast, which always works really well. You know, you've got your color wheel. You're choosing things from opposite sides.

Karla: There's lots of different ways to create color palettes. Mine is works for me because I need a process that I can. Over and over and over again. So for you, it might be just that main color, that accent color, and then playing with that color slider in Canva to find lighter and darker versions of each. And I think that's perfect.

Megan: There you go. Yeah. Pamela says, unless you're an Enneagram Seven and everything is a statement. 

Karla: Yes, exactly. 

Megan: Oh goodness. Which you can craft your brand around that too. Everywhere you, it has a personality, so what, how can, how can the lay person, the person who isn't a designer, what can make it easier for them to make those design choices? Because it's all well and good to have your fonts and your colors picked out. But what do you do with them? Like when you get them, how do you make those choices?

Megan: I feel like it, it comes down to like , it comes down to the actual creating the things where sometimes it gets hard. 

Karla: Yeah, for sure. Well, so I would say there's one question that I like to ask my clients when we're like, before we even make any of those decisions. Now I've got the structure for the things that I need to give them the framework, but in order to make those decisions, I always like to ask, what is the day in the life of your brand look like?

Karla: Like if your brand was personified or if you're a personal brand, you are oftentimes your brand personified, right? What is the ideal day look like? What do you wear in the morning? Where do you go to get your coffee? What is your coffee order? If you're meeting with clients, what does that space look like?

Karla: Because like the sensory information that you get from walking yourself through a day in the life, smells and sounds, and textures and color can really help inform. How you make the choices that you make about fonts. So like I'll walk through a day in the life would be Inspired Foundry. For instance, we get up and we put on a cute blazer and jeans and some wedge sneakers.

Karla: So we're a little bit cool and like trying, well, trying to be classic, right. We go to a, like an industrial kind of coffee shop and we get some sort of tea latte. So it's creamy and it's cozy. Okay. Comfortable, but we're in a space that's energetic, interesting. And that lots of, you know, sensory things going on.

Karla: So if I think about just that little picture, I would end up looking for fonts that feel classic. I would end up looking for colors that feel cozy, but sophisticated form. And then I would be picking up design elements that felt maybe sort of structured, but artistic, if that makes. So that's one way that I like to think about making those decisions.

Karla: Right. And then from there, honestly, like if you're working in Canva, all of the templates in there were created by designers. And the only thing you have to do is update your fonts, update your colors, and maybe tweak some of the layout. So it's either a little bit more of your vibe and a little bit less the vibe of the template, right?

Karla: Does that make sense? 

Megan: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I liked the way putting it through the lens of the personality because yes, just adding, like you might have a really a black or a neutral and, and your strongest color. And if you put those together, it creates a much different vibe than if you use the lighter versions of your palette and all, you know, like, so kind of putting it through the filter, does this feel like me, or does this feel like, you know, the, the personality of my brand? That's a bit, to me as an enneagram person that really, it makes sense. Like, does this feel consistent and authentic if you want to use that word to you and your brand, especially if we're talking about personal brands, because there really is no separating it, like you are your brand. This is who you are. You want to show up on your online world, just as authentically as you do in your real life world. I feel like. So, I have a couple other questions, but anything else that you can any other wisdom to impart about how we, how we do this? How do we create this personal brand? 

Karla: Yeah, I would say my best advice would be to find a place where you can capture all of these decisions that you've made. So whether that's of canvas pro and you're working with the brand, where you can add the six digit code for each color that you have, you can add your fonts, those things.

Karla: Otherwise, I like to create you know, for my tiny brand there I'll create a canvas file that includes color blocks of each with those hex codes. So I can copy and paste that if I like for a website or to take it somewhere else. The, the font options that we chose in and then whatever design elements that we've picked up.

Karla: From inside Canva or loaded from somewhere else so that you have a place to go to remind yourself, this is this, these are the logistics of, you know, who I am and how I look online. And then from there, it's just consistently referring back to that. Like, I'm sorry, if you get bored with it, you are the only person who looks at your brand the most right.

Karla: People are not getting sick of your brand, I promise. So you just have to make sure that you stay consistent with that. And that you're excited and like, you know, every day it's like being in a relationship, somebody you choose to be. Choose to make those choices about your brand and stay consistent with it. Cause that'll help you out in the long run.

Megan: Oh, that's great. I love that. She'd be in a relationship.

Megan: We had another question submitted earlier from Rebecca and I think this is a great one. What really matters? I don't want to waste time or mental energy on things that are insignificant. There we go. Yeah, what we don't want to, you know, if we're not going for fancy pants, like creating videos and then intersperse with the, with the visuals and the graphics and things that move, what is the most important when it comes to creating that brand, that's consistency?

Karla: Hmm. Yeah.

Karla: I mean, I think we've covered that I would say are the most important and the most foundational. So having a select number of fonts, having a select number of colors and not varying the 14 different shades of something you could do that if you wanted to. But the most important thing is consistency because you're building the know, like, trust factor simply by that, you know, through understanding.

Karla: From an immediate glance, who would that has put that graphic out, whatever. So consistency is a big thing. I would also say this gets into like brand strategy and sort of the psychology of marketing, but knowing your audience really. Knowing who it is that you're trying to reach and then making the decisions that are going to walk the fine line between showing up as yourself authentically and attracting the right people.

Karla: Right? So it's a little bit, it's, it's, it's owning who you are being really comfortable with that in terms of your visuals being excited to share that and that flows into that consistency piece. So that you can, you can build an audience that, that feels comfortable coming to you for the thing that you offer.

Karla: I think that's probably one of the most important things about building a brand is providing a thing that you do. You know what I mean? Instagram is, I don't know if you feel this way, it's kind of like a handshake and like an introduction to you. It's not maybe the full thing, because you have a website, you have offerings or in-person interactions, but that first impression is everything, right?

Karla: So you want to make it as beautiful as you possibly can in a way that feels really good to you. Yeah. 

Megan: Absolutely. Well, I, as we're kind of wrapping up our time here I do want to recognize that this is not everybody's jam. Not everybody can go into Canva and pick out templates and kind of figure out their brand, figure out who they are, how to do that together.

Megan: And you've mentioned your Tiny Brands. So tell us, tell us a little bit about, how, if somebody wants to have you create a Tiny Brand for them you know, when, when you're open to that, how they can reach you and get ahold of you for more. 

Karla: Yeah. I would love to work with you on a Tiny Brand. Tiny brands are like my most favorite thing ever because they're, they're quick turnaround.

Karla: Like once you purchase the strategy call, I give it to you in two days. It's very quick. If you go to. my profile, The Inspired Foundry and head to my website, the You can read all about Tiny Brands and like the other offerings that I, that I have. But I would say if you're a creative person and you like being, you know, involved in your graphics and creating the things in that's meaningful to you, Tiny Brands are perfect.

Karla: Like you, the tools I make the decisions for you, and then you get to run with it and do whatever you want with it. So. Tiny brains are great. I do much more custom stuff if that's your jam, too. But the most important piece of what I do is brand strategy. So we'll dive deeply into who you are and what you do and why you do it and who you do it for and what your goals are so that your visuals truly and authentically represent you and everything that your.

Megan: Yes. Yes. And I can testify to that. So the fact that I felt so known and seen as a person and an individual, I'm going to go that process. And I just absolutely. Everything that came out of it as you guys are seeing on social. And we actually went through a brand refresh here. So you'll start to see a, a little bit bolder, a little more elevated version of the brand, which I'm very excited to do.

Megan: Like have you ha we have a coupon code, right? It's called yes. Inspired Megan. Right. And that's for $25 off a Tiny Brand. So if you were interested in that, there you go. There's a little gift from Karla to you. A great like coupon code for that. So go and check that out and. I mean, this has been, we could, we could talk for hours, honestly, on this whole topic.

Megan: I know we just scratched the surface and there was some even like, even deeper questions that I was like, oh, we can't even get into that . So, go check out Karla, at Inspired Foundry and follow her there. And I'm sure she would love to chat with you about all things, branding. Thanks so much. For joining me today, this was so fun. 

Karla: Thanks for having me. 

Karla: This is like, what am I to talk about? So feel free to pop me questions in the DMS and I will gladly answer them and talk through stuff. And thank you, Megan, for, for inviting me on to be a part of your show. 

Megan: All right. Thanks so much. Have a great rest of your day. 

Karla: Bye.