Our Instagram strategy? Be generous.

Using takeovers to live our brand on social media.

We believe that the way you show up on social media should be guided by your brand. In 2016, we challenged ourselves to live up to this belief, and we wanted to share the outcome from one platform: Instagram. 

As we looked at the Simple Truth brand, we realized that our behaviors “be generous” and “be game” were perfectly aligned with the reciprocal heart of social media. The specific strategy these behaviors inspired was an Instagram takeover. 

What is an Instagram takeover?

It’s when a guest is invited to take control of your account, usually as a way for brands and people to cross-promote work and engage new audiences. Handing over your feed to a guest who exemplifies qualities of your brand is the equivalent of a third-party endorsement. It amplifies and humanizes your presence on social.

How did we connect the strategy to our behaviors?

By using those behaviors to guide how we chose our participants. We asked “who’d benefit from the generosity, and who do we think will be game? Also, what does that look like on a social platform that demands high-quality visuals?” The answer: our community of creative employees and our partner artists and photographers. We value them and will always want to showcase their talents. We also know that they have rich visual stories to tell.

What was the outcome?

We invited our guests to show sides of themselves that were unexpected. Many went outside the boundaries of their usual Instagram presence, engaging in fresh ways with a new audience. As a result, every guest grew their Instagram following during the takeover. They also benefitted from a new hashtag strategy and cross-promotion on our other platforms. The outcomes for us: stronger relationships with valued members of our community and a 280% increase in followers. 

Things to think about if you’re considering a takeover

  1. Start with your brand and your goals. Use them to guide how you structure the takeover and select your guests.
  2. Be ready to give guests very clear guidance on timing, expectations, how to introduce themselves and how to interact with your followers. 
  3. Remember: It’s never about promotion. It’s always about storytelling.

During 2016, we saw foster puppies, street art, documentary photography and more. Here’s an overview of the takeovers and a big thank-you to everyone who took part!

Mick Pavlik


Want to get someone’s attention? Lead with puppy pictures. One of our associate creative directors, Mick Pavlik (@mick.pavlik), has a passion for fostering dogs from Second City Canine Rescue (@secondcityk9). Photographed by Mick’s wife, Stephanie, we got to see a handful of these cuties during his takeover.

Erik Marthaler


Erik Marthaler (@erikmarthaler) owns the gym in our building on Superior, and when he’s not keeping us in shape, he’s taking breathtaking photos of Chicago. He picked some of his favorites for us. Are those his feet hanging out of a skyscraper? Yes.

Lisa Wilson


Resident senior designer and knitter extraordinaire Lisa Wilson (@instaello) took over when our team of designers went on a field trip to Architectural Artifacts (@architecturalartifacts). AA is huge shop and showroom filled with all kinds of cool and unique stuff. Lisa’s eye for color, light and collections gave us the opportunity to see things from a new perspective.

Jim Luning


Jim Luning (@jimluningphotography) has worked with Simple Truth as a photographer, director and also a videographer. He jumped at the chance to take over our Instagram and show his passion for taking portraits and documenting his furry friend, Taco the chocolate lab.

Candice Caldwell


When you live in a bunch of cool places, it’s not hard to find beauty wherever you look. One of our senior writers, Candice Caldwell (@refabbed), focused her takeover on some of the stunning street art she’s come across in Cape Town, London and our very own Chicago.

Johnny Sisson


What do you get when you cross a digital camera with antique lenses? Sisson Photography. Johnny (@sissonphotography) prefers to use older, manual focus lenses, which give his images a distinct look and feel. How old are these lenses? Usually 50 to over 80 years old.

Tania Rodamilans


You’re probably very cool, but I’d bet you’re not make-your-own-chain-link-jewelry cool. Tania Rodamilans (@taniarodamilans) is though. During Tania’s takeover, we got to see Chicago through her eyes and appreciate landscapes in ways we never have before. We also got to meet her art director, Woody the cat.

Sam Kirk


Speaking of cool, let’s talk about Sam Kirk (@iamsamkirk) — curator of @ProvokeCulture and beloved local street artist. Sam shared some of her original work and gave us a look at the art culture in Pilsen, one of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Sam’s work is often centered around the cultural identity of women of color.

Marcus Norman


Have you ever thought about water? Like really thought about it? Well, Marcus Norman has. So he lead us through a thirteen-part visual story about how we interact with water in our daily lives. The takeaway: as vital as it is, water is often overlooked. Marcus (@notnormanmarcus) is an associate creative director at Simple Truth.

Aurelie Marrier d’Unienville


What can only be described as equally heartbreaking and inspiring, Aurelie Marrier d’Unienville (@aurelie_dunienville) brought our feed to Africa and Southeast Asia. She’s a documentary photojournalist and communications consultant currently shooting the drought in Southern and Eastern Africa, flooding in Asia, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Jill Calder


Jill Calder (@jillcalder_illustrates) was our first illustrator to take over the ST account! Based in Scotland, Jill let us peek inside her sketchbook and see what goes on inside her studio. Hint: a lot of adorable animals sketches and fancy lettering.

Deb Fletcher


If you’re hungry right now, go grab a sandwich, because your eyes are about to feast on some of the most delicious-looking food photography we’ve ever seen. Good friend of ST and Chicago food and product photographer Deb Fletcher (@debfletcherphoto) had us craving sandwiches and breakfast food all week.

Caroline Tomlinson

The last takeover of 2016 belonged to Caroline Tomlinson (@carolinetomlinsonillustrator), an illustrator who splits her time between Cape Town and London. If you’ve never seen illustrated portraits, take a look at her work. We got to see in-progress photos of portraits as well as the final products.

We are so fortunate to have the creative community that we do — thanks again to our takeover guests for being game! Be sure to keep up with Simple Truth on Instagram in 2017.

Need help creating a social media strategy for your brand? Contact us!