Take notes from these 10 Chicago Instagram pros for your brand or biz

While you might think Instagram is just a hub for duck-faced selfies and excessive foodgrams, it’s also a creative social media platform to promote yourself or your brand. These ‘grammers use the app for good, often giving behind-the-scenes looks at their latest projects or simply showing the beauty of the world around us. Explore these Chicago ‘grammers’ accounts and prepare to double tap your way through their stream.


Paul Octavious@pauloctavious
Photographer and designer

Octavious fills our feed with eye-catching photographs, but what makes his feed stand out from the rest?


Elise Swopes – @Swopes
Graphic design student and rapper

After looking at Swopes’ photos, you’ll see Chicago in a whole different way. This ‘grammer puts a little bit of extra work into her photos, but what makes her account special?

  • Added pizzaz – We’ve all seen the Chicago skyline, but Swopes gives these Windy City views extra pizzaz by adding more than just the typical Instagram filter. Experiment with the latest photo apps before posting your next photo like Swopes to get that perfect, breathtaking view. Swopes’ use of the Layrs app always commands attention (and likes of course) and her use of ArtStudio makes typically mundane shots surreal.
  • Promoting Instagram contests – Swopes promotes events she’s working by letting her fans know of Instagram contest that you can submit by using the designated hashtag, like this one for @FruttareFruitBars.
  • Link to your portfolio – Don’t forget to fill out your profile with a link to more of your work, whether its your own site or Linkedin page. Swopes didn’t: http://EliseSwopes.com.


Dan Grzeca@JETSAH
Artist, screenprinter

Grzeca really knows how to use Instagram to show off his work, but what makes his feed stand out from the rest? (Also, his last name’s pronounced like his user name is spelled. Clever huh?)

  • The creative process – If you’re an artist or a writer, it’s important to show followers your creative process. If your followers are interested in your work, they’ll be even more interested to see how you create it. Grzeca often snaps shots the progress of his latest poster designs.
  • Festival appearances – If you have loyal followers, they probably want to know where they can get your work. This artist often posts photos of his tent at local festivals and markets, which just might convince us to stop by and pick up his latest work.
  • Merchandise – From T-shirts to posters, Grzeca shows his new work off on Instagram. This is a good way to gain hype for new products.


New tattoo shop


Nothing makes you want another tattoo more than looking at other peoples’ ink. The folks at Great Lakes Tattoo take advantage of Instagram in order to show off their work, but what makes them so interesting?

  • Portfolio pieces – There’s no better way to get people to like your work than showing them examples of what you do (artist flash pages and sketches, successful cover-ups and finished tattoos, for example). The folks at Great Lakes Tattoo also proudly posts individual artists’ most recent designs, gaining hundreds of likes.
  • Schedules – If  you have an upcoming event, why not share it with your Instagram followers? These artists post photos of their work, contact info and schedules to bring in the customers.
  • Buzz builder – Before Great Lakes Tattoo opened the founders chronicled the build-out process of their shop and even when they picked out a logo. This got followers begging for more and eager to set up an appointment.


Marcus Leshock@marcusleshock


Ever wonder what it’s like to be a TV host? Marcus Leshock takes you behind-the-scenes of his feature segment “Leshock Value” on WGN. Why does his Instagram account stand out?

  • Video news updates – Add variety to your feed by using Instagram video. This year Leshock used Instagram video to capture the Lollapalooza crowd and highlight different aspects of the festival, for example. It was like a mini-feature report.
  • Chicago attractions – This ‘grammer posts photos of local hangouts like it’s his job. Well, it may be. His snapshots of Chicago new and noteworthy restaurants and shops make his feed look like a guide book to the city.
  • Special previews – Whether it’s before the gates of Lolla opened or before opening day at the ballpark, Leshock gets us hyped up for local events. Get your followers pumped about forthcoming events by posting previews of your next show or party.


Michael Kiser@goodbeerhunting
Writer, photographer and industry strategist


Love local craft beer? Then you’ll love Kiser’s Instagram stream. This guy takes craft beer companies to the next level by helping them plan product portfolios and develop their brand, but why is his Instagram feed worth modeling after?

  • New/ Uncommon products – We love craft beer, so why wouldn’t we love Kiser’s photos of what’s on tap? Introduce your followers to new products, especially if your an authoritative force in the community.
  • Unseen moments – We’re usually belly up to the bar when we interact with beer. Kiser, however, takes us back to the brew house to show us how the beer is made before it makes its way to the bar. This will pique your followers’ interest since they normally don’t get to see this meticulous process.
  • Support – It’s always good to give credit to others in the industry. In his posts, Kiser often snaps photos of beers, bars, and other beer-related products. By making these kinds of posts, it’ll show followers you’re deeply invested in contributing to your industry.


Social media/events producer for Metromix and RedEye


This Chicagoan gives us a look at what he’s up to, but why can’t we get enough of his photos?

  • Weekly posts – If you’ve scrolled through Wilkins’ feed you’ll notice a similar photos taken at the beginning of the week titled “Mondays.” Almost every Monday Wilkins takes ‘grams of unsuspecting nappers around town and we’ve now come to expect it (with a good laugh). Find something you can post each week to give followers something to look forward to.
  • Humorous snapshots – Once in a while this RedEye “Wingman” posts something that makes us LOL like his People of the CTA-esque photos. It’s always good to make your followers laugh with something relatable.
  • Show off your branding – If your company has unique branding, why not show it off when you can? There’s no better way to promote your brand than posting photos of it in unique settings. From time to time Wilkins’ posts from events RedEye is covering while making sure to show off RedEye merch.


Craig Shimala@CSHIMALA
Social media manager at Threadless


You really like Threadless’ T-shirt designs, but why should you follow the brand’s social media manager?

  • Company culture – Every office has at least one crazy character. Shimala’s office, of course, has a handful of them. They appear in his feed quite often helping to build upon the wacky, DIY-hipster Threadless company culture we’ve come to know and love. Make your followers feel like they are part of the team by sharing photos of your coworkers.
  • Funny foodgrams –  Your mother may have told you not to play with your food, but Shimala didn’t listen. And we thank him for that. He creates interest from followers by posting ‘grams of his food with googly eyes — a unique take on merely snapping your taco dinner.
  • Shout-out to others  – When it comes to social media, its just as much sharing and re-posting others’ work as it is your own. Shimala loves to praise good work in his artistic community. Again, this builds on Threadless’ hip community-based design brand.


Andrew Huff@ME3DIA
Editor and publisher of Gapers Block


From silly signs around town to anything related to his blog’s Chicago-culture-centric posts, Huff shows us all. Why should you follow this man about town?

  • Events – Gapers Block can be found at art fairs, DIY fests and even hosting its own events and get-togethers, selling merch and screenprints. You can always tell where team GB is at through Huff’s photo feed.
  • Funny signs – Again, people love a good laugh. Share funny run-ins throughout your day to set the playful or down-to-Earth tone for your brand. My favorite of Huff’s has to be a photo of a sign for Polish “Wiagra.” Who knows, you may be responsible for the next big meme.
  • The Instagrammer as resource guide – When it’s your job to know all things Chicago, you tend to revel in its festivals, concerts and other events. Maybe you have followers because your fans want to know what’s going on in the city. Huff’s feed, naturally is filled with photos of events and concerts.


Nathan Michael@Nathanmichael 
Designer and photographer


Michael’s Instagrams make us want to cozy up in a cabin with a cup of coffee, but why should we follow this English-born local photographer?

  • Your travels – We love Michael’s vacation photos from Camp Wandawega. They kinda remind us of Moonrise Kingdom and make us want to tune in to see where he goes next.
  • What’s on your plate – Although half of the world shouldn’t care what you’re eating, we really enjoy Michael’s artsy foodgrams. And … I’m pretty sure you get bonus points if you ‘gram a Chicago dog. Chicagoans take pride in their ketchup-less culinary prowess.
  • Your work – If you’re a creator, let us know by posting your latest designs out in the wild, like Michael’s coffee cups for Heritage General Store.
Filed in: Startup Community