Insta Famous: How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

Images: El Five

Denver’s El Five was named by Eater as one of the most Instagrammable bars, and if you visit, you’ll see why. This bar/restaurant straddles two worlds: The mountains and the city. Look out of the windows on one side to see stunning views of one, and the other way to see the other dramatic landscape.

And while this and other factors are important for offering up an Instagram experience, what’s more important is having a strong brand, says Lauren Butts, social media strategist for Sprocket Communications in Denver, Colorado. Butts is responsible for curating El Five’s Instagram presence.

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“We all know the El Five brand so well that it’s almost like a person,” she says. “We created a character and we wrote down who is this person, how do they speak, what do they look like, what kind of filters do they like—a perfectly curated photo of food, or something messier, for example. And from there, we built the style guide, which we use, then we just tell a story (in the restaurant, on social media) of all the different aspects of El Five.”

Seafood Paella at El Five in Denver, Colorado - How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

Knowing your brand as well as you know your best friend is vital, Butts says, because “it’s all about authenticity.” You have to know that brand inside out, she explains “and you have to embody it; you can’t just post about it, you have to be about it.”

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Fortunately, she says, Justin Cucci, the owner of El Five, makes this easy. “There is no faking it in his restaurants—we don’t have to claim we are anything because we are it.”

Femme Fatale cocktail at El Five in Denver, Colorado - How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

El Five’s Instagram feed is a mixture of pictures of the views from the windows, the interior, the cocktails, the food, and the people, though the cocktails get particular attention on Instagram since they’re garnished so unusually. One, for example, features a live flower and another has a dehydrated orange slice on a tiny clothes pin. About 75 percent of it is generated by Bounds Agency. “We could fill our feed 100% by our guests but we want to be in control of what we share,” explains Butts.

Cocktail with dehydrated orange garnish at El Five in Denver, Colorado - How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

There is some editing work that goes on behind the scenes. Butts and her team may edit photographs that customers have posted, with their permission “to be more in line with our brand.” And she uses a program called Plann, which allows her to paint a picture of the brand, planning it for the future, showing different aspects of it, “since what speaks to one person is not necessarily what speaks to another. “We’re making sure that at any point, anyone who looks at our feed as a whole can find something they’re interested in. If it were all food, we may lose the people who care about people or views, for example.”

Matzo Ball Soup Dumplings at El Five in Denver, Colorado - How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

El Five’s Instagram page is diverse. The drinks and food are visually very appealing, but so, of course, are the views and the interior, which glistens with mirrors and metals and old movie posters. One or two things are even created expressly for Instagram, Butts says, “like our matzo ball dumplings. The dish is not very photogenic and is served on a white plate but if we add a gold spoon, suddenly we see it is regrammed a hundred times.”

Matzo Ball Soup Dumplings with gold fork and spoon at El Five in Denver, Colorado - How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

Butts doesn’t over-post on Instagram, because Cucci isn’t keen on too much—just three or four posts a week, she says. “I think there’s a lot to be said about not being overbearing.”