Instagram is now the second most popular form of social media open to businesses, and that’s something marketers need to wake up to. So get woke. It’s 700 million followers seem small in comparison to Facebook’s 2 billion +, but they are growing fast – more than doubling Twitter’s 328 million users.
Instagram was often an afterthought for social media marketing – but people are now having second thoughts about that (just like I’m having second thoughts about using the phrase ‘woke’). Here are some tips to get you ready to get your brand ready for Instagram:
Step 1: Get to know Instagram
Instagram is a very different platform to Facebook and Twitter. The audience skews younger, and the content produced is predominantly visual – appropriate for an app that had it’s origins as photo-sharing service. Looking at the top celebrities on each platform gives an indication of the people it appeals to. Facebook’s global audience puts Ronaldo and Shakira at the top – Twitter US focussed platform has Katy Perry and Justin Bieber in the top two slots.
On Instagram, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande are top. They are younger stars who both have a background on the Disney Channel. Their Instagram content does include composed shots – but you also see pictures from magazines, grainy backstage videos and pictures of pets. It provides a slice of life into celebrities’ lives.
Also unlike Facebook, Instagram uses Hashtags, but they are not the same as Twitter. When you use Instagram to promote your business, it can be very effective at letting the public see behind the curtain, and reveal the people behind your business. It’s a great way to let consumers make a genuine emotional connection to your brand and the people who make it.
Step 2: Apply your branding
Even more so than Facebook and Twitter, you need to have a firm idea of what your branding is before you post on Instagram. Why? Not only do you need to think about the kinds of content you want to present on Instagram, you need to think about how you are going to present it. On Instagram, people need to Interact with your visual message before they will read what you have to say.
If you know your brand – you know your Unique Selling Points – you probably haven’t thought about how to present them visually. If you have a website – you may have fonts that you use and a colour palette. For Instagram, you should consider extending that design language out to things like filters, image sharpness, composition and framing for your images.
Before you start posting – you need to have stuff to post. Set out a set of rules for your brand so you can be consistent from the get go. Your content doesn’t need to be perfect – but it does need to represent your brand.
Step 3: Check out the competition
First, look at your immediate competition and see what they are doing on Instagram, if they’re doing anything. If you can, aim to do something better. If their social media game is on point, and you can’t be better – be different. Stand out as an alternative.
Look at businesses that are successful on Instagram that have nothing to do with your industry. Get an idea of what works, and what doesn’t. You may pick up some ideas of things that you might want to try, and you’ll definitely find things that you don’t want to do. That will help to define your brand image.
Step 4: The Basics
Setting up a business Instagram account is a lot like setting up a Facebook business account. You make an Instagram account, tap the settings cog, go to ‘switch to business profile’ and you’re done (as long as you set the account to public – not that you want to be a private business).
Making your account a business account gives you some extras – like the ability to add extra information, like directions to your place of business and a button that lets people call or email you directly. Great for a business, not something that a private individual wants on Instagram. Put in as much information as is relevant, and has a set purpose to help your business.
Step 5: Insights and Facebook Audience Network
Just like business accounts get access to Facebook insights on that platform, there are also Instagram insights. Not surprising as Instagram are now owned by Facebook, and are part of their audience network. At the top-level, it lets you see the response that you’ve had from your individual posts, so you can see what has had a good response, and what your audience doesn’t respond to.
You get to see impressions and reach on everything – as well as the number of website clicks and profile views you’ve had. For posts, you also get to see insights about your likes, comments, engagement and video views. You can then see what has engaged with people and what hasn’t.
If you’re setting up a business account, then you will probably want to post ads. As Instagram is now under the Facebook umbrella, you can set up ads using Facebook’s audience network tool. You can set up the ad to run on Instagram only – or to run it over Facebook, websites and even in-app ads.
You can experiment, but it’s wise to run Instagram separately, as the nature of the platform is different from Facebook. The visual heavy Instagram posts may work well on Facebook, but text heavy Facebook posts won’t work well on Instagram, for example.
Step 6: What to post
This is an Instagram business account, so your business need to be at the heart of it. If you sell things – then Instagram is a great place to show off your products. However, people don’t go onto social media to be sold to, they go onto social media to be entertained or to find out things. Coca Cola in the US recently did an Instagram post that combined all three: https://www.instagram.com/p/BYBcx30BxwF/?taken-by=cocacola
By using a Coke Zero 12 pack to make a solar eclipse viewer, Coke tied into a news event – educated people on how to make something – and put their product front and center. hHat they didn’t do was put their sales message front and center. In the last ‘frame’ the video shows a completed (and obviously hand made) viewer next to a glass of Coke Zero being poured with the title ‘Enjoy the Great American Eclipse’.
It’s a good example of Instagram branding done will. The product is front and center, the brand is being entertaining, helpful and not too sales driven. If you’re selling clothes, then showing beautifully shot pictures of your clothes in fun settings may be enough to get people’s interest.
If you’re selling life insurance, think about how you can tell an emotional story with one picture. Maybe someone with a stack of bills – maybe a look of relief – maybe a family in severe grief as they have lost someone and are now in dire financial straights. Rather than showing a product, you can show the emotion that your business provides, or helps to alleviate. A picture doesn’t need to be entertaining to be engaging.
There are no hard and fast rules of what to post on Instagram – whether it’s an ad or simple branding – but there are a some things that you have to do. You have to make sure that the image represents the values of your brand. The image or video needs to have value in and of itself. Ask yourself: if your company was removed from the equation, would it still get people’s interest? If the answer is no, then rethink the content.
Finally – it needs to have purpose: purpose for the marketer to showcase the brand, product or service and also a purpose for the audience – what are they getting from this? Are they being entertained, are they being educated or are they just being sold to? What part of the sales journey are they on – and have you put out enough entertainment and education in your posts so far that pitching a sale isn’t going to turn someone off, but actually make them more likely to be a customer?
Step 7: How often to post
Some people say you should post once a day. Others say three posts over two days. Some people say three times a day. The truth is – there is no generic formula that will apply to every brand. There are several pieces of advice you should follow. The first is – post good content. If you post things just to fill up a timeline – then people are not going to engage with your brand as much as they should. If you have a promotion event that you are running, and you’re taking loads of great pictures – you don’t want to just sit on great content just because you’re following a one post a day rule.
But… you don’t want to spam people’s feed with pictures to the point where they will get annoyed and stop following you. See what people’s engagement is. If they are responding well, meet that demand. If not – back off. The one piece of content a day idea is a good rule of thumb because it doesn’t annoy people but it also means that people won’t forget you. You need to have a consistent and effective presence on Instagram which to reinforce your brand. For example, if you post less than once a week – then people will stop engaging with your brand.
The best thing to do is experiment. Just as you need to find out what type of content your audience responds to – you need to find the best frequency (and even time of day) that they will respond to the content you’re posting. You can use insights to see what the effect is on your posts if you post once a day vs. three times a week. Use analysis to see what works best for your brand and your audience.
Step 8: Be the customer
Don’t think of yourself as a social media marketer for a moment. Think of yourself as a customer – a customer who has an interest in what your social media marketing side wants to promote. What would make you click on an image? What copy would need to accompany a video to make you look at the rest of your feed? What different kinds of content would there need to be on the brand feed to interest you as a customer? What would your reaction be if every post looked different? What incentive would you need to make people follow you? What information would you need to move from being a follower to being a customer?
It’s very easy to look at things from a marketing perspective and lose sight of what the consumer actually wants. It is the consumer who will end up being your customer. You are also on social media, and the focus is on making genuine connections with people. Instagram is a great chance for them to see behind the curtain and get a real idea of what your company is about. Done well, it can be a sales tool and a VIP access pass that rewards loyal followers.
You don’t like being sold to. Neither do the people that you’re selling to. They still want to have their problem solved. If they want to buy clothes, they need to buy them from someone. They will buy them from a brand that they like, that their friends like and that they feel a connection to. It’s your job to try and make that connection over Instagram and other forms of social media.
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