Instagram’s popularity continues to rise with the social network now boasting more than 700 million users. That means Instagram gained an additional 100 million users in just four months (December 2016 – April 2017). As its user base continues to grow and more companies embrace the photo-driven channel as a marketing tool one key question remains: How can brands succeed on Instagram?
While the types of content that resonate on Instagram vary significantly from the content that is well-received on LinkedIn and Twitter, maintaining consistency with your overall brand should remain a priority. From the photos and imagery that you share to the short text that accompanies them, it is important that followers maintain a clear understanding of where the content is coming from and why it is relevant.
When collecting photography for your Instagram channel, focus on finding high-resolution images that will render well in a square format. Assess which of your brand’s attributes/pillars are most important to share with the Instagram community (company culture, product innovation, expertise, product-lifestyle integration, etc.) and devise a plan for sharing content that supports that theme on a consistent basis.
Unlike Twitter where one hashtag is often best, Instagram falls along the “the more the merrier” side of the fence. When choosing hashtags to accompany your posts, consider those that are most popular among users, as well as those which are well-aligned with your brand. Think geography, industry, features and benefits, etc. For example, if you were a New York City restaurant, you might use hashtags such as: #NYCeats, #foodie, #eats, #instagood, #instafood, #eastcoastfeastcoast, etc.
Capture your ‘stories’
Beyond high quality static images that help to showcase your brand’s DNA, it is important to incorporate more dynamic content into the marketing mix through Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories range in complexity and may showcase something as simple as the sun rising over the water outside of your office building to a dignitary making opening remarks at an event. They may include panned footage of an event venue or having an expert on your team share a short tip or piece of advice. Given the condensed format, it is important to focus on clarity and ensure that the content you share is easy for followers to digest from their mobile devices.
Connect with appropriate influencers
A core component of a successful Instagram marketing program is building and connecting with your community. While hashtags, email marketing, targeted ads and other tools and tactics can help to grow an audience, it is important to engage with the audience you have built. Engagement runs the gamut from replying to comments and answering questions to sharing photos from your community via your own Instagram account.
In terms of identifying how successful your brand has been with engaging stakeholders, keep in mind that Hootsuite reports the average engagement on an Instagram post is 2.3 percent, while top brands have seen engagement rates closer to 4.2 percent. Beyond engagement levels, take note of which days of the week and times of day, and what types of content, generate the most interaction.
When identifying the top community members with whom you will engage on a deeper level, think not only about the size of their following but who is in their audience. While you want to reach a sizable audience, you also want to ensure your content is reaching those who could become clients/customers and partners.
If you are in the consumer products business, take the time to set parameters for your influencer relations program and define not only what you would like Instagram influencers to do for your brand but what benefit(s) they will receive in exchange for engaging with your business.
Embrace an Instagram takeover
With a network of high-quality influencers identified and a relationship-building program in place, it’s time to embrace Instagram takeovers. As you often see from national brands such as Kate Space, Wilton and Pillsbury, to name a few, online influencers are invited to share updates via the brand’s channel for a day (or more limited period of time) to provide a new perspective. Sometimes these updates showcase how people use a certain product and in other instances they serve a more educational purpose.
If you are going to host an Instagram takeover, define a pre-takeover publicity strategy to drum up a following for the event and identify how you will leverage the influencer-generated content once the takeover has passed. Most importantly, ensure all of the content being shared is appropriate and on-brand.
While adding an additional marketing channel to the mix requires an investment in strategy, content and measurement/monitoring, Instagram’s visual nature can prove valuable for both driving engagement and helping to sell both products and services. As always, it is important to consider whether or not your brand can generate a steady stream of high quality content that is well-suited to the platform before diving in. But, for brands who can meet the visual demands of Instagram, the opportunity to cultivate new audiences, strengthen connections with existing stakeholders and tell their story in a more visual format can yield measurable marketing ROI.