Instagram’s takeover of social media is indisputable at this point. I dare you to look at any statistics behind the channel’s growth and deny it. As Social Baker reported in 2014, the top 25 IG profiles saw 3.31% engagement per post, where Twitter only saw 0.07%. This makes sense as the average user spends over 20 minutes per day browsing their feed.
However, most brands struggle with finding a home on such a visual platform. So naturally, many succumb to quick fixes like purchased followers and likes. But these spam tactics will not work this time around. The Instagram platform is comprised of a new generation. With over 90% of users under the age of 35, most marketers have no idea how to speak to millennials, much less get their attention.
I want to show you the enlightened path. I believe Instagram requires an entire mentality shift from one of spam and numbers to that of honesty and nurturing. It may sound radical, but I have the results to prove it.
This is part 1 of 2, come back next week for Days 4-7
Day 1: Deeply Refine Your Strategy
I believe this was the most crucial step for our success. The absolute first thing you have to do before even touching your iPhone is getting uber specific with your strategy. It’s been proven again and again that users respond to profiles with a consistent theme. That means you’ll have to stick to a visually consistent strategy starting from Day 1 to keep your profile looking organized and professional.
These are the decisions you must make before even thinking about creating content:
- Channel Goals: IG for brands really serves two main purposes. It can either act as social real estate, giving you a place to find a new audience or it can act as a conversion funnel. I personally chose to do a mix of both by incorporating our brand’s design and themes while also adding a bio link to one of our landing pages.
- Visual Focus: Agencies don’t have many options here, as we don’t really have a visual product. This leaves either posting images from around the office or creating stunning original content related to our target market. I personally decided to create original content for our account as I noticed this getting the most engagement for similar users. Of course if you do have a product, it’s highly recommended you do an 80/20 split of sales driven content and user involvement. We’ll dive deeper into this in Day 3.
- Ethics: Even though you can buy real IG followers from some trusted corners, way too many marketers out there opt to buy fake followers and likes early on. This is the social equivalent to plastic surgery; it may make you feel better but it’s not really convincing anyone. Anyone on IG can tell when you have bought followers as your likes will always be much lower than they should be. This causes a great deal of damage to your reputation by setting the tone that you’re in it all for the exposure and sales. Many are under the guise that they don’t have the time to ‘grow their audience organically’. If you don’t have time to invest in nurturing a real audience then you shouldn’t be on Instagram at all. Keep things real and you will be rewarded with much more than a high follower count.
Day 2: Research the Competition
I’ve found that each niche seems to have a specific type of content that works best at generating engagement. For example, within the social media niche, content with well-designed quotes generated at least triple the amount of likes and comments compared to pictures from around the office.
Buying followers is the social equivalent to plastic surgery; it may make you feel better but it’s not really convincing anyone
Of course your content should be based around your goals, so I recommend taking the time to find accounts with similar goals and breaking down which content works. A great way of doing this is using a tool like Social Blade which can tell you the day-by-day trends of most any account.
Now make a list of at least 10 IG accounts that are reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself. Create a separate list for hashtags you see your competition using. Create one final list including one post from each account that inspired you. This will serve as a crucial reference point as you move into creating your own original content.
Day 3: Posting and Creating Breathtaking Content
That’s right, I want you to wait at least 2 days before making any content at all. Too many people jump straight to the content and this is the exact reason so many accounts lack theme consistency. Now, how you approach content creation will depend on what goals you set. I’ll break down the approach to the most common content types agencies & brands deal with:
Visually Appealing Quotes: We used this approach and believe it’s the reason our average post engagement sits at 60 likes per post after only 7 days on the channel. If you’re looking to generate a huge following in a short amount of time this is the best way to do it. First off I’d recommend you use Canva for all graphics on IG. They make great design incredibly easy even for someone like me with 0 previous design experience. Next I would recommend scouring Pinterest and Twitter for quotes around your niche. Simply take a quote that inspires you and arrange it in canva. Here’s an example of our most successful post so you can see how an end result might look after a bit of tweaking:
Notice that we include our website address on each image. This is crucial to prevent people from stealing your hard earned work.
Displaying Your Product: This doesn’t apply to most agencies, but for brands with a tangible product it’s crucial you maintain a non-sales approach here. I don’t want to see anything remotely resembling an advertisement, as users generally will not respond to posts that feels like a sales pitch. Keep things fun and have followers submit their own images or check to see if your product already has a hashtag around it and pull from there. You’ll find most people would love to be featured on your account, creating a win-win for both you and your users. You get free content and your users get to feel special and involved. Clothing brand ‘Free People’ do a textbook job at involving their customers in a genuine way. Notice how they give credit to the user, include targeted hashtags and include a call to action to their bio link.
Where to next? @nycbambi by @hannahleeddphoto #thefallreport #dressbenefits #fpme Link in bio to shop. A photo posted by freepeople (@freepeople) on
This generally works better than a direct sales approach but as we mentioned in a previous post, the best possible engagement you can receive is by including both a celebrity endorsement with a call to action. Keep this in mind for those rare times where you attempt to make a hard sale.
Pictures From the Office: While this style of content won’t see a ridiculous amount of engagement it does have a place on Instagram. IG is ideal for casual and fun updates so don’t take this approach too seriously. I would recommend keeping things light and silly including things like ‘Bob from HR getting way too excited about the new staplers’ or how great the Tequila Sunrise was at the last company retreat. Let IG be the place for honesty and individuality.
Check out marketing agency Razorfish social giving a behind the scenes look at their agencies ‘fun side’.
No matter which approach you take, now is the time to start posting. Create at least one month’s worth of content from the get-go to keep your style consistent. Then begin a strict posting schedule from day 1 so your users know when to expect from you. Peak posting times on Instagram are usually between 3pm and 4pm EST. I’d recommend posting at least twice a week to keep your brand in the minds of your followers. We’ll dive deeper into tools to find your own personal best posting time and even who your top followers are next week.
Come back next week for pt.2 as we explore the growth stage and detail the fundamentals to honest contagious growth on Instagram.