Facebook is the juggernaut of social media but some argue that its reach is declining. In the digital jungle that social media marketing has become, declining reach means that brands are looking for the next big “thing” that will have the mass population hooked and be an essential means of marketing. Owned by Facebook, the richly visual social site Instagram is pegged as one the most effective social marketing tools currently available.
With over 150 million users, this photo app has 15 times more engagement than its parent company Facebook, or Twitter or Google+. It is no wonder that 91% of retail brands have rushed to this social media goldmine to stake their claim.
Unlike other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, the ground rules of selling on Instagram are different. It is not a place where you can use advertorial copies to push your product or publish links to your eCommerce website. Instead, here you harness the pure power of visuals, of photos and videos that do the talking when it comes to selling.
Called the “World’s Most Powerful Selling Tool” by Forbes, Instagram has many secrets that could be the recipe for success when it comes to selling your ecommerce brand. We have shared its top secrets with you:
Photos, photos and more photos
Instagram’s biggest strength, and its biggest weakness, is that it is an absolutely visual platform. When you are using Instagram to build your brand you must live and breathe the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
To maintain its quality, Instagram doesn’t just let any Tom, Dick or Harry put pictures of their offerings. No, they have a few rules that advertisers must follow. You cannot just snap a photo of your product and post it; the photo should capture “moments”. Ads must be high quality and show amazing creativity to match Instagram’s aesthetic.
The advice that Jim Squires, Instagram’s director of market operations gives is to imagine if “for your next campaign you could use no copy at all, how would you do it”. The idea behind Instagram is to view photos as art which is why to build your ecommerce brand, you need to use beautiful, emotion-filled snaps that can touch users. And that can then be leveraged into a desire to make purchases.
Instagram does not believe in links, in fact it refuses to clutter its viewing space up with hyperlink URLs in descriptions and comments (however, links do work in profile bios). The way to use Instagram is to unlock the full power and potential of the hashtag frenzy so popular on social media these days. Brands need to realize that hashtags used on Instagram should connect followers to the brand’s larger marketing strategy.
To use hashtags effectively, first grow your list of followers and increase your reach by tapping into popular hashtags such as #throwbackthursdays, #instagood, or #latergram. Use these hashtags to build and maintain a crucial connection between your brand and current and potential customers. Hashtags are powerful because they aggregate photos submitted as part of a marketing campaign which then generates more photo submissions and can take an Instagram user from submitting a photo to buying the product.
You can then aggregate the photo submissions on a microsite, or you could embed to your website to create a gallery of filtered and themed photos from followers, thus bringing together not only visually stunning images but also using it as a mean to stay connected with your fans. You can find and re-post hashtagged content using the various paid options available or you can use a free Instagram search tool like WEBSTA.
Work the Bio
As mentioned above, Instagram does allow links in the bio. To use your Instagram bio effectively, think what is that you want to achieve from it. Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Or do you want to focus on brand building?
For example, Nike’s approach is simple. Nike just uses its hugely popular slogan “Just Do It” in their bio, accompanied by a direct link to their website. While Nike focuses primarily on its branding, Starbucks has opted to use Instagram to track its Return on Investment (ROI) and the number of visits it receives to its website. The short link on Starbuck’s bio tracks the Click Thru Rate (CTR) to their ecommerce shop.
Get the timing right
Getting the timing right for your posts is a crucial factor for all social media channels, including Instagram. Given the sheer volume of posts on popular social media platforms, if your posts are not timed correctly, they will be lost in the multitude of others and probably never viewed. And that would be a waste of your creativity.
However, there is no cookie cutter solution as to what is the best time to post. This makes sense because, for example if noon was the best time to post for all brands, and all retail ecommerce sites took this advice to heart and started posting at 12 pm sharp, then Instagram would be flooded with posts in the afternoon and hardly anyone would be able to command viewer attention.
Thus, timing comes down to a bit of trial and error and knowledge about your target market as to what works best for you. Study your analytics and your audience and come up with a formula that allows you to leverage Instagram’s reach optimally.
On average, the top 10 companies on Instagram in 2014 posted about 75 photos in October of that year. Nike and Prada opted for quality over quantity and posted only 11 photos each. Point is, don’t overthink and stress too much over how many times a week or a month you are posting. Posting around the same time however is a good idea because it builds consumer expectations and anticipations and portrays an image of consistency.
If you have the communication skills to understand the power of a good photo and the ability to use hashtags efficiently, you have Instagram in your bag. However, remember that regardless of the platform, the best marketing strategies are based on preferences of your target market. Gender proportions, age distribution, physical locations, income brackets, and marital status are all factors for consideration involved in any and every marketing campaign. You can use analytical tools like Quintly, Iconosquare, or ScheduGram to use Instagram efficiently while gathering concrete data on your followers to post photos that are most likely to appeal to them.