Point Of View | Published November 28, 2016

Why (and How) Your Brand Should Be Using Instagram

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why not use them to speak on behalf of a brand?

Forty percent of consumers engage more with visual content than with plain text, which could explain why Instagram has had the fastest growth of any major social site among American adults. There are more than 500 million Instagram users today, and of those users, 59% use Instagram every day and 35% use it several times a day. By maintaining a presence on Instagram, brands are not only exposing their content to a large audience, but a highly engaged audience as well.

Meers has expertise in social media and community management for our clients across all social platforms. With paid, earned and owned opportunities on Instagram, we’ve got a few recommendations below for brands looking to add this increasingly popular platform to their social media roster.


PAID

Paid Instagram ads, which are executed through Facebook’s ads platform and served multiple ways depending on a campaign’s needs, can drive website visits and in-store foot traffic, and increase brand awareness. Here are a few tips for maximizing their effectiveness:

  • Use paid ads to achieve direct response goals. Ads can be served as a photo, video or carousel, and are natively served within a user’s feed. While ads look and feel very similar to organic posts, advertisers are able to reach more people – and the people most likely to receive your message and convert – through Facebook’s targeting service. And as a bonus, the ads allow clickable links, whereas organic posts don’t. Essentially, Instagram’s paid ads are best for achieving direct response campaign goals, as they offer call-to-action buttons and precise targeting.
  • Bring in influencers when awareness or a specific product is the focus. Beyond paid ads, Instagram opens up countless opportunities for influencer marketing. Influencers increase a brand’s exposure while simultaneously forming a relationship with the consumer. They have loyal, trusting followers who engage frequently with their content and are influenced by their opinions. If an influencer gives their opinion on a product, the messaging will likely have more credibility with their followers than a standard ad. Because sponsored influencer posts are essentially organic posts highlighting a product or brand, influencer marketing on Instagram is best used for meeting awareness goals or launching a specific product. It’s important to be mindful of the laws the Federal Trade Commission has put in place regarding this marketing strategy.

 

Additional best practices for paid Instagram campaigns:

  • Align campaigns across platforms. Whether paid efforts are through paid ads or influencers, ensure that they’re aligning with the campaign across all platforms. For example, make sure influencers are not only posting content on their Instagram, but on other social media platforms as well. Consistency across Instagram, Facebook and the web is vital in making a campaign as effective as possible.
  • Keep all related content mobile-friendly. When creating a paid Instagram ad, make sure the landing page is at least mobile-friendly to provide a positive user experience. With 80% of social media time being spent on mobile devices, people arriving to a site via Instagram will very likely be on their smartphones.
  • Leverage Facebook’s features. Because Facebook owns Instagram and has extended its targeting capabilities to Instagram, advertisers can more precisely and efficiently reach a target audience. Additionally, Facebook’s analytics platform provides insights that allow marketers to evaluate how paid posts are performing while providing the ability to optimize live campaigns.

 

EARNED

Because Instagram users are highly engaged, there are multiple opportunities for earning media on the platform.

  • Look out for tags. For brick-and-mortar businesses, location tagging gains earned impressions. Users are able to share their experiences with the business visually by including their locations in their posts. Essentially, it’s free organic exposure for a brand. It also allows brands to track consumer sentiment based on their visit. Hashtags and @mentions are another way to track what’s being said about a brand or topic – especially when the brand does not have a brick-and-mortar location.
  • Take advantage of earned media. Showcase photos that customers are taking by asking them for their permission to repost their images. This not only repurposes the content for use on a brand’s account, but it creates a positive experience for the original photographer by showing off their photos. In addition, Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other types of media. Grand Central Terminal, for example, effectively incorporates user-generated images into their feed while giving credit to those who share photos by using the hashtag #ShareGCT.

 

OWNED

The content produced by a brand speaks directly to its identity and gives it an opportunity to create authentic, emotional connections with consumers. It’s important to ensure that the majority of content is educational – with only 20% remaining self-promotional – to maximize engagement and interest. Here are a few tips:

  • Strategically plan content to post. If a brand falls under the financial or insurance categories, showcasing the brand may not be as easy as it is for Nike or Starbucks. However, thinking outside the box in terms of highlighting a brand’s value could do wonders for its marketing. Posts featuring community involvement, local businesses, or tips on shopping smart would likely be an effective content strategy for financial services brands. For health insurance brands, offering information consumers can apply to their own lives can easily grab their attention and have an impact on their health decisions. After all, over 40% of consumers say information found on social media affects how they deal with their health. For some brands, content that would perform well on Instagram already exists on other platforms. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana shares engaging health care information via a blog – content that could easily be translated to visually appealing Instagram posts.
  • Give consumers a peek inside a brand’s world. Showing consumers what it’s like to be inside the walls of a company gives a new, more relatable perspective on a brand, and can be a very effective tactic for engaging with users. General Electric executes this strategy well: Their Instagram account challenges the perception of GE as just a home appliance brand.
  • #Hashtag and Geotag. Hashtagging and geotagging are effective for discovering earned media, but both methods are also ideal for making owned content discoverable as well. Posts with at least one hashtag average 6% more engagement than posts without one, encouraging more conversation around a brand. Create a list of hashtags and geotags that relate to a brand, industry or location, and interact with them on a regular basis to grow a following and increase engagement.
  • Post lifestyle images. Lifestyle photography follows the visual trends of Instagram and what users are engaging with most frequently. Lifestyle photography also embraces the identity of a brand in a more relevant, human way to the consumer, allowing them to imagine themselves and their lives within the images. While graphics may make sense for brands wanting to clearly communicate a lot of information, graphics aren’t visually appealing enough for consumers want to interact with, and appear impersonal. If an image can grab consumers’ attention first, the caption will do the rest of the talking.

 

OUR PULSE

To maximize results with Instagram’s highly engaged audience, marketers should employ a social strategy that implements paid, owned and earned tactics. Tapping into all three areas will boost the results of your marketing efforts. Our engagement focus at Meers can help clients to plan strategically to take full advantage of all Instagram has to offer.


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