By Ashley Cassidy Seale, Founder and Creative Director, Ruby Social Co.
Counting more than 500 million active users, Instagram remains the fastest growing social media platform today. With over 40 billion photos posted to date and an average of 95 million photos and videos being shared per day, the conversation has quickly moved from “should we be on Instagram?” to “how can we maximize our presence?”
Many companies tend to think of their Instagram page as a place to editorialize and humanize their brand, so as a publisher you naturally have a leg up on the fine art of storytelling. As Instagram is a visual platform first, it’s important to draw people in with both beautiful and engaging content. Balancing quality content with a well-thought-out strategic plan is the way to see growth and success. Here are five tips to help you and your team maximize your efforts:
1. Get to know your audience
Of course, what works will differ vastly from publisher to publisher so it’s important to first consider your audience. This is a word that you should never forget when you talk about your social media marketing strategy—community. In fact, it would be helpful eliminate the word “followers” or “following” entirely from your vocabulary. Sound harsh? With far too many individuals and brands being too focused on growing their following rather than building a community, users are becoming increasingly savvy and skeptical of “hidden agendas” or the feeling of being sold to.
The best place to start is to take some time to look at who is following you already. This is a very simple and often overlooked practice, but there is much insight to be gained. Take note of the following (either through stats or through actually combing through your feed): where does my community live, how old are they, what type of content do they post, how often, who are they following, what type of posts do they engage with? People share much of their lives on social media now, so we have even more information to analyze to better understand them and anticipate what will best resonate.
Next, audit your own existing content. Using Instagram for Business’ stats tool it’s easy to analyze which posts are performing well, which are creating conversation, and which are falling flat. Don’t be afraid to be critical of past content in order to improve moving forward.
2. Have a purpose
While we can all agree it’s crucial to have a presence on Instagram, it’s paramount to understand and be diligent about your “why.” Competition is healthy for business but falling into a comparison trap with your fellow publishers can be paralyzing at times. It may be tempting to feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, but you know your audience best.
The best place to start is to outline your goals. While the most obvious thing may be to grow the number of followers you have (and growth should always be part of the mix), you’ll likely want to set your sights on other metrics including: driving traffic to your hero platform, increasing engagement and driving conversation about your content, testing new content, etc. Consult with your team to establish clear benchmarks and multiple checkpoints throughout the year (quarterly is a good rule of thumb); however, it’s important to remember that Instagram is also an excellent brand-building tool and that sometimes this kind of growth is less tangible.
What content pillars does your publication focus on? Consider these and then think about which would work best on Instagram. It’s recommended that you choose three to five pillars and stick to them to as to not be too generalized.
Consider your value propositionーwhat are you offering? As with your regular content, there should always be a takeaway for the reader. Think of your content as less of a teaser to your website and more of a sidebar. What can you offer on your Instagram feed that users can’t find anywhere else? The more value you deliver, the more engaged and trusting your community will become.
3. Create a cohesive aesthetic
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, Instagram relies heavily on visuals. While storytelling is important (we’ll address this in the next step), the thing that will get you noticed faster than anything is beautiful imagery.
The best profiles on Instagram have a signature look and feel. Think about your brand positioning and what this looks like on other platforms and how this can translate to Instagram.
Consider colour palette, brand aesthetic and audience. Do this by focusing on your top nine photos at any given time, so as to not appear overtly formulaic. Explore options with colour tone (warm or cool), white space, props and backdrops, and commit to a look.
4. Leverage the caption
A good photo is great, but the magic happens when that million dollar shot is paired with a thoughtful story or insight. See the caption as an opportunity to tell a story and inspire conversation. Embrace the micro-blogging format (who says you have to stop at 140 characters? Not Instagram), but balance this by knowing when to keep it short and sweet.
Keep storytelling at the core. Do this by mixing it up: share a story, evoke emotion, aim to inspire, shed some light and lend your expertise. Of course, all content should reflect editorial values, maintain integrity and stay true to the voice of your publication.
5. Embrace the content calendar
Create a content calendar for Instagram by leveraging the editorial calendar for your hero content. Think about ways to expand on this content and add a new twist for Instagram. Planning ahead at least two to three weeks is ideal; however, leave room to be nimble and flexible to respond or address world events, pop culture stories and viral trends that fit within the context of your brand.
Stick to a posting schedule. Consistency is key with the new algorithm, so posting at a similar time at least four to five times per week will help ensure your content is being seen. Don’t be afraid to experiment with posting times to see what captures the attention of your audience best.
Ashley Cassidy Seale is a communications professional with more than a decade of public relations and marketing experience. Between her time in the agency world, helming teams and leading award-winning, national campaigns for lifestyle, fashion and beauty brands to working in-house for design houses and luxury retail, Ashley has fine-tuned a truly holistic expertise. An early adopter of social media, she harnessed her digital know-how to build an online presence under the moniker Quaintrelle, which has since evolved from a lifestyle blog to a bona fide, internationally recognized brand with workshops and events. An influencer in her own right, she launched Ruby Social Co.—a communications and content studio for clever brands—to bring this unique perspective to thoughtfully navigate her clients into the spotlight.
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