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5 Tips for Maximizing Your Instagram Strategy by Ashley Cassidy Seale

Ashley Cassidy SealeBy 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. Magazines Canada


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.

Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Content:

Print Engagement in Social Landscapes by Kate Lesniak

Facebook Marketing and Engagement for Magazines

Kate LesniakBy Kate Lesniak, Publisher, Bitch Media

Every other week, another think-piece comes out declaring that Facebook still isn’t generating direct revenue for publishers. Guess what? That trend is never going to change, and publishers shouldn’t expect it to. Facebook—and all social media, for that matter—isn’t here to boost your brand or fund media, it’s here to repackage the content you paid for into a sticky-as-hell internet magnet. So what to do? Stop counting on Facebook to care. And start building a revenue model that engages readers somewhere else when it really counts.

Part I: Defining Engagement & Measures of Success

In today’s publishing industry, the term “engagement” means something new every day. In this case, it’s important for your team—both editorial and revenue sides—to be on the same page about its definition. In its broadest application, engagement means the strategic use of social media and other digital and traditional platforms to bring readers closer into your organization, with the goal of eventually converting that reader to a paying member or subscriber. Before setting out to create a plan for engagement and marketing, first sit down with your team to define what it means at your organization.

Once you’ve come to a common, operational definition for engagement at your organization, it’s time to define what successful engagement looks like. Why are you using Facebook? What do you hope to get out of the platform? How will what you do on Facebook add value directly to your organization financially? Start with these questions. Specifically, after answering these questions, it’s important to arrive at agreement between editorial and revenue teams on the one action that is most valuable to your organization, or a “Core Action.” The Core Action is the most important thing a reader can do after engaging with your content for the first time on Facebook. As a print publisher, your Core Action should focus on moving readers closer to your publication, away from Facebook, and onto a platform where you determine how often and with what message you’re able to reach a reader. Common Core Actions include signing up for an email list or downloading an app. Both share one thing in common: They do not emphasize Facebook’s newsfeed as a reliable conduit for your marketing strategy.

Part II: Building a Facebook Engagement Strategy that Converts

For many in the past, the Core Action for Facebook has been divorced from the core action for the organization. For example, marketing teams would focus on acquiring “Likes” on Facebook with the intention of leveraging content exposure in the newsfeed into paid subscribers. The theory was that more “Likes” would mean more readers, which would then somehow, magically, turn into subscribers. Thanks to an enigmatic, ever-changing algorithm that has nearly edged out publishers completely, that strategy doesn’t work anymore (and it really never did).

In fact, your best marketing and engagement strategy for Facebook will focus on Facebook as a traffic driver for readers into your Core Action, rather than relying on Facebook to convert casual readers into paying readers. That’s why it’s so important for the content creators (editorial) and revenue generators (sales, development, etc.) to be on the same page about the ultimate reason behind your outlet’s presence on Facebook.

First, be sure that editorial sets a plan for content sharing on Facebook that’s both routine and allows space to capitalize on evergreen content (formerly published articles that are relevant to a spiking issue) when issues come to the forefront. If your magazine offers digital-sneak peeks or full articles online, share those on a routine basis, and make sure that once readers click through to read the story, they’re funneled into an opportunity to complete your Core Action before they leave your site. Develop an editorial content sharing strategy for Facebook that sets expectations for readers, and, importantly as a print publication, brings your content and those who are responsible for developing it off of the printed page.

After you’ve determined your sharing routines, how they drive into your Core Action and how your team is configured to make sure you’re getting the most of both points of contact, then, on a secondary level, it’s time to consider how Facebook as an isolated platform can also be useful. As a social tool that allows readers to come face to face with editors, writers, designers and those who are responsible for your publication, Facebook excels. Scheduling interviews or behind-the-scenes conversations via Facebook Live, as long as you offer an up-front routine, can be a great way to bring your readers closer to your publication. Pro tip: Make sure your programming for Facebook Live includes questions for viewers who might be watching—and if those on-screen can engage with the comments section while they’re live, even better. Of course, if you want to close the loop and be able to communicate with viewers after the live broadcast ends (core action!), make sure you have a specific call to action for viewers—a discount code for a subscription, a list where they can sign up to win a free issue, a place to send in questions for editors—so that you’re able to control the next time you can reach those viewers.

Part III: Other Tips

Although Facebook as a direct revenue conversion platform has its limits, there are some free tools that you can use to maximize your reach as well as your acquisition costs.

  • For starters, try applying ActionSprout to your account, a free platform that allows you to track both your most engaging posts on Facebook, as well as accounts (publishers) who distribute similar content. By tracking the success of your posts as well as posts from similar accounts, you’ll be able to make informed choices about what to boost as well as what you share in your own stream from others that’ll increase your Likes and, ostensibly, your visibility in the newsfeed moving forward. You’ll also be able to invite editors (or whoever is responsible for the success of your social programs) as individual users, so that each person has a sense of what’s successful on Facebook, and what’s not.
  • You may be surprised by who is following you on Facebook, and how much potential reach your outlet would have if your marketing team were able to successfully engage any celebrities, politicians, or similarly prominent individuals who might be following you. To find out who those folks are, use the free tool Social Rank and get to work cultivating relationships with those users. Validation and shares from high-worth social accounts offers enormous potential to increase your reach.
  • If you’re looking to make the most of your spending budget for Facebook, make sure you install Facebook Pixel on your website so that you’re able to identify and remarket the most likely readers to convert for your publication. Pixel allows you follow on Facebook with highly targeted ads and if you’re looking to control your cost-per-acquisition, Pixel will maximize your spend. Magazines Canada

Kate Lesniak is the publisher at Bitch Media, the feminist response to pop culture. Each day, Kate’s work focuses on one central question: How does an independent, community-supported feminist media outlet thrive in an environment that caters to corporate media and is constantly evolving through new engagement models and platforms? An organizer, fundraiser and innovator by trade, a friendly competitor by nature, and a person who is 100 percent committed to outsmarting the patriarchy, Kate approaches new challenges with energy for creative solutions and respect for the historical changemakers who paved the way for all of us. In 2017, Kate was named one of Media Shift’s Top 20 Digital Media Innovators.

Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)