Since our childhood, we have all heard hundreds and thousands of stories. Bedtime stories from our parents, fairy tales at school, stories learned from friends or family members. Stories are an important part of life. We live our lives through narrative, storytelling opens up channels of communication and stimulates emotional and imaginative development. Stories help us understand things by putting them in context so that everything makes sense in terms structure, i.e. what happened before and then how things proceed afterwards
But how does this relate to marketing? Well, in my opinion storytelling is one of the most effective ways for a brand to connect with its target audience. As a marketing professional, you play the role of a storyteller. If you want people to remember your brand/business/projects, you will have to structure them successfully in a convincing story. Stories do not only put things in context, but they also call for interaction and evoke emotions. Those are exactly the types of reactions you want to stimulate across your target audience.
Although storytelling isn’t anything new, social media channels such as Instagram has made brand storytelling much more accessible and immediate. On Instagram, businesses are challenged to guide their followers through a highly interactive and personal brand tour. Because it’s inherently mobile, Instagram is everywhere and anytime. It’s your brand in the moment. For further insights into visual storytelling on Instagram, I would suggest you to read Christian Adams’ bookInstaBRAND: http://instagramebook.com.
Whereas I have previously covered the ins and outs of running a successful instagram contest on the blog, I would like to take this space to provide more detailed insights into the power of Instagram for businesses when it comes to branding and brand engagement.
(Instagram video for marketing will be explored in a future blog post)
Fully optimise your profile.
First of all. when you set up your Instagram profile, make sure to include all relevant brand information taking into account the maximum number of characters, specific image sizes, and of course don’t forget about branding.
The infographic below, designed by Gerry Moran, illustrates all the aspects to build a perfect Instagram profile.
When it comes to your profile picture, use your company logo to ensure uniform branding across your online portfolio.
Your user name should closely resemble your company name, Facebook user name and Twitter handle. Again, make sure brand uniformity is guaranteed across your online channels.
Describe what you, what your brand stands for, and why your audience should follow you on Instagram. Note: your Instagram profile cannot be searched via keywords or hashtags, as is the case for other social channels such as Twitter.
Make sure to include your company website or link to your Facebook page in the URL section. This will help people discover your overall brand universe.
Create a brand presence. Share your story.
Post photos relevant to your brand. Don’t just publish photos that promote or ‘sell’ your product(s), but fun and engaging photos that grab your followers’ attention and contribute to your overall brand story.
Simply bring your brand to life through photos. For instance:
Use exclusive photos that people cannot discover anywhere else. Make the experience exclusive to Instagram. These could be sneak peaks of upcoming events, behind-the-scenes office snaps, your latest marketing material etc.
Build anticipation. Refer to something that will be happening later that day, week or month to keep your followers engaged and give them an exclusive treatment.
Share your story with a collage. Sometimes only one photo simply isn’t enough. Pull a few photos together into one collage that helps you convey your message.
Showcase the ‘human’ side to your company and put your employees in the spotlight.
Remember at all times: On Instagram, it’s not really about what you sell, it’s about visual feelings (Source: Social Media Examiner). It’s not about your products, but it’s about the lifestyle behind those products and behind your brand overall. So make sure that your portfolio reflects this.
Don’t forget to have your company logo or other branding material appear in your photos. People discover your photos on their feed, so make sure that your snaps give them a taste of your brand. Of course not all photos should be branded, but strive towards a healthy content mix by integrating your brand here and there in a creative and engaging way.
Extend the experience beyond Instagram by connecting your Instagram account to your Facebook page (also a very visual platform) so that your Instagram content will also appear on FB. This will help extend your content reach and engagement and further increase awareness of your Instagram business profile.
As soon as you upload a new photo, your followers and other users will be able to interact by liking or commenting on your image. These interactions appear immediately in your notifications tab. These interactive elements allow you to build a close community around your brand and start tw0-way conversations with your followers.
Build a community and engage.
Add relevant photo captions. Stimulate interaction by asking questions. Include quotes. Make your captions fun and entertaining to grab users’ attention. Respond to comments or mentions. Ensure to stimulate further conversation with your reply by asking questions to incite a response. Use @mentions if you wish reference a specific user. This user will then get a notification which will increase your chances to interact effectively around the content published. Attract new followers by adding the ‘Follow us on Instagram’ button to your other online properties.
When you decide to connect Instagram to your Twitter account, do so wisely. The microblogging platform has after all cut all previews from Instagram from its interface. Instagram photos are therefore turned into text-based tweets for which the visual can only be viewed externally on Instagram itself. So make sure that your headline is highly descriptive and contains a strong call-to-action for people to click-through to your Instagram profile.
When you have any specific promotions going or you are organising an event, you might want to consider cross-publishing your content over your Twitter account, Facebook Page, Instagram profile. Decide on a suitable hashtag and post engaging content across all platform with captions that include that specific hashtag. This way you create a type of eco-system for your promotion or event to increase overall buzz.
Finally, spice up interaction by allowing for user-generated content linked to your brand and products to appear on your business page. People love it when their work gets recognised. Feature a fan photo on your Instagram page on a weekly or monthly basis. This will increase overall brand awareness and helps you to further grow engagement with your fan base.
Hashtags. (Don’t) (over) use them!
Similar to Twitter and a few other social sites, Instagram is highly focused around the use of hashtags. Use relevant hashtags to reach people and get more exposure for your messages. Identify and monitor popular industry-related or brand-specific hashtags.
Consider running a weekly or monthly recurring theme for your followers to send in their top snaps using a consistent hashtag.
Especially effective when running/promoting an event or conference. Make sure to tag all event photos with the official event hashtag. This way, attendees but also non-attendees can easily follow the latest event updates, discover your Instagram profile for you to gain even more followers.
Also consider adding hashtags to evergreen posts published in the past as a way to keep your content fresh.
Experiment and think out-of-the-box.
Balance out your image portfolio by including photos linked directly to your business and/or brand as well as fun and entertaining photos that reflect your lifestyle or company’s zeitgeist.
Every now and then, you can shake things up by trying out new filters or not adding any filter at all. Ensure to track engagement levels for each filter option to see what works best for your brand.
Don’t be afraid to try a new brand perspective and think out-of-the-box
Whatever you do, always be unique
Share interesting brand news in a creative and innovative way
Experiment to see what exactly is a provocative, engaging image for your specific target audience
Use interaction insights to discover where and how people are engaging with your brand. This allows you to optimise your future efforts based on these insights. Try different types of posts, and experiment with different filters.
Consistently keep an eye on popular industry hashtags to identify new opportunities. Contribute to and engage your audience around these hashtags/themes.
Test it yourself.
Sign up for a personal account yourself to test the experience from the consumer’s point of view. This might provide you with some valuable insights as to best practices, most engaging material, top filters and much more.
To keep up to date with the latest tips, insights, great branding examples on Instagram, make sure to check out the official Instagram for Business blog, managed from the Instagram HQ.
About the Author: Truus is an online marketing consultant with a great passion for photography, social media, travelling and all things sweet! She has a great deal of experience in strategic planning, optimisation and execution of creative integrated digital and social media campaigns across all platforms. Coming from Belgium, she has the advantage of speaking multiple languages - such as Flemish, English and French - and is therefore mostly engaged in international digital campaigns.
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