A picture tells a thousand words #SMSS13

As mentioned previously, I’m ‘attending’ the Social Media Success Summit (#SMSS13 on Twitter) this month, and the good stuff to share keeps on coming.

This time the topic is Instagram, and specifically, ‘How to succeed on Instagram: A brand panel’. This photo-sharing smartphone application started out as a tool for individuals to share images ‘instantly’ but it is now a serious social media platform for businesses building their brand and engaging with customers.

Led by three people who are working professionals in the area of communicating brand through social media, specifically Instagram, today’s presenters were:

  • Stephanie Shkolnik — Director, Social Media, Digitaria (a JWT Company)
  • Bryce Kristensen — Associate Director, Digital Media, E! Entertainment, NBC
  • Kathleen Ngo — Social Media Specialist, Sony Electronics

Here are more notes on what Stephanie, Bryce and Kathleen talked about:

Why are you here?

As have multiple other speakers so far, this trio was quick to point out that lots of brands jump onto a social media platform simply because it is the latest thing, and not necessarily because it aligns with business (e.g. growing sales) and brand objectives (e.g. raising awareness, positive feedback). It is important that brands decide what is, and isn’t the role and function of all of the channels they are on. It is not a case that everyone should be on everything, and that everything does the same thing. This is especially important as social media use for business is in a phase of moving away from being a broadcasting machine, to instead being a place for two-way conversation.

The top performing content

There is a theme to what works (gets lots of ‘likes’ and comments) and what doesn’t on Instagram, and it boils down to these four things:

Lifestyle — images that endorse users’ lifestyle. The example given was an image of a brand posting photo of a girl’s hair at the beach, with the simple caption along the lines of ‘messy top knot, not a care in the world’. This tapped into what people love about summer, holidays, and relaxing — users could relate, and they endorsed back.

Behind-the-scenes — anything that gives users a glimpse into scenes they won’t be getting elsewhere is a big win on Instagram — backstage of fashion shows, on-locations filming, setting up for an event, a delivery of new marketing material or products in the office, in the car with colleagues on the way to an awards night. The is a lot o scope here.

Hashtags — get these right, and don’t over do it. If a certain hashtag is trending (e.g. #AFLGF in Australia, or #Emmys in US), and your brand has an image that can relate, can leverage, use it.

Captions — the picture has the power, but the caption is the finishing touch. Be interesting, be relevant, be original.

The do list for Instagram

  • Do share exclusive content that you aren’t publishing elsewhere — give followers a reason to stay with you.
  • Do use Instagram to extend brand voice.
  • Do take cues from current events, holidays, trends.
  • Do always include a call to action in your comment to get others following.

The don’t list for Instagram

  • Don’t overwhelm followers with multiple pictures in a short time (I once read that never more than three at a time; ever).
  • Don’t use the account to advertise. People want to see photos, they don’t want to see a product with a price tag on it.
  • Don’t post a URL with the image as users can’t click through to the app so it is redundant. If they want to find you, they will find you.
  • Don’t post for the sake of it — each post should have a purpose.

Look to the in-crowd

The final tips the presenters gave was that to get onto the ‘popular page’, users aren’t considered unless they have at least 1000 followers (and that is just to begin). However, for anyone with an account with a low number of followers, this is a great place to browse and monitor to see what works, what is popular, and get ideas for what might work for your brand. The people and brands featured here are doing something right, so learn from them.

This was a really great presentation with practical advice about using Instagram for brand awareness, and stripped-back common sense. The experiences and examples shared by the presenters were also a big plus.

For anyone interested, I have an Instagram account.

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