Let’s take a deep dive into Instagram as part of the Stitch & Hustle Social Media Series. If you are not using Instagram yet, I implore you to see if it is a good platform for your brand. I have a feeling it will be.
I love Instagram – in fact it is my favorite of all the platforms. It is an incredible tool to grow you business, connect with other businesses and customers. I break it down here into 3 segments: Posts, Community, and Metrics.
Since it all starts with what you post, let’s talk about that first.
I think of Instagram as the advanced Social Media version of the pre-school game Show & Tell. You have two opportunities to tell your brand story when you post on Instagram: in the photo and in the text. A great Instagram post is more than just a pretty picture. It connects and tells a story.
You can also think of Instagram posts as mini blog posts. That way you are always trying to connect with every post and share with intent & purpose. And remember – every post is a representation of your brand.
First up: The Photo
The photo is the draw. It is the eye candy. It is what makes Instagram Instagram. Your images should give a cohesive theme and brand message. You can focus on reflecting the brand lifestyle, inspirations, as well as just the product itself. Give a glimpse to your behind the scenes or process. SHOW your brand message.
If you are starting out or have a personal small brand this still matters. For example a friend of mine was asking how to up her IG game for her home chef account. I say – go beyond the finished meal and glossy pics. As a healthy home chef show ingredients in their natural setting. Show markets and shopping carts. Show the process. Show the meal prep. Instagram allows video: show us your knife skills and dice something! There are so many ways to mix things up in a single image that reflects your brand and community.
Building your Instagram brand profile for personal account or your business requires a cohesive and consistent message in all your posts.
On a technical side; You can use almost any camera really. There are so many apps and filters that sometimes your phone is your best option. Plus, it’s always handy. For specific product display or branding purposes, you may want to consider a DSLR or even hiring or collaborating with a photographer. But again, getting started with your phone is all you need.
If you want to take a quick course on turning your phone into your camera, I suggest one on Craftsy or this one on CraftU. But nothing beats playing around with it and learning hands on, learning when the best time of day gives you the best lighting for your product, etc. No matter what filters or tools you use, nothing can “fix” a badly lit photo so these are important things to know.
A couple of apps I personally love are Camera+, VSCO, & PicStitch. Each has various features that allow me to manipulate the photo to tell the story I want. Be careful with filters though. They are not all right for your brand image even though they work for others. You can also control the intensity of the filter with a simple click. So play around with filters and apps to find what works best for you.
Stay away from collages. While you want to show all the awesome uses and variations of your product, the truth is that they are distracting and do not convey a clear story or brand message.
One photo. One story. Minus the rare exception, that is my Instagram rule of thumb.
And have fun! It’s true this is work and you have a marketing purpose but having fun is just as important. It comes through in the image (I firmly believe this). So be creative. Play around with various angles of your product and in various locations and settings for your product. It is a social media platform not a catalogue shoot!
Next up: The Text
While yes, the photo should tell a story – your text should enhance that story. Go deeper to connect with your community. Maybe talk about your process. Or share personal detail about the day. Whatever you choose to share it should be with intent to connect with your community and stay within your brand message.
The text is a great place to offer something to your community. As we have talked about is the intent of this blog, our hustle should be to help others succeed and to be of service. No reason not to do that with your Instagram. Offer a tip. Offer insight to a design.
Whatever your brand message, this is a great opportunity to start a conversation with your community. I try to leave my posts with a question, invitation to comment or call to action. Invite the community to engage.
Back to the home chef example; this could be where she talks about the difference between one ingredient over another. Or offer the community a quick time saving tip to be more efficient. Maybe ask the community what their favorite herb or ingredient is then in the next post refer back to that favorite. Talk about the recipe and why you love it (which gives a glimpse to you). Make it about more than just the picture.
I am strongly against lengthy text every time. Mix it up. Keep the audience interested. Again, this is another opportunity to connect. Don’t miss out.
Another important aspect of text is hashtags. I could do a whole spiel on hashtag etiquette but I will refrain. Just know that within the main post 2-5 relevant hashtags should be the max. If you want to add another round of relevant hashtags you can do so in a comment. Use tags that your audience will seek out so they can find you. Think like a customer!
So now you have a great image and interesting post. Posting it is only the first step. Now we get into your community.
Social Media platforms call them “followers” or “fans” but I call people part of your community. Interaction & engagement goes both ways and, as you know from the purpose of this blog, I am a firm believer in giving more than you take.
When new people follow you, check out their page. If it is interesting or appealing to you, follow back. Read their posts. Comment and start a conversation. Make that effort to reach out. It could be as simple as a “like” or happy face. Whatever your method, connect. Find accounts that are aligned with your brand. Interact and comment. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them!
When people comment on your post thank them. An unanswered comment is akin to saying “I don’t care what you say” and WE DO CARE what our community says. So BE social. Respond. Interact. Too often we think Social Media is about putting it out there. It’s not. It is SOCIAL Media. Read my detailed post on that topic here.
Which takes me to my next point on community: Listen!!! The importance of listening to what your community is talking about cannot be understated . What interests them? What problems can you help them solve? What are they talking about matters because it is your opportunity to connect.
So now you’ve posted and listened and built community. But how do you know if it’s working?
Like any Social Media or Marketing effort, you need to have an intentional plan & strategy going in. You want to grow. You want to increase followers and ultimately generate brand loyalty and sales. Develop a plan that works for you to achieve those goals. Then Track. Track more. Track, shift and grow.
Obviously if you see an uptick in likes, comments and “followers” you will know you are on to something. But I suggest you develop KPI’s that will help you meet your goals and know where to spend your time and resources and get an overview of what posts are hitting the mark. I personally use Iconosquare and you can try it free for 30 days.
Over the course of your first 30 days of posting with purpose as described above, you should be able to clearly see what resonates with your community and attracts new followers. That is what you build on to grow and ultimately generate sales.
Instagram should be fun but it is also work. So get to work and have some fun!
And don't forget to follow Stitch & Hustle on Instagram & join the community!