Instagram is the fastest growing social network site and is expected to have one billion active users this year (Mediakix, November 2017). As a result, Instagram marketing has really become “essential” when it comes creating a following for your brand.
People love Instagram. They find gratification by posting photos and videos for their friends to see and react to. Also, users consume photos and videos mostly by viewing a core page showing a “stream” of the latest photos and videos from all their friends, listed in reverse chronological order 4. They can also ‘like’ or comment on these posts.
Instagram marketing is valuable tool for retailers. This is evident because retail brands are prominent users of Instagram. They frequently use persuasion, self-efficacy, relational, emotion and symbolism strategies to get users to interact with the brand by ‘liking’ or commenting on the content 3.
The more ‘likes’ and followers a retail brand achieve on Instagram, the more will users become aware of the brand. However, in order to secure online sales, retailers should make the user’s journey from ‘awareness’ to ‘purchasing’ as smooth as possible.
Instagram is an online, mobile phone photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social network service (SNS) that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and then share them on other platforms 1. It also allows users to add hashtags and geotags, graphical stickers, Augmented Reality objects, as well as apply multiple graphical filters to alter photos. Instagram quickly became popular because it’s not only a handy photo-sharing app, but also a social network.
What is most powerful about Instagram is that it is geared entirely towards mobile use, allowing users a simple interface to upload photos that they have just taken or captured in the past. “It’s like Twitter with followers, only instead of real-time text updates, you provide photo updates” explained Zohra Ashpari for PC World in 2012.
Instagram user statistics (Hootsuit)
- Instagram has over 800 million active users.
- 80% of Instagram users come from outside of the U.S.
- Instagram is used by 38% of women in the U.S. and 26% of men.
- 59% of Instagrammers in the U.S. are under 30.
- Teenagers love Instagram.
- Facebook and Pinterest are Instagrammers’ other favourite networks.
- A lot of Instagram users have pretty deep pockets.
It took Facebook not long to purchase Instagram in 2012 for one billion US$. Maybe they did it because Instagram was potentially a threat to their other business (Facebook) 2. Furthermore, Facebook owns the social media apps WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. The parallel that Zohra draw between the two social media apps then is happening even more today, as was pointed out in Redcode.
Kurt Wagner and Rani Molla write in Recode “The world’s most popular social apps are starting to look a little … similar. As companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snap have evolved, they’ve started to borrow product ideas from each other in the hope of building an all-in-one experience.”
So if Facebook is similar to Instagram, and all the other social media apps appear similar to each other, how on earth can retailers decide what social media app to advertise their products with?
However, with more pictures and videos that are used to share stories and experience, retailers may first consider “how to market” rather than “where to market” on these social media apps.
Developing an Instagram marketing strategy
Instagram marketing is derived from social media marketing. Therefore social media marketing can formally be defined as “The utilization of social media technologies, channels, and software to create, communicate, deliver, and exchange offerings that have vale for an organization’s stakeholders.” 5
Alicia Johnson writing in SproutSocial.com suggests the following to create an Instagram marketing strategy:
Step 1: Determine Your Objectives
- What will Instagram allow you to do that other platforms don’t?
- Who is your target audience and which members of your audience are active on Instagram?
- How will Instagram integrate with the other networks in your social media strategy?
Step 2: Develop an Instagram Content Strategy
Content is the foundation of your Instagram presence. For that reason, many B2C businesses use Instagram to make their product the star of the show.
- Build content themes – review your objectives and determine what aspects of your brand to showcase in your Instagram content.
- Determine content medium and ratio – consider a balance of content types that will work best for the resources you have and the engagement you want from your audience.
- Set a (flexible) content calendar – to establish and maintain an active presence on Instagram, determine the frequency with which you will post.
- Curate user-generated content – it allows you to foster audience engagement and create an incentive for your audience to share posts.
Step 3: Establish Clear Team Guidelines: Style, Publishing and Workflow
On a visual platform, the need for a clearly defined aesthetic is key.
- Maintain a brand aesthetic – review the existing visual representations of your brand: your logo, website, graphics, stock photography and other collateral.
- Understand your brand’s composition – to create a sense of visual harmony when a user looks at your profile.
Step 4: Foster engagement and set guidelines for community management
Instagram offers huge potential for engagement.
- Optimize your bio and link – focus on what’s important about your brand. Your bio is also a good place to educate.
- Follow industry accounts and Instagram influencers – what kind of content do you want to keep a pulse on through Instagram?
- Use Instagram stories to test content – make this content easy to read, view and understand so users don’t skip you the next time you publish a story.
Step 5: Analyze Your Results
Tracking how well your content performs and your follower growth will allow you to adapt your Instagram marketing strategy over time. For that reason it allows you to deliver more content that your audience will respond to while helping you optimize for future campaigns.
As digital communication technology improves, and we can communicate with speed and download quality images while moving, the visual content will become more import for retail brands. For that reason Facebook and Twitter are moving towards the business model of Instagram by incorporating more pictures and videos on the sites.
But we need to be reminded about the value of text: “Whereas a single picture may convey a thousand words, a single word may stimulate vivid images that may move consumers to attend, prefer, or buy 6.”
1 Sheldon, P. and Bryant, K. 2016. Instagram: Motives for its use and relationship to narcissism and contextual age, Computers in Human Behavior, 58:89-97.
2 Andrew Apostola and Simon Goodrich, 2013. Taking Back Retail, Transforming Traditional Retailers Into Digital Retailers, ©Portable Australia Pty Ltd.
3 Hassan, A. 2014. Do brands targeting women use instamarketing differently: a content analysis, In Marketing Management Association 2014 Annual Spring Conference Proceedings, 62-64.
4 Hu, Y., Manikonda, L. and Kambhampati, S. 2014, June. What We Instagram: A First Analysis of Instagram Photo Content and User Types, In Icwsm.
5 Tuten, T.L. and Solomon, M.R. 2014. Social Media Marketing, SAGE.
6 Wedel, M. and Pieters, R. eds. 2012. Visual marketing: From attention to action, Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.