On Instagram numbers being down and why it doesn’t matter…

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Instagram follower growth and engagement are down across the board, and that is OK.  Brands have been seeing a slow down in their growth and engagement KPI’s for awhile now and that has really accelerated over the past few months.  There are various reasons for this that we break down below, but first let’s explain why it doesn’t matter.

First off, Instagram is a storytelling platform where we argue it is about depth and not width. Meaning brands should focus on putting out great looking content that helps convey their story, personality and USP in their vertical and make sure their house is in order and looks attractive when any individual comes to consume them on the platform. The quality of consumption is more important that the quantity here and you want to make sure you don’t send someone backwards in the sales journey.  By being dormant, non responsive (meaning pushing out content only but not engaging with users) or pushing out low quality imagery you are actually decreasing your chance of ever transacting with that individual.  So your own content and brand side engagement are actually the most important.

Also, Instagram has a great advertising platform and you can specifically target any audience you want with your content. So we tell clients who are freaking out about Instagram follower growth and/or like and comment numbers, that they should really be focused on CPM’s and Click Thru Rates on their Ads.  We have talked about the importance and value of paid social here on this blog before and we are seeing CPM’s below $5 on Instagram Ads optimized for video views, which is excellent on a platform where people spend the most time consuming content.  I think it is really time for a shift in which KPI’s to focus on.

All of the above being said, we fully understand and respect the concern about engagement and follower growth being down. Let’s take a look at why this is happening:

First off, the user count continues to grow at a torrid pace. As more and more people are using Instagram, there is just more noise and only so much that can show up in feeds.  For brands this means that consumers now have a lot of other distractions (more friends, celebrities, brands etc…) and it is just like having more TV channel options….it is harder to get their attention and loyalty because the supply is so high. If a user follows 500 accounts and they each post 1x per day that is 500 posts to sift thru, which just doesn’t happen from the vast majority of users.  All the more reason to focus on better imagery and videos, so when they do see it, it is compelling content that they remember.

Also adding to the noise is the rapid increase in businesses using the Ads platform.  As they understand the potential of Instagram, they are starting to invest more money there. The downside to each individual account is it eats up some previously available attention, but the upside is that with a small investment you can put your brand into that slot and in front of the right eyeballs, via smart targeting.  Brands should be lining up! (and many are…)

why your instagram engagement rate went down

Picture taken from Trak.in

Instagram Stories have also eaten up a lot of the platform attention.  If each user has only a limited amount of daily time spent on IG, these unique content pieces right at the top will reduce engagements on your photos. Smart Instagrammers post many stories a day to keep their profile appearing at the top and as a direct result less of your followers may actually scroll until they reach your photos.

I explain to clients that Stories are like Netflix.  They came on the scene and quickly starting chipping away at attention that was previously spent on IG proper (like traditional TV). Both have a place, but Stories/Netflix have an immediacy to them and are just so easy to access and consume.  So our recommendation is that you don’t just shut down and give up. You remain committed to putting out great looking content so the quality is always high AND you experiment with Stories to join them, if you cant beat them.  Make sense?

Despite all of the reasoning above, we believe you should still be scrappy and continue trying do whatever you can to capture attention and turn the spotlight on your content and account.  This article form Social Media Today offers 7 ways to boost your Instagram Engagement and the key takeaways are:

1. Research and A/B split test your hashtags

2. Be active

3. Tie images in with compelling storytelling

4. Find the Right Time to Post

5. Add a Call to Action

6. Cross Promoting

7. Instagram Ads – Pay to Play

In the end of the day, it is just a shift in POV and time to deploy different tactics. You don’t run from a problem, you assess what you want to have happen and then deploy tactics to help you achieve that end goal. Having more followers and/or an extra hundred likes on your next post are not end goals, right?  They are just one way to assess performance, which is quickly becoming outdated. It is like Nielsen Ratings being used to determine advertising rates on TV.  An Ad might reach a lot of homes, but does anyone consume it?

Success on Instagram today comes down to great looking, quality content (no screenshots, no low quality or blurry images) depth of engagement (meaning closing our the comments and commentary you actually do get, even if less than before) and targeted exposure (advertising and Influencer and brand collaborations).  Focus on these religiously and quality followers, likes and engagement will follow.

 

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On Facebook Live (Part Deux)…

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Long live live video!  We talked about Facebook Live here in this blog a year ago and since then, the platform has exploded.  As Facebook continues to dominate the content scene, there is a real wave of momentum on their live video platform. The Social Network wants to be much more than families sharing pics and friends pushing memes (though both are great) and the ability for brands and personas to push out their message in a live format is killing it right now!

Facebook live (and Instagram live can be done at the same time with another phone/camera to kill two birds with one stone) is a definite recommendation for a brand looking for diverse ways to get content out to their audience and reach new people too. This piece on Mediakix breaks down some compelling stats, and we highlighted two below:

Facebook Live Videos Are Watched 3x Longer Than Videos That Aren’t Live Anymore

According to Facebook, users watch Facebook Live videos 3x longer than videos that aren’t live.

Users Comment On Facebook Live Videos At 10x The Rate Of Regular Videos

Facebook Live is a dream for engagement, driving comments at over ten times the rate of non-live videos. Again, because the focus of Facebook Live is a window into and interaction with a moment in time as it unfolds in real time, commenting is about being a part of a live conversation.

Here is a great piece on how to harness the power of FB Live and we have seen much of this work in practice for our clients over the past few months. Take our client Paula’s Choice Skincare for example.  They have a very charming and knowledgable Founder, who feels very comfortable getting in front of the camera.  Though not everyone needs to be quite as skilled and poised as her, it certainly helps their cause.

Before we go live, we announce it to the fanbase so they “tune in” to the time we will be broadcasting. This is much like a TV show (pre TIVO/DVR of course) and meant to get fans to adjust their schedules to digest some real interactive content.

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Also, after you run a FB live, you can edit the post and add a CTA to it, to get people back to your website. It is a good tactic to add a link and say something like “we’re sorry you missed us live, but if you want to hear the biggest takeaways from it, click here:” which could send users back to the website to consume a blog post about the live session. This is an excellent way to generate e-commerce sales and/or retargeting opportunities, as part of a conversion funnel.

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The (organic mind you) reach and engagement on these has been excellent.  Facebook rewards the effort with exposure in user’s feeds and wants to put this type of super relevant and useful content front and center. To top that off, we encourage brands to share and/or add something like:

“Never miss a live post again!  Make sure you LIKE us on Facebook and go to your settings and be sure to turn on notifications when we go live and “see first” to not miss any valuable posts.”  When you get people to take that action you will dramatically increase your reach and engagement on live.

Our recommendation is to not overthink it, and to just get started. Get on with an iPhone or a camera with an inexpensive tripod and just get talking. Some easy topics are: a new product announcement, new location opening, new branding explained and/or just some interactive Q&A about products or services.  Do it, and then assess and adjust as you go along. This is definitely about documenting rather that carefully crafting and creating.  Once you see momentum, you can better stage the presentation and create a more structured model.

You need to take that first step and remember that this is about hacking underpriced attention AND riding the Facebook Live video wave. FB wants to push it hard, and you should grab their fin and let them take you with them on the ride…

 

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