Instagram Is The Social Network Of The Moment…

can_you_buy_50_instagram_likes_for_an_affordable_priceOur Fall 2018 Interns have been part of the #SircleSquad for a little over a month now and they’re getting down to business! This semester, we’ll be sharing a blog post by one of our interns, on a topic selected by them.

First up, is Amanda Arevalo of Fordham University!

Amanda Arevalo

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Instagram is the most important social media platform to invest your company’s time in, plain and simple. Facebook and Twitter are important too, but Instagram takes the top seat. While Facebook offers more total reach, Instagram has a higher rate of engagement with users. While Twitter is ideal for small businesses and organizations, Instagram is more useful for storytelling, since there are twice the amount of users on Instagram than on Twitter, and its photo-based layout allows brands to have a more personal connection with followers. Statistically speaking, Instagram has more than 800 million active users- 60% of whom check Instagram daily and 80% of users following at least one business account. Those are compelling numbers, so having a strong following, heavy engagement, and the right micro-influencers are crucial to building your brand’s awareness.

For that reason, Instagram is essential to any business, especially if they are early or growth stage entities. The good news is, this isn’t the hard part. If you follow another brand on your business’s Instagram account and you “like” pictures of that brand’s content, a number of things can happen. First the chances of that brand noticing your brand and following back, perhaps to create a collaboration, increases. Some of their followers coming across your brand’s content and liking it also increases. It takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it. If you then create interesting content that tells a story about your brand instead of making a generic sales pitch, you’ll also have a better chance of increasing and keeping your following. Over time, your brand’s impact and awareness will grow exponentially.

Many think that the role of Instagram is to simply display content that followers will like. While this is true, it shouldn’t be the main and only focus. Many companies dedicate all of their time to creating attractive photos, but they tend to forget the importance of engagement. You can have all the followers in the world, but if you lack that necessary engagement with your followers, then none of the likes or views will even matter. So if you spend the time to convey a message or stir up an emotion and you actually succeed and get a response, do not squander that conversation opportunity by staying radio silent.

So what exactly should engagement look like? The focus here is to create a personality for your brand. Your brand’s personality is then used as a tool to create a dialogue with your followers. People tend to not care about brands that don’t care about them. If many people are asking questions on your photos, and your brand doesn’t answer, then their questions are simply left hanging. That’s one potential customer that you just lost. While one may not seem like a big deal, having at least one unanswered question on almost all of your photos means that you have many ignored users. Over time, the number of people that will not want to buy from or interact with your brand, because they feel uncared for or unheard, can add up.

One of the most powerful tools in your engagement arsenal is the regram. If a very happy customer or fan/follower posts a picture of themselves with your product, then that’s great free marketing right there. Your customer is happy, and they want to show all the other people on their feed. This WOM opportunity is powerful and you can pay them back by posting their image on your account. This could potentially lead to more customers coming your way. Simply liking that picture will show that you are taking into account their opinion of your product, but regramming the picture takes this appreciation a step further. It shows that you’re really taking into account what they have to say, which many followers will genuinely appreciate. Knowing that they’re on your account makes them feel excited and cared for, because in that way you’re saying, “I’m happy that you’re happy,” and who doesn’t like that?

Asking engagement questions is also a surefire way to create a dialogue with your followers. This is especially useful to do with your Instagram Story content, which is another super powerful feature on Instagram. Asking a question, even if it’s as broad as “What’s your favorite Fall drink?” will create a dialogue that’s fun and interesting. Instagram Stories have different features where you can add polls (such as the classic poll and the slider) and a “Questions!” feature (which would also be perfect for an “Ask Me Anything” session). Because of this, users will know your company is active, well rounded, and thoughtful- and not to mention, you’ll be able to learn a little more about the audience that your product attracts most.

With different engagement tactics in the books, you begin to publicly establish a foundation for your product. This is something that potential customers truly like to see. Now the question is, how can you get followers to move down the marketing journey path from awareness to consideration and trial? Something people like to see is that a product is attainable, especially after seeing that someone they admire uses it as well. If let’s say, someone who enjoys makeup, sees their favorite influencer use a high-end makeup product, then they will be more inclined to think, “If they [the influencer] are using that brand, then why can’t I?” The use of an influencer will make your brand seem much more appealing to the average user.

On Instagram, there are a plethora of influencers that like to post great photos on their personal accounts with all types of brands in tow. Finding the right influencer is also the best way to target a niche market for your brand, especially if you’re able to extend your reach. At the same time, you can also diversify your audience, and speak to a new, niche market. If you have been focusing on one targeted audience, then you might be ignoring a whole different group of people that are also actively purchasing similar products. Therefore, you should experiment with different types of micro-influencers and use them as trojan horses into new communities. Searching for different types of influencers will allow for different types of people to buy your products. Like with any sale, it is better to have a warm introduction, than to make a cold call to a new customer!

At the end of the day, Instagram is not a magic tool. It’s only useful if you make it useful through effort. That’s why boosting your awareness, creating appropriate content, engaging heavily with your followers (and/or with anyone who engages with your content), and finding the right people to further represent your brand should all be taken very seriously.  With all of these in motion, you are setting your brand up to win on Instagram.  The people and the awareness are there, and so it is on you to go and find them!

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Instagram POV – Q1 2018

On this episode, I talk about the current state of affairs on Instagram. Organic reach in the feed is way down and brands need to be smarter about how they are adjusting to that fact. Some quick takes:

1- Posting more, is not the answer. In fact, it seems to accelerate the fall off in organic reach and impressions.

2- Stories are the jam. If you want to post more, just post there instead and watch the numbers.

3- Video View campaigns are cheap and effective.

Instagram is the place to be for brands, but the game has changed a bit for sure. Don’t be romantic about what got you here (i.e. Instagram Follower count, measuring likes and comments per post) and instead, go to where things are moving.

 

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Instagram POV – further explained…

In this episode, we go a bit deeper into our current POV on Instagram. We have recently shared our take on what matters on Instagram, as well as why we love Instagram Ads so much right now.  Here we frame how to rethink your strategy for the platform and be able to better explain the right approach to retailers, investors and/or even yourself.

Instagram (just like Facebook before it) has given away a lot for free to build their brand and user base.  Now they are saying to brands that if they want to reach people and leverage the platform, they will need to pay. This is a good thing and if done right, it actually provides much more value than your follower count OR how many likes your last photo received ever did.

Hope this helps shape the conversation a bit more…

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Be our guest, be our guest!

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Instagram took another shot at their competitors last week, with the rollout of being able to add a guest to your Instagram Live broadcast. Live streaming is a major frontier and the ability to do so with a partner is very intriguing for both people and brands alike.

You can read about the product and watch the video put out by Instagram to visually showcase the concept here.  What we like about it, is that it is super simple to execute and gives users another reason to stay and tinker around in an ecosystem they already know, rather than getting bored and poking around elsewhere. Instagram has proven to be a master of that move.

From a brand POV, you can strike up a dialogue with a fan/customer OR bring in an expert to hammer home a USP of your product or service. i.e.

Have a healthy CPG product? Bring in a dietician to discuss the positive attributes of the ingredients in a conversation with you.

Are you an apparel brand? Bring in a designer to discuss the cut, fit or general reasoning behind a design to help educate a consumer through some back and forth with your marketing team.

Working with an influencer? Perhaps bring in two at once, to offer their perspectives on a “shared with” broadcast and get a dialogue going rather than just a monologue promoting your product. A conversation brings much more depth to that positioning and was a big reason for Twitter Party success back in the day (and still we would argue)!

Users in all age brackets are spending more time on Instagram than Snapchat these days and 25% of that time is spent “above the feed” in Stories and Live broadcasts. Social networks are a competitive landscape, so it is important to experiment and to try and be an early adopter of new tools such as this. If you are a brand looking to market your wares, then you need to join the fray!

 

 

 

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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 Instagram carousel posts…

Instagram made another power move last week, by introducing the ability to publish a carousel of images or videos in one post on the platform.  Now brands (and individuals) can share multiple pictures to better tell their story and not be limited to only one piece of content. This is a game changer for the social network that yields the best “attention grabbing” opportunities already.

While you were able to post up to 5 images as part of an advertising buy already, now you can post up to 10 and it doesn’t need to be an Ad unit. As a result, you can add more context to any story and use a large grip of images and/or videos to do so.

You just select the pieces you want to share, and then post them as a grouping.  Users will see small blue circles at the bottom, subtly telling them to scroll and consume.  This represents another body blow to Snap, Inc., as it pulls more user attention inward with the newness of it. Also, by introducing the swiping of content, which has not historically been part of the IG interface, but has been part of the Snapchat ecosystem.

Over the coming months you are sure to see many carousel posts and lots of creativity, as brands and individuals look to stand out from the clutter. We are all in for sure.

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POV on Instagram Stories

If you are alive and have a smartphone (read: everyone) then you probably already know that Instagram rolled out their “Stories” feature in August as a way to compete with their growing competitor, Snapchat.  By rolling out this easy to use feature, natively on the already popular Instagram platform, they took an increasingly growing and popular format (short term “must see” disappearing content) and served it up in a seamless way (via Instagram’s app already on most users phones).

Facebook has historically either purchased their growing competitors (i.e. Instagram) or outflanked them and beat them at their own game (Facebook Live > Periscope and now Stories >Snapchat). Many influencers jumped right in, as did some major brands. Over the past couple of weeks smaller brands have dabbled, including us on some of our client accounts. Our approach (as it always is with these things) was to sit, watch and consume both content put out by brands AND the many articles written about the topic in the past three weeks before we jumped in with a recommendation for our clients.  Now that we have done that and a new month and a new season is afoot, here it is.

We think Instagram stories are great for offering up context as opposed to content. Whereas we are big believers in using Facebook and Instagram proper for staging attractive looking content that stands out and is appealing visually, with stories we are much more about “documenting rather than creating”.  So it should feel raw and semi abstract. Less structured, no edits and just real deal storytelling about what the brand is up to.

For now it is a great way to document the how, why, where and even the who, behind the what. Some ideas:

1) Give followers more context into who you are and what your personalities are about? Are you fun? Do you clown around? Do you like dogs? Do you like memes?

2) Document growth and inertia. Palettes of product going out? Perhaps a shipment headed to a customer, a blogger or model visit to the studio etc.

3) Celebrate your fans, followers and even retail partners. Have some fan photos queued up on a screen and create a story saying “we see you @ABC and @DEF and @RST and we appreciate you!” OR go to some of your retailers and shoot on location!

4) Show off product being eaten in the office? Create a story about the making of the product. Show off your point of sale displays, so perhaps people recognize them when they see them in a store. Give an inside look into your warehouse or studio filled with product, or even your production line etc.

5) Show off ingredients and/or USP’s with quick story clips.  What is in it and/or what makes it different? Tell the followers first hand without the need for a fully stylized video shoot!

In the end of the day, be fun and whimsical.  Don’t feel the need to stage, light or refine.  Experiment and remember, it doesn’t last an eternity.  So take some risks and be a bit more carefree and real.  Instagram could be your buttoned up self at work, but Instagram stories can be you at home in sweats and a scrunchie.  Got it?

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Win of The Week- Instagram Small Ball Tactics = $ales

sircle-instagram $

Instagram is a fantastic social network and brands in all industries (especially fashion) have taken to it as a way to story tell and display their style.  It is easy to use, mobile based and is a direct line to people’s pockets.  We like Instagram, because it is another platform to help brands sell product to customers.

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Here is a screenshot from one of our client’s Google Analytics dashboards, showing traffic over a the month of April from the link in their bio. Most brands think that Instagram is not a facilitator of traffic, and that is just not true. Here you see a healthy flow of users to their domain, an “off the charts” low bounce rate and these users are staying for 2+ minutes and visiting 6.5+ pages per session. These are unbelievable numbers!

What we like to see even more than that, is the sale for $104 that came from these efforts. When we started with this client they actually said “Instagram wont make us money, but we think it is important to post photos just to stay relevant” and we said- trust in the fact that the hard work and exposure will pay off and will ring the register.  It is so satisfying to see that pan out!

We also manage Instagram Ads for this client and that has yielded much more revenue, but this organic, small ball sale is even more attractive to us.  It is a combination of hashtag stuffing, influencer tagging and honing in on the best time of day, frequency and cadence in our content delivery.  This surge in traffic and sale, came on a Saturday afternoon, from a post we made at an optimal time for this particular brand.  Goes to show you that paying attention to data, being active on a weekend and deploying smart tactics can pay off.

To seal the deal on Instagram for this (and most of our fashion brands) we implemented the ability to have “shoppable Instagram” and in this client’s case we set them up with Foursixty as a partner.  This approach has helped them convert a lot of business on the gram and proven out that this platform can be a real driver of revenue. Like anything in life, it is all about the execution!

 

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Instagram Ads- It Is Time To Join The Party

InstagramAds

Instagram (Instant Camera + Telegram) has been a real social media darling for the past few years.  A true mobile platform, one which everyone has readily available in their pockets, it has dominated the content sharing landscape and has become the “go-to social network” for everyone from 17 to 70 years old.  It is so simple, yet so powerful as a messaging and communication medium and one which had yet to be ruined by marketers.  That was until the platform rolled out ads earlier this year, right?

When they first came out (only to a select group of massive brand advertisers) it was met with a lot of skepticism.  It was sure to destroy the purity of ‘the gram’ and users would start fleeing right away.  Well that didnt happen, and the platform opened up to the masses, but many didn’t jump in at first (Sircle and our clients included).  As the year went on we began to dabble with the ad units and started to see some real improvement and results, and now we are big buyers of IG Ads. Remember, Instagram is owned by Facebook which has an incredible ads platform with insane targeting capabilities. The ads are integrated right into the same dashboard, making it very intuitive and powerful if you are well-versed in Facebook ads.

Studies have shown that organic reach on IG is down and it is becoming a ‘pay to play’ platform now too.  While others are up in arms over this, we think it is great, because you are able to do some excellent things at very competitive costs.  As an example we took the below creative and ran some tests with it.  Organically this post received 40 likes, but when we put some money behind the same piece of great looking content, we were able to earn 412 and 334 likes (split audiences) with a $3 CPM. Even better, the target was to two different, hyper-local audiences (where the client is available for purchase) and made up of fans of direct competitors.

When we ran the same piece of creative as a dark post on Facebook, (with the same audiences) we had a CPM of $7.68 and very little engagement of any kind.  The Instagram ad was less expensive, earned them many more impressions and 748 likes.  At Sircle, we are all about content, engagement and growth as the foundation of social. Here we created a beautiful piece of content and found a way to cost effectively garner engagement, while seeing a huge uptick in reach. = Winner.

proyo IG blog

 

 

 

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How To Create Instagram Ads

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Instagram Ads are a hot topic lately and advertisers are intrigued.  We have been seeing the ‘sponsored posts’ more and more in our feeds and with the amount of users and attention being paid to the platform it is a very sexy place to be for a marketer.  At first it was only available to the big brands, but with a rollout to the masses now here it is time to start brushing up on your skills.

This piece by Social Media Examiner was just published today and it shows you how you go about setting yourself up to create Instagram Ads.  It breaks down the how and the what behind the platform and really makes it very easy to follow and understand.  Give it a read and get ready to start marketing on “The Gram”.

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