When was the last time you logged into Instagram? Yesterday? An hour ago? 5 minutes ago? There’s no denying that people love those neat little squares, and I’m definitely one of them. I’ve used Instagram almost exclusively for my business—and personal use—for a few years now. There’s just something about being able to see photos that bring you into people’s lives. It’s like someone leaving the curtain open at dusk and you just have to look inside and see how they decorated that room!
Social media, in general, has changed the consumer-brand dynamic in many ways, most notably how consumers and brands interact with each other. Today we’re diving into this relationship and the significance of Instagram marketing on both sides. While this post is specific to Instagram, some of the takeaways can be applied to other social media channels too. Make sure you comment below with any crossovers you see.
Marketing Implications for Consumers
Discovering New Brands
The Explore tab gives Instagram users to ability to discover new content that will likely interest them. With over 200 million active accounts using the Explore tab daily (Instagram for Business, 2021), there’s a pretty fair chance you’ll see something you want to click on. My own Explore tab is filled with big fluffy dogs, artists of various mediums, and makeup tutorials I love to watch, but will never try. On the occasion I do scroll through the Explore tab, I usually end up following at least 1 or 2 new accounts.
Developing Relationships + Interacting with Brands
As consumers, we buy from brands we know and trust. Being able to interact with a brand and see more than just its products enables consumers to create a relationship with the brands they follow. Watching behind-the-scenes videos, seeing how others use products, and getting to know what the brand values help foster a deeper feeling of connecting toward brands, making us more likely to make a purchase.
What’s more, Instagram gives consumers the pay to be heard by brands. This is where the Stories functions really shines. As consumers we can answer polls, ask questions, comment on live video feeds and share posts with our follows. We can even make our own 15-second videos and tag the brand we’re talking about. Add in the ability to comment directly on a post from a brand, a capability that is powerful but easily overlooked.
Research Brands Before Purchasing
Social media plays a huge role in the decisions we make about brand purchases. It’s easy to search for a specific on Instagram using hashtags to find out what others are saying about a product and how they’re using it. Then there’s the good ol’ comment scroll approach where a consumer clicks on an image posted of a specific product on the brand’s account page and reads the comments. From books to fashion, delivery services to skincare hundreds of millions of Instagram users research products every day, often without even realizing what we’re doing.
Marketing Implications for Brands
Spread Brand Awareness
The main reason brands join social media is to spread brand awareness and recruit new customers. Instagram offers 3 powerful tools for this: Explore, Stories and hashtags. Explore uses an algorithm to predict what content users will interact with most. When a brand creates an ad its content is factored into the algorithm and shown to potential new customers, meaning your brand has a chance to be seen by any of the 200 million+ people using Explore each day.
58% of Instagram users have become more interested in a brand/product after seeing it in Stories (Newberry, 2021). This is a great way to introduce new products to the market or highlight an offering. Stories can be shared, offer interactive options such as polls, and saved to your account’s highlights. Additionally, Stories ads shot with a mobile phone (vertically) perform better than expensive studio shot ads 63% of the time (Newberry, 2021). That mean you don’t need expensive equipment or in-depth knowledge to start creating ads that work.
Hashtags have become part of pop culture with everyone from grandparents to my 9-year-old niece knowing what they are. While these former pound signs may seem redundant to some, for small businesses they can be very powerful. Used as a search tool, hashtags can be applied to pretty much anything from dog shampoo to flower arrangements. The trick to hashtags is to use ones that represent your business, but also connect with your target audience. For example: if you sell handmade necklaces, post a picture and caption describing the product and why someone would want to buy it, then include hashtags for common reasons someone would purchase the item, like #anniversarygift or #mothersday, as well as descriptive hashtags like #handmadechicago or #pinkaccesories.
Connect With Consumers on a Personal Level
Being able to show consumers who’s behind the products and why your brand is the best choice puts small businesses on a personal level with viewers. Showing the personality, value, and benefits behind a company is what branding is all about. A great example of this is one of my past clients, Kimberley, owner of North Whidbey Farm, who makes and sells all kinds of natural, sustainable goat milk products. Kimberley does a great job of showing what life is like on their generational farmstead with 4 kids and dozens of animals. Her mix of behind-the-scenes, life on the farm, and product images make her followers feel like part of a community.
Gain Key Insights + Receive Feedback
This is where the true advantage lives for brands: being able to gather insights and feedback from your audience. Instagram business accounts come with Insights, analytics that can be invaluable to your business. Through Insight you can track everything from how many people see your posts, to which posts have the most interactions. This feedback can help you understand what works for your audience and what needs to be tweaked a bit. More than analytics though is the power of the conversation and connection. Engaging with others by asking questions and responding to comments & messages is the true magic for any social media platform. Whether you have 10 followers or 10,000 listening to them will always give you great results
Do you use Instagram for your business? See any crossover information that applies to other platforms as well? Leave a comment below and tell me about it.
Facebook for Business. (2019, February 14). How to Take Your Instagram Content to the Next Level. Facebook IQ. https://www.facebook.com/business/news/insights/how-to-take-your-instagram-content-to-the-next-level.
Facebook. (2020). Instagram for Business Brand Building Playbook. https://www.tribegroup.co/hubfs/Instagrams%20Brand%20Building%20Playbook.pdf.
Instagram for Business. (2021). Ads in Explore. Ads in Explore | Instagram for Business. https://business.instagram.com/igb/a/ads-in-explore.
Instagram for Business. (2021). Drive Possibilities with Instagram Stories Ads. Instagram for Business. https://business.instagram.com/a/stories.
Instagram for Business. (2021). https://business.instagram.com/.
Newberry, C. (2021, February 3). 44 Instagram Statistics That Matter to Marketers in 2021. Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard. https://blog.hootsuite.com/instagram-statistics/.