One of the most humbling things to hear is that you aren’t as wildly original as you think you are. You know that really rad wall you took a photo in front of then posted to your Instagram? Yeah, so did every other person who passed that wall.
The first thing you need to realize is that it takes more than a sick photo to build your brand’s presence on the ‘Gram. As social media users, we experience content overload every time we engage with an app. Sure, a carefully crafted photo will make us stop mid-scroll, double-tap, and maybe even follow. However, if that’s all you’re depending on to build your presence and make your brand known, you probably won’t get the results you want. People forget a good photo in the midst of all the other ones out there.
Making a Good Impression
Quinn Tempest, a social media strategist and speaker at the 2019 Megaphone Summit conference, put it best when she said, “People buy from people they like and feel they can trust. Relationships build trust. Content builds relationships.”=
When it comes to creating a lasting impression that will keep your audience coming back for more, you’ve got to infuse purpose, personality, and community into your strategy. It helps to understand why these three elements are essential by first recognizing why and how people use Instagram in the first place.
Instagram users are on the platform for a variety of reasons, but the main ones are for:
Entertainment (users like a good laugh and distraction)
Inspiration (people look for inspiration in every facet of their lives, from fashion to travel to what’s for dinner)
Connection (Instagram helps people keep up with their friends, family, and celebrities)
Information (users will look for brands to discover, search for, and even buy products from)=
Your brand has the opportunity to meet users at all four of these touchpoints, and keep them coming back to your page on a daily basis. After all, Instagram users are on the app an average of 58 minutes a day. Why not make sure they spend time getting to know your brand and looking at your products?
Now that you have an idea why users are on Instagram, let’s take a step back and review the term strategy. If the word made you cringe or turn away, you aren’t alone, but yes, you NEED one. Think of it as a game plan for your ‘Gram. Essentially, a strategy creates a framework not just for what kind of content you post, but why.
Implementing one helps ensure your brand’s voice is consistent, you’re staying true to your brand’s purpose, and you’re showing up for your audience when they are active on the platform. The following four steps act as a simple framework for figuring out your social media strategy.
Step 1: Goals
Why is your brand on social media? Do you want to build awareness or drive traffic to your website? Do you want to partner with influencers?
You won’t just have one goal; you can have all or some of these goals. You just have to know which goals are a priority, so when you plan your content you are matching it with one (or more) of your goals. Here are some examples:
Goal: To build our presence on social media among our target audience.
Goal: To increase follower count on Instagram by 25% over the next 6 months.
Goal: To build relationships with our target audience by engaging with them on social media. =
Once you create goals, you’re better equipped to think about how you can create strategic, purposeful content to meet said goals.
Step 2: Audience
Who are you trying to reach? What specific ways can you cater your content to your target audience? Knowing your primary and secondary audiences will help you create content that speaks to those users on a personal level. This is how you infuse personality into your social media in a way that connects to users. Once you’ve figured out who you’re trying to reach, familiarize yourself with the way they’re utilizing social media.
When it comes to Instagram, people of all ages are on it. Hootsuite found that users ages 13-35 make up 70% of the platform's most active users. However, Instagram isn’t just for the young! It has gained in popularity in every age range throughout the years and hasn’t shown any signs of losing momentum. Of those active users, about 50% are female, while 49% are male, a nearly even split. Furthermore, 60% of users say they discover new products on Instagram; people are actively looking and buying products they’ve discovered on social media.
Step 3: Create and Schedule Planned Content
The content you post should always focus on the “why,” not the “what.” This goes back to the beginning: a pretty photo isn’t enough. One way to make sure your content is serving its assigned purpose is to divide your planned content into messaging pillars (helpful topics), then rotate your content around those pillars. Some examples are as simple as educational, promotional, branding, or user-generated content. Just make sure the messaging pillars you choose align with your brand’s goals and your audience’s interests. =
There are different ways you can go about planning your content; you can use scheduling tools, such as Sendible, which will automatically publish your content on scheduled days and times (shown below). If your resources are limited, you can create a spreadsheet outlining your content month-by-month, then manually schedule the posts to each platform. The important thing is to have your content planned for each day you want to post, including photos, captions, and hashtags.
Step 4: Measure Your Success
Heads up: this step never ends. You should always take time to measure whether or not your social media strategy is working and helping you meet your overall goals. The key performance metrics you use to measure your success will depend on those goals. For example, if your goal is brand awareness, consider tracking impressions.
This is a critical step because it will tell you what is and isn’t working in the way you’re executing your social media strategy. If you aren’t receiving likes, follows, engagement, or purchases from your target audience, maybe you aren’t using social media in a way that appeals to that audience. Or, maybe you had your target audience wrong in the first place. Measuring your performance won’t always get you the results you want, but it will ultimately help you improve.
Instagram has a great built-in feature for business accounts wanting to quickly view insights from the photos they’ve posted both on their feed and on their story. This tool makes it easy to view follower demographics, impressions, reach, and more, all generated from the content you post. These tools are available for all social media platforms, and of course, you can always track numbers manually. Learning how to interpret the data will help you to understand what posts are being received as intended, and which ones aren’t working out.
Putting it All to Work
As someone working in digital advertising, I see first-handedly the benefits of employing these steps when it comes to approaching social media. Juggling multiple social accounts for clients means it’s crucial for me to collaborate with my team to plan ahead, push content to reach a client’s target audience, and then be able to explain what we’re doing and why it’s working.
Taking the time to think about why you’re posting content and how it will be received by your audience is just the beginning of using social media strategically. To succeed in building relationships with your audience, consider who they are, what their interests are, and how your goals can cater to them.