Five ways to improve the earned media potential of your Instagram content
With over 800 million active monthly users worldwide (over 20 million of which are from the UK) engaging with over 4.2 billion posts every day, Instagram is a social media phenomenon. It is one of the fastest growing and influential platforms of all time, with some estimating that ad revenue could hit $10 billion by 2019. The power of imagery, pictures and video to tell stories and communicate has grown exponentially over the last decade and Instagram (along with Pinterest and parent company Facebook) has a profound impact on popular culture.
For the last few years, there has been much talk and debate about the importance of the Millennial cohort to businesses and brands. There are more than 16 million Millennials in the UK and by 2025 it’s estimated that 75 percent of the workforce will be made up of this group. With such increasing influence and buying power it’s no wonder marketers are so keen to understand how to effectively reach out to this important demographic.
Social media and smartphones are two factors that play a dominant role in the lives of many Millennials so it’s not surprising that Instagram, a mobile-first social media platform, has struck such a chord with younger consumers. According to Instagram's own research, approximately 70 per cent of young Millennials (18-14) and 38 percent of maturing Millennials (25-34) in the UK use Instagram every month. The coalescence of Instagram and Millennials’ unique values and beliefs has resulted in some interesting trends that are shaping how brands present themselves digitally.
The emergence of ‘instagrammability’
According to research from Eventbrite and Harris Poll, when it comes to money, ‘experiences’ trump ‘things’, with more than three-quarters of Millennials (78%) choosing to spend money on a desirable experience or event rather than buying something desirable. This move towards experience can be seen in Millennials’ spending on travel, food and music festivals, all of which are now prolifically shared with friends on social media:
The importance of experiences and their ability to be shared has led to the emergence of ‘instagrammability’ as a trend, which according to a survey by Schofields Insurance in 2017 is a primary motivation for choosing a holiday destination for Millennials. Consumers today are not just considering distance and value for money but also the atmosphere, scenery and overall look and feel of the experiences they choose to buy.
When we consider that 50% of content in people’s Instagram feeds is from users they don’t know, it’s reasonable to conclude that people are not necessarily looking to connect with friends and family on the platform. Instead, they want to be inspired, motivated and entertained by great content. This may include friends of friends, famous influencers, and celebrities, but with over 25 million business accounts on Instagram, it’s also likely to come from brands, too. Instagram claims that 75 percent of people take action after being inspired by a post so there is also a big opportunity for brands to connect with users in a meaningful way.
We can see the increasing influence of ‘instagrammability’ in nearly everyone’s Instagram feeds, with more time and attention spent on composition, lighting, colour, and subject. But how can brands capitalize on this trend without appearing cynical and opportunistic?
Champion originality and authenticity
To make an impact on Instagram you have to look for ways to be original and not simply mimic others. However, even more importantly you have to be authentic and stay true to your brand otherwise you’ll get found out:
Authenticity is a trait that Millennials really value and care about so it’s important not to deviate away from what your brand is really about. Every brand is very different so it’s difficult to provide a list of hard and fast rules but as a general guide:
- Avoid producing an overly curated feed that veers away from your chosen design and aesthetic
- Respond considerately and promptly to comments with a consistent tone of voice
- Don’t jump on a hashtag bandwagon unless you have a real and genuine connection to the trend
- Follow other people, brands and businesses accounts for the right reasons
- Don’t be a perfectionist - sometimes the blurry, imperfect shots can resonate as much as those that have been set up professionally:
Stay on top of design and photography trends
Instagram’s audience are more discerning than ever so it’s worthwhile taking into account current and emerging design and photography trends. Whilst these must be relevant to you and aligned with your brand visual and design guidelines, it’s a great way of discovering what is resonating with the broader Instagram audience.
Last year’s focus was on cinemagraphs, 3D, geometric shapes and Millennial Pink whereas 2018 has moved on to surreal scenes, travel photography, conceptual realism and Ultra Violet:
Combine online and offline experiences
Creating a connection between your online and offline brand presence is a brilliant way of increasing the instagrammability of your brand. Millennial consumers are looking for experiences but at the same time the opportunity to share these with their friends and followers so bringing your physical experience to life...
Derby’s monthly street food market, Bustler Market, does a great job of using Instagram to promote the atmosphere and variety of the market as well as the quality and tastiness of the food:
As a result, their Instagram feed looks extremely appetizing and customers freely share their culinary experiences via the #bustlerstreet hashtag, boosting earned media coverage:
Be playful with your brand
Instagram’s own research has found that being amusing was the top attribute Millennials look for in the content they follow:
Of course, it’s worth reiterating again that unless being funny or amusing is authentic to your brand you should tread carefully, however being playful and amusing can mean different things to different brands so it’s certainly worth exploring.
By being playful and not taking yourself too seriously you’ll give customers and users the opportunity to be playful with your brand, too. This can boost the instagrammability of your brand encourage people to share and talk about you in new and interesting ways.
Partner with (the right) influencers
Influencer marketing has exploded over the last few years and working with influencers and other thought leaders is a strategy many brands are adopting to boost reach and engagement with their audiences and make their content truly instagrammable. Influencers have perfected the art of instagrammability by making places, food, products and even buildings look fantastic - after all, their professional livelihoods depend on it!
If you can form a partnership that is relevant, affordable and authentic, then influencer marketing can be a great way of appealing directly to either an existing or new target audience. And working with influencers needn’t be expensive. Whilst big names like Zoella, Jim Chapman and Joe Sugg get all the headlines, there are hundreds of micro influencers with less reach but potentially much stronger affiliation to your brand that you can tap into.
When all is said and done good Instagram creative is simply good creative. If the right amount of time, effort and planning has been dedicated to the content you’re creating then it’s far more likely it will resonate and appeal to your users.
However when we begin to take into account different design and photography trends, your brand experience and the unique characteristics of the Millennial audience, we can start to tailor and adapt content in a way that can improve its instagrammability and potential earned media. There is no recipe for success so the key is to experiment, try new things and have fun!