In her educational seminar “Instagram: A Deep Dive” during Dallas Market, digital marketing specialist Leslie Carothers, CEO of The Kaleidoscope Partnership + Savour Partnership, detailed how to utilize this social media platform correctly.
There is little debate that Instagram has become social media’s star player, but is it worth all the praise heaped onto it?
“From a business perspective, I think Instagram is the least-effective platform for getting clients,” Carothers stated. “You may like Instagram better and have fun with it, but I find that where you can really move your business forward is through Facebook ads and Google ads.”
The consumer and marketing world’s fascination with obtaining “Likes” as a barometer of how popular you or your business might be isn’t truly an effective measure of sales success. “I think this whole Like/Follow [obsession] is overblown,
she commented. “Like/Follow is an ego thing. No one is going to do business with you because of the number of Likes you have on Instagram. From a business standpoint, it doesn’t matter.”
That said, since Instagram is a visual platform, Carothers agreed that it can be a handy tool for lighting and home décor showrooms — if done strategically. “Instagram creates visual brand awareness at a glance,” she said. “It should create engagement around your brand through a cohesive, visual presentation as well as through promotions such as contests, takeovers, giveaways, and link ups.”
“Which one of your design customers has a blog? Why not ask to partner with them on a blog post?”
The downside is when companies place too high an emphasis on their social media presence over their own websites. “The rules for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms can change at any time. Invest in your own website and your own blog first; that’s what drives traffic, plus you own it yourself! Monitoring those social media contests and promotions takes more time than running a Facebook ad would.”
How to Make It Work
While Instagram might not be Carothers’ social media platform of choice for business owners, she acknowledged that there are a lot of eyeballs viewing the site daily. Fortunately, there are effective techniques that can be employed by those who desire an Instagram presence.
The first step is to establish a business account. Just as companies should have a business page on Facebook, those who want to put their businesses on Instagram need to initiate a business page versus a personal one. Only when you have a business account will you be able to view analytics, run advertisements, add important information such as a phone number, email, directions, and send/receive messages.
“Instagrammers ‘follow’ brands based on whether or not the brand’s bio, images, and captions resonate with them visually and emotionally.”
The Bio Is Vital
Carothers shared her recommendations for maximizing this often overlooked section of a business’ Instagram account.
- Demographically speaking, who do you want to attract?
- What “emotional impression” do you want your followers to have about your brand?
- Write your bio in a way that conveys that emotional impression.
“Instagrammers ‘follow’ brands based on whether or not the brand’s bio, images, and captions resonate with them visually and emotionally,” Carothers noted. Defining your company’s identity should take time and effort. “Think, ‘What are we about as a brand?’ The only thing that makes someone decide to ‘follow’ you is what they read in your bio and see as the first nine lines on your page,” she remarked.
Create a Landing Page
In order to bring “followers” to the place where you (not Instagram) are in control, Carothers urged the audience to invest in a custom website landing page with a link to it in your Instagram bio section. “If you don’t know how to do that or have someone on staff who can, there are services such as Linktree that can help. It shouldn’t cost more than $250 to create a landing page,” she estimated.
Having a landing page is key because it enables you to do a variety of things to improve your business. “You can have links for signing up to receive your store/company’s email newsletter or blog or to receive notifications of a special sale. Having them sign up here is another way to help build your email list of customers,” she commented.
An advanced technique Carothers shared is to add line breaks into your bio in order to have it appear neatly and easy to read for the most visual impact. “Type your bio in a Facebook update or in your Notes app without punctuation at the end. Then copy and paste it into your bio section on Instagram to get the line breaks you want or to add emojis,” she advised. A pithy saying or memorable tagline can go along way to cement your brand with consumers. Carothers pointed to apparel manufacturer Madewell’s Instagram page as an example, with its tagline “Good days start with great jeans” on its bio section in all of its social media platforms.
Carothers also shared Chicago-area Idlewood Electric’s Instagram page as a positive example of what to do. “Their bio gives a clear and cohesive impression of their business. It’s smart to put the Certified WBE mention and emoji on there as some contractors may need to work with WBE companies on particular projects,” she pointed out, adding that the use of emojis (the lightbulb, woman, location pin) keeps the emotional feeling light-hearted and welcoming.
The Lay Out Counts
The key to a successful, engaging Instagram presence is to pay close attention to the first nine images that a viewer sees on their screen. “Every set of nine images is important,” Carothers affirmed. If it takes too much time to arrange the nine image squares each day, she suggested using a social media tool such as Planoly to help position those squares and auto-schedule posts and “stories” on the page. Designating time on a weekend or weeknight to plan out the posts for the following week and employing a scheduling tool to post them can be a time-saver in the long run.
When an account is set up as a business page, Instagram automatically provides access to “Insights” as to when people are looking at your page. With this information, companies can effectively schedule posts for the most popular times of day for maximum exposure.
The use of hashtags has continued to become essential. “Hashtags are content discovery tools,” Carothers explained. “Therefore, you’ll need to develop a hashtag strategy in order to increase audience engagement. Think of hashtags as a search mechanism. What hashtags might your customers be looking for? Maybe it’s #remodel or #remodelingcontractor or #lightingdesign; you can use up to 30 hashtags per post.”
Carothers suggested typing in a variety of potential hashtags to see how they work. “When you search by hashtags, you will see a flow of images – no text – and a choice of Top or Recent,” she remarked, advising the audience to click on Recent.
Geolocation is another method for creating hashtags that could introduce your business to a different audience, for example, using #luxuryrealtordallas to reach potential upscale homeowners and consumers. “Maybe there is someone in your area who you want to do business with,” Carothers noted. “You can hashtag your referral network in that way. Hashtags are a great way to reach people locally. Take a look at the good companies in your area and see what their hashtags are. For example, people might look at #linkcitytexas for ideas on what to do that weekend.”
In an era where everyone is time-pressed, providing information without requiring the consumer to click further is helpful in communicating your brand fast. Carothers suggested, “Maybe you want to put text on the photo so the viewer doesn’t have to click to find out the name of your business, or put your logo on that image. It’s free advertising!”
Social media has become a favorite platform for interior designers and many have a tremendous following through their blogs. “You can find out who the top influencers of a particular hashtag are by doing a search,” Carothers stated. “Which one of your design customers has a blog? Why not ask to partner with them on a blog post?” Another idea she offered was to pay a fee (around $250) to have a local designer spread the word about an event you are hosting. “This is how to use micro-
influencers correctly, and it can be very inexpensive to do. It’s mutually beneficial; it gives the designer something to talk about (plus some extra income) and it brings in foot traffic for you,” she said.
Finally, there is the Instagram “Stories” tool, which is comprised of short video clips that stay online for 24 hours. “These stories should not be about sales, but the little celebrations that might happen at your business that day. It enhances your business’ and brand’s personality,” she advised. When it comes to effective stories, Carothers outlined:
- Use location stickers
- Use hashtags
- Be real
- Be creative
Carothers pointed to Starbuck’s recent viral Red Cup Contest during the winter holidays as a successful example. Starbucks encouraged consumers through social media posts to take photos of themselves with the Starbucks red cup in a variety of settings and upload to Instagram. The consumers were then tagged in Starbuck’s campaign on its own page (providing them with instant fame). The red cup contest (#redcupcontest) ended up amassing 38,580 posts from cheerful customers. It’s the fun, participatory involvement that made the contest go viral and it could easily be done by a home accents store or lighting showroom with just a little ingenuity.