Is It Time to Invest in Instagram?

Is It Time to Invest in Instagram-

My clients ask this question frequently. Up until recently, I usually answered this question with a resounding “NO.” I love Instagram and use it myself, but it posed significant challenges to my clients, for two reasons. First, many struggle with creating images that are aspirational or that include a soft brand message. Second, Instagram has been very clunky to manage, making it difficult for brands to incorporate conveniently into their social media practice.

In the last six months, Instagram has added significant features and functionality which have made me change my mind. Here’s why I’m changing my advice to my clients and counseling them to invest in Instagram.

Explore and Search Is Better

explore on IG

As Fast Company reported last year, the enhanced explore and search features on Instagram give brands a chance to target by topics in a way that wasn’t possible before. What does this mean for a brand? You can start following and listening to relevant Instagrammers while building your channel.

Geotagging Means Even Better Targeting

Geotagging on IG

If you’re a business with customers who post, then geotagging means you can see and track Instagrammers who visit your business and talk about you. This means you can also engage with them. In the example below, I’ve posted about a dish I liked at a local restaurant and was able to tag them before pushing it live on Instagram.

Visual Content is the Key

Sounds obvious, right? But it’s surprising to see so many brands struggle with creating content where the visual element is front and center, and the text supporting it is secondary. This is what I want my clients to focus their social media practice on this year. It’s what is driving new social media users to Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope.

Manage Multiple Accounts

The biggest change of all for Instagram was just announced last week. And that is, the ability to switch between accounts. Instagram users can now manage up to 5 accounts from one app. Previously, you had to log out of your personal Instagram to log in to your brand channel. This new feature alone should drive additional brands to jump in to Instagram this spring.

But Remember….

Instagram is owned by Facebook, which is increasing integration for advertisers on both platforms. And while Instagram is easier than ever to use, it should still be part of a multi-channel strategy with goals, objectives, strategy and tactics to make it work for you.

If you want to dig deeper, here is a collection of stories about Instagram.

Want to Compare Instagram and Other Social Networks? 

Confessions of a Contest Entrant

I was certain I would get a phone call last month to say that I had won the contest.  Not just any contest, but the Williams-Sonoma, Real Simple Holiday Sweepstakes Extravaganza or something like that.

The prize was awesome. A $5000 gift card to shop at Williams-Sonoma.  There were so many things I needed for my kitchen, I was a sure winner.  (After nearly 20 years of marriage, the pots and pans are sad looking and not all our dishes match anymore.  And the towels….don’t get me started!)

Enter daily to win, the online form explained.  Excellent.  So each morning for nearly 30 days, I would open the bookmarked form and record my entry.  There was only one problem with this strategy — every time you entered, you had to fill out an entire entry form.  All of it.  Name, address, city, state, zip, e-mail, opt-in, submit.

Are you kidding me?  That’s a lot of work, but okay, in this case, I persevered.
It was a fun diversion each morning, thinking of how I would spend the gift card.  I even went so far as to go onto the Williams-Sonoma web site to look at their dishes and pots and pans.

Can you hear their digital marketing team cheering in the background?

Williams-Sonoma Contest Form

Not all Contest Forms are Alike!

So, congratulations to the Williams-Sonoma marketing team.  I was completely sucked in.

Earlier last year, I was equally sucked in to a contest sponsored by Southwest Airlines called Let ‘Em Fly and Win where each day you had one roll of the dice and if you got one of the published Yahtzee dice combos you got a bajillion frequent flyer miles.

“This is fabulous,” I thought.  With our son about to go off to college, this would certainly lighten the damage of all those college trips on our pocketbook.  Like the Williams-Sonoma contest, you could enter daily to win.  So I did.  Every day for 30 days.  There was one key difference between the two contests.  After you entered all your information on the form on the first day, on subsequent days, you only had to enter your email address to roll the dice.

Brilliant.

Not once did I get a combination worthy of frequent flier miles, but it certainly got me thinking about what makes a great online contest.

There’s only two things you need to have a great online contest.  First, you need a great prize.  Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the value of a contest prize is determined by the participant.  If your fans, friends or network perceive the prize to be of value, then it is.  For others, it might be a gift card or an iPad.  Frequent flyer miles and kitchen equipment were my motivators — I can confess without blushing that these prizes were sweet enough to motivate me.

The second component of a successful contest – keep it simple.  Too many form fields or requirements will drive entries away.  If the prize for the kitchen equipment was, say $500, I may not have gone through the trouble each day to fill out the form.  Except I REALLY need new dishes.

The Southwest Airlines contest was far easier. And Fun.  Like going to Vegas, without the smoke-filled casinos.

Great prize.  Simple entry.  That’s the key to a good contest.

What types of contest prizes motivate you?

Business Plans and Sticky Notes

Sticky Notes as a Business Plan aid I have been writing a lot of proposals for new business lately and it’s easy to get lost in the details when you are trying to impress a new client and win their business.  It’s gratifying to have the opportunity to write proposals but when you are working on them back-to-back for different types of clients, in different industries, you can go from steamrolling through them to feeling like you’re slogging through mud.

So I thought it useful to write questions and answers to myself as I went along. This helped me to stay on track and think strategically, rather than get lost in the romance of the tactics.

Some of the scribbles were pretty humorous.

SO WHAT? I wrote on one sticky note.

This is a good reality check that things are getting too wordy.

WHO CARES? Sported another neon square.

This made me think of a saying from one of my earliest marketing mentors.  He would ask:  “Does it pass the red-face test?” In other words, can you describe it, champion it and believe in it without turning red?

REALLY? I usually scribble this one when I think that the proposal is getting off track and is out of line with what the prospective client would do.

While these things seem rather silly, in the end, three questions come to mind which are at the core of every communication plan.

  1. Create awareness    — For someone to care about it, they need to know about it. Whatever it is.  Product, service, cause or belief.
  2. Enhance reputation – It goes without saying that any communications effort should serve to strengthen a company’s reputation, and therefore, its market position.
  3. Meet business objectives – This is the action part of the plan.  Whether it’s leading a consumer to buy a product or service, or a nonprofit to motivate someone to make a donation of time or money, if it’s not a business objective, it shouldn’t be a communication objective.

So there. Three little phrases to get your proposals — and all your plans — back on track.

What’s even better is that they all fit on a sticky note.

How do you stay on track when juggling multiple proposals?