Is Instagram Worth It?
In fewer than four years, Instagram has exploded in popularity with individuals and in importance for brands. The photo sharing app is an integral part of any social media strategy, and yet, many start-ups and small businesses find it difficult to build traction and determine ROI on Instagram.
At ONA, we’ve discovered that Instagram is not only a fantastic way to build and share our brand personality but also engage with our target audience–and we regularly hear of customers who discovered our brand through our feed or through other customers who shared product photos. It’s become a key factor in our branding, as well as a steady referral source. Here are a few ways we’ve used Instagram successfully that can be applied to other start-ups and small businesses:
How to Make Instagram More Effective
1. Build relationships with influencers
There are some Instagram superstars–often photographers or bloggers–who have amassed an enormous and massively engaged following, often in the hundreds of thousands. Often, these Instagrammers are paid to style and share a photo of a product on their feed. You can work with agencies like Mobile Media Lab or Cycle to engage with these influencers to feature your products.
At ONA, we’ve been lucky enough to cultivate (unpaid) relationships with some of the biggest Instagrammers, like @danrubin, @pauloctavious, @cubbygraham and @brandenharvey. By sending relevant products, setting up coffee dates and always following up with a handwritten thank-you note, we’re able to count top Instagrammers as some of our most valuable brand advocates. And because we haven’t paid for just ONE photo–we often see our products sneaking into many of their lifestyle photos and continuing to send traffic our way.
2. Share fans’ photos
ONA is extremely blessed in that our customers are all photographers: not only do they appreciate visual content more than the average person, they’re also super creative. We’re constantly flooded with incredible photos of ONA products, whether it’s a layout of items in the bag or a shot of the bag in an exotic location. We realized early on that we could spare ourselves a lot of effort and anxiety–as well as build relationships with our followers–by sharing our fans’ photos. One caveat: always, always, always give proper credit.
3. Respond, respond, respond
ONA likes (and often comments) on every single photo where @onabags is tagged, hashtagged or mentioned. It doesn’t matter if the user has 100K followers or 10 followers: we want to express how much we appreciate that not only did they purchase our product, but that they’re actively sharing it with their community.
It’s rarer on Instagram than on Twitter or Facebook, but if a customer shares a complaint: respond. No matter how big or small the issue is, it’s essential to recognize the person and the problem, and to let them know that you’re listening and you care. You can always move the conversation on to email or private messages if necessary–just don’t ignore an unhappy customer. In addition to resolving their concern, the interaction also lets other customers know that you’re able and willing to fix problems, and sends a message that they can trust the integrity of your product and service.
4. Turn the camera around
Instagram is an amazing opportunity to give your brand a personality and share the things that make your company culture unique. Introduce your employees, show off your workspace, capture behind the scenes on a photo shoot. We love sharing a shot from our monthly “field trips,” like sailing to the Statue of Liberty or getting a vintage Polaroid team photo taken at the Impossible Project.
5. Give them a reason to follow
The social media space is obviously inundated with platforms and brands: you have to give customers a reason why they want to see your images regularly. Beyond just sharing gorgeous photos, Instagram is an ideal platform for sharing sneak peeks of new products or exclusive discount codes.
6. Challenge followers to get involved
Instagram contests can be a fantastic way to engage with your customers. If you want quality submissions and to work with good people, create Instagram contests that challenge creativity instead of requiring copying-and-pasting advertising imagery. We’ve asked followers to show us the incredible places they’ve traveled with their bags: the #WhereONAGoes hashtag and spirit has lived on long after the promise of a free bag expired.
7. Be strategic with hashtags
Don’t #hashtag #every #word in a caption. Choose a few hashtags that represent the types of photos that you or your followers are most likely to share, and be consistent in how you caption your photos with them.
ONA has a few hashtags that are used regularly: #onabags, #InMyONA (for in the bag shots), #ONAPets (when there’s a cute animal involved) and #WhereONAGoes (for travel photos).