Photos came first and then Instagram changed the entire game. On a monthly basis Instagram is used by 700M plus people worldwide. And it's not only influencers. Brands have totally revamped their marketing strategies and rely on the social platform to grow their businesses. That’s huge. And it’s not going away.
At Create & Cultivate NYC, we chatted Claudine Cazian, Lila King, Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood, and Virginia Nam, all of whom work in different verticals at the social platform, about how to do it right and drive impact in a meaningful way.
It may come as a surprise that the concept of "get your grid right," is shifting. No doubt, people love pretty pics, but Cazian, Head of Entertainment Partnerships at Instagram, says that old way of thinking of the 'gram is wrong. (Don't stress, yet.)
Social is changing. The way we use social is changing. And you should assume that your strategy should shift as the platform does.
1. RIGHT NOW, FOCUS on MAKING STORIES YOUR NO. 1
You may be surprised to hear that right now it’s more about your Insta Stories, and the “Explore” section, over the actual “feed experience.”
In the last year since Instagram added Stories, it has added 100 million global users to the platform. That means, those 100 million user have never known IG without Stories. It's a vital part of how they do social-- and it's where you should be focusing your efforts as well.
As to how? Cazian says 5-8 great stories per day is a solid number and will help grow your following.
If you’re working a big event, Virginia Nam, who works on the fashion partnerships team with Eva Chen, says that you should “front load the best content.” People don't love seeing a million tiny dashes, but if the first 5-8 stories are compelling it will draw them in to watch the rest. If you're posting so-so content as you go, you're more likely to lose their attention.
When it comes to creating compelling Story content, Lila King, who leads global news and publisher partnerships, suggests using different formats (i.e. a still, followed by a video, followed by some Boomerangs) and mixing it up is key! Throw in some front-facing (#selfies) with some rear-facing camera action. People want to see the behind-the-scenes. And even though "news" isn't typically associated with selfies, King says people love to see "the human factor."
2. YOUR ENGAGEMENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR GRID
This might be hard to hear, but when it comes to engagement and content, Instagram is “mobile first.” So while we’ve been working hard to “get our grids right,” Instagram is all about “real-time” in-the-moment pics. All four women agreed that pretty, neat, "mosaic patterns," etc., are not what's driving new followers to your page. And four out of four said that making it pretty is currently the wrong strategy. "It's engagement over grid, every time," said Cazian.
At the conference, panel moderator Arianna Schioldager asked the crowd, “How many of you don't post videos because you are scared of how messy it makes your feed?” A sea of hands raised. “GET OVER IT!” called out Cabizan. “It’s a huge opportunity you are missing.”
Most people are using Instagram via their feed, which means you have to hook them while they are scrolling.
3. THINK ABOUT THE EXPLORE PAGE & THEN STOCK THOSE SHELVES
When you think IG, your first thought should be how people consume social. To see it in real time, take a trip over to Instagram’s Explore page and look at how the content is displayed.
Since “Stories” are the first thing in the “Explore” section, followed by “Video” (which is super attention-grabbing), then followed by "Photos," you need to make sure you keep your “shelves” stocked with content.
If you aren’t creating content for all three mediums, you are missing out on exposure opportunities at every turn, shared Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood, Head of Music Partnerships.
4. SHOULD YOU TURN YOUR PROFILE INTO A BIZ?
Are you a brand or a person? Or are you a little of both? If your goal is to grow your following and you have a business, it seems obvious that you should have a business profile. But some things are too big to see.
Some bloggers and influencers have been reluctant to do this. They want to remain authentic to their audience. They don’t want to feel like they’ve ‘sold out.’ But it’s possible that you’re selling yourself short.
Business profiles have hidden benefits. You can access your Insights, have people contact you, and sponsor a post every now and then.
5. ACCOUNTS WHO ARE USING THE NEW FEATURES WELL
Virginia Nam highligted Philip Lim as a fashion brand using the carousel feature the right way. She specifically references this post, as a one that really got it right. It shows a final product and the behind-the-scenes content people crave.
Lila King shared that the The NY Times does a great job with their IG Stories content.
How are you using Instagram's new features to grow? Share in the comments below!