Read an Excerpt
Build Your Brand and Reach More Customers with the Power of Pictures
By JASON G. MILES
McGraw-Hill EducationCopyright © 2014 Jason G. Miles
All rights reserved.
The Mobile Native
Instagram is the breakout social network of the iPhone revolution. In less than two years, it has grown into a full-fledged social network that boasts more than 100 million users. In August 2012, Instagram passed Twitter in terms of daily active users on mobile devices (comScore). The pace of user adoption is staggering. In a single six-month period, Instagram went from 887,000 daily active users to 7.3 million (comScore).
Marketers have not been slow to leverage the new tool, as over 50 percent of top brands are now using Instagram (Marketing Land). Ben & Jerry's Homemade ice cream company is a good example of how smart marketers are leveraging this new platform. Ben & Jerry's is asking its fans to "capture euphoria" and share it on Instagram. How do you do that? You simply take a picture with your Ben & Jerry's ice cream, upload it to Instagram, and include the hashtag #captureeuphoria. Don't worry; we'll explain how hashtags work throughout the course of this book. When Ben & Jerry's customers upload a picture, it is automatically added to a special collection of thousands of fan photos. The Ben & Jerry's team will then use 20 of the photos as part of local print advertising campaigns, making those Instagram contributors local celebrities.
It seems clear that the marketing battlefield has shifted again. Mobile devices are the new place to be. In the 1990s, offline businesses like ice cream shops raced to develop websites to get a competitive edge over each other.
In the 2000s, those same companies raced to get a presence on the social networks; Facebook was their home base. They worked hard to find ways to engage their customers in conversations and contests. The goal was to build a social community around their brands.
In this new decade, those same companies are racing to migrate their efforts to mobile devices. As smartphones become more commonplace and alternative mobile devices like tablets grow in popularity, the rationale for mobile marketing becomes stronger. When the competition is doing mobile marketing, the pressure to operate in the new environment intensifies.
Additionally, as new apps like Instagram emerge, the marketing itself becomes very straightforward. Smart marketers have recognized that many of the same strategies that work effectively on other platforms work just as well or better on Instagram. It turns out that effective mobile marketing isn't that foreign after all.
Why are so many marketers excited about Instagram? It's the first significant social network built specifically to work on a mobile device. It's a pioneer in that regard. Whereas Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest were born on the web and adapted to mobile devices, Instagram is a mobile native. Surprisingly, Twitter didn't have a smartphone app until four years after it was founded. While it was based on text messaging, it was envisioned as a microblogging tool, not a smartphone tool. Instagram's functionality was designed for ease of use on the iPhone and other Apple products, and it has subsequently been rolled out for Android devices. While Instagram recently added a website version of the app for user profiles, the functionality all resides on mobile devices. The website version allows for simple viewing of the content and not much more.
Why does it help marketers that Instagram was born on a mobile device and is exclusively mobile in nature? It's a fairly simple answer: it was designed to do one thing very elegantly—share photos. That simplicity of focus has real power.
The App Revolution
In 2007, the iPhone revolutionized the phone industry and created a new standard for phone technology. The smartphone got smarter. Buttons were out, and touch screens were in. This was more than a leap in technology; it created a new type of user engagement with phones. People expected their phones to serve as fully functional devices that seamlessly worked with the Internet, provided additional tools like a camera, and allowed them to constantly monitor e-mail and social media conversations. The bar had been permanently raised.
On July 11, 2008, as part of the iPhone 2.0 release, Apple launched the App Store, a store accessed on the iPhone that allows users to install third-party applications on their phones without ever connecting to a computer. Apps became a vital part of the iPhone revolution, and over 1 billion were downloaded in the first year.
This new ecosystem quickly fostered a booming industry. Third-party developers could create an app, upload it to the App Store, and, if they were lucky, see massive revenue start to roll in. Applications were developed for all sorts of user purposes, and although the games category led the way, other applications found their place too.
Apple was quick to christen the new catchphrase for this mobile revolution—"There's an app for that" became the mantra. This catchphrase became the natural response to almost any question that came to mind. The clever Apple marketers methodically drove home the statement in ad after ad, ensuring that people knew that if they had a problem, the App Store had a solution. Apple even went so far as to trademark the saying so that other competitors couldn't use it.
According to CNET, Apple had over 700,000 apps available for its operating system as of October 2012, and Google had that same number for its Android operating system, which has grown to become the primary rival to the Apple ecosystem. Even Microsoft has 120,000 apps available for its smartphone operating system. The three systems were all clearly working hard to rapidly expand the options available for their users.
Your Tribe Is Sharing Photos
In 2008, Seth Godin introduced us all to the concept of "tribes" and declared that marketers must lead a tribe with the permission and respect of the followers. So regardless of whether you've identified your tribe or not, your tribe is taking and sharing photos at a phenomenal rate. Your customers, fans, followers, and friends are jumping into Instagram. You might not know them, but if you share their interests, then you have an opportunity to engage with them. They are snapping photos of things they want, products they love, and places they visit. They are sharing their lives via Instagram. The only question is, Are you going to join them on this new platform and begin to shape their experience?
It shouldn't surprise us that taking and sharing photos is a national pastime; it has been incredibly popular since 1885 when George Eastman started manufacturing paper film. From the early days of black-and-white photography to today, the quest to capture life through pictures has been an unwavering human addiction. The beauty of this newest evolution of the hobby is that smart marketers can participate in creative and engaging ways to promote their brands.
The evolution of photography occurred in several specific stages. First there were images produced on paper, and with them the modern art of photography was born. Photo albums abounded. Next came the popularization of the slide show, the technological breakthrough that every brother-in-law hated. The invitation "Let me set up the slide projector to show you our vacation pictures" became a dreaded after-dinner comment. Then came the instant camera revolution. The Polaroid Corporation did a tremendous job profiting from that wave of photography enthusiasm. Finally, this was followed by digital photography and the use of images stored on computers. Film and film cameras became relics. In this latest evolution, the integration of digital photography and social sharing has become a reality.
How popular is sharing images on Instagram? Recent statistics indicate that roughly 5 million images are shared every day. In the first two years of Instagram's existence, over 4 billion images were shared. This rate of sharing will compound as the rate of new users continues to grow.
What Can You Do with Instagram?
If you're not familiar with the Instagram app yet, then let's go over the basic user functionality now; then in Chapter 2 we'll walk you through the process of getting up and running quickly. The goal of this book is to focus on the marketing opportunities available via Instagram, so we'll only spend one chapter on the basic functionality of the site. It's important to remember that as a marketer, you are using Instagram differently than a personal user would. There is a big difference between your goals on the site and the goals of your customers.
Instagram leverages your smartphone's camera and image library, allowing you to choose a picture or video and apply camera effects to it. The effects include things like making the picture black and white, cropping it, adding a border, or saturating the image so the colors pop. You can always simply share an image in an unedited format as well. According to the site, almost half of all images are shared with no editing effects applied.
Once you've decided about how the image should be edited, you can add a description. The description can include plain text, or it can include a hashtag. Hashtags provide an easy way to categorize your images. Chris Messina, a Twitter user who wanted a way to help categorize conversations, originally created the hashtag in 2007. The hashtag system has been seamlessly integrated into Instagram for easy categorization.
Hashtags also allow you to expand the reach of your image far beyond your own list of followers, so that anyone interested in that topic can see your image by simply searching for that hashtag. For example, when we share an image that has the message "Red JANES coming soon to Liberty Jane Clothing #libertyjane #americangirldoll," it not only will go to our followers, but will also be visible to anyone searching for the hashtag #libertyjane or the hashtag #americangirldoll, as in Figure 1.1.
With a nice picture and a meaningful description, you're now ready to share the image. By finishing the upload process, your image is automatically shared with everyone who follows you on Instagram. Likewise, their images are made available to you when they upload a picture.
Once an image is shared, several social media standard behaviors can be used to engage with the image. We will discuss how to leverage these for social engagement in greater detail in later chapters, but for now we'll simply list them. They include:
* Liking. You can like the image as an expression of support.
* Commenting. You can leave a comment on a picture to join the conversation and make a statement. Your comments can include hashtags.
* Sharing. You can tweet about the images. Or if you uploaded the image yourself, you can share it to your Facebook account.
But Instagram has some limitations that might surprise you. At the time of this writing, there are a few things that you cannot do that you might expect to be able to do. They include:
* Adding a "clickable" URL in the description.
* Editing your description once it is uploaded.
* Adding a clickable URL in a comment.
* Sharing an image that you like with your followers. This functionality, popularized by Pinterest, is not a feature of Instagram.
Now that you know what Instagram is and the history of the social network, let's look at how my small business is using it to effectively engage with our tribe. Throughout this book, I'll use many business examples, and we'll focus together on various industries and niches so that you get a solid set of examples to learn from. But for this first chapter, I thought we should look at my own business as the example. Don't worry; we aren't trying to sell you anything. By sharing how we use Instagram, you get to know the following:
1. We are actually using Instagram effectively to grow our revenue for our small business.
2. This book is filled with best practices that are battle-tested and have been learned the hard way in the real world of competitive marketing. I'm not simply piling up social media platitudes and adapting them to Instagram. I am sharing from experience, not from theory.
3. I am an entrepreneur first and an author second. I don't consider myself a social media expert; I consider myself a marketer learning new things each day.
Up Close with Liberty Jane Clothing
Liberty Jane Clothing is my thriving six-figure small business. We started on eBay in 2008 and have grown by leveraging the power of social media. Instagram has become a primary part of our social media strategy.
We design and sell in the doll clothes category, offering both physical and digital products. Our primary e-commerce site is Liberty Jane Patterns, with over 200,000 digital guidebooks downloaded to date and monthly page views exceeding 400,000.
Our social media work began on YouTube in 2008. We worked hard to create fun and interesting design contests and engage with our community of prospects. It turned out that our tribe likes to hang out on YouTube, so we started there. Today we have over 8,500 subscribers on our YouTube channel and over 1.5 million video views. We've leveraged that strength into the other social platforms (see Figure 1.2). Our next step was e-mail marketing, where we learned the power of driving direct traffic to our sites via newsletters. Our Facebook fan page came after that. We've worked hard and advertised extensively in order to get over 23,000 "likers" (formerly called fans) on Facebook. In 2011, we launched our Pinterest profile and quickly saw that site become our top source of social traffic. To document our Pinterest lessons, I cowrote the Amazon bestselling book Pinterest Power.
In 2012, we launched our Instagram profile and began learning how to engage with our tribe on the site. Our initial marketing strategy included six steps:
1. We began our Instagram work by sharing pictures of products from a "behind- the-scenes" perspective. Our goal was to allow our followers to see an insider's view of our work. The idea of being a "visual insider" seemed like an appealing concept to our prospects and customers.
2. We began exploring the concept of using Instagram as a tool to enable a visual product launch. I'll outline this strategy further in Chapter 5. The visual product launch concept has become a significant strategy for us.
3. We took our YouTube contest strategy and adapted it to Instagram. Our Instagram design contest was an effective engagement tool and helped expand our reach significantly. I'll outline this approach in Chapter 12.
4. We integrated Instagram into our other websites, including our Facebook fan page and our company website. I will walk through the details of how to do this effectively in Chapters 14 and 15.
5. We started systematically asking our existing customers, fans, and followers to follow us on Instagram. Our reasoning was that if they joined us on Instagram, they could introduce their friends to us.
6. We started exploring the hashtags associated with our niche and participating in the ongoing conversations. We started finding and following like-minded people.
The Instagram Advantage
Three advantages immediately stand out when it comes to Instagram versus other social media sites:
* Instagram works flawlessly on mobile phones. While other sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all have an app, Instagram is the only one that was born on the mobile phone and works flawlessly in that environment.
* Instagram, like Pinterest, is "social media lite." It is not based on conversations, so the upkeep is much more achievable compared with a conversation-intensive platform like Facebook or Twitter.
* Similarly to YouTube and Pinterest, there is a longer shelf life for content than there is on Facebook and Twitter. When you upload an image on Instagram, it will be readily available for your followers to view for a very long time.
If you're ready to become an Instagram marketer, then read on. In the upcoming chapters we'll dive deeply into effective marketing campaigns, we'll hear from the creative marketers that put the campaigns together, and we'll break down their strategies into simple action steps so you know exactly what to do to get started.
Excerpted from Instagram POWER by JASON G. MILES. Copyright © 2014 Jason G. Miles. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
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