Tell Me a Story

Everyone has their own opinion about Instagram recently implementing their new "Story" feature. Some say it's a rip-off, some are screaming for more filters, others are ignoring it and some are just uploading their downloaded 'snaps'. Here's my two cents:

It's a business move, and a smart one at that. Sure, it works nearly EXACTLY like Snapchat, but the user base of Instagram far outnumbers the user base of Snapchat. The most recent numbers I could find: last month Instagram had 300 million users on it's platform every day, compared to Snapchat's 100 million.  Those are both highly impressive numbers, but clearly Instagram is still where people are setting up camp. So, grab some s'mores and get cozy.

I actually like the fact that this new Story feature seems to divide this one platform into two. I'm still seeing high quality images in my typical feed, but then I can choose to catch these quick, super authentic glances of the people I follow. I know lots of people are upset that they cannot feature themselves with a halo of flowers and a filter that makes the roughest night disappear directly on IG, BUT I personally could care less. I've felt the lure and see the fun, but I'm liking that Instagram has left that very specific to Snapchat (for now).  I can see where some businesses/brands could harness those features and really run with it, while others, not so much.

Here's what I'd like to see more of on Instagram Stories and what I'm working with my businesses to implement and hold fast to. I really believe that this mode could be used with a bit more curation in mind. Not just a quick vomit of what's happening in your day, but a STORY. A story with a beginning, middle, and end. To do this, start with a quick sketch of an idea of what is important to your community or what behind the scenes scenarios do you want to show the world. Then plan it out. Authenticity doesn't need to mean rambling, and totally random. You can be real and have an idea of where you are going at the same time. Film it, or capture images that still have a great visual feel for your brand. Editing can be done, do it. Remember to keep it simple and sweet and on message. 

I'm still deciding exactly what makes a business a better fit for each platform and for now I'm still on the fence about re-posting downloaded 'snaps'.  I'm a big fan of giving each platform it's own personality and content, but these are so similar that I can see the appeal. I'm sure I'll develop a preference soon and regale you with my rant. Until then - give me all the Stories. 

It's Going to be OK!

The announcement of Instagram's push for a more personalized algorithm feed has already sent businesses into a frenzy. The reverse chronological order you have become accustomed to will now be changed to something similar to Facebook's edgerank, where you will see the posts that the algorithm has learned you will like.

While this directly effects me in what seems like a negative way, I only see this as a bonus and am actually looking forward to it. Businesses have been riding this gravy train of free marketing for a very long time, and frankly it's been a ridiculous ride. Here's my two cents on the matter, and how to make this change work for you.

If you were to put your phone down and think of all the other ad space out there in the real world, none of it is free. Magazines, signs, billboards, newspaper ads. Companies paid for the space and certain spaces were coveted, for good reason. These ad spaces are where certain people are, or may be, and they only wanted to see a limited amount of ads coming at them. Why should social media be any different? It is where everyone is at, and no one wants to be sold to 24/7. Humans crave information, that's why we have magazines, signage and the internet. We like to share our experiences and intake beauty. When we sense ulterior motives, we flee and turn off.

This change should and will hone the marketers craft. If you are not sharing effective and meaningful posts, then you will not be seen. This change is going to produce more thoughtful, curated and meaningful posts. It is a win for you, the person with something to sell, and you, the person who likes their feed to be smooth and meaningful.

Now, how do you take a hold of these changes and make them work for you, the business? Sit down and do some math. I suggest you pour over your Instagrams posts for the last 4 months or so and see what has really worked and what is not working. Make note: type of posts (reposts, single items, teaching posts, graphic posts etc), date, time (you can go to Birdsong Insights to find the exact time stamp of posts), day of the week, likes, and comments. Then crunch the numbers. Find out which posts are working the best and then break it down more into what time of the day and even which day of the week you are getting the most interaction. This is going to take a nice chunk of your time, but it is worth it to come up with a plan to play the game in the very near future.

Now that you know what is working for you, develop a plan. Most people are guessing that Instagram's algorithm is going to work much like it's parent company Facebook's Edgerank system. Edgerank works off of your previous posts and measures the interactions from the previous posts to see how many followers will be seeing the next post. Use tactics from your posts with the highest interactions and continue to measure your ongoing posts. 

Don't forget, there is always the paid ad. As a business, you may now need to dig into the pockets and just pay up. Marketing has always been part of a business budget, and you may find amazing results with paid ads.

Many companies are announcing that their followers turn on Post Notifications for their posts. I'm still not convinced this is a great strategy for making sure you are seen. If you ask people to request push notifications, you better be ready to curate like crazy and really bring your A-game. If people feel even a tiny bit like you're posting too much, or not giving them what they want to see, they will unfollow you in a heartbeat. Personally, I'd like to go to toe to toe with the algorithm and gain more views than risk the small amount tuning in to leave forever. 

It's really going to be ok. Change is good, and inevitable. Roll with it and make it a chance to really let your posts shine. 

The Sound

I have a very good friend that I LOVE going out to eat with. We share a fondness for bacony goodness, but that's not really why I like going to a restaurant with her. I'm very reserved, and probably go out of my way as to not draw any attention to myself in a social situation. She, on the other hand, has a loud and wild laugh, and it will cause the entire restaurant to stop and turn and look at us. Some may be embarrassed by this, and considering my talent of blending in, you'd think I'd hate it, but I LOVE IT!  Her laugh is everything I wish I was. It reminds me of what being alive feels like, and reminds me that everyone has a much different voice and that's a beautiful thing.

When you start up a social media strategy for your brand, your voice should be something that is mapped out. Your voice is the actual words you are using and the tone that you create on each and every post. You may find that a very light hearted joking style works for your brand, while another brand may find that just the facts is what their audience is craving. Maybe you prefer to use profanities for funzies (this account is a great example), or peaceful and minimal word usage could be way more effective for you.  Keep in mind your goals, your overall branding, then brainstorm how your desired sound fits into those.

However you choose to sound, your voice is a feature that should remain constant throughout all of your platforms. It's true that different platforms attract different users, but if you think of your voice as another aspect that defines you, you will see it's best to keep it congruent. I can always tell when one of my favorite restaurants has posted because Jeff's verbiage is just so unique.

Your voice is just another creative way to get people to remember your brand. It helps long time followers define who you are, and can draw in potential clients and followers.


In the Beginning

Let's create a scenario where you've only just begun to start your business and you have yet to create social media accounts, let alone a full blown strategy. Where do you even start? Do you need to be on every platform? Should you pay for ads? 

Social Media has taken a huge role in how most businesses market and reach their target audience. Before, it used to be wise to put up a FaceBook page and hope for followers. Now, it really requires thought, planning and a strategy.

First things first. Where is your target audience browsing? You may not need to completely infiltrate all of the social media platforms while first starting. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are great to get on and start a presence, but you may choose just one to place your greatest focus.

If your target audience is a bit younger, you would do better to focus on Instagram and save posts asking people to drive to action for Facebook. If your audience is hip and your product fits the edgy curves of Tumblr, focus on that account. Perhaps you are looking to grab the attention of females around 30, and in to decorating - set up camp on Pinterest and pin your heart away. 

If your product or brand has a lot of information to get out to people, Periscope is emerging and a great tool since it allows viewers to comment and ask questions during the broadcast. 

Twitter can be thought of as more of a newsworthy platform. If you are moving around a lot and need to get lots of small bits of info out to followers, Twitter is where you need to zero in your time in the beginning. 

Make sure you start creating accounts with your business name, or something extremely close to it and keep those user names simple. Make your accounts easy to find for your potential customers. 

The next and very important step to getting out there on social media, is to be social. Find accounts that are similar to who you and your brand are and follow them. Notice what you like about these accounts, and jot down how you would like to be different. First and foremost - play nice. There's plenty of room out there for competition and creating a community strengthens businesses.  

Before you start just posting your raw and rough beginnings as a company, you need some skeletal ideas to hold up your posts. Answer these questions to begin a framework for posting:

  • What is our voice?
  • Who do we want listening to us?
  • What is our presence?
  • What's our 'look' (hopefully this was visited during talks about branding)?
  • What is our goal for our social media?

I'll post more in depth about each of these questions, but it's good to start thinking about how to create posts for quality and effective engagement.