2018 brings with it several new Instagram features — from the ability to follow hashtags to an Alpha Test program where marketers can sign up to experiment with product updates.
The pros at the world’s top social media agencies are constantly experimenting with what Instagram rolls out, delivering enormous value to their customers.
If you’re a smaller business or individual, however, trying to promote your work on your own, it can be difficult to be up to speed on the tricks of the trade.
That’s why we’ve amassed a series of tips from the pros for 2018 for you to digest as you create high quality, successful content and continue to grow your following.
Play to Instagram’s strengths to achieve your campaign goals
Instagram is notoriously engaging. But its strength as a content platform can also be a weakness for advertisers: because it’s so engrossing, people aren’t as likely to leave Instagram to check out your company’s site.
Fortunately, you can turn it around and use your ads to play to Instagram’s strengths too. Do it right, and your piece of paid content can be even better than much of the organic content around it.
Users typically click off of Facebook to view content, but people have less interest leaving their Instagram feed to visit an advertiser’s website.
As a result, advertisers must play to Instagram’s strengths to achieve their campaign goals.”
Daniel Holtzman, The Spark Group
If you want to display an array of offerings in an e-commerce campaign, for example, try using Instagram’s carousel ads. The carousel format allows publishers to showcase up to 10 images and/or videos within a single ad unit and has historically driven 30-50% lower cost-per-conversion than single-image link ads.
Carousel ads are a great way to accomplish business goals by highlighting several products and/or specific details for one product. For example, Airbnb highlighted a series of its beautiful homes to rent from “Around The World” in the post below. Displaying luxurious spaces in woodland huts, treehouses, and sunny reading rooms, Airbnb is able to fit significantly more content into a single ad unit. The carousel format allows the company to appeal to several subsections of its target audience — adventurous, as well as bookish — and reveal the enormous breadth of what it can offer customers overall.
Aligning with Instagram’s highly successful formats, like carousel ads, can give your products and/or services a considerable boost.
Captivate your users without sound
In 2017 only about 15% of Facebook and Instagram users chose to watch videos with the sound on. Furthermore, some systems and devices stopped the video autoplay in social media feeds altogether.
Advertisers increasingly have to deliver their message in a single but silent frame.
Content has to be strong enough to convey the business and their product or service without audio.”
Raychale Dukeman, Marketing Manager at LYFE Marketing
To get your audience to want to turn the sound on and stick around for more of your post, try putting your most important information into an initial, eye-catching thumbnail:
Here, Burger King delivers all of the major points in one still — business name, product, even a hashtag (#CHEESYTOTSareback) — making sure its audience gets the full picture in a single bite.
Burger King also takes advantage of other tactics proven to instantly grab the user’s eye, including bold primary colors. Red, in particular, strikes a chord. Staging this scene on a floor of bright red squares elevates its “cheesy tots” to even greater heights.
Dunkin’ Donuts knows how to create tantalizing thumbnails as well, employing creative captions to deliver the full CTA.
Using similarly brilliant color tricks as Burger King to catch the viewer’s eye (not to mention the lure of sugar + caffeine), Dunkin’ Donuts also presents a clear and engaging caption: “Show us your best DD-inspired Halloween costume using #DDCostumeContest for a chance to win $2,500 and a year’s supply of coffee!”
No sound is needed in either example. Thumbnails with bold colors, well-crafted text with key points, and engaging CTAs do the trick.
Be opportunistic about your Instagram ad formats
Instagram has an increasing number of formats available, which can all be enticing to try. Even if you’re known for your standalone or carousel images, it could be tempting to switch it up and deliver a series of single post videos instead.
It’s always best to play to your strengths, however. Be opportunistic about which formats you select in order to showcase your best content.
Creative execution is king.
If you are working with a good photographer go with an image, if you’ve come up with a good idea to use slideshows in a creative way, go for it.”
Solberg Audunsson, co-founder of Takumi.
Sonos’ Instagram feed shows how the company occasionally switches formats to reflect the different ways its home sound system can enhance its viewers’ lifestyles.
In the upper left (most recent) slot, Sonos uses a video for a more immersive narrative of two artists integrating a sound system into their home in LA, while on the third image in the second row (far right), the company chooses a simple carousel of two images to detail how Sonos is part of a couple’s daily routine:
In the first post, Sonos uses the video format to best exemplify the flow of the artists’ home — how Karen Kimmel and James Bond move through rooms without the constant battering of visual technology — and how Sonos’ subtle hardware fits in without creating a disturbance.
In the second carousel post, Sonos uses the first image to set the stage for the couple’s daily routine and the second to detail how Sonos again meshes nicely with its intimate, analog surroundings.
Select the format best suited to your message, your product, and your media skill set, as the Instagram pro, Travis Hawley, reminds us:
Instagram has always been a hi-res platform …
You shouldn’t post or advertise if you cannot keep your quality high.”
Travis Hawley, Viral Nation
Being opportunistic about the format will highlight your content in its best light.
Reach 2-3X more users with Instagram stories
Facebook rose to the challenge when Snapchat began capturing users’ attention with short, disappearing videos. In April 2017 Instagram Stories overtook Snapchat videos in daily users by 25% — 200 million to 160 million.
Like Snapchat the Instagram story format is not permanent and has proven to be highly successful for marketers.
Brian DiFeo believes that:
There is potential for 2 or 3 times more engagement on Stories versus regular posts.”
Brian DiFeo, The Mobile Media Lab
Instagram stories are a great way to send real-time updates to your followers. If you want to engage your audience, incorporate features, like locations, into your images — as Manhattan Greenmarket does below:
The market sends a quick reminder to its audience that the Green Market on the Upper West Side is happening today. Users who aren’t sure exactly where can click on the location bar, which brings them to its exact place on a map.
Stories’ disappearing nature can feel more like a gif than a YouTube or Vimeo clip.
It is excellent for catching a user’s eye.”
Daniel Holtzman, The Spark Group
The short lifespan of an Instagram Story creates more of a sense of urgency; coupled with engaging features, like locations, Instagram Stories are excellent marketing tools with the ability for further reach than traditional posts.
Create a seamless experience in your Instagram feed
In contrast with Facebook, Instagram is more intimate and less cluttered.
A 2016 Facebook survey found that users flock to Instagram to fulfill their desire for fun, relaxation, and discovery. To ensure that users don’t swipe away when they realize that your post is an ad — it’s critical that your content fits in with its surroundings in the feed.
Your ad should usually not look like an ad.
Having an authentic and seamless experience between organic and paid content is vital.”
Travis Hawley, Viral Nation
To give users sneak peeks of your company culture — or let your followers in on an upcoming event or launch — try creating less polished, more DIY videos.
For example, Tech Ladies, a job board and community for women in tech, posted a story of their team opening a box that arrived at their headquarters:
Nothing is highly professional about this Story — an iPhone camera, slightly shaky lens, content without deliberate lighting — none of it screams marketing ploy. As an Instagram user scrolling through a Story feed, this video doesn’t instantly stand out among friends’ sharing ordinary daily moments.
To ensure you convey your message before a user moves on, don’t detract from your audience’s usual stream.
Time to get to work!
With a few tips and tricks under your belt, now you can get to work on building your following and creating conversions like the Pros.
2018 brings with it several changes on Instagram — from updated formats to fewer Instagram users selecting sound-on formats.
Your ability to work with what Instagram rolls out to showcase your best content will determine your success!