Part III - Content Strategy
In Part 3 of our Instagram for Retailpreneurs series, I'll cover Content Strategy. A content strategy is essential for honing and defining your 'voice' and brand messaging through images on Instagram.
It defines what you will post and what you won't post, and when. What hashtags you will regularly use, and which ones you will own. Whether or not you will develop and post only original content, or regram others.
I've definitely evolved my strategy over time to become more focused, and way more professional while giving a behind the scenes peek to followers of the fashion design world and running a business.
Like most things in business, as an entrepreneur you MUST test and learn.
Try a content strategy on for size. If it's not resonating with your followers, no worries - pivot.
What is a content strategy?
Wikipedia defines content strategy as "...the practice of planning the content creation, delivery, and governance.".
In other (more normal person words), this is the thinking behind what content you will create on Instagram, and how it will be delivered (timing, tagging, hashtags etc.) and managing that content (regrams, comments etc).
In an upcoming post, I'll talk about tools that are essential for running your Instagram account - these include posting apps, creation apps, photo editing, and measurement apps.
For highly evolved and large retail organizations, this involves creating an actual document that defines all of the above, as well as an accompanying content calendar.
One of the challenges I see large multimillion dollar retailers facing is the speed at which content is required now on social media. Previously, large retailers and CPGs were able to operate in 'campaign' mode.
Create a campaign, launch it. Manage it. Report on it's ROI. Rinse. Repeat.
Nowadays, everyday is a marketing campaign. A continuous campaign that has no endpoint.
Whether it's midnight or 8am, there is someone likely on your website or interacting with your photos on Instagram. This all represents massive opportunity for online entrepreneurs to gain followers and engagement leveraging the right strategy.
Let's start with the WHAT
What will you post on Instagram?
There are many strategies that successful Instagram brands have utilized. Generally, Instagram is viewed by consumers as more 'behind the scenes' content -- the stuff you won't see on TV, or on your website. Consumers fully expect to see product photos (as you are a brand!) but straight up product photos do not resonate.
A great example is Starbucks. Starbucks posts photos of their beverages in different places and scenarios. They're not generally posting their product shots on a white background. Whether it's a frappacino at the intersection of the equator, a cheers with Shaken Tazo Tea at the beach, or a motivational handwritten message on one of their cups -- they're subtly engaging consumers with their brand, and their product without overtly saying "buy this frappacino".
A second brand that rocks Instagram content is Topshop. An apparel brand out of the UK but now all over north america. They have about 2.7 million followers. Topshop posts a variety of content from behind the scenes, new product launches, blogger regrams, layflat outfits and new store openings. They rarely post a straight up product shot (unless it's something unusual like cat socks!).
It's easy (one might think) for a large brand to develop content on Instagram though I've seen behind the scenes at some of these companies, and they struggle with the governance of these types of accounts. So the last example I will share (and yes, it's a startup) is Nasty Gal. They are an excellent case study of a lifestyle brand... "For bad-a$$ girls..." is their tagline. Their feed is almost exclusively lifestyle shots of bloggers, models and real people wearing their designs at events and scenarios that resonate with their target market (often concerts, shows, restaurants) intermixed with inspiration from their very notable founder, Sophie Amoruso.
How will YOUR brand show up?
What is iconic, original and unique about your brand?
This is a fundamental question you need to answer to help guide your content strategy on Instagram. Are you irreverant? Girly? Bad a##? Fun? Lively? Sad? Moody? Hipster? High class? High fashion? Every day?
Defining this should also bleed into HOW you photograph things. Do you add filters? Which ones? Do your photos have a frame? Do they not? Are they in black and white or colour? What lighting?
This is your time to experiment and see what resonates and try to be consistent for a while so you can measure the response.
In my experience, light bright and clear photos perform best on Instagram. Filters that darken, or frames often make photos look blurry. Also, using a high quality camera on your phone (or sneaking photos via your DSLR) is a good way to ensure your brand comes across properly.
Are you going to regram?
Many Instagram accounts thrive JUST on regramming other's content. I often regram my customer's photos or retailer's photos wearing my product to help promote my brand (and theirs!). Occasionally, I will regram quotes that I LOVE. It's not a daily practice. Put a stake in the sand and define how you will manage reposting. There are some great apps for this which I will cover next week.
In my opinion the biggest 'fail' of entrepreneurs is oversharing. I have been guilty of this in the past. Be VERY mindful about what you post on your 'business' account. If you can't help it, make a personal account too.
Depending on your brand, and your audience, posting a continuous feed of baby photos, drunken photos at the bar, and pictures of friends may not resonate, and may actually make people unfollow you.
Check yourself before you post! If you're not sure, probably best not to share.
When will you post?
This will depend on your target market and area of the world. If you're a brand in the US that has a ton of Australian followers, this will change the timing of your posts. Iconosquare which I will talk about more in a later post is an excellent tool to measure engagement and best timing of posts.
This is critical to manage because even the best picture at the worst time won't perform.
What hashtags will you use + own?
Hashtags help photos show up in other's instagram feeds. People 'follow' or search hashtags all the time for their interests (especially when bored!). Iconosquare will be able to show you the most popular hashtags. I often recommend using a 'few' popular ones (but remember, this introduces your brand into a world of 'content clutter').
I also recommend 'owning' a few hashtags. Whether it's your brand name (a good, and easy one you should own), your product name (i.e. #chrysaliscardi ), these should be utilized on almost every post so ideally your followers who BUY your product can be encouraged to post their own photos (hopefully wearing, or using your product) using these tags.
Lastly, I also strongly advise looking for medium search terms relevant to your product, designs, business and ideal customer. These are typically under 50k photo posts. You'll want to search them to make sure it's not just OTHER brands posting to them and that consumers are using them actively. And test. Try them out. If they're not resonating. Switch it up.
Governance is a fancy schmancy consulting word for how will you manage your account. If you're not a solopreneur, perhaps someone else will have access to post. Putting guidelines around when you will post, and whom will post will help improve process flows.
This also includes responding to comments on your posts. If you're like me, and facing a mild addiction to social media, I respond almost right away. This can be a bit detrimental and distracting if you're busy, or have a partner or family who might get annoyed. Set boundaries for yourself.
Also, don't be afraid to report or delete negative or spammy comments. The larger you get, the more of this type of stuff you will attract. Remember, the people commenting are anonymous (largely) so feel empowered to sometimes be mean. Try not to take what they say personally.
If you are consistently getting tons of engagement and comments (positive), congrats! This means you're on the path to creating a content strategy that resonates with your ideal customer on Instagram.
That's all for this week, don't forget to have fun + get creative!
Over the next 3 weeks, we will cover....
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Wishing you blissful retail!