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5 Strategies to Grow your Instagram Account

Instagram is a great network for building brand awareness and relationships with your customers online, in a visually compelling way. Instagram has over 200 million daily actives and users tap the like button 2.5 million times daily; proving that I am not the only like-aholic on the planet.

If someone has ever told you: “There’s no point in using Instagram, your B2B”, then you have my permission to laugh at them.  Despite the fact that the social platform is known for driving less website traffic because it only allows one link in the bio, there is massive opportunity to build some serious brand awareness and tell a story or two. Instagram is for everyone, even my grandmother knows about it. But, if you’re struggling to drive engagement on the platform, then try out these strategies to get noticed.

1. Add Hashtags

Quite simply put, adding hashtags to your posts will increase your reach and therefore engagement. Hashtags allow you to join relevant conversations (ding! potential customers) and also for users to discover your profile and images. Because hashtags compile content together into categories, people might search for hashtags instead of words to find relevant posts. So the aim here is to use relevant hashtags. “What would I search for if I was the customer?”, is the first question you should ask yourself; if you’re stuck, a good place to start is looking at your competitor profiles. There are some great tools such as Ritetag to find out what hashtags are popular with your topic. I would recommend using a combination of specific and broad hashtags, a maximum of three in the description. You can then add an additional 20 hashtags as a comment, which you can delete it later to keep the post as clean as possible.

2. User-generated Content

Instagram is the king of user-generated content (UGC) because users love creating and sharing free content for brands. As mentioned before, it doesn’t matter what type of business you are, Instagram is the platform to tell real stories and promote your product/service, although you might be asking yourself “but how?!”. UGC is a great way to build an engaged community by posting publicly available content that is created by end-users, especially as Millennials trust UGC 50% more than other types of media.

The easiest way to find great user generated content is to use hashtags, which users can add to their posts making it easier for you to find them by. Ensure that you include a clear call-to-action to a few of your posts to keep the campaign rolling. If you’re struggling to find UGC that is appropriate to your business or industry, contests are one way you can get the ball rolling. It’s a good idea to document submitted material as a particular post could come in handy with a content theme later down the line. The process itself provides several touch points for your business to build relationships with your customers. For example, asking the owner for permission to use their content; two birds with one stone.

Tweet This: Did you know Millennials trust UGC 50% more than other types of media?

Popular lifestyle blog, Studio DIY has over 300,000 followers and they recently launched Shop Studio DIY, an online store which has it’s own Instagram account. They grew the account to over 20,000 followers by creating the hashtag #cantclutchthis and ran a contest using it. They also included the hashtag on all of their posts:


3. Be Reactive

This is an area of social media which is overlooked by so many marketers. The clue is in the name: social. Comment on followers and influencers posts by adding the @ symbol before the follower’s username so that they receive the notification directly to their phone. Since the algorithm change on Instagram, it is not surprising to learn that people miss on average 70% of their feeds, therefore it is important to maintain a presence by joining in on conversations and posting regularly (I suggest at least 3 times a week). By maintaining a conversation, your reach will increase: The more a user interacts with your content, the more likely it is to appear on their feed.

4. Influencers

Influencers increase your marketing reach, brand awareness and sales in regions where you’re not present. These individuals post and write for brands they have affinity for, meaning they have specific areas of expertise which could add lots of value to your business. Influencers are commonly used for short-term campaigns where they post content, stories and blogs in exchange for money and products. Influencers must be a good fit/valuable for both the influencer and the brand, so research is key. Who do you want to attract? Create a set of criterion with which you can score potentials against, bearing in mind that the more followers an influencer has, the more likely they are to charge, as the majority treat their social channels as a business.

Tweet This: Influencers must be a good fit/valuable for both the influencer and the brand.

Growth Supplements has been recently leveraging on Instagram influencer Dickerson Ross and his impressive 1.6m following, with posts averaging out at 20k likes per post. Interestingly, he also promotes products from popular online watch store MVMT.


5. Tell a Story

Brands who use Instagram must understand the importance of storytelling. Whether through photos of products, office tours or Instagram takeovers, brands using Instagram are effectively showcasing their offering in an authentic way.

Define your brand narrative in one sentence and try to have every photo feed into it, creating cohesion between posts. Instagram is the place to promote your brand’s identity, as the brain processes images 60 times faster than words. A story activates parts in the brain that allow the listener to turn the story into their own ideas and experiences, thanks to a process called neutral coupling. Think thematically when building your community on Instagram, with evermore ways to make authentic connections with your audience through visuals, multi-photo albums and Instagram’s own apps, Boomerang and Hyperlapse.

With the recent development of stories on Instagram, storytelling is that less hard work. The story feature has become so popular that Snapchat’s growth sank 82% after Instagram Stories launched. Don’t be afraid to upload stories - as long as it feeds into your brand identity (remember that one sentence?), plus Instagram is rolling out website links to all business accounts, so you will soon be able to drive traffic from stories to your site… Watch this space!

Over to you...

So there you have it, five strategies that will help you build a solid presence on Instagram in order to engage and connect with your target audience. What strategies have you found successful with Instagram? Share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear how you are growing your account.

Thank you for reading! Until next time…




Feature Image Credit: Boland Digtial

Five areas of old school marketing in which digital marketers need to up their game

Nothing is ever really new. As much as we love to act like we know tonnes of stuff that traditional marketers don’t, it’s just not true. Of course some of the channels through which we distribute content and engage with our audience are new, but the fundamentals of what shapes that content and the principles of how we use it to engage our audience have existed since the days when a tweet was a sound a bird made and poking estranged school friends would have landed you in all sorts of trouble.

As a generation of marketers we are so obsessed with what’s current that we neglect the techniques and principles that account for 90% of good marketing. We would all benefit from spending a bit less time reading up on the latest change to the Facebook news feed, and a bit more time learning about those few pillars of marketing that endure from one decade to the next.


1. Research

Market research is the absolute bedrock of good marketing and the information has never been so readily available. Yet for some reason many marketers view it as wasted time. “Why spend time looking when you could be spending it doing” they argue. Well, because those hours spend researching will make every hour thereafter 500% more effective. The Samwer Brothers are by far the most extreme example of this philosophy (link to post). You may question their ethics or accuse them of lacking imagination, but nobody can deny that their approach makes great business sense, and what is the function of marketing if not to drive business?


2. Brand

This was my greatest failing for the first 4 years of working in digital; I completely underestimated the role of brand. Since that realisation, there is nothing I have worked harder to master. Brand is everything. So few companies ever really get to the heart of what truly defines and distinguishes them, which is why so few ever go on to spectacular and sustainable success. Nothing should happen - content, social, pr, email - without a crystal clear sense of your brand core, values, personality, value proposition and visual identity.


3. Strategy

This is so obvious that it shouldn’t even need saying, but how many digital marketers really understand high level marketing strategy? Too many pigeon-hole their expertise into one specific channel or discipline, and have no idea how it fits together with the full marketing mix. Specialisation is fine, but you can’t strategise with blind spots.

Contrary to what many argue, strategy also saves time. Those that focus endlessly on tactics go into each new month without any sense of direction, and so they spend hours planning new ideas from scratch. However, if they had a clear strategy with two or three really big ideas that spearheaded all of their activity, 90% of their monthly planning would already be done.


4. Direct response copy writing

40 years ago, the godfather of advertising, David Ogilvy, criticised the industry for its neglect of good old fashioned direct response copy writing. Nothing has changed. We have now developed an obsession with short copy, stunning imagery and engaging video, but the fact is that the most effective sales content boil down to long form copy, and there is nothing more important than sales content. Yes, we are here to inspire, educate and engage, but above all, we are here to sell.


5. Email

Okay, I know this is digital, but it’s been around for so long that I think a lot of marketers now view it with a complacent disdain, even though it’s never been so powerful. There is an obsession with social media, but the trouble is that you don’t own those platforms. You could invest thousands in building a presence on Facebook, but if they suddenly increase the price of advertising to a point where you can no longer justify the investment, then you are left with little to show for your efforts. Email, on the other hand, is always yours. This is why it should almost always be considered your most important digital asset alongside your brand itself.

Furthermore, it’s typically your email audience that will generate the most social shares. That may sound counter intuitive, but even with high levels of ad spend on social media it can be really difficult to generate shares directly from your brand, but when you let your email list share your content on your behalf, that’s when the serious social traffic comes flooding in.


The death of monthly reporting

I don’t know if this is a controversial viewpoint or not, but I’m pretty sure monthly reporting is bullshit.

I get that the analysis needs to happen, and I get that some clients (usually marketing managers) like discussing these reports in a lengthy monthly conference call, but for every one of those clients, there are about ten that I’m pretty sure slip away from the phone and quietly make themselves a hot drink.

I don’t blame them. These people have a lot going on in their lives without us torturing them with page after page of jargon that means precisely nothing to anyone outside marketing.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a process we have sub-consciously created as agencies to confuse our clients into not asking any awkward questions. By talking them into submission on the detail that doesn’t matter, we avoid having to discuss the only thing that does matter, which is the impact we’re having on their business.

Everything else is just noise.

For every business there are probably two or three metrics that directly show this impact. The key short term metric will almost certainly be sales or enquiries, and the key long term metric may be brand reach or product engagement. Everything else is just noise, as one particularly honest client told me recently.

No matter what we might think, they do not care how many their website pages women of 35-45 view on their tablets or what domain authority that website has that we might get a link on next Tuesday. And to add insult to injury, as agencies we have the gaul to charge our clients for the time it takes to compile these 34 page documents. On smaller campaigns the client may be spending as much to have us perform this analysis of the work we’re doing as they are on us actually doing the work.

It makes no sense.

This is why we have recently, other than for those clients that we know value the detail, binned all monthly reports. Instead, we now send out a weekly text message or email with details of their two or three headline KPI’s along with a couple of sentences on what we’re doing to drive those KPI’s forward. To be clear, the more detailed analysis still happens, but we keep it internal and don’t waste time (or the client’s money!) turning it into pretty documents that sit in the client’s inbox.

And guess how the clients have responded? They haven’t. Other than to say they’re loving the new short updates, which are "easy to understand and give reassurance that Inbound are focusing on the things that actually matter”.

Clearly the title of this post was more of a wish than an observation. Monthly reporting is still alive and well in the industry. I’m just not sure why. What’s ironic is that we’re in the business of consulting people on user experience, forever using phrases like “less is more” and “get out of the user’s way”, and then we drown our own clients in detail until they’re virtually coughing up analytics data.

Maybe it’s time as an industry we thought a little more about our own user's experience?

The Brilliant David Aaker Strategic Brand Planning Model - An Overview

We’ve all been there. Some smart ass asks you to explain your target audience, USP or value proposition and it seems that no matter what you say they shoot you down - "It’s too generic. You need to be clearer. You’re trying to cater to too many people. Your USP isn’t really a USP at all…."

The trouble is, they’re probably right.

These seemingly simple questions are some of the most important you will ever have to answer. Unfortunately, they’re also some of the hardest.

You don’t have time to read 35 branding books and study a part time degree in marketing. Thankfully, if you did, you would realise that all these books and theories boiled down to a small number of central themes. Even more fortunate is the fact that these themes were captured with brilliant simplicity 25 years by a chap called David Aaker, in a chart he called his Brand Identity Planning Model.


(Click to expand)
A lot has changed since this model first appeared - in fact the world is barely recognisable - and yet somehow, Aaker’s model feels as true today as it was in the 1990’s. So if you’re struggling to answer those questions with absolute clarity and conviction, then keep things simple and follow this process


Step 1 - strategic brand analysis

This is your research phase. Aaker splits it into:
Customers - who are your customers? What are their unmet needs? How can you group them into different segments?
Competitors - who is your competition? What can you do to learn from them? See my previous post for more on stealing ideas from your competitors.
You - what defines your business today? What do you want to define you in the future? What are your values?

This is the grunt work and therefore the bit that’s most often skipped over. The trouble is, without it everything else is going to end up either being generic or just plain wrong.


Step 2 - your core identity

Next, Aaker asks that you identify the absolute core of the brand. What is that one thing that defines you above all else? Ideally this will be unique to your market, but if it’s not then you must be doing it better than anybody else. Not 5% better but 500% better. All of your future strategy decisions MUST be aligned to this one thing.


Step 3 - your extended identity

Whilst your core provides your focus, your extended identity gives you rich and complex detail that makes it harder for competitors to copy. It also provides the framework for how your business should operate day to day.

Aaker recommends breaking it down into 4 areas:

  • Brand as product
  • Brand as person
  • Brand as organisation
  • Brand as symbol

Product - this is what companies generally focus on as they're tangible and easy to understand. What is the product made of? What does it do? How much does it cost? Is it of higher quality than the competition? These questions are really important, but they are only the beginning.

Person - if your brand was a person, who would that person be? Identify their age, gender, interests, attributes, likes and dislikes. Your ability to move beyond product attributes and develop this brand personality is essential if you are to be able to build a strong emotional relationship with your audience.

Organisation - what are your company values? What do you stand for? What’s your culture?

Symbol - are their any logos, images, mascots or visual symbols of any kind that represent the brand? A picture paints a thousand words, so having imagery that encapsulates your brand is a fast and effective way of communicating your key messages.


Step 4 - your value proposition

How does the core and extended brand identity come together to create a compelling value proposition? In order to do so it needs to speak clearly to a specific target audience whilst effectively differentiating itself from the competition. This can be really difficult, which is why those brands that target narrower, niche markets are often more successful than those that try to appeal to everyone.

Your value proposition will be made up of a combination of functional, emotional and self expressive benefits. Functional benefits come from the brand as product part and tend to be the things that companies focus on as they're tangible and easy to explain. Unfortunately they are also easy to copy and assume a rational decision maker. That’s fine in some markets (such as B2B) but in most consumer markets people are driven more by emotional factors, such as fear or excitement, as well as the desire to express something about themselves and their identity. What could those emotional and self expressive factors be for your brand?


Step 5 - credibility

Just because you have a compelling proposition, why should people believe it? I could promise to send people on weekend getaways to the moon for £99, but if nobody believes me then I don’t have a business. How do you ensure that people believe your promise? Is it through the history and heritage of the brand, is it through customer testimonials or celebrity/expert endorsements?


Step 6 - the brand-customer relationship

Now that the relationship has been initiated by the value proposition, it needs to be maintained. This may come directly from the value proposition (they have such a great experience that they can’t help but come back for more), but it may also come directly from the brand identity. For example, it may be based on the relationship the individual develops with the brand as organisation or brand as person. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to explore the brand identity beyond mere product factors.


Step 7 - brand positioning

Of course brands often target multiple audiences and the way the brand therefore positions itself will vary. For one audience segment it may need to prioritise slightly different elements of the brand identity and value proposition over others. For example, if part of your brand identity relates to energy and wellbeing and you are running a campaign targeting the fitness market, then that is part of your identity that you would almost certainly wish to magnify within that context.


Step 8 - execution

After all this planning and preparation you can now begin implementation with confidence. The one major change that has taken place in the last 20 years is that due to the internet a lot of companies have entered into the implementation phase a little earlier as you can iterate fast and cheaply, particularly as a small business. That said, you don't want to pushing out conflicting messages either, and sometimes I think companies now underestimate the importance of robust planning and instead leap into execution while thinking that they can use the data to iterate their way out of trouble. Do your homework first.


Step 9 - tracking

Never before has tracking been so simple, accurate and important. With all the digital analytics now available we can (and must!) evolve our campaigns rapidly based on what we can see to be succeeding.


So there it is. As valid today as it was 25 years ago. If you can complete this model for your business, you will be in the small minority that actually understand why they exist and how they can continue to do so in an ever growing sea of competition.


- Source of photo -
- Building strong brands

Modern SEO Part 3 : The Surprising Role Of Influencer Marketing

Your goal is to dominate the rankings. You have a clear brand strategy (see previous post) which means it's time to start engaging influencers. If that seems like an odd leap then let's consider some of the factors that might determine your success with SEO:
- Awesome content
- Links from related sites
- Social engagement
- Brand traffic
- Reviews

That influencer, assuming they are truly aligned to your brand, should be able to provide all of the above.

For example:
- Request to interview an influencer on behalf of one of your clients in return for a free/discounted product - easy
- Post it up on your client’s site - great content!
- They then share it with their audience - social traffic sorted
- You then turn it into an infographic and give it to them to use on their blog - awesome link from a relevant site
- They then give your client a review
- In the process they have also reinforced your brand's positioning, credibility and reach

It’s the ultimate killing a shit load of birds with one massive stone strategy. And just to be clear, influencers exist in all markets, no matter how boring that market may seem on the surface. You just have to ask yourself, who are the big dogs in this industry and how do I get in front of them? For B2B these could be company directors or other industry experts. For B2C it's obviously going to be someone consumer facing, but you must remember that it's far more important to use someone who's aligned to your brand than it is to use someone who's just got a massive following. In fact I would far rather engage with someone who embodied the brand entirely but only had a small but tightly defined following, than someone with 50,000 broadly scattered followers who were only loosely connected to the brand. Their content will be far stronger, they will take less management and probably be a lot more grateful for the opportunity!