In today's digital age, a growing number of businesses are beginning to include social media in their marketing mix. Instagram has gained considerable popularity in South Africa since its official launch in 2012, and now has 2,68 million local users. With a 133% increase in users within South Africa over the course of the last year alone, more and more local businesses are turning to Instagram as a platform for driving brand awareness, and ultimately, sales. Instagram is also increasingly being recognised as a platform able to transcend geographic boundaries and generate business among new markets. Today we'll be taking a look at the possibilities of Instagram for business, as well as how marketers can go about monitoring their social media success.
1. Promote the Lifestyle
Despite its rapid growth and promising business prospects, it shouldn't be forgotten that Instagram is still a form of social media. This means that users access it to be social, and can become quickly impatient with obvious brand advertisements and online sales pitches.
Introducing: The Golden 20/80 Rule. To maintain an attractive business profile, ensure that just 20% of your Instagram content is directly about your brand, product or service. The remaining 80% of your posts should seek to promote a lifestyle – or in other words, content that audiences are interested in and want to share. The key here is listening to what your audience is talking about, and then tapping into that interest.
For instance, one of South Africa's most successful Instagram accounts, Mr. Price, simply shares a picture of the trendy, recently revamped Grand Cafe and Beach in Cape Town with the caption "About today... Double tap and tell us how you are spending this Saturday." This post has nothing to do with Mr. Price clothing, but instead utilises a perfect picture for audiences to screenshot, filter and regram, while also encouraging engagement. The use of trending hashtags such as "#currentmood" and "#summerfeels" further promote the fashionable, fun-loving and youthful lifestyle of Mr. Price.
In a similar way, the retailer Woolworths will also post content on Instagram that they know will resonate with their customers' epicurean desires. One such example made use of a decadent bread and cheese board, captioned, "Sweet dreams are made of cheese, #findthemagic". By understanding the gourmet interests of its customer base, the brand is able to maximise engagement and ultimately drive up their own online visibility.
2. Bring Your A-Game
Once you've nailed the lifestyle content balance, creative captions and relevant hashtags, it's time to step your game up. Keeping up-to-date with Instagram's innovations (of which there are many) helps to maintain the interest of current followers, gain new ones, and stay ahead of competitors.
2016 saw Instagram introduce the Instagram Story, allowing audiences to post short videos or pictures with a 24-hour lifespan in a feed running alongside users' existing galleries. Since its launch in August, Instagram has added valuable updates such as the ability to stream live video and send disappearing messages. The latter being in direct competition with Snapchat, the popular social media app which has subsequently experienced a decrease in popularity. Instagram is poised to become the social media platform of choice for businesses targeting younger demographics – as is demonstrated in the contrast between Nike's most-viewed Snapchat story at 66,000 views, and their first Instagram Story which received 800,000 views.
We recommend sharing relevant content on Instagram Stories throughout the day to take full advantage of the feature – such as behind-the-scenes footage, "sneak peaks" at upcoming products, and the inclusion of colleagues and work environments.
Owing to the temporary nature of each Story, brands are able to exercise more of their creative flare when it comes to publishing inventive and engaging content. Dear Rae, the South African jewellery designer, recently posted a Story of an adventure through Babylonstoren, drawing comparisons between the country's natural beauty and that of the designer's locally produced goods. While Red Bull South Africa's approach has been to include a variety of extreme sporting events, local talent and athletes; sometimes simultaneously promoting the actual energy drink and new flavours.
Audiences appreciate authenticity and spontaneity, so taking a spur-of-the-moment Instagram Story can often work in your favour.
3. Optimise your posting frequency
A business should aim to share one to two relevant and high-quality images on Instagram per day (and at peak-time) to ensure it will be noticed. Don't overload your audience, as this will lessen your chances of maintaining quality and originality, and it may even be overlooked as spam. We recommend sharing relevant content on Instagram Stories throughout the day to take full advantage of the feature – such as behind-the-scenes footage, "sneak peeks" at upcoming products, and the inclusion of colleagues and work environments. This gives audiences the opportunity to have a deeper, more personalised connection with your brand.
Most importantly, the success of Instagram for business needs to be monitored. Harnessing media intelligence can help determine which posts or Stories generated the most active audience engagement, and whether it was positive or negative feedback – giving marketers the insights necessary to inform and refine their social media strategy. In conclusion, using Instagram for business is about branding yourself according to your customer interests, promoting a lifestyle in-line with said interests and creating a #vibe.