Nowadays, there’s a plethora of social networks, but Instagram has quickly become one of the leading platforms with over 400 million users – 59 percent of whom open the app each day. And for good reason, too. With it’s image-driven posts, fun photo filters and recent video updates, people are seven times more likely to engage with Instagram posts than with tweets. It has officially surpassed Twitter. But why? And what are some real world how-tos to make this image-driven platform work for you?
We asked the social media gurus at our partner Ocean Conservancy about how they found their insta-stride.
Why did you integrate Instagram into your marketing work?
Instagram is a great way for us to share photos from our annual photo contest and showcase our advocacy work. We like to take advantage of our strong imagery.
What visuals have worked best/worst for you?
The best performing content is usually simple photos of popular marine species, such as whales, dolphins, polar bears, seals and sea turtles. We share some graphics, but they usually don’t perform as well. The graphics that people seem to like are those overlaid with inspirational quotes. People typically interact more with photos where you can see the animals’ eyes.Moreover, Instagram is an individual-focused platform. Meaning, people like to feel a personal connection with the content. When we share images of individual animals versus scenic beach photos, 9 times out of 10, the individual animal will perform significantly better.(Plus, a good rule of thumb to stick to is to post authentic, natural lit images that have minimal writing and branding on them.)
Any best practices learned (best time of day, best day of the week, best content, etc.)?
Content posted in the late afternoon or evening perform best. Weekdays are also better. On the weekends, we try to share more “light” content with a fun photo and caption. And on weekdays, we share more factual, advocacy-focused content. We have tried testing advocacy-based content on the weekend, but it does not perform as well as it would on a weekday. We also sprinkle in lighter content throughout the week with posts of quotes, ocean puns or silly captions – these always perform well. For us, we typically see the most growth in followers on weekends.
How have ads helped in terms of reaching your goals?
We ran an Instagram ad near the end of the calendar year with a turtle hat promotion. It helped us reach our goal of gaining followers as well as significant donation engagement. Soon after the new year, we hit our fiscal year follower growth goal of 20,000 followers.
In your opinion, do ads help make you go “viral”?
No, Instagram ads are only worth it if there is a fundraising ask. Our best performing content is never fundraising focused. Ads are helpful for brand awareness and fundraising and that’s about it. We do campaigns (example: #OCHat or #OCeancostume) that encourage audience interaction, such as asking people to share pics of themselves wearing our OC hat. It’s this type of creative involvement with our audience that brings us higher interaction with our posts and overall content.
Have ads helped you gain engaged followers?
Overall, no. Ads helped us get followers, but we haven’t seen a huge spike in engagement and interaction since running ads. Our increase in engagement has directly correlated with our follower growth which isn’t entirely due to Instagram ads.
Any insight on the Instagram algorithm when it comes to ads – how do you think they target people?
It seems to be based on users’ follows, likes as well as their location. But with Instagram moving away from the chronological feed, the advertising algorithm will probably change as well. Ads will become more common as Instagram changes its feed. According to Instagram, content will be more interaction focused, pushing content users are likely to interact with to the top of their feed. This will create some uncertainty of content being seen. This new feed algorithm will not guarantee all our followers will see our content each time we post.
(Instagram’s ads promise to be more targeted, based highly on gender, age and interests – especially when users connect via their Facebook account.)
Have the costs of ads been worth the outcome or in helping you reach your overall goals?
We were among the first, therefore we had great visibility. Overall, the cost was high compared to other channels, but we will continue to test it, but won’t make this an aggressively integrated ad channel.
A big thank you to Ocean Conservancy for chatting with us about the amazing and creative work they do. And be sure to follow them on Instagram at @oceanconservancy.
This interview has been condensed and edited.