Back When I Could Express Myself
MySpace used to be a fun social network. You had complete freedom to change your profile any way you wanted by adding music, changing colors, and customizing your background. Anyone with a working knowledge of HTML could customize the look of their page and turn it into their online bastion of delight. I remember when being on social media was nothing more than a fun competition of making your profile page look better than your friend's profile, then tease each other about it. We each had the ability to apply our own personality.
That was before online marketers took over and started spamming everyone through MySpace, and it was before the social networks realized that they would never make any money if they allowed those online marketers to exploit their platforms.
Facebook never allowed the profile page personalization like MySpace once did; they simply give us what they give us whether we like it or not. They then change the layout as soon as we get used to it. Facebook usually claims that their continual changes are to better serve the users. However, these changes usually work against businesses by making it more difficult to reach consumers without paying for ads. Increasing ad revenue could lead to higher profits for Facebook.
Over the years, they've changed their newsfeed and profile layouts as different types of media have gained popularity. Several years ago, we were all content to post text only status updates. As memes became popular, the layouts changed to favor images update. As smartphone photography gained popularity, the layouts changed to favor photos uploaded from mobile devices. The recent changes to Facebook include favoritism to videos, extra exposure for live broadcasts, the ability to make a status update look like a meme, and the ability to publish "Stories" exactly like you can do on Snapchat.
Every new permutation of Facebook requires some relearning of the system, which creates new challenges for non-marketing professionals. Experimenting with the new changes takes time and creativity, and training classes for the most recent Facebook changes are usually several months behind. This continual retraining could leave someone wondering if they should even bother with the complicated Facebook network anymore.
I'm here today to say maybe, as a business, you should save your time and STOP relying on direct posting to Facebook. Continue with the ads, but stop agonizing about posting to your business account.
Instead, turn your attention to Instagram. Although owned by Facebook, this social platform is a very simple visual platform. Photos and videos are up-front on Instagram. Each photo can, and should have a description, but no one will read that description if the visual isn't captivating. Using it is as simple as snapping and uploading a photo from your smartphone.
The Rise of Instagram
Instagram surprised all the other social networks with their ease of applying colorful filters to photos. Suddenly anyone could be a brilliant weekend travel photographer. You can even transform a simple photo to a stunning work of art with one of the built in color filters. Simply uploading a photo without a filter will look drab on Instagram, and they won't get a lot of attention. Filters can easily turn a dull gray sky into one that looks like it is on fire; while regular sunsets can be transformed into brilliant arrays of color.
Of course Instagram isn't just about wanderlust photos and sunsets, every industry has figured out how to visually represent the usage of the products and services sold. Over the last few years many jewelry designers have already discovered Instagram as the best place for them to build their brand awareness. They've done this by showing eye popping photos of how to match their jewelry with clothes, lifestyles, and life events. In other words, Instagram is a good place to post photos depicting the customer experience.
Everyone Seems to Misuse Social Media
Many businesses feel that everything they post to social media should be marketing related. Those who use social media like that usually end up frustrated with their results; social media should be, well, social, and used for customer engagement. Engagement refers to any method you use to talk to a customer. Communicate, don't sell.
Communication isn't just words; it's also photos and videos. Although occasional event and sale announcements might work on Facebook, direct marketing doesn't work on Instagram. Instead, this is the network where you provide visual aids that show customers how to enjoy the items they buy.
Elaborate Instagram Example for Marketing Guys
Here's an example to help you understand how you can use Instagram. Some jewelers hold add-a-pearl and pearl necklace promotions every year. Those promotions are usually announced on their website and on their Facebook page, but a single post about that promotion would have little success on Instagram.
Here's a better approach for an add-a-pearl and pearl necklace marketing campaign on Instagram. Think about where those pearls would be worn. An add-a-pearl starter set might be worn every day by the younger generation, so capture some photos of a child or teenager wearing them to school, at family functions, or at church. A college student might wear them while out with friends, so stage a photo shoot on a college campus or at a college function.
Plan photo shoots for different life events to create a story of a pearl necklace that travels through the years. Some life events could include middle school graduation, high school graduation, college graduation, weddings, parties, job promotions, and starting a family. Each of those moments could be depicted with a person wearing the pearls and adding to them. You could continue with photo shoots capturing later years in life as a way to show how this pearl necklace would become a family heirloom.
Without direct selling, the visual story of the customer experience, and the life journey, will captivate your followers over the days you post those photos. Although I'm suggesting a complicated marketing promotion for pearls, Instagram usually isn't that difficult to use. Most creative folks just point their smartphone and shoot a picture.
It's A Smartphone World Now
Speaking of smartphones, in case you are not aware, you have to post photos to it through your smartphone; it's not meant to be a desktop social network, and never has been. Perhaps years from now, internet historians will attribute Instagram as being one of the ingredients that attributed to the explosion and adoption of mobile technology.
Creativity Shines Through Again
Instagram is all about your own creativity. MySpace allowed us to be creative with our own profile color schemes, music, and crazy widgets; on Instagram, you can take control of your visual creativity again. Think about it, Instagram appears as a feed of photos from friends, and your profile page appears as a simple, full screen mosaic of all the photos you've posted. Instagram's user interface doesn't get in the way of how you express your creativity through photography.
Unlike the other social networks where you would stress about posting a certain number of times a day, you should treat Instagram as a fun activity. Post a photo of your work whenever you are happy with your progress, or you want to show a step-by-step preview of what's to come. With this method, some days you'll find yourself posting several times, while you might even skip other days.
Instagram Is A Feed Source
You can also feed your Instagram photos to other social networks. Facebook and Twitter are the popular networks to share to followed by Flickr and Swarm in the USA. You can also share to 5 other social networks, but they are only popular in Asian markets. I usually share all my photos to Twitter, but I only choose 1 photo per day to share with Facebook because I don't want to repeat too much of my Instagram photos on Facebook. I simply assume my Facebook friends will follow me on Instagram if they want to see more.
I will share photos to my Flickr account when I'm really proud of how good they look. Even though not many people are using Swarm directly, I do share photos to that network every time I am also adding a location to my photo. The Swarm system is one in the same with Foursquare, which is the hidden back end business database for many online services. Photos posted through Swarm can fortuitously appear in unexpected places.
The bottom line for today is that you should be using Instagram as your business platform. The one thing I didn't mention today was the required use of hashtags with every photo and how to do hashtag research before you randomly start posting photos; but that's a story for another day.