This guide was built specifically to help both brand owners and Influencers grow highly engaged audiences on Instagram. Before we begin, there are a few important caveats…
First, we’ve put hours into compiling this guide and, therefore, cover a lot of important topics and ideas. As we cover them, we want to preface that we’ll only share insights from areas we’ve actively explored. At Tapify, we’re a team of extremely data-driven and iterative engineers and growth marketers. When we have a hypothesis, we actively and systematically test it before we implement and share it’s either success or failure rates. Even then, we always gut-check ourselves in our greatest attempts to avoid ignorance. We never claim to know how to execute effective strategies on every channel. For example, we’re newbies on instant video content channels, like TikTok, which means you will not learn how to grow an audience on the popular lip-syncing app here today. However, over the past few months, we’ve been deploying digestible video content and have been partnering with the app’s top Influencers as we aim to become experts of the new millennial sensation. When we’re confident that we can add value on this channel, you’ll most likely be sent a TikTok playbook.
Second, in the channels we’re familiar with, like Instagram, we’ve already spent 10,000+ hours producing, sharing and analyzing content. In these channels specifically, we’re experts. This is important because with any guide, you should always question the credibility of the authoring party. I always do, at least. If you do the same, then you can relieve at least some of your skepticism here. My team and I have been growing social media audiences professionally for close to a decade for internal and client purposes. Specifically, we’ve helped over 1,000+ Brands (craft and national) and Influencers (micro and macro) grow their followers while maintaining above average engagement, on Instagram.
Third, this is Guide version 1.4. We periodically update and enhance the guide over time via new posts. As a new member of our community, you’ll get access to updated guides, as well as daily deals on our industry-leading products as we continue to launch them. More importantly, you’ll get invites to Merchant partner events in our most populous cities where leading eCommerce and retail owners share top business problems with fellow owners in an attempt to crowdsource an active solution. This is either through learning from other store owners experiences or simply ideating on the spot with other members of our community. In this guide, the words ‘followers’ and ‘audience’ are interchangeable. We also use the word ‘channel’ to describe general social media channels, like Instagram and Snapchat.
Lastly, never hesitate to reach out directly to our team with questions or feedback on the guide’s content, as well as any struggles your team is facing or media plans you’re putting together. We’re happy to help in any way we can.
Friends and family hotline – email@example.com
As always, happy selling.
1 | Let ‘attention’ dictate where you spend your time and money creating content.
As a brand owner, you should never build an emotional connection or a personal preference for a particular social media channel. In other words, don’t use Snapchat as the way to connect with your audience because it’s your favourite app to use personally. At our cores, both you and I are marketers and as marketers, we’re simply ‘attention day-traders’. We care only about finding and capturing the attention of the people we are trying to reach in each particular day, so that at a point in the future we can encourage an action, like to buy a product. Therefore, we first find the channels that people are obsessively using and then we mould our content creation preferences to that channel, whether it’s a favourite at the time or not.
Attention, therefore, is the only thing that top marketers care about. Global brands, like Adidas and McDonalds, spent millions of dollars on TV campaigns in the early 2000’s because almost every household in America gathered as a family to watch their favourite shows. This presented a mass of attention sitting in one place that could be captured using a stream of repeated commercials – ‘I’m loving it’ was heard over and over and, almost suddenly, families couldn’t stop eating Big Macs. Over the past decade, though, things have drastically changed. Families are watching less TV. Women are reading less Vogue. Commuters are looking less at billboards. Why? Because one man found a major gap in a major market and founded a small company, called Apple.
When Steve Jobs was architecting the iPhone with Jony Ive and his team at Apple, they were on a mission to build the world’s most beautiful communication device. On this mission, they quite obviously succeeded, but the implications of their work rippled past the pockets of their customers. Mobile phones, and specifically the iPhone, provided a mechanism for customers to get their news, connect with their friends, and spend most of their leisure time exploring different apps. Modern smartphones have, in essence, become an attention vacuum, making them the most valuable marketing invention ever to exist. People are watching less TV because they’re watching their favourite YouTuber’s vlog. They’re reading less magazines because they’re consuming all of their news and gossip on Snapchat. They’re looking less at billboards because they’re necks are down, scrolling through their Instagram. Whether we’re selling a product, like a Big Mac, sharing sponsored ads on our Instagram accounts, creating buzz for an upcoming event or sharing even a simple idea – we require someone’s attention first to convince them to act.
Today, Instagram has done the best job at capturing mass consumer a\enGon. At the time of writing, Instagram has over 1 billion active monthly users and over 350 million are checking the app every day. Tomorrow, it could be another app that university drop out engineers will launch from their parents’ garage. The point of this guide is to enable you to execute the best you can on today’s top channel (i.e., Instagram), while also helping you to understand the reason behind our channel choices, so that you can adapt on your own as users start to use Instagram less and other apps more down the road.
2 | Learn the difference between owned, paid and earned media.
On most channels, like Instagram, you have three ways to connect with your audience – owned, paid and earned media.
Owned media is the content you share with your own audience. The Instagram posts, blog posts, tweets and snaps you share on your account to your followers. Each posts’ reach is capped at your total audience size (i.e., if you have 3,000 followers, the maximum amount of people that can see each post is 3,000). Paid media is content you pay the channel in order to reach audiences beyond your own community (i.e., you want to reach more than 3,000 people, so you buy an Instagram Sponsored Ad that will be seen by 10,000 people). Earned media is content your users or customers decide to share with their own followers that feature your brand or Influencer personality in some way. Earned media is the most lucrative and, by association, the most difficult to generate.
Examples of owned, paid and earned media (left to right)
3 | Don’t deploy paid ads until you’ve become an expert at unpaid content.
Many brands and Influencers feel that paid ads are a necessary component of growing an audience or securing customers. They aren’t. Thousands of Brands have built multi-million dollar businesses by running years of exclusively owned and earned media. Take, for example, Daniel Wellington and Lokai Bracelets. All it took was a very high-quality product and months worth of beautiful, on-brand content for the brands to reach what we call ‘organic virality’; organic virality is the state with which organic social media growth accelerates to a point that a brand’s content efforts can subsidize the entire businesses’ growth via online customer sales.
For Daniel Wellington, customers fell in love with the brand’s product and online personality, which led to an organic engagement boost. Customers started ‘liking’commentingenGng on Daniel Wellington posts in mass. They then started to buy the product and tell their friends about it. If that wasn’t enough, they then slowly became the brand’s impromptu, crowdsourced photography team. Customers from all around the world were capturing and sharing images featuring their Daniel Wellington watches with their followers. Each post included the @DanielWellington account handle, which drove more traffic to the brand’s social media channels. Over time, the brand started to grow, expand and implement global distribution. Only recently, they’ve started to pair easy-to-digest paid ads on digital to amplify their owned and earned media success. We strongly believe the owned and earned strategy is what each Brand should strive to implement. Without the ability to create content that you’re absolutely certain your followers will enjoy, it doesn’t matter how many ads you buy; nobody will want to hear what you’re saying.
4 | Encourage earned media at all times.
Earned media, or user-generated content (UGC), is a driving force in today’s digital media industry. People inherently trust a product when their friend has proclaimed their love for it on social media. At all points in your social media existence, you want to encourage customers to post with your brand or handle to get your name in front of all of their followers in a trusted way. One method to do this is to create a unique hashtag for your brand or Influencer personality, include it in your bio and incentivize followers to use it in their posts. Actively re-featuring top follower content that included your unique tag is a good way to let your audience know you care about earned media. If you’re a brand, you can also run UGC-driven contests by giving a free product or a large discount to the customer that shares the best #YourBrand post.
5 | Start building on Instagram today. Keep an eye on tomorrow’s channels.
Instagram success is almost like an equation. Once the equation has been pieced together and the growth machine works, you can tweak the equation slightly and apply it on other channels. Most consumer apps are short-lived, with the exception of the select few, so it’s important to be able to simultaneously build audiences on a second or third channel as a backup. For example, Instagram and Snapchat are still in a bitter fight to steal and retain users from each other. Instagram, most famously, has been copying and implementing key Snapchat features on their app, which has worked to almost completely stop Snapchat user growth dead in its tracks. If you’re using Snapchat right now as a marketing tool, I’d consider beginning to shift your audience from Snapchat to other channels that’ll show greater longevity in the market. You also want to keep your eyes on niche platforms that are picking up steam with user communities, like TikTok, Peach, Live.ly, Blab, etc…