Last week I covered the marketing genius behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and afterward came across a great article titled “Why Facebook is for ice buckets, Twitter is for Ferguson.” The point being, while both platforms are relevant, they’re each used for their own purpose. The question posed by most business owners is how do you discern the value between various platforms, and it boils down to this: “Why do I need it?”

What Do I Need It For?

Why Instagram Dominates Visual Marketing

If we apply the analogy of a high-school pecking order, then Twitter is for nerds while Facebook is for everyone. Twitter is nuts and bolts data dissemination that includes lightening speed information with a priority for accuracy over opinion, while Facebook is really just one big club that anyone can join and where opinion passes for fact. Then there’s Instagram…Instagram is where the cool kids are at and where the only thing that matters is sentiment. It’s also where, as a business owner, should also be at.

However, Instagram is a lot trickier than both Facebook and Twitter. You can’t really share text-based content and you certainly can’t really be sharing other people’s content. Your focus is visuals. Your message is image-based. You can’t even prime your Instagram success off of your Pinterest success because again you can’t share visuals and your visuals now require a branding element that Pinterest isn’t poised to discriminate against. So between Pinterest and Instagram…one is a cheesy teen magazine, and the other is Vogue.

So How Do I Do It?

The Six Most Important Steps to Perfecting Your Instagram Feed
1. Figure out what your narrative/point of view

If you’re a florist for example, then 70% of your feed should reflect that so people can see your Instagram account and immediately know what you’re about.

2. Unclutter your feed

Pay attention to composition when you take photos. Use the grid feature and rule of thirds, an important photography principle.

3. Natural light or really good artificial light

At the end of the day, you’re playing photographer for five minutes and you need to be good at it. A good photo lasts longer than the minor embarrassment of being caught perfectly styling your photo.

4. Pay attention to color

Some people have really great Instagram feeds that have desaturated color palettes while others have a riotous burst of color. Be attentive to your style because after all your Instagram feed is like your brand art gallery and you want a cohesive look.

5. Add Captions

A picture does say a thousand words, but it doesn’t hurt to include a heartfelt sentence or two behind the photo. It’s really all about communicating so if you have a chance to say something about your photo, it’s really just going to drive the message home. You can use hashtags but remember that hashtags are for phrases and keywords; they’re not a parenthetical commentary or streaming sentences.

6. Find people with similar interests to you

Grow your network of friends, of like-minded businesses, vendors and clients. You can use the browse feature and take a moment to comment on other feeds, both of which will help you grow that network.

Who’d Got It Right?

How the Best Brands are Nailing their Instagram Feeds

While plenty of brands are failing (or not even present) on Instagram, there’s quite a few who have really perfected their art, including in order of popularity: Nike (#1 in both followers and sportswear), Starbucks (#2 in followers and #1 in food/drinks), Gucci (#8 in followers and #1 in luxury brands), et. al. Others are creating vivid Instagram videos and enabling customers to shop directly off the platform.

Brands who understand Instagram have also more or less perfected the 6 rules above and are also using their feed to:
1. Feature customers using their products.

You’re not some brand existing on a plan independent from the rest of the world. You’re a real brand used by real people. Show it.

2. Taking customers “behind the scenes.”

This is one of the easiest strategies and can be applied by anyone in any industry. Basically, show us who you are.

3. Hosting contests and projects.

This goes back to the number one rule of millennial marketing that I mentioned last week, and that’s to get your customers directly involved.

4. Mimicking their customers

If your customers are putting your product to use in a creative way, you can do the same as a sort of tribute.

What’s Up Next?

The Next Chapter in Instagram’s Playbook

Most recently, Instagram announced a new suite of business tools, include essential ad tools that are poised to make the platform an even bigger game changer in visual narrative marketing.

If you’re still on the fence about Instagram, consider that an average of 55 million photos get uploaded each day. If you’re not on board, you’re missing out another way to get your business recognized because at the end of the day, social media is like a dice. The unit itself is your entire digital marketing platform but each side symbolizes another face of online marketing. You couldn’t possible have a complete structure without the support of each side, and similarly you can’t have a cohesive social strategy without including the most high-performing platforms.