Pinterest and Instagram are invaluable channels for brands to drive consumers from discovery to purchase. However, the ways in which people use the social media networks differ greatly. I recently gave specific advice for Pinterest “search engine optimization.” Now, allow me to share some insights and best practices for brands to maximize their earned media value by cranking up the Instagram optimization machine.
While both channels are great at driving discovery, Instagram does it differently. Pinterest operates like a visual content search engine, but people cannot type queries into Instagram, they look for content they want to see from brands and people they are interested in. The platform drives sentimental and emotional attachments with content. Discovery happens around the sharing of something new from a trusted brand or individual influencer. And, by following brands, people are essentially consenting to be marketed to.
Is it Organic?
Paid Instagram posts can include a link that drives directly to purchase, something a brand can’t include in an organic post. However, organic content is valuable as a driver of discovery and awareness, filling that purchase funnel. Organic posts act more as a soft-sell, featuring products that a consumer will be driven to learn more about.
What’s more, if you’re following a brand, you’ve already opted-in to see their content, so serving you a sponsored post as well would be redundant -- it’s wasted paid media spend.
Another point to consider: look at the earned media value of what you are able to drive on Instagram organically versus what it would cost to reach the same goal with paid media. How much would you have to pay to get one million engagements?
Are you Engaging?
Brands get on average about 0.5% engagement rate on Instagram, with exceptional content garnering above 1%. If only 0.1% or 0.2% of your followers engage with posts, take this to mean that they don’t like your content. To address this, you need to optimize your content and improve it, and you need to determine if your follower base is the right audience for your brand. Use tools to dig deep into the metrics of your content and that of your competition. Define what you want your ‘look’ and presence on Instagram to be and then go for it.
More is More
Our data across brands and industries shows that it’s optimal to post multiple times per day. Tune this by looking at your engagement rate: If the percentage of followers liking or sharing your content is the same each time when you post twice per day, then go for three or four posts per day. If the percentage of your followers liking your posts goes down, you are posting too much.
A major brand we work with was posting once every two days, and then for a big event they happened to post twice per day in a single month. The engagement rate per post was the same in both months. This meant that they had not yet saturated their followers with too much content, and they could experiment with posting more, with an eye on the engagement rate.
By not posting more often, they are leaving earned media value on the table and there would be a temptation to make up an engagement shortfall with paid media.
Successful visual content marketers post a range of content that combines products with people and lifestyle imagery to build equity and engagement with their audiences. Products alone, products with lifestyle and products with people (customers, models, high-profile spokespeople/ínfluencers’). Instagram can be an invaluable tool to help create those connections and get brands more value from their earned media investment, helping shepherd audiences along the discover-to-buy pathway.