If your brand isn’t already on Instagram, it needs to be (which you probably knew already). Why? The entire purpose of promotion and marketing is to reach your target consumers in a way that resonates with them and motivates to action. Mobile media consumption has recently surpassed online for the first time ever, numbering over 100 million daily users who share 20 billion photos and give 1.6 billion likes daily. Yes, daily. And many of your customers, aka millennials, make up a huge portion of Instagram’s 700 monthly active users, with more and more users adopting their Snapchat-like stories function every day.
The business benefits of Instagram are straightforward: reach existing and new customers by showcasing your business in the most favorable way possible. Through stylized photography and intentional wording, brand personality and positioning can easily be achieved, with relatively minimal cost to the brand. However, nothing comes easily and without effort. Instagram’s users by this point in the platform’s existence have become very aware of marketing ploys and gimmicky engagement techniques, which now result in more of a negative reaction than a positive. Creating a polished brand presence requires planning, skilled food styling/photography, the proper equipment, and a clear art direction. Introduce the real-time nature of stories into the equation and you’re potentially looking at a full-time position...which we all know you don't want.
Many restaurant brands do an excellent job of representing themselves as a whole on Instagram, whether through the persona of their namesake like Lillie’s Victorian in NYC, or through a balance of company culture, product, and partnership features like Warby Parker. Both are intentional strategies employed by the brands to sell an experience with the product. For Lillie’s, their experience is an extravagant Victorian cocktail lounge in the heart of NYC. For Warby, it’s an unspoken message of diversity and unique personality that their products help emphasize. But for every brand succeeding on Instagram, countless others are failing in ways that could be easily avoided through proper planning.
One of the biggest ways that Instagram continues to adapt and grow is through the use of paid content and advertising partners. Through a set of easy tools, they put the power of audience targeting and advertising into the hands of their users. However, promoting your content and placing it in front of your target demographic can get very expensive very fast. Consider the overall goal of your content. Is it to promote a new menu item or special message? Is it general branded content or simple updates? Promotional budget should be spent to accomplish a specific goal, whether an increase in engagement or actual conversions, and not wasted on general updates. To maximize ROI, Simmer typically likes to run paid promotions in tandem with other campaigns.
One of the largest hurdles with Instagram is determining whether or not your efforts are having the desired effect. Attribution without a track-able conversion method is a challenge advertisers have faced for the entirety of the industry, but analytics are here to help. Using the available measurements and data, tracking post success is easier than ever. Engagement rates are king on Instagram in terms of measurable audience actions. How many likes and comments does your content receive? If it’s a linked story, how many click-throughs does it receive, and how many of those turned into customers? At the end of the day, the true measure of success is whether or not your brand message is visible and accurate in the eyes of your target consumer.
One last thing, and maybe the most important point when doing it yourself: never stray from authenticity. Savvy consumers can tell when they are being lied to and manipulated. Always take a step back and ask the question “does this make sense for my brand?” Sometimes it’s easiest to personify your brand as a consumer. Who is he/she? What age group are they in and behaviors do they exhibit? Finding your voice and maintaining it is the most important of any Instagram strategy, as it allows your consumers the ability to develop a deeper connection and, most importantly, brand loyalty and repeat visits.