Considering that 72% of Instagram users have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases after seeing something on Instagram, there’s no better time to show off your brand and products to the world.
With a base of 1.07 billion active users, it’s no surprise that over 200 million businesses have an Instagram presence.
For most businesses, the question is not “if” they should use Instagram, but “when” or “how”? Inside the workings of “when” are tried-and-true “how” steps that businesses can consider taking if they want to leverage Instagram in the most effective ways for their brand.
1. Set your goals and determine your target audience
Before your company starts posting, the reason for being there must be understood and articulated. Why are you there? Is it to build brand awareness, to sell products or something else?
Today’s companies need to know how to make data-driven decisions. I urge companies to clearly define their social media KPIs, closely track the performance of each post they publish, and do the best they can to attribute posts to sales. It will help you determine what content formats work the best in terms of engagement and sales so you can produce more of them and spend less time working on the ones that don’t.
2. Do a competitive analysis
What types of content do your competitors post? What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you think converts? Use this information to create your first (of many) drafts of your social media strategy.
Who are you there for? What defines your audience, both in terms of demographics and in terms of things they care about. If you have customers that frequently purchase from you or subscribe to your brand, ask them what they think of your social media content. Conversely, what are other brands – not necessarily related to your business – doing that you should test and learn about? This honest and open feedback can take your social media strategy (and sales) to the next level.
3. Make sure your Instagram presence is consistent with the look and feel of your company’s aesthetics
Is your company playful and energetic, dignified and formal, tranquil and thoughtful or wild and irreverent?
It is likely your company's characteristics have already filtered down into how your product or service is packaged, your logo or in the words you use to describe yourselves. Consider Instagram an extension of all of this, so it should be a place that looks and feels like your brand — in every word used, in every single post.
4. Snackable video content is taking over social media
This concept is not only true for Instagram (Reels and IGTV) but also applies to TikTok, Snapchat (Snaps) and YouTube (Shorts). While longer videos will always have a home on platforms like YouTube, consumers don’t have long attention spans. They want their content to be short, to the point and entertaining.
If you can find creative ways to check all these boxes, in addition to creating a compelling offer that motivates the viewer to take action, you stand a good chance of generating the sale. Make sure your “Link in bio” is where you want people to go — to a landing page, your website or a product page.
5. Don’t shy away from educating your prospective and current customers.
Compile a list of questions or concerns your current and prospective customers have and how your product solves that problem. Educational content helps brands build trust and authority — which should ultimately translate to followership and sales.
For example, if you’re a vitamin and supplement brand, create static and carousel posts, videos and eye-catching graphics that explain how the ingredients in your product work. If you’re an insurance broker, create content that speaks to the differences between whole and term life insurance and why each has merits.
6. Be authentic
Today’s consumers want to know more about the company they’re giving their money to. Don’t be shy about lifting the curtain on your business — showcase what life is like in your office, feature your employees and even encourage them to do takeovers.
Also, ask yourself what your brand stands for, what causes you support and communicate your values on social media. Today’s consumers want to do business with companies that align with their core values.
I would advise brands now to avoid stock photography wherever possible. Instead, take the time to create real-life, in-the-moment content that is visually appealing. Remember, at its core, Instagram is still a visually-driven social media platform.
7. Ensure you’re delivering a top-notch shopping experience – both on and off Instagram
If your followers choose to shop for your products on Instagram, ask yourself what kind of experience you are providing them. Are your product photos high quality? Are you including lifestyle images as part of your product carousel?
Alternatively, if people prefer to navigate away from Instagram to your website to purchase your product, what kind of on-site experience are you delivering? Do your website and product pages appear correctly across all devices and operating systems? Does any unnecessary shifting occur? Does the page load slowly?
These questions may seem basic, but a slow loading page or broken buttons could be the difference between your next customer and your next sale. I would also encourage business owners to implement strategies, like display remarketing, that bring shoppers back to complete their purchases.
8. Collaborate with influencers
Examples of popular collaborations that I’ve seen work well include sponsored posts, giveaways and brand ambassador programs. Doing so will expose you to shoppers who may have never heard of you before. I would advise companies to choose their influencers wisely, however.
Don’t spend the bulk of your annual marketing budget on a one-time collaboration with a mega influencer that has millions of followers. Instead, opt for nano (under 10k followers) or micro-influencers (under 50,000 followers) that closely align with your brand values and are passionate about your products.
This also goes back to the concept of being authentic. Today’s consumers are savvy and can tell when a brand ambassador isn’t passionate about the products they’re pitching. Take great care in selecting these folks, closely measure their results and continue to work with those that resonate with your audience.
When the great Gary Vaynerchuk famously asked a conservative CMO how she assessed the ROI of her mother, he wasn't trying to be funny. He presented this question as a means of highlighting the importance of engaging customers and nurturing them.
With Vaynerchuk's question in mind, you should rethink how you view the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers. Let's face it, this exercise has got to be easier than calculating your mother's ROI! Moreover, once you have obtained the LTV data on your customers, you can generate phenomenal ROI in the long term. Predictive marketing will help you achieve such success.
Research and Markets released a report on the potential of the global predictive-analytics market. The report stated that by 2025, the market would grow to $21.5 billion from its 2020 level of $7.2 billion. This rise equates to a healthy 24.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
This explosion in organizational data requires companies to hire teams of data analysts and scientists to conduct the processing and interpretation of collected data. Predictive analytics come into play here too. These tools can help you gauge and assess the available data and then predict future trends on multiple fronts.
What is predictive analytics?
Predictive analysis is a means of using real-time or historical data to help you predict consumer behaviors and decisions. Doing so will enable you to determine what leads them to make purchases, upsize and undertake other crucial actions.
Predictive-analytics solutions and data are designed to make your life easier. For instance, how much easier would your life be if you could identify customers that offer you the highest LTV? Identifying these prospects' engagement patterns and buying habits will allow you to determine future buying behaviors based on predictive-analysis projections.
The benefits of predictive analytics
There are two main benefits for your whole organization, and particularly your marketing team, that come with using predictive analytics.
1. Combat churn
You can correlate your data to help you combat churn by offering more personalized options, and your ability to minimize your customer churn rate will not only cut your costs, but also lead to increased loyalty to your brand.
Predictive analytics can help you identify the most likely candidates for churn by correlating data on customers' profiles, feedback and transactions. The subsequent personalized offerings from this correlated data give you something a little special to win back your customers most at risk of churn.
2. Improved forecasting
Utilizing rich data will enable you to improve your forecasting and other predictions. These insights will prove incredibly beneficial to your marketing team and other departments. They'll allow you to optimize your pricing structures and improve inventory management, ultimately improving your revenue. As a sales tool, it is invaluable because it enables you to forecast deals better.
How predictive analytics can boost revenue
One of the more significant D2C brands I have worked with was struggling with pricing structures and managing its inventory during the earlier stages of its operation. The brand was running out of stock within hours for certain products while other lines were not shifting at all.
Facing significant revenue losses, the brand turned to predictive analytics to help get things back on track. By using historical sales data, the brand was able to optimize pricing and more accurately predict future demand.
The result was an increase in revenue of between 10-13% across different departments. Having achieved such a significant boost in sales, the brand's marketing team uses predictive analytics to help it understand buying patterns and market trends. Predictive analytics also aid in customer retention, inventory management and the development of future growth campaigns.
In the post-pandemic world, you may find that your marketing budget is a little more restricted than it previously was. Indeed, this is the case for many companies. You could find that you have to do more with fewer resources. Therefore, you need to allocate your resources to that which will provide you with the best ROI: repeat customers.
The best predictive-analytics models
You can use predictive analytics on historical data to identify patterns and trends. Your findings here will enable you to draw up predictions for similar future events.
In the past, this was a domain that only mathematicians would enter. However, today, most of the top brands are turning to predictive analytics models to help solve complex problems and discover hidden opportunities.
You can benefit from these models too. Some of the most common areas in which predictive analytics help you are risk reduction, fraud detection, operational-efficiency improvement and market-campaign optimization.
To help you decide which predictive-analytics model might be best for your business, here's an overview of a few:
You can use several platforms to streamline your predictive-analytics process, many of which offer automated tools and features to help you adapt them to your in-house purposes. One such platform is Google's BigQuery, which provides you with an ML template library, making life easier if you use GA4.
Overall, predictive analytics can help you to learn from your old data and optimize your customers' experience.
With predictive analytics so widely available, it makes sense to use these models even before acquiring users. In an oversaturated market, you can achieve plenty through predictive models. For instance, they will aid you with user acquisition and increasing digital interactions. Predictive analytics also help reduce CAC, discover lookalike audiences and determine your customers' LTV. These benefits will help scale your marketing campaigns and increase your ROI. The rich data you'll receive from a predictive-analytics model will also enable you to give your customers personalized experiences.
Understanding your business and technical requirements is the first step in the predictive-marketing process. Once you know these requirements, you can build a solution that fits. Of course, there may be more than one suitable solution, so the one you choose will depend on factors such as your budget, team, scale and available internal resources. Your marketing team should understand what features and functionality your chosen solution has and how they can capitalize on it.
You should consider predictive analytics a long-term process. Together with your team, work out the results you want to achieve. Feeding your solution with data from other systems, such as CRM applications or other marketing tools, would also be helpful and save a significant amount of time.
I saw a business cartoon recently that made me laugh, then grimace. It showed two men standing in side-by-side kiosks with signs advertising their competing services. One vendor’s sign said low-quality leads. The other read brand building.
The punchline was that the line for buying bad leads was a mile long. Not a soul was in line to build their brand.
It’s a common story, particularly for midsize and smaller companies that believe they simply can’t afford the luxury of brand marketing if they want to grow. Unfortunately, this approach often results in businesses that find themselves on a hamster wheel constantly chasing short-term sales rather than investing in long-term growth.
Brand building is not lead generation. It’s trust generation. It makes your leads better and your funnel stronger. It can help you to avoid commodification and demand a higher price. It can make the difference in attracting and retaining top talent as well.
Don't settle for low-quality leads
I’ve worked with many CMOs whose narrow focus on MQLs and SQLs (marketing- and sales-qualified leads, respectively) has mostly led to LQLs. Low-quality leads. Those are the leads that are often a source of friction and finger-pointing between marketing and sales.
Even in the best of circumstances, leads that don’t convert are not uncommon. The average MQL — a lead that has shown some level of interest in your product — only becomes an SQL — an actual sales prospect — about 10-15 percent of the time on average. That’s true for medium- and high-consideration purchases whether B2C (e.g., a new refrigerator) or B2B (e.g., a SaaS subscription).
But the conversion rate varies greatly based on the quality of the MQL. And while businesses may look at any number of reasons for leads being of low quality — especially from sources like email campaigns and trade shows — the biggest reason is that companies haven’t built sufficient brand equity to win their buyer's trust. Brand trust reduces friction all along the buyer's journey.
While the value of brand trust can be difficult to measure, one approximation comes in the form of the goodwill line of a business’s balance sheet. When one company acquires another for a price higher than net fair value, the difference is called goodwill. The acquired company’s brand equity is one of the key components of goodwill.
Today, more than half of the corporations in the S&P 500 have goodwill balances of more than $10 billion from their acquisitions. That’s a lot of money paid for brand trust.
Avoiding the coffee-spoon approach to brand measurement
When T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock famously laments that he “has measured out my life in coffee spoons,” he is expressing regret for all the opportunities he has lost by leading a safe, predictable life.
So it often goes with brand-building programs. Scrutinizing short-term costs too closely can come at the expense of long-term ambitions. Put another way, if you measure your ROI in coffee spoons, you may end up bemoaning lost opportunities just as Prufrock did.
For this reason, some businesses choose not to measure their investment in brand awareness at all. In fact, I know of one CMO — whose B2B tech company was just acquired for $3 billion — who says the decision to cease all measurement of branding efforts was one of the biggest keys to his success.
The CMO split his company’s marketing spend into two parts: demand and brand. While the demand-generation budget was closely measured for ROI, the brand-building spend — representing up to 30 percent of the total marketing budget — wasn’t measured. The team was able to focus entirely on improving brand awareness and trust rather than constantly worrying about ROI.
Over time, the CMO concluded, this led to greater ambitions, higher returns and superior growth.
Brand lift for the long haul
It is crucial not to attempt to tie branding programs directly to sales on a day-to-day basis. That dooms your efforts to failure.
But there are metrics to help you see whether you’re on the right track in building awareness and trust for your brand through trust signals.
• Direct and branded search traffic — a steady increase in direct traffic, branded search traffic or both is a clear sign that your brand marketing efforts are working.
• Media visibility and share of voice (SOV) — if your business has specific industry rivals in its sights, improvements in your brand’s SOV can be a valuable measure of progress in gaining market awareness.
• Search and social media presence — increasing your organic search volume and your social media engagement and referral traffic are sure signs you are growing your audience and building trust.
• Market surveys and qualitative research — there’s no better way to determine if your brand messaging is hitting its mark or falling on deaf ears than by asking the people you’re trying to reach.
Compared to lead-generation programs, it can be very difficult to trace business results directly to specific brand-building efforts. If someone comes across your company’s name in a news article, for example, it might result in a branded search weeks later.
Over time, however, if you don’t begin to see a significant lift in these metrics, it could be a sign that your brand’s message isn’t resonating or that your product isn’t capturing the public’s interest.
Create a flexible work arrangement to find and retain the best working mothers.
A few years ago, I tried to hire an exceptionally talented woman to run my company's marketing. Everything looked like a fit, until we started discussing remote work. I thought I was being flexible by offering one to two days a week from home. She declined my offer, saying she wanted more flexibility to be around her two young children. Last year, after we had shifted to a fully remote workforce, we hired that same woman and she helped grow our company by nearly 50 percent.
That mistake cost me millions of dollars. The same mistake is costing our country billions.
Moms are at the epicenter of America's worker shortage. Many economists predicted that the "she-cession" would end in September once in-person school resumed. Instead, four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September. Today, 10 million moms have opted out of the workforce, which is over a third of all mothers with young children. Of the mothers still working, one in three are currently considering downshifting or dropping out of the workforce altogether.
If we do nothing, the American economy may never fully recover. According to the Center for American Progress, if moms do not come back into the workforce, it will cost our country $64.5 billion. It's not enough for employers to wait and see if the Senate will pass the child care initiatives in Biden's Build Back Better. We must act today.
There is one key thing that every employer can do today -- without costing their company a dime -- to better support working moms. The key is work-life flexibility.
I know this because I've heard it directly from more than 250 working moms. A few weeks ago, I teamed up with two other mom CEOs to launch a social impact campaign that collected stories from working mothers about how they have juggled work and parenting throughout the pandemic. What was most challenging? What were the silver linings? What did their employers do that helped them? What could their employers have done better? Hundreds of women shared their stories through our Pandemic SuperMom Award.
The stories ranged from heartbreaking to heartwarming, but the message to employers was clear. Working moms are incredibly productive if they can work outside of a traditional 9-to-5 office framework. We heard countless stories of women who successfully juggled demanding jobs, homeschooling, and parenting, by working odd hours and supporting their families as needed.
Work-life flexibility isn't just the key to attracting and retaining talented moms. According to McKinsey, it's now the number one issue for both men and women at work, regardless of parental status.
It's also key to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. The pandemic has been particularly challenging for women of color. Black and Latina mothers are twice as likely as White moms to be responsible for all child care and housework. This makes holding down a job virtually impossible, and is a key driver for why 67 percent of women of color are planning to leave their jobs in the next year.
These statistics are scary. They're scary for anyone who cares about gender and racial equality. They're scary to anyone who wants to see America make a full economic recovery. But the solution doesn't need to be terrifying.
By creating more work-life flexibility, employers can attract top talent, improve productivity, and keep employees happy. Research has shown that productivity increased for remote workers during the pandemic. We know that one of the major drivers of "the Great Resignation," or "the Big Quit," as I like to call it, is burnout. We also know that work-life flexibility is key to keeping both men and women happy.
This is the moment for leaders to step up and reimagine how their workplaces can accommodate workers as full humans. It's time to create a workplace that encourages both productivity and quality of life. It's clear that the old "normal" is never returning. It's up to all of us to create a new normal that makes it possible for moms to return to the workforce.
Image: Getty Images
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