When it comes to Instagram, marketers need to ask better questions

Social media platforms go through cycles. A new platform is introduced and, if it has the right ingredients, it catapults to the forefront in terms of user base and time spent.

It then goes through incremental iterations and evolution cycles, and perhaps flourishes further or dies out, only to be replaced by the next big thing.

Instagram is one of those platforms and it’s currently doing really well. Today, Instagram has over a billion active users worldwide, more than 70 million of which are in the MENA region. The introduction of the Snapchat-like Stories feature on the app has made it even more appealing to the masses with recent reports declaring that more than 400 million users are active on Instagram Stories, more than double that of Snapchat’s.

Naturally, this acceleration in popularity drew the marketers’ attention. Today, there’s a drive to aggressively activate Instagram across most of the brands we’re managing. We’ve always been active on Instagram, but now the platform is getting a lot more of our and our clients’ attention.

We often get asked questions like: can we publish more posts? Can we push out more Stories? We need more followers. Well, the last one isn’t really a question, but one wonders, are these the right questions to ask? Is the answer to the evermore cluttered Instagram feed more content? Do we demand to have more followers and then ensure they see our content?

As social media consultants, we’re inclined to say, let’s take a deep breath, take a step back and look at the big picture here. Here are the questions we’d prefer to ask:

  1. Who is our target audience? Are they active on Instagram? Which part of Instagram? And what content do they like to consume?
  2. What is our brand and product story and how are we telling it on Instagram?
  3. How does Instagram’s positioning differ from that of other platforms like Facebook and Twitter among others
  4. Do we have budgets set aside for Instagram that ensure we’re able to get the right eyeballs on the right content? These include media, production and community management budgets
  5. And last but not least, what does success look like for us? Direct response? Reach? Ad-recall? Engagement? Followers? How does it impact our bottom line?

These are the questions we need to ask if we are to build a solid platform strategy. And here’s how we respond to clients who make certain requests about Instagram (or any other platform for that matter):

  • “We need to post more”. Why? To what end? Is the frequency of posting a part of a burst strategy that serves a certain purpose or do we think that posting more automatically gets us more followers and engagement? What are we saying in these posts? What’s the story?
  • “We need to grow our followers”. I’m actually thankful that Instagram doesn’t have a fan acquisition paid media option for this. Followers of a brand are a testament to one or a combination of the following reasons:
    • People love your brand
    • You’re telling a very good story

Therefore, the focus should be on asking: “How’s our brand love metric doing? How can we grow it?”, and “What story are we telling? How can we tell the right, relevant story to the right audience?”

  • “We need to publish more stories”. How are you treating Stories differently from your feed? What is the source of your Stories? Can you publish the right content consistently? And how will Stories complement your overall social strategy?

There’s a famous quote that’s falsely attributed to Einstein, yet still wise, that says: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask”. There are variations of this quote, but the gist is the same.

We need to first ensure that we’re asking the right questions if we are to guarantee that we’re on the right path. Beyond that, the tactics may differ and change, but our strategic approach would be solid.



About Author

Khaled Akbik

Khaled is the Social Media lead at OMD working on strategies and new business with clients across the MENA region including PepsiCo, Sephora, Disney, beIN Sports, Azadea Group and Majid Al Futtaim among others. A Computer Science graduate, MBA holder and a self-professed geek, Khaled is passionate about the latest in tech and digital innovations and gadgets and how these are weaved into the fabric of our everyday lives.

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