Welcome back to my series on using Instagram for business!
Each of these are meant to give you some perspective on how Instagram has evolved over the past two years, and how Instagram users are leveraging the technology to build and influence audiences.
By the way — if you’re so inclined and have friends or associates who you think would benefit from reading this series, I’d be delighted if you would share it with them on Twitter.
Instagram for Business: Part 3 – How to Hire Instagramers
Case in point.
A recent study released late last month by our friends at Simply Measured, shows that roughly 54% of the top 100 brands are now on Instagram using both owned accounts as well as various hash tags to pull consumers to the photos they share on the network.
Getting in early is easy when you have big budgets and resources aplenty, right?
But what about your business? How do you begin to carve out a groove in this new and darling space on the interwebz?
The truth is that while brand-side marketers, social media consultants and agency strategists would probably love to build a huge audience on Instagram, it’s simply not going to happen overnight.
Still, we all have a job to do and it’s results that count, especially when we find ourselves fighting for budget dollars for our various social media marketing activities.
With this in mind, let’s dig into at least one option as a short term fix to successfully leveraging Instagram as a part of your marketing program by identifying, hiring and managing existing Instagram influencers to produce content on behalf of your brand.
A Path of Least Resistance — Working With Instagramers
Using existing influencers as a means of walking the path of least resistance to using a new technology platform in your digital marketing mix is a tactic that marketing decision makers have employed since the birth of the social web.
The same holds true for Instagram, and opportunities to tap the early adopters who’ve found early success in building their audience and achieving Instagramer status.
Note — this is in no way meant to discredit building up your brand-owned Instagram accounts. Smart marketers already know that this step is requirement of any successful marketing effort down the road.
However, using the presence, influence, creativity and artistry of already popular Instagramers can create leverage that produces the needed short term gains that may help to win the attention (and budget approval) of your company’s higher-ups.
How Delta Airlines Worked with Influential Instagramers to Boost Sports Sponsorship
Back in April of this year, Delta Airlines decided to maximize their sponsorship of the the NHL Playoff game between the New York Rangers and the Ottawa Senators that took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
A total of six popular Instagramers were invited to participate, compensated with a cash payments, and given special access to areas of the arena that were off limits to most fans.
The team of Instagram users, each boasting a follower base of more than 100,000 were even given the VIP treatment with full access to Delta’s elusive Sky360Club while they were at the game. If you ask me, this was not a bad gig for photographically inclined folks who carry run-of-the-mill smartphones.
Some blogs estimate that Delta recorded just over 5.6 million impressions from the event. However, it’s important to note that this metric was calculated by taking the total number of photos broadcast by the team of Instagramers, multiplied by their total number of followers.
I my personal opinion, that approach is simply marketing hogwash meant to make a corporate power point presentation look sexy. Calculating impressions in this way foggy metric at best, in that not every follower will see every image shared, even if the Instagramer ranks highly in popularity.
Again, my opinion only so take it for what it’s worth and make your own judgement.
An Aside — Instagram Teaches Hard Lessons
Delta also learned a hard lesson in the months following the buzz generated from the NHL sponsorship.
Earlier this month, CNet reported that thousands of consumers were duped by a series of fake Instagram accounts posing at popular airlines (including Delta) who promised consumers free flights for following the fake accounts.
The Delta imposter account quickly racked up 21,000 followers after it promised a free trip for the first 20,000 people who followed and shared the account, going to show once again that the idea of ‘going viral’ can be a scary beast when left to the hands of the wicked.
Ask Yourself Tough Questions When Hiring an Instagramer (And, Be Honest)
You’ve already learned to beware of the ‘shiny object syndrome’ when it comes to anything in social media, right?
Trust me when I say that I am a huge advocate of Instagram and think that it has real merit as a tactic in an overall marketing strategy.
If pictures are worth a thousand words, than Instagram can help to create a reflection of your brands experiential marketing efforts that has potential to live on the web for years, and perhaps even decades to come.
But, if you choose to walk the path of least resistance and hire, contract or otherwise work with an existing Instagramer, make sure to ask a few tough questions before you dive in head first.
- Does the Instagramer’s audience align with your brands target audience? Business Insider did an article that identified a clan of popular Instagramers, each with more than 100,000 followers and most of which living and working in New York City. I’m sure all of them have had a few good paychecks since. Still, the question remains: are any of these folks right for your audience? My advice is to always be willing to trade a HUGE following for the right following. When hiring an Instagramer, do you homework. Due diligence will help key you into who exactly makes up their followers. If you have the resources, you can even attempt to reach out to a few of those individuals and ask: “Why do you follow this person? What attracts you to their photos?”
- Is this the right job for Instagramer? Back to my call out on experiential marketing. Simply having a popular Instagramer come in and shoot photos of your products is probably not going to appeal to their audience and in turn, have little benefit for your brand. If you’re opting to work with an Instagramer, make sure that you provide them with something interesting to shoot. Delta did a pretty good job with this in their case study into NHL Hockey. See above.
- How do we maintain some control over the creative approach? Listen up, agency folks, because I already know you will struggle with this one. It’s the tendency of agencies to want to drive the creative direction of any content for their clients. On the brand side, managers and directors have to deal with adhering to the dreaded brand standards. That said, keep in mind that you are tapping a creative who has already proven (via their own presence on Instagram) that they know what resonates in this new medium. Take that to heart and try and find a balance that will let them feel in control of creative while you make sure the content fits into your plan. On the flip side, if you try to gain too much control their creativity, you might find that your Instagramer simply shakes your hand, and then walks away.
- How will we measure success? Much like the case with Pinterest back in Q2 of this year, it will only be a few months before we see an onslaught of Instagram measurement tools hit the market. Mark my words on this prediction for 2013. Today, most metrics for Instagram are what Amy Jo Martin calls ‘cold metrics‘, merely focused on quantifying impressions, likes, and other softer awareness measurements. Frankly, these measures may not impact business KPI’s. When managers fail to realize this before spending tons of dollars on social media marketing efforts, they are often left in the hot seat with their CEO, trying to explain the value of the effort that produce no returns. Don’t be that marketer…
- What will we keep from our effort of working with this Instagramer? If this Instagramer shares your paid brand’s content to their followers on Instagram, how does those users find your owned account? Do they at all? Hiring a popular Instagramer is about creating leverage on the web that helps to springboard your brands owned account. To be successful, make sure to think through how you will entice the followers of the Instagramer you hire to migrate from ‘over there’ to ‘over here’.
- Are you willing to put your money in the mouth of the Instagramer? It’s still incredibly early in the Instagram game, and those who have gained popularity are in high demand. Simply offering free stuff, trips or special privileges as a carrot to popular Instagramers my not have the desired effect. Also, keep in mind that the large majority of Instagramers who have built big followings are real-life, working photographers who have opted to spend less time behind a DSLR body and more time behind their iPhones. These folks already understand how to price their work. Don’t make the dreaded mistake of trying to nickle and dime Instagramers. It’s likely that you need them more than they need you.
- This one is all YOU…
Have you already explored working with any popular Instagramers?
What have you found? What can you share for number seven that may help others figure out how to be effective on this new social media network?
And, one final, but important note:
Remember that the government requires that your brand discloses the nature of any paid relationship when producing social media content. If you go the route of hiring an Instagramer, make sure that you are up to snuff on disclosure law, and that you are prepared to keep the relationship transparent.