By Lamin Turay
In order to continue our series on beginner tips and techniques for utilizing some of the more popular social media platforms out there we'd now like to cover Instagram. For those of you who do not know, Instagram is the world's most popular image-based social media platform. By "image-based," we mean that the platform is essentially all user-submitted pictures. Similar to Facebook, Instagram has a "like" function, and also allows users the ability to "follow" others. In addition, Instagram is one of a couple social media platforms where hashtags are wildly powerful. Let's talk about why Instagram can be useful for you.
Back in 2012 Facebook, who we've already stated in a previous article is the largest social media platform on the planet, purchased Instagram for approximately $1 Billion in cash. The social media giant clearly saw something of value. What they saw was that millions of people had turned to Instagram for a chance to interact with a social community that filters out all of the noise, and simply allows for the display of visuals. Instagram is the social media platform for those who love visual communication. Because of this it's a great way to get your business message across with beautiful imagery. It allows you to immerse others in your company's vision by posting pictures, short video clips, and meaningful captions. It has a very streamlined feed that allows users to focus directly on the images/videos, and that's it.
Instagram is a great platform for attracting people to your business by letting them know what your all about. Whether it's a behind the scenes look at your operations, or amazing photos of your products, the sky is the limit to how you can utilize Instagram. One thing is clear though - you'll want to make sure you attract as many genuine followers as possible. We've outlined some techniques you can use whether your just getting started, or already have an Instagram account. With these tips you should be able to increase in followers and deliver a more targeted message to your Instagram audience.
1. Decide On A Theme - All of the most successful Instagram business accounts have a content theme. That is to say, they have a consistency to the types of imagery and videos that are posted on their feeds. When selecting a theme for your own account, be sure that it is in line with your company mission and presents your business in a manner that your target audience will be attracted to . For example, a company like Nasty Gal (with their 2.2 million Instagram followers), who produces vintage-style apparel and accessories for women, has loads of images of their target audience wearing their products in hip or trendy settings. It's about conveying a lifestyle for them. Another good example is AirBnB (with their 1.3 million followers). Their company is all about finding comfortable lodging and traveling the world. Their account is full of gorgeous imagery of unique places around the world, which inspires you to get out and see those places. Whatever theme you choose, be sure that it prompts your audience to take an action that aids your business goals.
2. Play The Hashtag Game - Instagram is similar to a lot of other social media platforms in that it utilizes hashtags (#'s) as a means of allowing simplified search. What this means is that you can add specific hashtags to your Instagram content, and users who search those hashtags will have an easier time finding your feed. If they like what they see they will follow you. The best way to take advantage of this, is to add hashtags that are directly related to who you want to attract. If you have a surf apparel company add hashtags about the ocean, waves , surfboards, and beaches. If you have a business coaching service add hashtags about professionalism, consulting, or business growth. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per comment on a post. We suggest adding your target hashtags to the first comment on your Instagram post instead of the post's caption. That way it won't clutter the image/video caption space. A great tool for finding the most popular hashtags on Instagram can be found here.
3. Don't Make It About Selling - One of the traps that a lot of social media business users fall into is believing that, since their social platform allows them access to a huge audience, they should use it to mass market products and services alone. This couldn't be further from the truth. The true power of social media, and a platform like Instagram, is that it allows other users and potential customers to understand your "Why" for being in business. It gives them a chance to connect with your company mission through captivating visual content. You should never use imagery that pushes a sell on somebody. Instead provide unique opportunities for your followers to see how you run your business, or post stunning images of your products. It's about communicating what makes your company special in the most effective visual manner. A company like Adidas (with their 11.1 million followers) does an excellent job of this. Their account shows athletes across multiple sports performing at the highest levels while wearing their products.
4. Participate In The Conversation - Instagram is no different than any other social media platform in that you get out what you put in. Being a participant in your target audiences community and conversations is vital to growing your following. At the most basic level you should always follow up with users who comment or direct message you on Instagram. This lets them know that you're there, and that you appreciate them spending time to interact with your brand. In addition to following up, you should also be liking and commenting on the Instagram accounts of other companies or individuals who you would like to attract to you brand. This is a great way to build loyalty, and set up potential "Shoutouts".
5. Set Up Shoutouts - Shoutouts are an activity where one Instagram user posts or reposts content from another user's account. It allows that users following to view a post that they may not have otherwise been able to see. It's also great for gaining access to a larger audience. If you have a smaller following, you can request that someone with a big following do a shoutout for you, and post some of your content. You can direct message other users about setting up a shoutout, but be strategic, as most users with huge amounts of followers tend to charge for this service. Use the #S4S hashtag to set up a shoutout. It's commonly known among experienced Instagram users.
Those are just a couple methods that you can use to get going with Instagram or continue to grow your following. What other techniques have you used with success in the past? We'd love to keep this conversation going and share useful tactics with our entire audience. Please share any useful tips in the comments below.
By Lamin Turay
When starting or running your own business there are many pitfalls that you should avoid. From simple everyday distractions like getting bogged down by email, to more significant things like overworking without enough rest. We all face these issues, but may not know about some of the more intrinsic traps which we may have already fallen into. In a September 2016 article, Kristen Vanstrom, a contributing writer at Business.Com details 5 Thoughts Traps That Cloud New Entrepreneurs. She talks about how simple things like believing that if all the most successful people in your industry are doing something then you should do it, can be hazardous to your own prosperity. Another great point she makes is about the concept of "Hustle". A lot of rhetoric is spewed out in the entrepreneurial world about how the one who hustles most will always come out on top. The problem with this is, there is no emphasis on focus. If you don't have a clear direction, then your level of hustle won't mean much at all. Vanstrom sums this concept up very well in the quote below.
If you don't know how to swim, but jump in the water anyways, and just flail your arms as fast as you can, you will still drown. But, if you keep a steady back and forth kick going under the water, you will float. "
Kristen's article about the thought traps to avoid as a new entrepreneur is a great read, and something we suggest anyone should archive for future reference. Beyond the thought traps she even offers solutions for making a better way forward for yourself. She talks about keeping a mindset of "If it's been done before, it can be done again". Have an understanding that a majority of the most successful people out there are no smarter than you. We recommend taking some time out of your day to give Kristen's article a read, and a bookmark. You can find the article through the link below. Cheers!
Kristen Vanstrom's 5 Thought Traps That Cloud New Entrepreneurs
By Lamin Turay
Dawn Jackson is a marketing professional working for WTRMLN WTR, a health-focused hydration product available in Ralph’s, Whole Foods, Costco, and Sprouts. The company is only a couple years old, yet it has strong social awareness, and is endorsed by many of the most influential members of the health, fitness, and wellness communities. This is due in large part to the efforts of people like Dawn, who have embraced and innovated the influencer marketing strategy that the company employs. Dawn spoke to me about how she took the initiative in her role at WTRMLN WTR to grow in both station and responsibility, while making the most of how the company promotes its product.
How did you become involved with WTRMLN WTR, and what do you do for them now?
While living in New York I was recruited to do some work for a modeling agency, which was owned by my friend Katherine. After moving to Los Angeles, Katherine sent me information about how WTRMLN WTR was looking for Brand Ambassadors. I decided to go and check it out. It sounded like a great company, and the philosophy was interesting. I ended up being hired as a “Baby Doll." That’s the official title for the female Brand Ambassadors that the company employs for their summer marketing in SoCal (Southern California). The company is based in New York.
So I started as a Baby Doll working at events. The company would sponsor these various events put on by fitness studios or gym owners. There’s a focus on athletes and people interested in athleticism. In addition to the event sponsorship, we would do demos so that people could try out the product by giving it a taste. There are also what’s called “seeds” or “seeding,” this is where you visit a business that might be a good distributor, and you give them a sample of the product. Once the business has tried the product, you see if they’d be interested in distributing or if there’s potential to have an event there in the future. Those are the particulars of the “Baby Doll” position.
Eventually, after showing some initiative on the Brand Ambassador side, I was able to transition into a more corporate marketing behind-the-scenes position. In this new role I execute what we call “Drops.” This is a practice where we work with a PR agency who helps us identify influential people that we can deliver product packages to. The Drops are hand-delivered because the product is perishable. We never mail Drop packages. They’re also hand-delivered because that gives us an opportunity to educate the people we are sending them to. It’s about having a conversation. We let these influencers know what the product is about, how and why to use it, and answer any questions they may have. In the past we’ve made Drops to individuals who are popular social media influencers, and also maintain a healthy lifestyle. We hand deliver the product to their homes. By doing this we give them a reason to share WTRMLN WTR on their social media feeds and provide exposure for the company.
How was it that you were able to transition from Brand Ambassador to a corporate marketing role?
It was an observation actually. I had done Brand Ambassador work on and off for about 10 years when I was living in New York. I worked while I was in college. I’m an Economics and Political Science major. I worked in commercial real estate and for a hedge fund for a while as well. I was also a little older and more experienced than most Brand Ambassadors, so I brought a wealth of knowledge to the position. When I would go about doing my job, I would also come up with new ideas, recommendations, and utilize my contacts in the area to spread awareness. For example, I’m a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, who I contacted and ended up brokering my own sponsorship event with on behalf of the company. They ended up featuring us on their Twitter feed, and now we have a scheduled meeting with them to discuss product distribution. Brittney Newman is the manager out here for the Southern California region. She noticed my experience and the initiative I was taking, and moved me into a role with more responsibility.
How has your experience been working through the ranks, and being where you are at now?
There’s been a bit of a challenge since the main corporate headquarters is in New York. It’s much more cohesive in that area, especially since it’s the type of company that has a real family feel. However, one of the Baby Dolls that’s based in New York traveled out to Los Angeles to do the training for the Baby Dolls here. Here name is Tara, and she’s involved on a deep level with the company. Her energy, and comprehensive knowledge of the business was helpful.
How effective has influencer marketing been for WTRMLN WTR?
It’s been very important. It’s almost exclusively what the company does for advertising. There are no paid advertisements in magazines, on television, or radio. If we are ever mentioned on one of those mediums, it’s because we executed a drop to an influencer, and that was the result. Recently Jody Levy, the WTRMLN WTR C0-Founder, has been doing more press. She was on the Today show in New York, and she’s getting more interviews, but the company does not do any paid traditional advertising. It’s also important to note that WTRMLN WTR does not pay for the social media mentions that we get. A lot of companies will pay thousands of dollars to have a celebrity mention their product. We don’t do that. It has to be their choice. It comes from the strength of them actually enjoying the product, and wanting to be involved in the brand. WTRMLN WTR also has an environmentally conscience and conservationist component to it. That adds incentive for influencers to spread the word.
Do you only target celebrities, or do you engage other types of people when you are executing influencer Drops?
We don’t just go after celebrities. Our main celebrity push was around National Watermelon Day, which was August 3rd. We also engage with experts in their particular market. We’ll talk to fitness experts or wellness gurus who have a big, engaged following as well. We want quality of influence and not just quantity. Don’t get me wrong, there is a threshold for the amount of followers a person needs to have, but we also want them to have an audience that is very interactive.
When it comes to the celebrity end, I was tapped to interact with those influencers because of all the Baby Dolls, I was well suited for that role. This was mostly based on my level of experience and ability to communicate or engage these people in the best way possible. You have to maintain the right touch, because if you rub a celebrity influencer the wrong way it could have very bad ramifications for your brand.
What actual materials go into a Drop?
We’ll provide branded cooler bags to keep the product cold, there’s also a tri-fold that’s in the shape of a WTRMLN WTR bottle and has all of the product information on it, there’s even a postcard with a greeting that displays the fitness and wellness brand messaging on it. Of course there’s a bunch of the actual product in the package, and business cards with follow up contact information as well. Depending on how much product we are giving away we’ll wrap the package differently with a nice bow and some cellophane. The company provides all of the materials for the Drop packages, and training on how to present them.
There are also very specific strategies for executing the Drops. It’s an entrepreneurial endeavor in itself. Beyond hand-delivering the packages, we also have to meet certain time windows based on availability of the influencer or their reps. So you have to keep a schedule. In addition, we use our own vehicles and have to pick up the product from specialized cold storage facilities. You also have to dress appropriately, as you are representing the company, and managing your own business within the company. The Drops aren’t just a drop-off, they’re like a small business meeting. When you arrive at the influencers location they are expecting you, they’re excited, and you need to be ready to sell them on the experience.
What’s the biggest impact that has been made from working with an influencer?
We’ve done some work with a female former star of the show “Seventh Heaven." She’s a big influencer in the Southern California region. Her endorsement of the product was huge for our exposure. One of the Kardashian sisters also Snapchatted about the product on National Watermelon day. That provided another big leap in awareness. Both of those engagements were directly attributed to Drops that I made.
We also had an incredibly well-known pop singer and performer make mention of the product on her Instagram feed during the National Watermelon Day push. There was an image posted of her backup dancers drinking the product that ended up getting a lot of buzz. She’s also invested in the company.
It’s important to keep in mind that not every Drop we make results in someone posting or sharing on social media. They always think the product is great, and give us positive feedback on our engagement with them, but it still may not end up in our company gaining any sales. So we make sure to be strategic with the Drops.
What methods do you use to identify the influencers that you want to work with?
One of the main things we look for is healthy living. People who have embraced a lifestyle of health, fitness, and wellness. We look out for people who have that health-focused mindset. They don’t smoke, they don’t go out and party a lot. They’re usually fit on some level. We don’t target a specific body type, but we do look out for people who take care of their bodies and advocate that practice. If they’re living a fitness-oriented life, then they’ll have the results of that life. Additionally, we look for people who not only workout, but workout as a part of their overall lifestyle. They may be into biking, or swimming, or a number of other activities.
We also engage with people or companies on the beauty or wellness side. That includes salons and spas. Most likely these organizations have customers who are into health and fitness. It goes back to when I mentioned the concept of “seeding." We’ll identify a yoga studio for instance, because that’s an ongoing activity where customers continually visit the location. We’ll talk to the studio owner, introduce them to the product, and if they like it, they’ll roll it into their offerings.
What areas are you and the company looking at in order to grow your reach?
I know that there was a company presence this year at both the Burning Man and Wanderlust music festivals. Personally, I’ve been trying to place some focus on the “Mom” market. The product is very low in sugar, gluten-free, vegan, and GMO-free as well. It’s all those things, plus it’s a product that pregnant women, or women with children can feel confident about sharing with their child. It’s something that's tasty enough for children to want to drink and healthy enough for moms to want to drink.
In order to tap that particular market, I’m targeting fitness groups as well as workout groups that are specific to women who have children. It’s about getting into those avenues. The fitness activities or wellness groups that are directed at young mothers. I find them and figure out a way that the product can bring value to their community.
What advice do you have for anyone out there working as a brand ambassador or looking to take initiative in their marketing representative position?
I’d definitely encourage people who are working for a brand to utilize their personal networks. Think about the events that you put on or attend, and see how you can incorporate the brand that you're representing. Birthday parties, get-togethers, whatever social activities you’re into. Have your friends post about and take pictures with the product. Integrate the brand into your personal life and provide opportunities for it to shine in an organic way. Of course you’ll want to make sure that the company you represent is good with that.
Where can we follow WTRMLN WTR and your own involvement in the company?
The company has a primary website at https://wtrmlnwtr.com/. They also have an instagram at @wtrmlnwtr. Their facebook is https://www.facebook.com/wtrmln.wtr. All of the social feeds are updated daily.
I’m also available to work with potential influencers or if anyone out there is looking to work as a brand ambassador. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to thank Dawn for spending time to share her experience with us. We appreciate the knowledge she has shared about growing in a brand ambassador role, and utilizing influencer marketing. Do you have any questions about these concepts? Please let us know your thoughts or feedback in the comments below.