5 Best Practices for Brands on Instagram

It’s no surprise that the majority of Instagrammers are Millennials. Paid Instagram advertising is fairly new, but Millennials have been using the platform for general inspiration since day one. With 40% of Millennials following brands on Instagram, a strong social presence has become a staple in business strategies. User-generated content on social media provides a huge chunk of a Millennial’s daily entertainment, which creates a challenge for brands: to be a beneficial part of their (often overwhelming) feeds.

Here are some simple ways to make your Instagram presence count:

1. Maximize your use of space

Every pixel counts when you’re trying to get noticed—being a small ad makes you that much easier to ignore. Using a 1:1 or a portrait layout maximizes your presence on a user’s screen, minimizing distractions from other content and lengthening the time taken to scroll past, increasing your odds of attracting and retaining a user’s attention.

What’s better than a great picture? A series of great creatives that tell a story. With Carousel ads, advertisers can extend beyond the pixels on the screen to tell their viewers a story or simply showcase a larger image in parts. The possibilities are endless, and the end result is both engaging and interactive.

What’s even better than a series of great pictures? An entertaining, quality video—and one that loops seamlessly is even better. Vine users love watching clips on a loop and many masterminds have figured out clever ways to loop absolutely seamlessly. As with Vine, Instagram caught on to the loop and creative advertisers can now have their content played over and over. This is a brilliant way of catching your viewers’ attention for longer without them even realizing it.2. Be consistent: more inspiration, less information

Why do Millennials follow brands on Instagram in the first place? Here’s what they say:

  • The content is interesting or funny (48%)
  • They really like the brand and want to stay up to date (62%)
  • They want to discover new things (54%)

It’s imperative that brands keep a consistent look and feel across their paid and organic content on Instagram. There is no easier way to lose a Millennial’s attention than to slap a bunch of deals, headlines, or calls-to-action all over what could have been a nice image—especially if it deviates too much from their expectations of your brand. Instagrammers despise anything that looks too “ad-like” since they use Instagram for inspiration, not to be told what to buy or what to do. Focus on producing quality creative: keep the message simple and give them something they’ll remember. Entertain them—don’t bore them!

Just because it’s an ad doesn’t mean you can’t make it visually appealing.


3. Showcase the experience, not the product

It’s not that people aren’t interested in your products (they are), but a pair of your headphones floating on a white background may not excite them. Millennials, more than any other generation, value experiences over ownership of material things. Try inspiring them instead, by showing them how they can rock these same headphones on their morning run. Showcase the lifestyle and the experience; make it personal and relatable. Show them how they can integrate brands into their lives and build relationships with them.

Integrated creative, not abstract – show your users how your products are relevant to their lives.


4. Add a personal touch

Millennials may be picky consumers, but they’re loyal: 60% of respondents in a recent study report being often or always loyal to brands. What makes them choose a brand over another (and to stay with them) boils down to three things: product quality (rather than price), good customer experience, and social consciousness of the company. A whopping 75% of respondents said it was important that a company also gives back to society instead of just making a profit.

Instagram offers a uniquely intimate outlet where its users regularly share personal moments as they happen. The most successful brands do this too, providing glimpses to the inner workings of their brand and their positive contributions to society, without making it look like a cry for attention. Whether it’s your environmentally sustainable practices, hiring diversity, or charitable contributions—show them, don’t tell them. Putting real faces to a brand is an easy way to personalize your advertising and make it relatable. Users who can relate to your brand or feel positively towards you are more likely to remember and become loyal to you.

TOMS put their philanthropic business model in the spotlight with this charity-focused marketing campaign.

5. Ask for their opinion and incentivize them to interact

Millennials are increasingly aware that their voices matter, and they aren’t afraid to use them. They want to influence the businesses they spend their money on, and brands are listening. Asking users which product design they prefer, or which item of nostalgia they want to bring back can provide key insights to your target market and boost their sense of importance—a win, win for advertisers.

Incentivizing users to interact in more playful ways has proved to be a big hit. Instagram’s hashtag feature makes it easy for users to share their own content with a brand, and enables users to view and interact with other posts for that same hashtag, creating a community feel. Contests which encourage users to create their own brand-related content—incentivized with prize offers—gets you free exposure for your message and insight into how users are actually using or interacting with your product or services.

Starbucks challenged its creative community to create a unique design for their very own limited edition run of reusable cups with the #WhiteCupContest.

A new era of advertising

Millennials reject traditional advertising as it doesn’t cater to the fast-paced content consumption they’re used to. They want to be inspired by beautiful imagery and entertaining content. They want to build relationships with brands and relate to their messaging, rather than be pitched deals and products. They want to have a say in what brands do and feel good about themselves at the same time. “Show, don’t tell” has never been a more appropriate motto for capturing the imaginations of a Millennial audience, and a successful campaign on Instagram.

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