Instagram’s point of difference from other photo-sharing platforms is that it features 20 different image-altering filters, which are meant to compensate for often less-than-stellar mobile camera shots. Pictures can be quickly uploaded from users’ camera rolls or taken by Instagram’s built-in camera function. Photographs dominate the platform, but some retailers upload pictures of branded signage, digital images or handwritten text to convey short, direct messages.
Once images are publicly shared, they will appear mixed in with other users’ shots as part of a scrolling “feed” similar to Facebook’s homepage. Users can curate their feed to suit their interests by seeking out other relevant users’ accounts and “following” them. Comments and “likes” are part of the platform.
The beauty of Instagram is that unlike Facebook, it doesn’t use algorithms to limit the reach of advertising material posted by pages. That might not mean much to the casual reader, but the result is that every post you make reaches 100 percent of your followers – there’s no need to pay to promote your brand.
The quality of Instagram’s images is high compared to other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Creativity is considered essential, and relying on advertising is frowned upon – Instagrammers expect a personal, intimate aesthetic.
Power Retail quoted a recent US report by L2 Inc and Olapic suggesting that Instagram may not remain “unrestrained” forever in terms of advertising. It said marketers were using the current freedom to play creatively and figure out what kind of content their followers preferred.
The report had some input into what kinds of posts on Instagram went down well with users. Of the most effective posts:
- 65 percent included a product image.
- 43 percent featured a lifestyle image.
- 29 percent included an “influencer” or celebrity.
- 14 percent tied in an event or holiday, such as Valentine’s Day.
Instagram was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for around US$1 billion. Facebook’s CFO told Business Insider Australia in January last year that in the previous 12 months, Instagram had doubled its user base from 90 million active users, meaning it has expanded significantly faster than both Facebook and Twitter.
Oasis Beauty managing director Stephanie Evans uses animal pictures and skincare advice to keep her “tribe” of loyal customers connected through social media.
“When you’re selling online it’s about creating a cobweb that will catch people and direct them to your website,” Evans says.
She thinks that having a lot of content on social media is important, but it must be original and not replicated across every channel. The aim is to create what she calls a “tribe” of consumers who understand the brand and personally identify with its values.
Having built Oasis Beauty herself over 15 years, Evans is confident about its brand identity. Key hooks she can use to connect with customers are: expertise on sensitive skin; retro glamour; and an interest in animals. The family of rescued animals which Evans takes care of at home go down a treat across all of her social media streams.
“If you’re in the Oasis tribe, you’re generally a lover of animals, too.”’
A pair of orphaned baby hedgehogs have recently starred across Oasis Beauty’s social media channels. In a series of different videos and still images, they waddled their way through Instagram and Facebook, charming viewers all the way.
“Visual media is very strong. People nowawdays are bombarded with messages, so if you can go visual, you can get much higher engagement than with just text.”
The posts are typical of Oasis Beauty’s strategy, which privileges connection over calls to action inviting customers to purchase.
“You’ve got to be careful about those sales calls,” Evans says. “If you keep doing that consistently, people will turn off.”
Her rule of thumb is that if you’re posting seven days per week, two posts can include a direct call. This may be for sales, or it could be to sign up to the newsletter, watch a video or engage in another form of connection with the brand.
Evans says 7 percent of Oasis Beauty’s online sales come directly from social media referrals where customers have clicked a link and then gone on to make a purchase. Most of these are new customers, she says, as those who go on to repurchase will generally visit the website directly.
Oasis Beauty’s five-year plan contains a document detailing the company’s preferred communication style. Evans says communication is directly tied to customer perception.
“When people go online, they want to be entertained, they don’t want to be lectured at, and they want to connect.”
Younger staff members intuitively understand how Evans would like them to present Oasis Beauty. The desired tone is light and humourous without being flip, and friendly, but not “overly personal”.
“They fall into this communication style quite naturally because it’s like talking to your best friend.”
Each of Oasis Beauty’s social media accounts is handled by a different staff member, apart from Facebook. Facebook and the website’s blog page are a shared responsibility. Evans says her staff members seem to have individually gravitated towards the social media channel which suits them best, and most use the same channel in their personal lives.
The Oasis Beauty team occasionally reposts content from other sources. Evans says her staff uses social media not just to increase brand awareness for Oasis Beauty but to support retailers.
Until around two years ago, Evans says, some retailers were suspicious of Oasis Beauty’s strong online following because they viewed it as competition. Perspectives have since swung around. Evans says the fourth most viewed page on Oasis Beauty’s website is “Find a retailer”.
“It’s not all about online sales, it’s about how it all works together,” she says.
This story was originally published in NZ Retail magazine issue 737, April/May 2015.