by Paul Slack
Instagram has leapfrogged over Twitter – by a lot.
You may not know a whole lot about Instagram. Many people don’t – especially if you don’t fit into the Instagram “sweet spot” of demographics – which is the 18 to 35 crowd, so here’s a basic rundown on what it is.
Instagram is about visual content – that’s photos and videos. We already know that using an image in your social media posts can dramatically increase engagement. This is because people like to look at pictures – and they are more memorable, making a post stand out from the crowd. Catching the attention of social media users who have a very short attention span is critical and Instagram capitalizes on that.
In addition to being fast, interesting and memorable, Instagram offers something more. The millennials, are particularly interested in the “back story”. They want to know about who your company is, not just what you sell. Instagram gives you the opportunity to do that without saying a lot.
People use Instagram more like they use Twitter than the way they use Facebook. They are more likely to follow people and businesses that they don’t know personally so it really is all about the “image”. Instagram users aren’t just following people they know, they are searching for new information and engaging content.
Instagram also works off of “hashtags” in a way that is similar to Twitter. Brands that use #hashtags, show higher engagement (sometimes twice or more) and on Instagram, more hashtags are better.
Aside from all that, what is so great about Instagram?
Instagram was virtually unknown until two or three years ago – makes sense since they only came online in 2010, making Facebook and Twitter look ancient. Instagram is definitely the new kid on the block and the kid is getting more popular every day. While Facebook still has the largest audience at about 71% of internet users, growth is pretty much flat. Twitter has fallen out of the top 3 and is now 5th behind Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest – and Instagram which has hopped into second place at 28% in 2014 with an estimated 37400K users in 2015 (growing about 40% yearly) and unlike Pinterest which jumped into 3rd, Instagram has an even split between men and women.
Instagram is owned now by Facebook but it is still its own guy. The thing that Facebook is bringing (and about time) is more business use – and advertising which they only brought out full swing last year. The key here – is videos. They are also offering some new favorite call-to-action buttons like “shop now”, “sign-up” and “learn more”.
Another development is that Instagram has expanded their picture format to include rectangles – not just squares (until recently, all photos had to fit their square template), giving users the option to post different sized and shaped pictures – which may be more artistic or eye-catching, and incidentally take less time to edit.
The teeny catch to Instagram is that it is “mobile-first” which means that most, and by most, we mean “nearly all”, use is done on a mobile device. You can manage your account through a desktop – but you have to get it through a mobile device (using Google play store or the iOS App store). It is designed for mobile – making it even more attractive for the on-the-go millennial who rarely sits down at a desktop.
Point is: Facebook is still the giant that you must serve but Instagram is coming right along. Instagram benefits from Facebook’s targeting algorithm for ads and Instagram ad campaigns produce twice the engagement that other social media ads do. Remember Instagram targets a different crowd – (largely the under 35s) but no fear because those younger buyers aren’t going to be younger forever. The site is growing exponentially (well as close to exponential as social media can get) so even if your “traditional” customer isn’t in the Instagram sweet spot, that spot is gonna move.
Aside from the Instagram ads, businesses can get a lot of mileage from a regular Instagram account through the use of #hashtags and telling a good story with high-quality images. If you haven’t done so – get on Instagram and start snapping (but remember you have to download an App first).
Hashtag inventor goes to work for Uber
The title here doesn’t look like it means a whole lot. It does but really, only tangentially. The guy who invented the hashtag is named Chris Messina. Messina has been an internet influencer for over a decade, he helped work on the first Mozilla platform and has was a big force in the “open source” software world before going to work at Google as a designer. He left Google some months ago and recently announced his new employment at Uber. If you don’t know what Uber is, you should check it out as a shining example of the difference in millennial internet use. It is a taxi service that uses individuals driving their private cars as “drivers”. Revolutionary.
It was during some of Messina’s open source work that he first proposed the use of “#” as a way to form groups on twitter. The idea had been floating around in computer programing as a way to categorize items for many years but Messina was the first to propose it to social media.
Twitter initially rejected the idea – saying it was only for geeks, too nerdy, will never work….etc. That was in 2007 and even though it had been rejected, Messina was enough of an “influencer” that it caught on anyway and only 2 years later, was officially adopted by Twitter as a way to search and identify “trending topics”.
Though the #, has been called “the number sign”, “the pound sign”, “the hash key” and even “the hex key”, many people today know it only as “hashtag”. It is a way to mark a social media post so that it can be categorized. It is a mainstay of both Twitter and Instagram – hasn’t been as successful on Facebook and Google+ pretty much tags it for you.
Hashtags have become one of “THE” things to know about using Twitter and Instagram. Recent statistics show that using hashtags on Twitter and Instagram can dramatically increase engagement on posts.
Tweets with hashtags get up to twice the engagement of tweets that don’t have them. On Twitter though, one or two is good – but three or more start to drop engagement.
Instagram posts with hashtags get double the interaction with just one hashtag, twice as many again with two, slightly less with three and four and then the number bounces to a surprising huge increase when 11 or more hashtags are used. Crazy but true.
Facebook, on the other hand, found that hashtag use initially decreased engagement by about 50% but Since hashtag use on Facebook has only been tracked since 2013, it may be coming around. What we know right now is that they may or may not help but more is definitely not better.
Bringing it back around to Mr. Messina. Wish him well at Uber and wait for the next thing he’s on to because he has done great things so far.
Point is: Well, for starters, though he’s an interesting guy, it isn’t about Messina.
Hashtags are probably the most important part of your social media plan on Twitter and Instagram. We know that a couple are good on Twitter but more is not better. That isn’t true on Instagram where 1 is better than none, 2 are better than 1, 3 are better than 2… 4 or more doesn’t make things worse and for some reason, 11 or more works great. Facebook hashtagging hasn’t caught on so you probably don’t need to bother.
So, you need to hashtag your posts – but you need to be smart about your hashtags. Staying up to date on the latest best practices for Hashtag Marketing is key. Keep them relevant to your subject but consider chasing trending tags as well.
You can find relevant and even trending hashtags by looking at your Twitter page, searching for a few hashtags that might work – or using tools like hashtagify.me, RiteTag, or Keyhole.co. For the most part, hashtags that work on Twitter will probably be just dandy on Instagram.
For now, you probably don’t have to worry about Facebook…one less thing right?
Next up: Changes at Twitter – do we really want to see wordy Tweets?