Instagram represents an avenue for self-expression and sharing images of the world that have personal meaning for Matt Knisely, Jayson Paez and Kyle Steed. These well-respected photographers and visual arts professionals participated in a panel discussion at the Social Media Club of Dallas’ evening conclave on June 19 at the Angelika Dallas in Mockingbird Station. Marketing executive Jeff Schick added his perspectives about how companies are using Instagram to market their brands.
Instagram, the mobile photo-sharing iOS and Android app, has more than 200 million average monthly active users and now surpasses Twitter. Moderator Laurie Shook led the panelists in an insightful conversation about how they’re using Instagram to share mobile photography and videos, why it’s caught on, users they follow, and tools and resources that help them manage the creative process and track connections.
How they’re using Instagram today
The three creatives, Kyle Steed (http://instagram/kylesteed#), Matt Knisely (http://instagram/mattknisely), and Jeyson Paez (http://instagram/jeysonpaez) agreed that their primary use for Instagram is as a creative outlet. They document their lives, find beauty in the world around them and seek out the extraordinary in the ordinary. Jeff Schick (http://instagram.com/liketherazor#) advises clients about using Instagram to engage audiences and push for the conversion of prospects toward product sales.
Why Instagram has caught on
For Jeff, Instagram offers people a better tool for taking ordinary photographs and adding layers to make them pop. Matt believes that a “life worth living is worth recording.” He pointed out that we live in a highly visual world and “so many things can’t be said with words and can be said in images.”
Frequency and timing of Instagram posts
Jeyson’s posts go on Instagram and Facebook. He recommends limiting to only one or two hashtags in a post. His are usually #posttheordinary and #cityofDFW. While a lot of his friends post around 8 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST, he posts images whenever he can. “I don’t follow any rules” is his overall approach because he can’t always be online at that time.
Matt posts randomly as well but he sees more interactions between 4 and 7 p.m. CST and on weekends. He believes it’s all about “being authentic and being organic.” The timing of his posts “ebbs and flows.”
For Kyle, posts are done to fit his life and he doesn’t monitor the stats. It all depends on why he’s posting. If he’s hired by a client to post three images per day, that dictates a schedule. From a personal perspective, he tells people to “make it your own journey.”
Tools for managing Instagram posts and tracking activity
The Stratogram mobile app is a resource that Matt uses to review stats and see who’s engaging with his images. Jeff pointed out that Instagram was one of the first platforms to allow hash tag searches, which provides useful feedback. Instagram offers new filters that can be purchased to augment the free tools, but the trio of creatives agreed they prefer VSCO, a free app. However, there is a general belief that Instagram tracks the use of their filters and that improves search rankings.
What to post to Instagram
As photographers, Kyle, Matt, and Jeyson said they take many pictures that are not shared because they have personal quality standards that are important to them. Jeyson said he may take 20-30 images a day and then select one to post. For Kyle, “it’s all about posting something you value and are proud of.”
As a marketer, Jeff is posting on behalf of clients and that determines what gets shared. Savvy brands are building post calendars and setting clear strategies about what to share and when to share it. His goal is to help brands increase engagement by creating more “likes.” Research shows that if a new product is on Instagram, people who see it there are seven times more likely to purchase it.
In response to a question from the audience about how freely to share creative work online, they all agreed that leveraging social media requires the willingness to put it out there and let it go. Once images are posted, they are out of the creator’s control, but the exposure also builds visibility for their capabilities, which helps attract business. Jeff noted that “When companies share, we want people to spread it. Brands create content to generate earned media value.” At the same time, no one should take someone else’s image and use it without attribution or compensation. Kyle said he successfully confronted Cole Hahn about one of his images they’d used.
Who the panelists follow on Instagram and why
Other Instagram users are a source of inspiration for these panelists. Both Matt and Jeyson cited PayPal as a great Instagram site. Matt also follows SquareRootof9 and Jim Beam Official, among others. Jeyson said 80 percent of the sites he follows are in DFW because he wants to build a local community. Jeff said he likes to follow the North Texas Food Bank because they effectively promote helping people address food insecurity issues. He’s also a fan of WeekendCoffee at The Joule Hotel in Dallas and the Gucci site.
How good is Instagram at building awareness, leads and sales?
Jeff said that Omnicon recently signed a $100 million deal with Instagram. He expects to see more brands use a reward-style affiliate model to send product and service-related links to Instagram users to drive sales. He also pointed out that Facebook’s ownership of Instagram signals an underlying commitment to find ways to monetize the site. Instagram can meet a lot of company goals: Engagement. Awareness. Conversion. Jeff emphasized that you have to determine what the issues are and what goals the client wants to accomplish.
There is “no secret to success” with Instagram. Kyle believes that if you build an Instagram site with compelling images, people will come.
Nancy Del Regno of Del Regno Marketing Communications is a communications professional who uses a creative blend of digital and traditional media to connect clients with external and internal audiences. Her diverse background includes assignments with Experian, University of Phoenix, Belo, AeroMexico, Fleming, PepsiCo Food Systems, Frito-Lay and Big Thought. Nancy can be reached at email@example.com.