Storytelling has always been an integral part of digital marketing, and marketing in general - and for good reason.
While the digital age has brought increased access to information, digesting it all takes time and energy. Because consumers trust online reviews more than ever, and are able to compare products or services between two brands at a single click, marketers need to convey why their brand is worthy of their attention. Storytelling in marketing is a means for brands to simplify the complex ideas that they want to convey.
Most importantly, it works. Consumers are more likely to convert when product pages integrate some sort of story (such as the winemaker’s information for a bottle of wine), and they're willing to pay more as well. Storytelling is also how marketers can tap into younger demographics’ desire for experience over products, by making buying from them and being part of their community an experience within itself.
Need to revitalize your Instagram strategy through the lens of storytelling? Here are three key elements to keep in mind.
1. Know your values
Great storytelling begins with a clear understanding of your brand’s history and values. The historical development of your brand, easily referenced and communicated, will give your audience insight into why you’re championing the values that you do. Harken back to your company’s mission and vision to find out what angle to approach the stories you tell with your marketing strategy.
In the case of Instagram, it’s important to be able to not just write all of these out, but to translate them into visual content.
One great example is singer Rihanna’s beauty company, Fenty Beauty. Born from the desire to see a wider variety of makeup shades available, the company’s marketing emphasizes diversity, in contrast to mainstream cosmetics brands - which worked perfectly for its launch product, a foundation in 40 different shades.
Here’s where a social media style guide comes in. All your content should be guided by your company’s values, and a social media specific style guide gives you an easily accessible reference point for them, translated into a how-to for running your account.
Your guide should contain how each profile you have must be optimized, tone of voice when writing copy and answering comments, the formatting to use for each post, what your branded hashtags are, and the visual guidelines for your account - colors, fonts, logo placement, and more.
2. Maintaining harmony between image and copy
Yes, people do still read the captions on Instagram. That’s why, especially for brands, you shouldn’t shy away from giving more context to your images - unless your strategy specifically calls for the opposite.
Use your social media style guide for help with this - that’s what it’s for.
The first step is to edit your photos so that they’re in line with your brand’s personality. You don’t have to strictly incorporate your colors into each and every photo, but take care not to cause a disconnect between what’s depicted in each image and how you edit them. A brand geared towards young children and parents, for example, may not want to edit their photos to be dark and brooding.
To edit your photos and jazz up the colors, you could try using the many filters that come with Instagram, or download your own photo-editing app. One app worth checking out is Instasize which has a creative toolkit with modern filters for you to choose from, as well as other cool border tools and font options that can help make your visuals stand out while staying true to your brand.
The second step is to write out your Instagram caption. To illustrate, here (above) is an example from National Geographic’s Instagram page.
The National Geographic team doesn't shy away from long captions, because part of their brand identity is as a magazine featuring stories from around the world. They've transposed that into an Instagram-friendly format by sharing facts about each photo they post, giving credit to the location and photographer of each one. This gives their Instagram account a similar feel to flipping through one of their print publications, keeping their brand experience consistent across mediums.
Provide context and comment on the images you post, choosing the words or quotes carefully to make easy associations with the images you provide. Light colors can mean bright and cheery, low saturation can mean low-key and relaxing, and so on.
3. Use data for continuous improvement
It isn’t enough to simply communicate your brand message according to how your team sees it - you need to take into account the characteristics of your audience as well, which is where your data and analytics tools come in.
Do your research and check the analytics on your Instagram account. What demographic identifies the most with the content you post? Who views your content, and when? What kind of information can you find out about your audience, other than age and location? Putting this all together can help you tailor your message and how you communicate with fans via comment or DM.
You should also use Instagram insights to check which posts resonate the most. It’s up to you whether you prefer to create weekly or monthly reports, but a regular examination of the content that works will enable you to continuously improve upon your social media strategy.
It may even prompt a reinvention of how your brand presents itself down the line. You wouldn’t know without the data to back it up.
Lastly, remember that people want to feel a connection
Humans are social and emotional creatures, and most would also like to have an affinity with a brand whose products and services they prefer. Understanding which audience to cater to with your Instagram account, and crafting posts around that, will help you establish an instant bond with whoever decides to scroll through your profile.
With people growing more discerning than ever about the products they choose, communicating what makes you worth their attention - in the least amount of time - can make all the difference.
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