In this month’s Hub feature, we provide an in-depth guide to marketers on how to use all the features available to them on every major social media channel. In addition to highlighting tips and tricks to optimize their presence, we’ve also examined case studies of brands that have successfully used each social media platform to grow their customer base, build brand loyalty and gain exposure through both paid and organic content efforts.
For brands, having a social media presence has quickly evolved from being the intern’s job to becoming a high-tech arm of the marketing department. In addition to the old guard of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest are the new channels of digital influence, being used for everything from real-time engagement to customer service and even e-commerce.
If there’s one lesson to learn from the way brands use social media today, it’s that “paid” is no longer a four-letter word. As major platforms such as Facebook and Twitter go public and wean themselves off venture capital, there is more pressure on them to build revenues through advertising. The days of organic reach and gaining fans purely on the strength of engaging content are numbered, and marketers now need to put financial muscle behind creative thought.
But there are still plenty of rewards for marketers who use social media in creative and innovative ways. Brands that can build a following by being genuinely interesting and posting engaging, entertaining, and relevant content create far more opportunities for themselves to sell to consumers.
In 2013, social media advertising increased by 35% over 2012, fueled largely by the growth of mobile, and according to the CMO survey conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, social media’s share of marketing budgets is expected to go up from an average of 7.4% to 18.1% in the next five years. Despite the increased investment, marketers are still mystified as to how they can gauge the success of their social media efforts. Meg Bear, GM of Oracle’s Social Cloud marketing platform says social media marketers need to align their goals with the KPIs of the C-suite, such as customer satisfaction, generating new business, and brand loyalty.
Bear says customers now expect brands to engage with them at every step of the purchase journey. “They’re getting a lot more information to enable them to connect deeply,” she says. “It’s your job to do something purposeful with it and think how you interact with social to impact your customer. That’s a thing the C-suite cares about – it’s beyond vanity metrics.”
The unique value of social media is that it is one of the rare channels that can be viewed as paid, earned, shared and owned media all at the same time for a brand. In order to get the most out of a channel, brands have to have a coordinated strategy for all PESO channels, with extensive knowledge of how to target audiences, run ads, and create optimized content for that specific channel.
The good news is that, with the increased focus on revenue, the platforms are getting better about telling marketers how to do exactly that. Each social media company now has its own in-house “consultancy” or advertising team that works with brands to educate them on platform specific marketing strategies that work.
This feature takes a look at those marketing tools, tips, and techniques that a brand can use to effectively market itself within the unique realms of each major social media network.
No other social network has inspired as much debate over its worth as a marketing channel than Facebook. With an audience of over 1 billion users, there’s no doubt it can’t be ignored. However, marketers have grown increasingly frustrated by changes to Facebook’s algorithm, which now prioritizes posts from friends and news media over posts from Pages in users’ News Feeds. This has drastically decreased the organic reach of brand pages to 2% of their total audience, and Facebook says that number is going to decrease even further.
As food delivery app Eat24 recently complained in an open letter to Facebook:
“All we do is give, and all you do is take. We give you text posts, delicious food photos, coupons, restaurant recommendations… and what do you do in return? You take them and you hide them from all our friends.”
Joe McCaffrey, lead planner for social media at the digital agency Huge, says marketers’ dissatisfaction with Facebook as a channel stems from them not understanding how the nature of the platform has changed. Marketing on Facebook is now closer to traditional media buying than social media marketing.
“Facebook is a media channel now,” says McCaffrey. “You can compare it to a broadcast television network that has a billion eyeballs, and you’ve got to pay to reach them.” With that in mind, he says Facebook marketing needs to be measured less in terms of engagement with likes and shares, and more about click-through rates and impressions.
Despite the increased focus on buying advertising, there are still a few things marketers can do to optimize their brands’ free Facebook Page presence:
Track posts’ performance: The best way to know what kind of Page posts resonate with audiences is to track them using Facebook’s Page Insights feature. The tool now offers even more insights into how audiences are consuming your posts, with stats on engagement, reach, and demographics. By evaluating the performance of each post, an admin can fairly quickly determine what kinds of posts perform well with what type of audience.
Spy on the competition: In addition to tracking your own posts, Facebook’s “Pages To Watch” feature also allows you to track posts from your competitors, or any other Facebook Page you want to observe closely. This includes stats on the most popular posts, total engagement, and growth in weekly likes. If your competitors are doing something right, this is the place you can find out about it.
Pictures are better than text: Not all Page posts are created equal. With a move to becoming more visually engaging and mobile friendly, Facebook ranks posts with images higher than plain text posts in its News Feed algorithm. If you do post an image, don’t skimp on the size either. The ideal dimensions are 800 x 600 pixels. Larger, visually appealing images are not only more likely to display in users’ News Feeds, they are also more likely to be clicked on while they are scrolling through on mobile.
Post about trending topics: Facebook recently introduced the “Trending” feature, which gives users a roundup of articles, blog posts and status updates from within their network that are about a trending topic. It’s a great opportunity for marketers to identify and participate in topics that are trending in the moment, either through promoting their own relevant blog posts or simple status updates.
Add and track links: Posts with links are also more engaging than status updates with just text in them. Add links to blog posts, microsites or interesting news articles. And remember to bit.ly the links so that you can track the clicks.
Tag other pages in posts: Here’s another trick for maximizing the audience that will see your posts. Try to tag other Facebook pages in them. This could include official Facebook pages for celebrities, TV shows, sports teams, or even other brands. As a result, your post will be seen not just by a few of your Facebook fans, but also by the fans of the Page you tag in the post. Put simply, if you can find a reason to tag the Facebook page of Shakira (currently the celebrity with the most Facebook likes) you’ve suddenly got access to a huge, untapped audience who wouldn’t normally see your posts.
Audience targeting: The biggest value social media offers over traditional media channels is the ability to perform highly specific audience targeting. Facebook may not be rewarding marketers with organic reach, but it does promise to give you exactly the kind of audience you want to reach if you’re willing to pay for it. This is especially useful for small- and medium-sized businesses that can’t afford to spend much on advertising. They can use Facebook to target highly specific groups of people for a fraction of a national media buy.
Calls to action: The platform recently added even more audience targeting capabilities, which allow advertisers to tailor specific messages to Facebook users on the basis of their location, demographics (including things such as relationship status,) interests, and online browsing activity. In addition to showing different messages to different groups of people, Facebook also allows advertisers to include five different calls to action in their messaging, currently limited to “Shop Now,” “Learn More,” “Sign Up,” “Book Now” or “Download.”
Streamlined ad buying: In October, Facebook streamlined its advertising buying platform by first asking marketers to identify their objectives, and then guiding them through the process of tailoring ads for that specific campaign. This includes actions such as driving clicks to a website, downloading app installs, and promoting in-store offers and discounts.
Rather than just display ads, Facebook ads can now also be deployed with a specific objective, which can be measured.
Brand case study: State Bicycle Company
State Bicycle Company is a good example of a small business that ran a successful targeted campaign on Facebook with quantifiable results. The Arizona-based bicycle seller’s goal was to create more brand awareness and increase direct sales from its website. For that, the brand’s strategy included:
Targeting hipsters: State Bicycle Company correctly identified its target market by going after a hip, young audience on the basis of their musical tastes. It ran Facebook ads targeting users who liked the pages of bands such as Arcade Fire, M83, and Passion Pit. It also targeted users who showed an interest in its competitors, as well as general keywords such as “fixies” and “track bikes.”
Paid ads: These also included discount codes and coupons for website purchases.
Promos and contests: The brand also built its Facebook Page following by holding regular contests, such as the “Most Beat-Up Bike” competition where the person who submitted a picture of the most beat-up-looking bike was given a free replacement by the company.
As a result of these efforts, State Bicycle Company recorded $500,000 in incremental sales attributed directly to purchases made through coupon codes and traffic exclusively from Facebook. The platform was responsible for driving 12% of traffic to the company’s website, and the business saw its fanbase grow 10 times in 12 months. For State Bicycle Company, Facebook says the cost-per-click for the campaign was 20% of what it would have paid on other advertising platforms.
If Facebook is now a paid media channel, Twitter is the place where brands get to have a personality. The brands that have the most-engaged followers are the ones that act like normal humans. This means responding to followers in real time, commenting on trending topics, being entertaining, newsy, and culturally relevant. Brands such as Taco Bell and Netflix have created uniquely entertaining online personas that make people want to follow them, regardless of whether they’re buying the product or not. Twitter is also a great tool for customer service, giving companies the opportunity to respond quickly and effectively to consumer complaints in a public space.
As a result, most marketers still see Twitter as a channel for brand maintenance and community management, rather than brand building or e-commerce. It is also the place where the bulk of real-time marketing takes place, with brands using almost every national event to insert themselves into the conversation, a move that has backfired on occasion for many. Writing on the Twitter advertising blog, Deep Focus agency CEO Ian Schafer says no other platform is built for capturing the moment as well as Twitter. “Twitter is one of the purest forms of what everyone is buzzing about, which is native advertising,” says Schafer.” A brand can wrap itself within the conversation on Twitter, instead of just around the conversation. That really doesn’t exist on any other platform.”
Despite the rapid pace at which Twitter is developing its advertising products, the metrics of choice are still retweets, favorites, and followers. Here are a few tips from Dan Zarella at Hubspot, who conducted a study of nearly 200,000 tweets to identify the properties that made them effective.
Add a call to action: The easiest way to get people to click on a link? Just ask them. Even a simple call to action such as “Click Here” increases the likelihood of people clicking on a link. Here are the most effective calls to action you can ask users to do: Download, Retweet, Follow, and Reply.
Include images: Like Facebook, Twitter is prioritizing visuals, and it now shows previews of tweeted photos directly in the Twitter stream. This is where a strong, attractive visual stands out in a sea of text. Bonus points if you include a Vine video.
Be human: The brands that comment on real-time events like the rest of us would get the most followers. Twitter users don’t mind a self-promotional message as long as it is funny, entertaining, and part of a conversation that makes users feel they’re in on a joke. Check out, for example, this series of tweets from DiGiorno Pizza, which almost tripled its Twitter followers through its wacky live tweeting of NBC’s The Sound of Music Live show.
Post at the right time: Contrary to what you might think, it’s OK, and even beneficial, for brands to tweet on the weekends. Research found the click-through rate for tweets on weekends to be higher than those posted Monday through Thursday. Also, tweet in the afternoon instead of the morning.
Promoted Tweets and Accounts: Since it went public last fall, Twitter has also been ramping up its paid product offerings. Much like Facebook, its core service is targeting users with Promoted Tweets, which can include calls to action, links to branded content, or attached images that double as display ads. Promoted Tweets now come with conversion tracking, a feature that allows advertisers to track sales activity directly attributed to the Promoted Tweet.
In addition, brands can utilize Promoted Accounts to get more people to follow them on Twitter. As an added bonus to advertisers paying for Promoted Accounts, they get top billing in Twitter search results for their industry or business.
Lead-Generation Cards: Huge’s McCaffrey says the most exciting new feature for B2B marketers is Twitter’s Lead-Generation Cards. These allow marketers to not just promote a message, but also to capture valuable information about the user (such as their email address and location) through a call-to-action button. In some ways it is more engaging than a Promoted Tweet because it is based on a visual, which stands out in a stream of text. Twitter allows integration with CRM platforms such as Oracle Eloqua and Salesforce ExactTarget to upload the leads directly into the enterprise’s database.
TV Targeting: Twitter is also the social media network most associated with television, which provides a unique second-screen marketing opportunity for brands. Twitter users love to use the platform to tweet about live events and comment on television shows. Second-screen viewing has become a huge part of enhancing the television experience, and Twitter is now offering a part of it to marketers with its TV Targeting feature. This allows brands who are running commercials during a particular TV show to then hit people who talk about that show on Twitter with a one-two punch, following up with a Promoted Tweet or a Promoted Account. Since Twitter can identify who is talking about those TV shows, it can provide advertisers with a very effective audience targeting strategy.
Brand case study: Arby’s
Restaurant chain Arby’s recently got a lot of praise for its real-time marketing on Twitter with its tweet about singer Pharrell Williams’ hat. During his performance at this year’s Grammy Awards, Williams was wearing a ridiculous-looking hat, and many viewers noted its resemblance to Arby’s logo. The Arby’s social media machine jumped on the opportunity to join the conversation, by cheekily asking Pharrell for their hat back.
That tweet was retweeted over 82,000 times, with 48,000 favorites. It also got plenty of earned media coverage in the press. Arby’s social media manager Josh Martin says one moment of real-time marketing had very real quantifiable returns. “The impact of that one Tweet is mind-blowing,” he adds. “Our PR firm estimates that the advertising equivalency would be 84 million impressions, with a $22 million price tag.”
In order to capitalize on serendipitous events such as these, Martin says it’s important to set guidelines early, and then let the social media team run with it, removing the need for a cumbersome approval process. Writing on Twitter’s business blog, he says:
From the beginning, I established clear brand voice guidelines. We keep the tone of all our Tweets fun, humorous and playful. We also have strict guardrails around what we participate in and what topics are off limits.
The result? There is no onerous approval process. We have a core team that includes [people from] brand, legal, customer relations, and public relations who are all on the same page. We do a lot of advance planning, but we’ve also built in enough flexibility to make decisions in the moment that matter most.
However, Arby’s Twitter strategy doesn’t just rely on waiting for an opportunity to be funny. The brand also utilizes several Twitter advertising tools to manage and promote its presence.
First it focused on using Promoted Accounts to grow its Twitter following, which increased 300% in 2013 year over year. For Promoted Tweets, Arby’s says it monitors the performance of organic tweets and then puts money behind the ones that are doing well. In this way, the tone and content of the sponsored tweets resemble the organic tweets.
Arby’s also made use of Lead-Generation Cards, using them to sign up users for its email marketing program. It says leads generated through Twitter have a 31% higher mail open rate than average. It also found higher engagement with TV ad targeting, using it to extend a promotion for its new brisket sandwich.
LinkedIn works especially well for b-to-b marketers, since the people on the platform already expect to operate in a business environment. This means they are more open to being approached for sales opportunities and more likely to click on content that is relevant to their industry and profession. 50% of LinkedIn users report they are much likely to buy from a company they’ve engaged with on LinkedIn, with 80% reporting they were open to connecting with companies on the platform. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, people on LinkedIn don’t necessarily mind interacting with brands trying to sell them something, and, in many cases, it is one of the reasons they are there in the first place.
Another added advantage for marketers is that there are very few fake user profiles on LinkedIn. Since it is a professional network, everybody is trying to market themselves and get discovered, making it a fertile ground for effective audience targeting.
LinkedIn has also based much of its value add for brands around content marketing. Through its integration with the Pulse app, it now rivals Facebook as a platform for consuming the news, and currently drives more traffic to b-to-b blogs and sites than Facebook and Twitter combined. By posting your content on LinkedIn, there is an opportunity to not only build your brand’s image, but also capture a sales lead. Here’s how to optimize that content, with both organic reach and paid strategies.
Company Pages: The most effective way to guarantee an audience for your content is to get LinkedIn users to follow your Company Page. LinkedIn’s content algorithm delivers news content that it thinks will be beneficial to its users, but it also prioritizes articles posted by the companies they follow. This is a great way to get exposure for your blog post, infographic, demo video, or any other piece of marketing content. As for what makes a post organically attractive, much of the same guidelines as Facebook apply. Updates do better with rich media, such as images or video, and posters are encouraged to “think like journalists” by writing concise, attention-grabbing, and relevant headlines for their posts.
Admins can also ask to receive Trending Topics, a LinkedIn feature that informs them about the trending conversations on the platform. This makes it easier to respond with a relevant blog post, or add to the conversation by posting related links.
The best times to post to LinkedIn are at the start and end of the professional work day, when people are most likely to check the platform. This means 7am to 9am, and 5pm to 6pm.
Follow Company ads: Another way to build a following is to pay for “Follow Company” ads, which encourage members to follow your Company Page. Once a new member clicks on this ad and joins the page, the action will be broadcast to their network, further amplifying the message.
LinkedIn Analytics: Company Page admins have access to LinkedIn Analytics, which provides stats on the most engaging posts, the demographics of followers, and performance of competitor brands’ pages.
Sponsored Updates: Brands can use Sponsored Updates to deliver specific, targeted content to unique groups of users that are separate to page followers. The updates show up in users’ News Feeds, much like native advertising, resembling the look of an ordinary status update. Sponsored Updates also come equipped with real-time analytics, so marketers can immediately respond to the performance of a post by tweaking it for improvement.
Content and display ads: LinkedIn offers simple display ads that marketers can buy for placement on LinkedIn Pages, profiles, search results, and groups. These ads can be as simple as links to a company website, or they can contain access to content, such as a download link for a whitepaper or registration link to a webinar.
Sponsored InMail: Brands can use LinkedIn’s InMail feature to send targeted, private messages to lead prospects.
LinkedIn API: Content marketers can use the LinkedIn API to gate their content so users have to login through LinkedIn to access it. This gives them valuable user information to use as leads.
Branded communities: Marketers can create a forum around a specific conversation, use ads to get the right people to join it, and then show them branded content once they are a part of the community.
Brand case study: HubSpot
Inbound marketing software platform HubSpot is one of the biggest producers of content about digital marketing. It used LinkedIn’s platform to successfully gain a following that regularly consumed that content, as well as to generate high-quality sales opportunities. Here’s what it invested in:
Building the Company Page: HubSpot posts content to its Company Page with the philosophy of posting information that helps its followers do their jobs better. It regularly posts articles about stats and best practices for inbound marketing. At the same time, its goal is to sell software to customers, so it uses the page to post fresh information about products and key events/webinars that are coming up. The page’s following has grown from 16,000 followers in 2012 to over 60,000 followers today.
Branded Group: HubSpot was also responsible for creating and running the Inbound Marketing discussion group on LinkedIn, which currently has over 103,000 members. It is a great resource for engaging customers with helpful discussions, sharing ideas, and networking opportunities, which goes a long way in prospecting sales leads.
Sponsored Updates: The company reported lead-generating success with the use of Sponsored Updates to promote its content. HubSpot created e-books, webinars and how-to-guides and then delivered that content to targeted audiences. The updates showed up alongside organic posts in users’ LinkedIn feeds, greatly increasing their click-through rate. HubSpot reported 400% more leads generated within its targeted audiences during the campaign, more than any other social media channel.
“LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates are the perfect marriage between its professional audience and our promotional content,” says HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe. “This tool doesn’t just deliver leads – it brings us quality prospects in our target business-to-business market, at a cost per lead that makes sense for our business.”
LinkedIn Ads: Another paid strategy HubSpot deployed was LinkedIn Ads, which show up as a series of links at the bottom right corner of users’ LinkedIn home pages. HubSpot says it achieved a click-through rate of 0.1–0.3%, which it says is 60% higher than what it achieves for similar ads across other social media networks. Crucially, it achieved a CPC of $3, which it says is a fraction of what it pays for paid search advertising.
For many marketers, Tumblr can be a scary place. It’s mostly inhabited by a very young audience of teens and millenials, who are less than welcoming when it comes to a corporate presence. It is also filled with plenty of quirky, weird, and often just plain old deviant content that can look like a risk to traditional enterprises. However, brands that find a way to embrace the quirkiness and align it with their own voice have seen plenty of success for their content. The key to winning on Tumblr is to create entertaining, compelling, and highly visual content that gets reblogged on its own merit. It’s why Tumblr has been so loathe to embrace any sort of traditional display advertising, preferring to keep all posts “native.” It doesn’t even use the word advertising for its paid products, it’s all strictly “sponsored posts;” that is, content that looks like a regular Tumblr user could have made it, but that happens to be sponsored.
Tumblr has an in-house team of brand consultants called CANVAS, whose job it is to educate marketers on how to use the platform without irritating its users by being overly commercial. “There are usually two groups in every company we work with, one that asks ‘how many people are going to buy our product’ as a result of the sponsored post, and another that wants to measure brand affinity or brand love,” says David Hayes, the head of CANVAS. “We work better with that group.”
The CANVAS team works with brands to identify the many niche groups present on Tumblr, coming up with strategies for content that can fit into those micro communities organically. For example, it got IKEA to post images for a Tumblr community weirdly centered around unmade beds. “Identifying the right tribe is easy enough, but brands still have to focus on telling a story, instead of selling a product,” says Hayes. “They don’t always have to have calls to action or be sales-heavy in their branded content.”
Measuring direct sales and returns on Tumblr is difficult and not necessarily the point of advertising on the platform. Marketers have to learn to embrace the weirdness, and become part of the communities, which in turn help the brand’s image and may inspire followers to view it in a more positive light.
Here are Tumblr’s tips for creating posts that are most likely to get reblogged or liked.
Create attractive visuals: Tumblr is famous for being the platform that popularized animated GIFs. Custom GIFs get far more engagement than static photos because it requires less effort to view them (no additional clicks needed, unlike video) and there is plenty of potential to be funny, smart, and engaging. It is also easy to tell a simple story in an animated GIF and doesn’t require a lot of investment from the viewer. GE uses Tumblr to post about science and technology, usually pairing an eye-catching GIF with an informative caption, showing that a brand doesn’t necessarily have to be quirky on Tumblr, as long as the visuals are attractive.
Compared to other social media channels, Tumblr offers far more choices when it comes to posting content, including audio, video, quotes, chats, and links. This gives marketers a wide variety of content to push, keeping things fresh and interesting.
Engagement begets engagement: In order to give your posts a greater chance of getting reblogged, it helps to be a big reblogger of other users’ posts. Not only does it help your Tumblr page show up in more places, it also increases the chances of fellow users returning the favor.
Tag your content: Use Google Trends to figure out what types of search terms are trending and then tag your content accordingly. You can also use the Featured Tags on Tumblr’s search page and try to tailor your posts around them.
Sponsored Posts: Brands can promote their posts on mobile and web platforms to increase engagement. The Sponsored Posts will be shown in users’ Dashboards, where they view a stream of the latest posts from Tumblr blogs they follow.
Sponsored Radar: Radar is a rotating showcase present on users’ Dashboards, where Tumblr highlights posts it thinks are exceptionally good. This coveted spot is now being offered to brands, where their post will typically get around 120 million impressions and drive further engagement.
Sponsored Spotligh: Spotlight is a Tumblr page that curates and recommends the best blogs to follow on the platform. Brands can pay to get top billing on this page in a category of their choice, such as Autos, Entertainment, Fashion, or Gaming.
Analytics: Tumblr offers analytics for its blog admins, which measure the performance of posts and their engagement stats. It also allows for integration with third-party analytics providers for more powerful data analysis, such as Google Analytics and Union Metrics.
Brand case study: Denny’s Diner
No brand embraces the characteristic quirkiness of the Tumblr platform more enthusiastically than Denny’s. The restaurant chain has come to be known as “Tumblr’s Diner,” with its regular posting of wacky GIFs, surreal imagery, and its clever referencing of pop culture and news events.
Here are some of the GIFs you can find on its page:
People who might not have been fans of Denny’s food are now at least willing to give it a second chance because they’ve become fans of the chain’s highly entertaining Tumblr activity. The wackiness has also inspired other Tumblr users to submit their own GIFs, photos, and fan art as they all come together, forming a Denny’s fan community.
“Denny’s has the best brand Tumblr I’ve ever seen,” says Digg’s social media editor, Veronica de Souza, speaking to The Daily Dot. “It’s not desperate or fake or trying too hard. It is just simple, great content that gets people thinking about their brand, and, more importantly, it makes people want to go to Denny’s.”
As a marketing platform, Instagram is fairly new and it only recently rolled out its first paid products. Much like Tumblr, it sought to introduce ads in a native format, i.e. beautiful images that just happened to be owned by brands. Its advertising program is still in its early test phase, and it has only extended those products to a handful of partners such as Michael Kors, Ben and Jerry’s, and Levi’s. However, that test program gave Instagram more than a few insights into what makes an effective marketing campaign on the platform, which it bundled into a handbook for marketers. The book contains case studies on the advertising efforts of the initial partner brands, as well as tips and tricks for posting the right content.
“We offer tools and resources for businesses and brands – through a handbook – so they can engage with the Instagram community in a meaningful way,” said an Instagram spokesperson in a statement. “These resources serve as a way for businesses to be inspired and follow in the footsteps of some of the most creative organizations on Instagram.”
Currently, the only difference between sponsored posts on Instagram and regular posts by brands are the extended reach given to the ads. Brands are encouraged to keep their sponsored posts exactly the same as anything they would naturally post on the account. This means striving for the same qualities of beautiful, visually compelling images that add aesthetic value to any user’s feed.
While taking great pictures helps, Facebook-owned Instagram provided a few other insights it gained from the success of some brands using its platform:
1. Be true to your brand: Ensure your imagery expresses a clearly defined personality and voice. Photos from eyeglass retailer @warbyparker, featured in the handbook, never feel overly staged or serious, but instead draw from trends in the Instagram community to reflect the company’s quirky creativity.
2. Share experiences: Offer a view into the world or lifestyle that your brand makes possible through the eyes of the people who use your products and services. The customer images and videos shared by @gopro prompt viewers to wonder what moments they could capture with a GoPro camera.
3. Find beauty everywhere: Show how your company sees the world and make it meaningful to people. @generalelectric showcases the beauty of their technology by transporting people to giant jet engine factories and remote wind farms, capturing the machines with elegant symmetry and imparting the grand scale of these manmade wonders.
4. Inspire action: Start a movement around your brand, whether that means inspiring people to capture photos while running, like the #runfree campaign from @nikerunning, or to celebrate a delicious yogurt concoction, as @chobani has done with its #creationaday hashtag.
5. Know your audience: Learn what people love about your brand, and explore how you can capture the imagination of new customers. @missionbicycle takes the beautiful simplicity that customers love about its bicycles and uses imagery on Instagram to turn these everyday objects into works of art.
Brand case study: Ben and Jerry’s
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream was one of the first brands to take part in Instagram’s pilot advertising program, with the goal of increasing awareness about a new flavor and the brand in general.
The ads for its new Scotchy Scotch Scotch flavor ran for an eight-day period in November, targeted at users aged 18-35 within the US. The four sponsored photos included a shot of the ice cream in its carton, in a cone, and even floating amongst the clouds. Each image showed up in users’ feeds just once, with users seeing an ad an average of three times in total.
As a result, Ben and Jerry’s reported that the campaign reached 9.8 million users in the US, with a 33-point increase in ad recall – 17% more people reported becoming more aware of the brand’s new flavor and associated it with Ben and Jerry’s.
Today, Ben and Jerry’s has one of the most-followed Instagram accounts, and one of the keys to its success has been its online personality. The photos are whimsical and irreverent, just like the brand, and the account also has plenty of user-submitted pictures. A common practice for fans is to take a shot of their Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream cone over an interesting background to show where they are.
Of all the platforms in this feature, Pinterest is the only one to not have a full-fledged advertising product. It is currently testing Promoted Pins that would function similarly to the native ad format used by Tumblr and Pinterest, but that has yet to be deployed on scale. For now, marketers are using Pinterest to highlight their products, drive traffic to their websites, and highlight branded content, all things for which the platform is exceedingly well suited.
Pinterest is a way for users to create and curate online content they find interesting, but the platform really should be called Pinspiration, because nearly all the content posted to it is aspirational in some way. The content that resonates the most on Pinterest is usually something that helps users become a better version of themselves. This is why categories such as health, beauty, and fashion are so prevalent on the site. The big message for brands is to push content to Pinterest that is genuinely enriching users’ lives.
Here are the tools brands can use to reach audiences on Pinterest:
Promoted Pins: Currently still in the testing phase, these are sponsored pins from brands that will be promoted in user feeds to increase brand awarenesss and clickthroughs to a specific product or piece of content.
Rich Pins: These are special types of formats for pins that are optimized for rich content such as movies, recipes, articles, products, and places. They work well for adding more details to a pin that is just a simple image and caption.
Pin It Buttons: An icon brands can add to their products or content that allows it to be pinned with a single click to a user’s Pin board.
Analytics: This tracks the performance of Pins on your website, including stats on most popular Pins and how they are being shared. The most popular Pins can also be highlighted on a website to increase the sharing of popular content.
Tips for getting more clicks on pins
Vertical pins work better: Pinterest’s layout is optimized for mobile, which means it is designed for vertical scrolling. Since that’s the case, pictures with a vertical aspect ratio (thin and long) look better in the layout. Users go up to down in a Pinterest layout, so make sure you keep that in mind when designing your images and pins.
For Pin descriptions, the longer the better: When producing descriptions under the pin, it is better to write something longer and more descriptive, and it is eminently more useful for the person viewing it. Not only is it more likely to get shared, it is also more likely to show up in search results because of the additional words you can fit into the description.
Positive, upbeat messages work better than neutral ones: What distinguishes Pinterest from other social media networks is its focus on aspirational images and lifestyles. Because of that, snark, sarcasm, or being too clever doesn’t work as well as honest, upbeat, and positive messages that resonate with the viewer. The Pin has to enrich the viewer’s life in some way, bring them one step closer to the ideal version of themselves. Recognizing this is a helpful way to guide everything you write beneath an image.
Brand case study: Sephora
Beauty products retailer Sephora used three strategies to promote its brand through Pinterest:
Make it easy to Pin items from the Sephora website: To improve the discoverability of the brand and help customers share and promote their favorite products, Sephora added thousands of Pin It buttons to different product pages. This resulted in Pinterest becoming a top 10 referring site for sephora.com.
Promote Pins in email marketing: Daily emails to customers were an effective way to reach customers for Sephora, and, to capitalize on that reach, it started adding Pin It buttons to products directly in the email. Now, instead of having to visit the website to pin a product they liked, customers could simply do it directly from the Sephora email they received. In the month following the first email campaign, Sephora saw 60% growth in traffic from Pinterest.
Highlight top Pins and trends to drive sales: With the use of Pinterest Web Analytics, Sephora was able to identify the kinds of products that got the most repins. It promoted these prominently on the company website, correctly assessing the pinning popularity to be a predictor of sales. It also added “It Lists” to its Pinterest page, which were boards curated by Sephora staff that highlighted their favorite products as well as special products tips and tricks. The quality content and recommendations from Sephora staff resulted in highly effective sales nurturing on the platform, with the company reporting that a Pinterest follower was likely to spend 15 times more money than a Facebook fan.
“When we create content for our site or emails, we think of additional ways we can help the story along on Pinterest,” says Sephora CMO and chief digital officer Julie Bornstein, speaking to Pinterest’s business blog. “We use web analytics to look at top Pins, test quote layouts from brand founders, and try different product shots—we spend time learning about what works and experiment often to get it right.”