I’ve been talking about original content a lot during the past year, mostly about how important it is and what the general uses of things are. Along with the usual topics I like to cover, I thought it would be a great idea to start talking about various social media channels and delivery options, and how you can maximize your impact on those platforms.
Instagram is a platform I started using only about two years ago for our store, and I’ve been experimenting with a variety of types of photos and themes to see what sticks. So far, the account is a bit of a mish mosh. Lately, I’ve been doing research on ways to make it more cohesive, and thinking about the tools I can use and how I can take my use of this platform to the next level, and deliver truly memorable content to our followers.
1. Establish Your Aesthetic Theme
One of the important things when considering Instagram as a platform is that you should establish an aesthetic theme in your images and videos. You want to be consistent with the type of content you deliver, and how you deliver it. As I said, thus far, I’ve been experimenting with different themes to see what gains interest with consumers. There are a variety of different approaches to Instagram for MI retail, but the two that I’ve found to be most effective are artistic well-shot product photos and “behind the scenes” photos that give viewers a glimpse of the inner workings of your store. Now that I know my viewers primarily respond to those things, they’re where I’ll be focused on and committed to going forward.
2. Consider The Grid
I believe I mentioned my friend Paul Tobias
(@tobiasmusicguitars) account in my “Content Is King” series last year. Like me, Paul is a photographer, and he puts those skills to great use on his store’s Instagram page. When you scroll through the Tobias Music Instagram page, as you make your way down the photo history, or grid, you’ll notice a high level of consistency among his posts. He has a highly developed aesthetic theme, and sticks to it. By doing so, his grid appears very pleasing to the eye. There’s rarely anything that doesn’t fit within the theme he’s created over time, and when there is, it’s of significance. I don’t know if Paul considers the grid when he’s planning out his posts, but his is among the best I’ve seen in this industry.
3. Tag Manufacturers
Always tag manufacturers both in the posts, as well as the description, and use relevant hashtags for those brands and brand categories. Manufacturers often repost those tagged images and videos, and their fans will often then choose to follow your account based on that content. It’s a great way to build up your following and expand your reach. Fans of certain brands and topics will also search for content tagged with particular brand names, so also be sure to use those brand names as hashtags in the content description. I’ve gained plenty of followers for my Upperhand Studios Music & Video (@upperhandstudios) account, which is my home recording studio and video production business, this way. I even tag things for the gear I’m using to make content. In my July 4 video, I used a DJI Mavic Pro drone (#dji, #mavicpro, @djiglobal), an Ikan camera slider (#ikan, @ikancorp) and Canon cameras (#canon, #canon70D, @Canonusa). None of those things have anything to do with the music retail business, but they raised my number of views and gained me followers. Anytime you can leverage your content to expand your reach, and potential customer base, you should.
4. Be Creative With Angles
When you’re considering a shot, think about the most common way that guitar or that ukulele would be photographed, and then do something else. Find a new context to place it in, take it out of the store, frame it through another object or just shoot it at an atypical angle. These are all old-hat tricks among professional photographers to liven up images, especially ones that are commonplace. While photos of, say, trumpets aren’t nearly as common as landscapes, they’re common enough in our industry that a photo of a trumpet on a wall is a pretty stale approach.
5. Curate Your Account
If you want to seriously leverage the power of social media, and of Instagram as a platform, it’s important to understand that it’s a digital representation of who you are, and sends a strong and instant message to your viewers. The folks over at Chicago Music Exchange (@chicagomusicexchange) are absolute masters at leveraging the immediacy of the Instagram platform with eye-candy content that’s immediately visually appealing and engages their viewers. Their posts are thought out, composed, and elevate both their brand and the products they have to offer. You can almost hear the jaws dropping as you read through the comments on their posts. This is a prime example of knowing your audience and delivering content to them for maximum engagement. Remember: Instagram is your free catalog to the world, and should be just as thought out as the glossy manufacturer catalogs we all used to leaf through when they were handed out at the beginning of the year.
6. Use Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories is one of my favorite updates to arrive on the platform. I love photography, and love to share great photos of products. Uploading composed videos that I’ve filmed and edited to Instagram, such as my recent July 4 video, is also something I greatly enjoy. Those are prime examples of composed content that’s a curated catalog, and both do especially well at showing products. Back in Tip No. 1, I also talked about how sharing behind-the-scenes posts has been a popular thing among my viewers. Instagram Stories is one of my favorite delivery options for that type of content. I see and use it as an incredibly powerful and simple editing tool for video. Each post on my Instagram story is like a cut in a video. This type of fast-paced shooting is particularly effective in vlogging, or video blogging, which translates really well to an Instagram story. I’ll use individual snippets just like shots in a movie to walk my viewers through parts of my day, such as a neck angle adjustment on a Taylor guitar, or receiving new inventory, and give viewers that interesting behind-the-scenes look at the life of an MI retailer.
7. Go The Extra Mile
One of my favorite music store accounts on all of Instagram is Spicer’s Music (@spicersmusicllc). I don’t know if Tim Spicer or one of his staff members makes all this content themselves, but they really put a lot of thought and time into generating content for Instagram. Every post is well shot on a DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera), well lit, thought out and really delivers for their viewers. They post regularly, and clearly work really hard at generating great content on this platform. These guys are using DSLRs and photo and video editing software for every single post. I admire their hard work and spirit, and seeing how much they’re crushing their Instagram makes me want to work even harder and do more.
8. Use Other Apps To Edit Your Photos
I’m a big fan of taking photos with my DSLR, editing them in Lightroom, then exporting them and sharing them via Airdrop to my phone to upload to Instagram. If that sounds like a lot of work, see the above tip about going the extra mile. If you’re not super tech savvy, try apps like Snapseed and VSCO for photo editing or Lens Distortions to add light hits, and take those outdoor photos to the next level. And don’t be afraid to use both the filters and editing tools inside the Instagram app, too. It’s so easy to just snap a boring photo and slap a filter on it and call it done. Those who take extra time to up their game and deliver the best possible photos and videos will gain more followers, and more potential customers, which will result in increased visibility and sales. It also lets your customers and vendors know you’re serious about social media and thinking about how to make the most out of your store and what it has to offer.
How are you using Instagram to reach out and raise your brand awareness? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.