It’s a long time since I was new to a social network. Having been asked to evaluate the business opportunity of social media in about 2009, I’ve been “socializing” digitally ever since. During the course of that research, it just so happens that I also had one of those really embarrassing moments in life…… But today it was time to take a step back and really look at the JEM 9 Instagram account; a good opportunity to reflect on what it takes for an organization to get started on a new social network. But first let’s go back to 2009 and what was not “my finest hour” on social media (as Blondie might say).
Social Media in 2009
Starting my social media research back in 2009 Twitter made sense straight away. I may already have been on LinkedIn, and I don’t recall my early Facebook impressions nor indeed the complete list of these new social networks considered. MySpace did not make the cut as it was unrelated to our customer personas. But I do recall wandering around Second Life looking for business relevance. It did not sit easy with me. Despite considering myself a Geek Girl, I found Second Life disorienting and without a joystick I was unequipped for the job. Reminding myself the goal was to get a broad portrait of social networks I championed on. It did not feel like a good use for corporate time.
Then I struck gold; the IBM Virtual Data Center.
I too was in the data center software business. Perfect. (You can see more images of the virtual data center here).
Lessons from Second Life for Interactive Marketing
“Picture this“: a digital two storey “structure” similar in layout and styling to a physical demo center; “a small resemblance of something more solid“. At the entrance an interactive display board to browse and download various brochures, entering the main reception area there is a wide staircase to the left, and to the right a demo center ‘visible’ through glass walls. It was “a total portrait with no omissions”; exactly what I expected of a data center demo center. Impressive and useful. You could go into the virtual data center and view 3D digital depictions of the various products on offer.
Thankfully the reception desk was staffed with kind people one of whom helped me out of a corner literally. Well, digitally. A blondie avatar / person said; ‘Can I help you at all?’ in several different way while I desperately tried to find the messaging box!! It turns out I could not easily exit the Second Life program from where I was, stuck, in a corner of that virtual data center.
I can still feel the kindness of my rescuer as she explained; she worked in sales for IBM’s data center offers, and what key strokes would get me out of that corner where “I” was facing the wall. This experience was a great reminder that there is always a real person on the other end of that avatar.
We had a good chat about customers. It always good to talk to your sales people about what customers are asking. The questions she was getting were typical questions but the number of customers was small. Different social networks suit different businesses. Second life remains ahead of its time. For the moment it’s a game with social aspects.
Social Media Marketing & Branding
Same, Same, But Different
As was the case with the IBM Virtual Data Center, when you are getting started on a new social network, you’ll want your new social branding to be visually consistent and immediately recognizable. This also goes for the tone of your communications. Yes, social media is largely person to person. And no, funny dog videos are not for everyone. In other words, social is still about your audience.
Setting up JEM 9 on social networks, I aimed for consistency in naming and use of the JEM 9 logo. Since “JEM 9” was unavailable in some places, I choose JEM9dotCom. So Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and our example today Instagram are all JEM9dotCom. When getting started on new social networks check what names are available and make sense for your organization.
In another example Lex Consultancy did a good job of maintaining the look and feel across their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts as well as with their Twitter profile pic.
When it comes to the different networks I think of social media branding as: same, same but different (although I have not actually seen that movie). This means: consistency where appropriate / possible, plus flexibility to work within the constraints of the new social network.
Understand How the Social Network Works
Instagram Desktop Versus Mobile View
While Instagram is largely a mobile network for the 200+ million users, there is also a desktop view. And a very fine one at that. How this operates is a good example of getting to grips with the specific social network. On Instagram the desktop view automatically refreshes showing both older and newer posts. The effect is more subtle than a website slider partly because Instagram pictures are all square. But still gorgeous.
The mobile view, on the other hand, shows posts in the sequence they were uploaded. Bear this in mind for first time visitors. There is only one chance to make a first impression. Most mobile phone screens show up to the six most recent posts. The longer your Instagram bio the less photos show on screen.
With so many social media users on mobile, it is always a good idea to test your new social network profile on both desktop and mobile devices.
Social Media Marketing Content
Quality content appropriate for the social network and your customer is core to a successful social media plan. Twitter and LinkedIn are a mix of visual and written content with the former constrained to 140 characters and the latter allowing full blog posts. Instagram and Pinterest are primarily visual. Sticking with our Instagram example, at present the only option is posting from a SmartPhone. All pictures are square which needs to be considered when taking photos. Or rather, your content marketing plan needs to be reviewed when getting started on a new social network.
How To Use Instagram (& Other Social Networks) For Marketing
Posting to Instagram
The Instagram Apps provide the ability to both crop square and add various filters; everything you need to post to Instagram. There’s also the option to add the location where the photo was taken; really useful for the likes of restaurants and bars. Although you will quickly start to dive into the world of social media marketing tools and apps, take some time to listen and dabble before opening your wallet.
Instagram Engagement & Social Media Goals
As with most social networks there is a method of indicating to users’ that they have been mentioned and Instagram uses the @ symbol to tag other people. You can use this to start communicating with those who liked or commented on your posts. On social media the key word is ‘social’. Once you have your profile set up, the first step will be to build your tribe. This is an integral part of your marketing plan and campaign planning.
On Instagram there are two ways of driving traffic to your website. The primary method is the via the link in your profile (see the screenshot above). This can be changed as often as you like for example to align with your current marketing campaign. You will want to make it clear where your prospects will land when they click. Make the web address descriptive.
The second location for a call to action is in the comments field which are associated with each Instagram photo. Here you can add; #hashtags so your contribution shows up in searches, and any other text. This example includes a URL (web address) short enough and easy to remember; links are not clickable in the comments.
Ultimately your objective is to use social media to support the goals of your organization. For most this will mean some brand awareness and being what Austin Kleon calls ‘a good citizen’ of your social community but also driving potential customers back to your website. As with other marketing, getting started with a new social network and all social media marketing should include identifying appropriate metrics.
You can follow JEM 9 on Instagram where post are about digital marketing.