I would just like to start off by saying that I have no social media training and my observations are made from growing Baby Bubble’s Instagram account over a 2 year period, with a limited budget to 6000+ followers. However, we all know followers doesn’t necessary mean success. I do believe that our Instagram account (@baby_bubble) has been successful as it remains our best source of lead generation. Through this I have come to some observations which could be valuable for your business too.
Humans want connection, we want a sense of belonging. Connection is mentioned 21 times in this blog post. Connections is what Instagram is all about. Connections is what converts customers. Connections is what retains customers. Creating connections can be crucial towards business success.
Instagram’s algorithm is set in such a way that if your posts are engaging (from person to person, OR business to person & visa versa) they will be made visible to many. If your posts are not eliciting connection between users, it’s likely that the post may only arise with an awfully long scroll or, probably not even feature at all.
This blog post has two parts, the preparation component and the practical application component. It is going to be very difficult to be successful in the practical part if your preparation is flawed.
1.Preparation: Who are YOU? Who is your TRIBE?
2. Practical Application: Are your posts MEANINGFUL & ENGAGING? Are your images of GOOD QUALITY
1.1 Who are YOU?
An extremely important question which very often gets over looked in small businesses. Think of it like this, which friend would you prefer, one that knows who they are and who’s actions you can almost pre-empt, or someone who does not know who they are, has a poor self-esteem and who’s responses to your actions may shift like the wind. The more secure one right? It’s easier to build on such a relationship and make a connection.
Does your business have a strong identity?
It’s the same with your brand and your business. If you don’t know WHO you are, your message will come across unclear and even unauthentic. People won’t be able to form an opinion or build an ideal in their minds about your business due to the message that keeps changing. If they have no ideal or persona for your business, then they are unable to align themselves with you, and the likelihood of a connection forming is unrealistic. No connection will mean no engagement nor interest in your Instagram account which means that the account just becomes something to give you a form of legitimacy – the business exists… But it can be so much more than that, I believe Instagram is a fantastic medium which is more powerful than spamming people with newsletters or paying large sums of money for print ads. Why? It’s two-way, it can generate connections!
What makes you unique? Well, something very special about being a small business owner, is that YOU make your brand unique. YOU are what differentiates your business from your competitors. Do not fail to include posts about you. Just as the ‘About Us’ page is considered important in website development, this should also be an important consideration in your social media plan. I believe one of the successes of Baby Bubble’s Instagram profile is the fact that I have kept it true to me (the founder) which naturally made the posts authentic. People are attracted to authenticism. They will shy away from ‘fakeness’, so how do you avoid being ‘fake’? Just be YOU! Don’t be afraid of telling your story, your ideals, where your business comes from. Keep your captions in first person where appropriate so followers feel connected to your business persona. Create a personality for your business online – and to keep it authentic align it with YOURS!
This is not something new, a fantastic example of this is Richard Branson. His brand speaks of his personality. He has managed to instil his personality traits in his various businesses and create company cultures that aligns with him. It’s so much easier to create consistency across the board if you stay true to who YOU are as a business owner. Virgin is an extremely strong brand and a successful company. Richard Branson’s companies are extensions of him. And this is what sets Virgin Atlantic apart from British Airways, or Virgin Active from Planet Fitness. It has made the process of extending his brand easy, effortless and authentic.
I am not in anyway saying British Airways or Planet Fitness has poor brands. All I am saying is it is an example of a billion dollar company who has followed this approach to make connections. The narratives we create for ourselves when we consider a Virgin company, no matter which Virgin company who’s services we utilise, remain the same, the message is reliable. Making a connection for us as the consumer is easy.
We must establish business persona’s that know WHO they are, which then transcends across our social media platforms, website, staff cultures as well as customer experiences.
People have asked whether I plan Baby Bubble’s social media in advance. To a certain degree yes, as I ensure I have a bank of images. However, how I end up approaching it or creating my story around it may depend on things that might have happened in practice that week, or personal accounts. Of course, there will be some posts which are generic, but they do not do nearly as well as posts that come from a more authentic, personal space – these posts build connections, these posts define your brand, these posts boosts engagement, these posts allow your audience to build a narrative about your brand, they speak to your tribe…
1.2 Who is your TRIBE?
One of the first things we learn in business is ‘who is your target audience’. Or as Seth Godin likes to quote, ‘who is your tribe’.
I have made peace with the fact that Baby Bubble will not appeal to ALL moms. There may be thousands of babies who are born daily, but what we offer will not resonate with each and every mom.
In Seth Godin’s words “The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the centre of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone”.
I deem this absolutely true. Here we are back at the question of who YOU are? If we are serving the mass market, you can’t really, very easily, create an identity that will appeal to everyone. Consider Makro, a huge convenience store in South Africa, what personality would you give to Makro? I can not personally think of anything, as it is just a big ‘is’. I know the branding exceptionally well, I know I can get almost anything I need from there, I know it is on a big scale. But as far as a personal connection with Makro? None… I have no emotional attachment. I go there just as a matter of convenience. I am not saying you can’t be a Makro, or that it is a bad business but to satisfy everyone. You then need to stock something for everyone, which means you will probably need a large amount of capital. This is not something that the average Joe has anyway. So let’s disregard mass in this context, I am also not sure how effective a MASS market approach would be on Instagram, maybe for brand awareness yes, but I am not sure how connections would be instilled.
So Let’s consider most of us are Average Joe’s (wanting to appeal to the “not average” Joe), who don’t have huge amounts of money. Who is YOUR tribe…?
No one has a better idea of who your ideal client is than YOU. I believe it is extremely important for any person on management level to have a good idea of what is happening on the ground. I am able to identify whether a mom would potentially sign up for weekly sessions or whether she is only coming for a once-off session within the first 10 minutes of our appointment. I know this, because I know Baby Bubble’s tribe.
There are marketing strategists who can assist you in doing research to determine who your tribe is, their demographics, their psychographics, their spending habits, all through intensive market research, surveys and focus groups. However, if you are unable to afford the price tags that comes with this service, it is something you can learn by spending time on ground level as well as performing your own market research with your existing client base. Figuring out your tribe may take some time. But its important to maintain awareness of this so that you are able to generate a story, a narrative on your social media platforms that resonates with your tribe.
Be assertive and not let your own biases about your company and services drive what sorts of marketing or posts you create. In my instance I have a keen interest in the physiological benefits of hydrotherapy and baby spa sessions with regards to lung and heart development, strength development etc. I would place posts explaining these intricate details, referencing scientific studies, in an effort to portray our knowledge and the scientific base of our offerings. I also did this to ‘show’ the disbelievers we are legit and well-qualified… But disbelievers who consider Baby Bubble to be a gimmick may be a fun challenge to convert, but in all honesty, we have a very short client lifespan (the baby spa is 0 – 6 months by which time the little ones have outgrown the service), which means we have a short amount of time to illicit a conversion, to create change.. wasting energy on people who are not ‘our tribe’ takes away from opportunities where we could have converted leads from people who are part of our tribe. So, our marketing, our Instagram posts need to be directed to these people.
I do believe there is absolutely a space for these sorts of educational posts however, it does not resonate with our tribe, it does not entice interaction. It’s like a university lecturer blurting out a bunch of facts in a monotonous fashion of which there is only 5% retention. The jargon helps to build our rapport amongst our tribe, but it doesn’t build connections…
Once you know your tribe, you will know what posts will resonate with them. Align your posts, the stories that you are telling, and the messages which you spread with your tribe’s ideology. Do not waste energy on those who are not convinced, you know your truth. It’s the same as a friendship, you can’t make someone like you, they either do, or they are indifferent, or they don’t. Focus on the do’s and with sufficient effort you could also potentially convert the in-differents.
You are not just selling a baby swimming session, or a gym membership, or coffee, you are selling an ideal, a story, rendering a narrative that will align with your tribe.
This combined with WHO you are, your uniqueness, your authenticity, will strengthen your connections which will aid conversion.
2.1 Are your posts MEANINGFUL & ENGAGING?
To be able to know whether your posts are meaningful, you need to know your tribe. Analysing your followers responses to your posts could provide you such an indication.
The Instagram algorithm is ever changing to refine and filter useless information and ensure the user sees posts that are of interest, they want to get rid of spam, the less spam there is, the more time users will spend on the app. Signals for importance include interest, timeliness and relationship (aka connection). The value your followers get from your posts determines interest. Engagement in the forms of comments, answering polls, sharing posts, builds relationships. With this and including timeliness (posting when your users are active), can beat the algorithm and ensure your posts are seen by your followers which you have been working so hard for.
A mistake I did recently on Baby Bubble’s Instagram profile is posting information that did not draw sufficient meaning or engagement. With the outbreak of COVID-19 I realised that our hygiene procedures were pretty good, so I thought it would be a good idea to make that our key focus for a while. Although I still believe it is something that sets are company apart from other similar companies, the posts were not meaningful to our followers. The likes became less and less, as well as our story views, which dipped to half of what it used to be. Although I was attempting to convey a valid message, the message did not illicit emotion, interaction or engagement, and Baby Bubble’s posts quickly fell to the back of the line.
I then shifted gear, aligned my posts back to my audience, increased engagement and we managed to beat the algorithm again within a few days – although I must be honest, I did ask some friends just to like some posts and add some comments to give the profile momentum again – it worked – and the interactions from our followers followed suit!
Yet again, use Instagram to spread important messages about your company or business, but do this blanketed between posts which your tribe finds meaningful, posts which they want to see and posts which makes them feel like they want to put in the effort and pop a comment.
2.2 Are your IMAGES of good quality?
Humans are visual creatures. Half of our brain is either directly or indirectly involved in processing visual information. 65 – 80% (dependant on the study) of people are visual learners. This means 65 – 80% of your follower’s process and absorb information better that they can see. To ensure that you appeal to these followers amongst the 100s of images they see every single day on social media, you need to ensure your businesses images stand-out, are enticing, appealing and of good quality.
A poor quality photo may be cute and fine for a personal profile, but it simply is not acceptable in a business profile. The best investments I have made in my business included hiring professional photographers in order to generate content. Candid photographs are important as they offer a sense of authenticity and everyone enjoys ‘behind the scenes’ imagery. It’s absolutely worth investing in a top of the range camera phone if you want to take your businesses Instagram page to the next level.
Your own professionally taken images will also have the same look and feel across the board whereas shutterstock images often don’t carry that common thread. Plus, you may find a competitor using the same image – reducing authenticity, which does the opposite of strengthening your connections with your followers.
Instagram is primarily a visual platform. Good quality imagery, displayed in a systematic, well-thought out fashion, is not something you can work around if you want this platform to work for you.