This campaign was interesting and fun as it was the first time I tried Instagram as a lead gen channel, rather than taking pictures of cars or our cat. Combined with SEO strategies, this case study resulted in an overall 400% increase in sales.
A new business asked me to help to drive traffic to their site through inbound channels (without paid assistance). Starting from scratch with no other sources of traffic besides the occasional Facebook referral, it was the perfect oppotunity to try something new. The product is a locally relevant, custom made item which is both targeted to Richmond, VA and highly visual. Without giving it away, if you’ve ever been to Richmond you’ve definitely seen these on the backs of cars, fixie bikes, storefronts, etc. This business takes it one step further with highly customized versions- similar enough to be recognizable but different enough for personalization and individuality.
The Rubber Hits The Road
Starting in early August, I created an Instagram account and immediately started sharing pictures of the product. I decided to use Instagram for this experiment because the product is image-based (text won’t do it justice), the network is mobile, and most importantly, the target audience can be reached through a single hashtag – #RVA (shorthand for Richmond, VA). Richmond is a particularly hipster town, so naturally that contributed to the platform choice too.
For about 15 minutes a day, I engaged with prospects who exhibited an interest in Richmond through their use of the #RVA hashtag. This is an easy way to do outreach because two things can be assumed about people using the hashtag: they live in Richmond and/or they love Richmond enough to snap a picture. Engagement consisted of liking photos, leaving comments, and following influential Richmonders. Specifically, I was looking for photos of Richmond landmarks including parks and restaurants, the Richmond skyline, sports, and especially pictures taken by my social personas.
The Importance of Social Personas
Effectiveness in social media is all about getting the greatest return for your time & effort (paid social is different). With this in mind, social personas help target audiences more effectively, affording greater efficiency when deciding who and what to engage with. Personas should be at the heart of any social media strategy, since they are representations of your audience. You might be acting on content but the purpose to is engage people. Personas are the perfect way to bridge the gap between social content and social participants.
For this campaign, my ideal audience were Richmonders between the ages of 20 and 35 who live in or around the city. They like to get out and do things, take pride in the River City, and most importantly, take pictures of their activities. To narrow this down even further, I apply some general observations I’ve made about RVA, having lived and doing SEO in Richmond for more than 2 years. Using these criteria, I created the Richmonder social personas.
In my mind, the typical Richmond guy looks like this:
The typical Richmond gal looks like this:
Together, they take pictures that look like this:
Personas in Practice
Once on the hunt under the #RVA hashtag, I keep my social personas in mind to find content they might have posted. After experimenting for a bit, some pictures began sticking out more than others. By learning from the effort I put into, and what I get out of, each micro-interaction, it became easier to spot viable content:
Once this content was identified, I liked and commented on them with the branded Instagram account. Every once in a while I’d follow someone, but I always made sure to follow customers. Even the Instagram account bio was tailored to my social persona, and included a link to the website. I found most people don’t actually use this link, but it served to reinforce the brand and web address.
By tying together Instagram account names and order names, I found most of this audience came to the site through direct visits. The analytics also suggested that although Instagram was the main touch point, people shopped and made their purchases on desktops.
After a few months of doing this for only a few minutes a day, the Instagram account grew at a steady pace:
I couldn’t help doing some SEO too, and moved the 2 “money terms” from rank 20 & 25 to 2 & 3, above the Image Onebox:
And finally, sales:
In short, this was an interesting marketing endeavor into a channel I hadn’t used before. This method worked so well that I began a contest in which we pick our favorite Instagram photo of the product in the wild every month, and winners get a free item from the site. We include instructions on how to enter the contest in the envelope with every order (take a picture of it, tag us and use the #RVA hashtag). This worked so well it could be applied to anyproduct; stickers, Richmond gift boxes, merchandise, tee-shirts, food, and more.
I don’t know what the future of paid advertising with Instagram will be, but I’ve found old-fashioned engagement using personas works just fine. Organic reach is an excellent way to do this, through hashtags and proper image formatting (such as the proper way to make Instagram spaces).