With Instagram driving the highest engagement compared to other social networks, it’s not surprising that marketers are excited. But many wonder how to translate that engagement into real-world value. That’s where Instagram metrics can help.
In a recent industry study, we found that last year’s median engagement rate on Instagram was 1.73%. (That’s more 10x as much as Facebook, and more than 37x as much on Twitter😱.) The Instagram audience is active and clearly engaged. There are plenty of examples of how to approach Instagram (we even wrote a guide to help you out), but now that you can level up your Instagram metrics, it’s time to get deeper into Instagram marketing. By using Instagram metrics it’s possible to drive business results, not just engagement.
To understand how to create compelling Instagram campaigns that drive real results using Instagram metrics we turned to an expert on Instagram and digital strategy. Our guest in this installment of The Data-Driven Marketer is Topher Howden from Raidious. Raidious is a data-driven digital agency that creates remarkable content for brands like Lids, GoDaddy, and Angie’s List. Topher walked us through how his team approaches Instagram marketing campaigns and how they use data to excel.
In this interview conducted by our very own co-founder, Seth Bridges, Topher shares:
- How Instagram creates tangible value
- How to create campaigns to meet your goals
- Which metrics to measure and how to adjust in real-time
- Examples of successful programs and campaigns
- And so much more…
Marketers can use Rival IQ’s Instagram Insights to leverage many of the concepts Topher mentioned during the interview. With Instagram Insights, you’ll be able to go beyond the native analytics to improve your Instagram marketing efforts.
- Guide: learn over 10 ways to boost your Instagram marketing using Instagram Insights
- Webinar: Rival IQ training on how to dive deeper into your Instagram Insights
- Guide: learn from the best brands in the Ultimate Guide to Instagram
Seth: Good morning, everybody. You’re here with me, Seth Bridges, one of the founders of Rival IQ. And I am very excited about today’s conversation. Let me introduce to you all our esteemed guest for today, Mr. Topher Howden. He is director of strategy at Raidious, a data-driven digital marketing agency out of Indianapolis, Indiana. We work with a number of firms in Indianapolis. I’ve never been. I hear it’s amazing. Topher, is it amazing?
Topher: It is amazing. It’s the Midwest. The Midwest is beautiful except for in the depths of winter and the middle of allergy season, which unfortunately comprise like 80% of the year. Unfortunately. But for like two months, so perfect.
Seth: Big votes for the Midwest. I’m in Seattle. Never lived in the Midwest, but I’m going to take your word for it. Topher has very graciously agreed to come and answer my questions, answer your questions. Today’s topic, all about Instagram and using the insights that you can get both for your stories, your posts, your profile, campaigns, influencers. We’re going to kind of run through a number of things and really try to leverage Topher’s real-world expertise working with a broad array of clients – folks like Walmart, Angie’s List, Lids, Go Daddy, a lot of brands you’ve heard of and plenty more that you may or may not have heard of. Doesn’t matter, he’s doing it. He’s living it. His team is doing it and living it. And so Topher, welcome to the Data-Driven Marketer.
Topher: Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.
Seth: So, let’s jump right in. Let’s talk about your clients’ perception of Instagram. Is it a channel? Is it a platform that your clients come to you and think, “I know how to drive business from this, and here’s… I want you to help me do it.” Or do they come and say, “I need help. Instagram? Is that even for business?” How do you think about answering those questions? How do you all think about Instagram as a platform for driving results or not?
Topher: Yeah, it’s something that we struggled with early on. A lot of brands have the tendency to want to be on a new shiny platform as soon as it comes out. It’s the human nature in all of us to go, “Oh, new shiny thing. I want on there.” And for a long time, Instagram was just kind of the brand awareness platform – great for showing the behind the scenes, the day to day kind of stuff, letting people see what’s going on with your company in a perspective they may not. But it was also very hard to do anything with that. So, terrific for brand awareness at the very beginning. But I don’t remember how many posts I saw with, “Hey, link in profile.” And the click-through rates from abominable because people just wanted to stay on that feed.
As Instagram has continued to develop, I think with a lot of the Facebook money and influence that went into the platform when it was acquired, it started to trend a lot more towards you can now approach this in a lot of the same ways you would any other marketing platform or any other social platform. One of the things that we’ve gotten away from a little bit is that it only exists for that brand awareness perspective. It’s much more now…it can still be that thing, and that’s great. But you’ve got to be thinking about you can drive your customers from point A to point B here. There are a lot of clever and interesting ways that a lot of other platforms don’t have. And if you’re not taking advantage of that, you’re really missing a trick.
Seth: So, when someone comes to you and says, “I need help with social…” Maybe it comes generally as, “I need help with my social media,” has Instagram become one of the places which are a must have for most of your clients or all of your clients? Or is it still maybe not coached for everyone as, “This is a place for you to be.”
Topher: I think a lot of it is always as with a lot of things in marketing is going to be resource-driven. You know, “Do you have the time and effort to spend on another platform?” One of the things that we across every channel and every client are constantly preaching is that your audiences likely are not 100% cross over from platform to platform, to platform. Your Facebook audience isn’t your LinkedIn audience, isn’t your Twitter audience, probably isn’t your Instagram audience. There’s definitely overlap there, but they’re all existing in those places for different things.
And people use the platforms in different ways. Instagram is an entirely visual media. People aren’t typically writing there with the advent of stories and obviously text on pictures, and other things like that. You can get captions, and stickers, and everything else, but you’re not going to put up a blog post on your Instagram. Or at least please don’t. Please don’t do that. If you’re thinking about it, don’t do that. That’s not a great idea. But getting them into the understanding if you’ve got the resources to put this up here, this can be just as effective as everything else.
Seth: Let me pull on that for a second. I take it you’ve seen some bad B2B Instagram.
Topher: [Laughs] I was trying so hard not to be mean to B2B just right out of the gate here.
Seth: I’ve seen good to B2B Instagram, too.
Topher: Yes, absolutely.
Seth: You’ve seen it.
Topher: It exists.
Seth: Lots of writing.
Topher: Lots of writing. Not understanding that it is a primarily visual medium, that people are there to see very nicely composed pictures of other peoples’ food, which is something we all like even though it sounds strange when you say it. Like, “I want to see somebody’s dinner. I really want to see that.” On Instagram, that’s what you’re there for. We’re conditioned to do that, and we like it. So, when all of the sudden, a huge block of text suddenly slides up there with a gray gradient background, it’s a thumb stopper but in a really bad way. And typically, it’s an immediate unfollow or just, “Ooph, how did that happen,” kind of moment.
Seth: Yeah. We’re a B2B company. I get it. And anyone can go look. There may have been phases where bad things happened. I don’t know. But I know that for us, thinking about more of what you described around showing the behind the scenes, showing who we are, it might be most useful as a recruiting channel and maybe have nothing to do with direct kind of sales or revenue contribution. But it all goes to the success of the business.
Topher: Yeah, and I think that’s even changing a little bit. For a long time, it was if you were in an industry with either…or a very large company with a lot of employees in your employee pool, or you’re adding positions or something else like that, it was a great way to show, “Here’s why you want to come work here. Here’s our company culture. Here are the people who work here. Here’s the stuff we do. This is what your day to day experience was.”
It was a super powerful tool for our clients pretty much across the board – in some of those B2B spaces, really kind of specifically in healthcare. We worked with a couple different state-wide hospital chains and were talking about the day in the life of a nurse during a recruiting campaign for them. Instagram was a perfect fit for that. And it allowed them to show off their folks. They wanted to be proud of the nurses who were working there. But it also is just a great look at, “You can read the job description, and you can go to the orientation, and everything else. But here’s what it actually looks like behind the scenes.” That was pretty universal.
Seth: Yeah. You have to imagine that when there is a good demographic overlap between the folks you’re going to reach and Instagram, putting that kind of content out there, whether it’s recruiting or anything else, has got to be beneficial. Let me go back there for a second. You kind of hit on a point that I want to go down this road a little bit around the ability for Instagram to actually drive business results, some of the unique things that are in the platform that can help business who have that business profile find actual buyers or people who are in consideration, and kind of start to bring them down the funnel. Can you talk through some of the things that would come up most frequently in conversations with clients where using Instagram to drive business is the right things to do?
Topher: Yeah, kind of the obvious low hanging fruit right now is definitely in retail with the advent of the Instagram story and all of the different features they’ve added there. It, again, gives you the ability to give people much more of an experience around your product. With Facebook, you can shoot a video. You can have the pictures. You can have a gallery. You can do a canvas ad, something like that. With Instagram and the story, you can actually let them look at different parts of the product. If we’re selling hats, then they can look at the front, the back, the inside, the underside of the bill, the top of it, really nice detailed pictures of the stitching.
And that can all be kind of a seamless experience as you move through that story. And before, that was just great for product awareness or showing that stuff off. But now with the ability to swipe within the story, swipe up to move right to the product, to be able to have multiple tap points on there, and also the fact… And I think this is something that’s overlooked a lot is that Instagram is much more…this may sound a little strange but…a tactile medium, because you’re almost always looking at it on your phone. It’s not something that you’re just scrolling through up and down, and there’s really nothing else. It’s stories, it’s a tap, it’s a swipe.
You get to feel like you’re interacting more with the products simply because it usually is in the palm of your hand as opposed to on your laptop screen, on a desktop screen, whatever else it is. So helping brands think about you’ve got a chance to really show off your stuff. And instead of just saying, “Go find it on our website,” now the ability to actually tap and interact with that with an Instagram makes that something that’s become really, really powerful for brands.
Seth: So, we have stories, great. We have swipe up. We can link to content. We have sort of highlight stories or feature stories on our profile pages. How important do you think it is for clients who are heavily using Instagram to spend time really curating that profile and those highlights to make sure that they’re maximizing any traffic that does end up on their profile? First of all, do you feel like you see lots of profile views and how that correlates with high kind of story reach? And then I’m assuming that yes, you should be investing. But tell me a little bit how you think about curating and crafting that profile experience.
Topher: Yeah, it’s something that is definitely important in the same way that if you look at when Facebook introduced the cover photo. It looked incredibly strange if someone hit that page, and you didn’t have a cover photo up, or it was a default or something else like that. It’s the exact same way with your Instagram profile now. If you’ve gotten an engaged user who’s going to look at that, the last thing they want to do is hit that and be excited and interested in your content, and want to go see more, and then not have something there for them.
You’ve taken that highly engaged user who was taking all the actions you as a marketer and as a brand want them to take and then not delivering on your side of the thing by not having that content there for them. We have seen like you’re mentioned tremendous upswing when you take the time to curate that. It pays off dividends. People see that. They’re going to that content, they’re tapping through it. They’re interacting with it in the way that you want them to. So, that’s one of the things that we usually… Thankfully, a lot of the brands that we’re working with have already kind of taken those steps. But if they haven’t, that’s usually one of the first things that we say, “Hey, great. Let’s make sure we’re telling the right story when we get people to this profile.”
Seth: So, I have a question coming in. I think it pertains a little bit to this idea that you have an Instagram profile. It’s a business profile. You can build your stories where you swipe up. But there are still limitations, right? There’s a minimum follow… What’s the minimum follow count again?
Topher: Oh, why did you have to ask me a difficult question?
I think it’s 5K. [Editor’s note: It’s 10k]
Seth: Okay, so somebody kind of came in, and it was effectively asking, “What do you do when you have a client who would really benefit from this functionality but doesn’t have it yet?” Because they don’t have the right follower count or whatever. What’s the coaching advice you’d give to those clients, or how do you work with those clients to earn them up to the place where now they can actually take advantage?
Topher: A lot of it is… And that’s something that we’ve had to work with either with someone who has said, “Hey, we’re kind of late to the game, and we’re just starting it as a bigger brand.” Or as a smaller challenger brand coming in and saying, “I just don’t have a huge following.” One of the nice things about Facebook getting involved with Instagram has been that some of that targeting information that Facebook does really well and allows you to get into has kind of start to slowly make its way over to Instagram.
So, we’ve seen pretty much across the board that paid campaigns for either follower growth specifically or around the tangential effect with boosted engagement posts on Instagram are a great way to not just grow for the sake of growth but also be able to actually really target the people that you want to find, you want to have in that audience, who aren’t… It’s casting a much more narrow net, which can sometimes yield some frustrations because it feels like it’s a little slower growth. But the audience members you’re going to garner are going to be the absolute right ones for you as opposed to that very wide net and ending up with a bunch of people in your audience that probably aren’t ever going to convert for you.
Seth: Got it. So, let me restate. We’re staying away from bots. We’re not doing shady stuff.
Topher: No, no, no.
Seth: We’re going to use the platform as it was intended.
Seth: Instagram as a display channel for Facebook ads generally…
Seth: …any kind of paid social to be able to run the follower campaigns with the segmentation and targeting that we all would…that we all have been doing on Facebook. And now, obviously, again, with that business profile, have the ability to do that.
Seth: But spending some money is maybe an okay way to earn up into the ability to do some more organic things with the platform.
Topher: Yeah, absolutely. And you’re right, I should have couched the statement in that if it’s a kind of immediate need where it’s just like, “Hey, this is going to be a really important part of our marketing plan,” then yeah, that investment is a great idea. If you’re willing to say, “Hey, I can wait for this to grow organically,” and you’re just saying, “I want to start adding this channel in and start growing it up,” then there are a lot of different things. Again, part of it… And this is going to sound overly-simplistic, but it is something that’s forgotten all of the time by marketers. It’s putting content that’s valuable to your audience on the channel.
Ultimately, that’s something that it seems so simple. But at the end of the day, people have a thousand different things they’re looking at. They have an… Average Instagram follower/follow back relationship I want to say is like in the 250’s was the last number I saw. So, that’s how many potential pieces of content could be put in front of them. If you’re trying to get in front of them and say, “Hey, I’m a brand,” which sometimes feels a little bit weird when you’re trying to get people to… A person doesn’t know to engage with. You got to make sure that that content is actually valuable to them.
And so that’s where a lot of the strategy work that goes into deciphering that audience as well as paying attention to the analytics… Your audience will tell you what they like about your content, what they don’t like. Now, we have more insight to that than we’ve ever had before on the platform. So, really understanding that and tracking that to say, “Is this content valuable to my audience? Great.” Then that’s the number one way that you’re going to be able to grow organically simply by being of value to your audience.
Seth: Can you give us a few examples? Thinking about this idea of… I’m just going to keep kind of going with this person’s question a little bit. Because certainly if you have a big following, you at least understand some of what has driven that success. But for those…many of whom are our customers and probably your clients as well who are in the “getting started” phase, can you give a few examples or a good example of the kind of campaigns or campaign experience that you would do to figure out, “This is going to work. This is not going to work. We’re going to do more of this and never do that again.” Do you have an example of somebody who you’ve gotten going?
Topher: Yeah, we have a smaller clothing retail brand who is didn’t come to us with a huge audience. Great products, had a really active client base, but just hadn’t ever really explored social marketing before. We went to them and basically said, “Hey, give us some samples or some stuff that you’re going to be releasing in the spring. Let us start talking about this in the winter, and let us start doing previews, and sneak peeks, and putting that kind of content out.” And again, it goes back to that kind of original piece of what was always successful to Instagram is let us kind of pull back the curtain and show you what’s going on here. And what we did, across…so men’s and women’s… And then they kind of have to different age demographics.
So, we had four campaigns that we ran targeted to older, younger, older, younger, male and female. And just watched those, ran some of them concurrently, and just watched the analytics on all of that really, really closely. And we eventually found out… I think we went into it expecting that the audience would be a little more female and a little bit younger. And we came out a little bit surprised that it was a much more even split, male and female, and that younger demographic.
So, again, it was something that we had the preconceived notion that if we had just guessed at it, we would have said, “Yep, push all of the female clothing up front at that demographic, and it’ll be great.” And we ended up finding out, “Hey, we need to run two different campaigns actually.” We need to make sure that we’re serving both parts of this audience by, again, just tracking those analytics really closely and seeing what the audience liked and what the audience didn’t, and what the responded to, and what they just kind of let slide past on the timeline.
Seth: Got it. And so now you had this kind of younger, older, men, women sort of quadrant. And you’ve learned it’s younger but both genders. So, obviously, if you’re doing ads, now you have that awareness with respect to how you need to do the creative kind of on both…
How does that play in for these more difficult, multidimensional audiences…? Which inevitably we all have. But this is very clear like, “I wear these kinds of clothes. I wear these kinds of clothes. Or I buy these kinds of clothes for my children.” How do you think about curating the organic feeds in a place where you have maybe a very clear kind of divide? Whether it’s on gender and some other way.
Topher: Yeah, that’s always going to be one of the things you’re spinning plates a little bit about. Again, we are so very data focused. That’s something that we have learned the hard way in some cases about some clients who just want to do it one specific way. But your audience is going to tell you what’s going on. They’re going to tell you if they like the content. They’re going to tell you if they respond to that.
You’re going to know by your audience growing. If they’re hitting the right audience and responding to it. We look at that as a way to take some subjectivity out of it. You can feel like it’s a really good Instagram post. It could be composed perfectly. It could be appropriate hashtags to get outside the audience. It could look nice. But if it’s not hitting an audience segment that’s there, and they’re not going to react to it, it takes that subjectivity out of it. I’m sure that my director of content would have a little bit of a different answer. But being the director of strategy who’s over the analytics side of things here, for us, we’re getting clear signals from the audience by being able to track this stuff. They’ll tell you what they want, and they’ll tell you what they don’t want.
Seth: So, what Instagram metrics are you using both for yourself internally to say, “This is going well. We need to tweak this,” as well as to communicate with the client? And are those the same metrics or different metrics? Even for that campaign example that you just talked about.
Topher: Sure. A lot of it is the same metrics. Instagram is a little bit nicer in so much as…well, as stories has expanded the amount of analytics that we have. But it previously was basically just, “Did they like it? Did they comment on it? And did we get a tap through to the profile?” So, for a while, it was a really simple thing, and it was universally communicated. It was, “Here’s how many fans we got. Here’s how many likes we got. Here’s how many comments we got. And then if we could track…if we were trying to send someone through the profile, let’s see what the social referral traffic looks like.”
With stories really taking off, and now with the ability to really tightly measure what the audience is doing within those stories, the way that we think about it internally is pretty one to one with the way that we communicate that to the client. Usually, our points of contact are working with us because they appreciate the data side of things. So, they let us get nerdy all over them and talk about things like the tap through rate and the exit rate out of the story. Ultimately, at some point, there still is that vanity metric of, “Well, how many followers do I have,” kind of appeals to certain people above our day to day context traditionally. But for the most part, we’re communicating with them the same way that my team is taking information back to our creative team saying, “Hey, this was awesome. This one kind of fell in the middle. What can we change about it to do a little bit better? And this one is one that we should probably just retire.”
Seth: Yeah. So, I want to talk about stories just a little bit just because we were talking about ads and kind of got… That is the newest… Like finally as of a couple months ago, Instagram made available much deeper stories analytics. Not just on your phone. Now we’re not literally screenshotting our phone to do reporting. But through tools like ours and many other tools in the market, you can finally kind of get your data out and look more deeply. So, what…? Maybe we’ll combine the question here.
But I’m curious about the framework that you use to evaluate story performance. Of course, story is just the single frame but also within a day, across a month, across time. There are so many decisions to make in terms of photo, video, stickers, hashtags, captions, not, how many to put per day, what time of, like all of these… Can you talk a little bit about the framework that you all evolved to? And then maybe give us an example or two of a place where you said, “We saw this. Therefore…” How those metrics actually drove a, “We’re going to stop doing this forever with this client, and we’re going to move to doing this until it stops working.”
Topher: Yeah, it really is…some of it is trial and error. We tend to look at it from a content inventory perspective in terms of you can post a maximum of this much in a day before you’re going to reach that audience burn out level. That’s something with the new story analytics that we can really see. If the exit metric is…how many people just couldn’t even be bothered to tap all the way through and story and instead just burned out, and dumped, and didn’t watch the rest of it…if we suddenly saw that start to skyrocket, for us, that’s a really clear indication that you’re probably posting too much. Or your stories are way outside your audience’s interest. If you’ve got a high tap through rate, I don’t think that’s usually a big deal. But if we saw that exits kind of specifically, that let us know that “Hey, we’re hitting that kind of threshold for how much content we should be putting on channel, and we should definitely think about kind of pulling back.”
In the beginning, we usually are encouraging people to do stories. Again, it’s helping them shift that mindset from Instagram is just a pure brand awareness thing over to like, “No, this can actually help you move units.” It’s the same thing with stories. They went, “Well, okay, but we’re using Instagram.” And it’s like, “Right, but the stories have the ability to…” The timeline went out of chronological order. Well, stories sit at the top of the feed. So, even if someone may or may not be shown your posts in the order that it is, your story is going to be there. So, that’s a great way to get in front of them. If they’ll watch the story, guaranteed it’s going to be there for them. They can go find that post without having to go to your profile. So, helping them think about that.
A lot of the times, we’re not having to pull clients back from saying, “Hey, you’re going to burn out your audience.” And instead, it’s encouraging them to, “Hey, please be thinking about this. How do we…?” Once we help them understand it and understand the resources that need to go into creating a good story, things exactly like you’re talking about. Like is it video? Is it a photo? Are you using the stickers? How are you using the hashtags? That’s very different from…our B2B clients to our healthcare clients to our retail clients to a museum client, it’s going to be different for everybody. And a lot of that is from our perspective a little bit of trial and error.
You’re going to have to go in there and post and see what the analytics tell you. Again, I know I’m harping on it. But those analytics will tell you what the audience wants. They’ll tell you if… A lot of the times, if you’re seeing a bunch of videos, and your story is taking 35 seconds to get through, that’s probably a little bit too long. You probably want to be a little more concise than that unless there’s something really outside the ordinary going on.
Seth: Yeah, just in my own digging with a number of our customers, I frankly was amazed at the tap forward rates that… North of 80% or something like that is just… Everyone is impatient and really being aware that like, “Hey, if you think that 80% is bad…” Yours is probably 80%, too. But that exit rate is certainly something to be concerned about. Replies as well. There’s not a lot we can. Like you can keep going. You can be done. You could reply. That’s pretty heavy-handed. I feel like looking at all of our data from across our entire customer base…we don’t see a lot of replies. So, maybe… Is that a point…? Have you worked with any clients where you actually see lots of kind of reply engagement on stories?
Topher: No. I think every once in a while, some of them have done things either with giveaways or specific to that. You’ll obviously see a spike in terms of organic reply rate. It’s almost nonexistent. It’s just not the way that people tend to interact with those in the same way that you might see a friend’s Instagram post and comment on it. And this could just be me. I tend not to do it for the ‘gram a bunch. I’m a little too old for that. But I just tend not to reply to stories. I watch it, and I’m like, “That’s awesome.” And it goes by, and I go on to the next one. Whereas you see something in your feed, you’re probably a little more likely to leave a comment on it being like, “That’s incredible.” It’s just not the way that people have kind of been trained to use this. And I think that Instagram is actively trying to change the way we are interacting with that first with kind of the binary vote poll buttons that they’ve added. They’ve now added that engagement…”How much do you like something?” Slider to it. It’s definitely something that they’re actively thinking about training people to interact with these stories. And I think it’s going to see…we’re going to continue down that trend line of encouraging people to really interact with the stuff that your brand is putting up.
Seth: Yeah. But you said something interesting though which is… Maybe we’re older or something, but the reply feels very heavy. Even from my friends, it feels very heavy-handed. Like I don’t mean to start a conversation. I don’t actually want you to talk back, man, I just wanted to let you know that that was amazing. Like thanks. But the poll is interesting, slider… I feel like Instagram… And maybe you all see this or get these questions from clients. But they need to provide more ways for people to engage with the story. Not just so we can measure it but actually to drive the attention for a longer time. It’s not necessarily just a like. They have to make it fun, to make it a game. That’s why the poll is… The poll is really fun for everyone.
Topher: Yeah, and that’s something that we’ve seen a lot of people do some really clever stuff with in terms of… We’ve worked with a couple different brands where we’ve done some Tuesday trivia type of stuff where you get to vote on the answer. And then the answer is revealed in the next one. Like anything, you can do to start training your users to get used to interacting with that… Because I think you’re right. That reply just feels very… I was going to say aggressive. I don’t know. It feels aggressive to me. I don’t know if that’s universal or not. But it feels like starting a conversation when, like you said, all I wanted to do was be like, “Your dinner looked awesome.”
Seth: That’s right, I don’t want to go there.
Seth: Can you think of a time where you all… Like you hit on exit rate, so I’m just going to pull on that for a second. But a place where you’re like, “Oh, man, today your exit rate was horrible. We need to talk about what you did.” Or, “We ran an experiment on your…” I don’t know how much you all manage directly versus coaching. But an example of where the exit rate signal was like, “Oh, man, we have got to stop that.”
Topher: Yeah, and that’s something…it’s a really interesting place for us being an agency in that a lot of the times, we’re not onsite all the time with our clients. We can help create graphics. We can do a lot of things. But with the stories, touching back on that, “Do you have the resources to kind of effectively use this channel,” it’s going to have to be stuff that’s led by them. We can provide them with the ideas like you said, the coaching. We can help thematically come up with these ideas. But ultimately, they’re the ones who have to go and take that stuff. They’re in the office. They’re in the warehouse. They’re in the space wherever it is. And so that is one of our kind of function is the canary in the coal mine. Like if we see that exit rate suddenly start to skyrocket…
We’ve had several brands in the past couple of months who have done onsite events and had really good engagement at the beginning of the event. They’re showing some speakers. They’re showing what’s going on. They’re very enthused about it, so they just continue to add, and add and add. Or start another story later on. And at that point, we’ve seen it spike a couple times and had to be like, “I know it’s your precious event, and it’s hard to not want to share all of this. But you’ve kind of hit the saturation point. The people who are there are loving it, and the people who aren’t have seen all they wanted to. They’ve liked all they’re going to like.” And it’s hard. That’s a tough conversation to have to have where you’re saying, “Yep. Nope, this is up too much. We need to dial it back a little bit or at least be a little more strategic in what kind of stuff you’re adding.”
Seth: I was just at an event, and I absolutely had that experience where you’re like, “I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen enough.” Now, the question is how do you…? So, looking at the exit rate. Take an event. That’s a really good example. You’ve got all these amazing people. You want to show it all off. But it’s only most interesting for people who are there. It’s kind of like when you go out of town for work, and you call your wife like, “I’m having so much fun. I hope you’re doing well with the kids.” No, they’re not there. They don’t really care about how much fun you’re having to a point. So, is it a story…is it a kind of a frame count thing more than anything? Assume someone is going to find your stuff 20 hours later, how many frames of your event or your whatever…sub story…can people put up with? Or how do you even get to a number for a client?
Topher: For us, I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast number where it’s this many frames before someone is going to get sick of it. Instead, it’s approaching it like we could a campaign almost in minutia where it’s set the scene. You know what’s going to go on at your event, hypothetically. If something really exciting happens, and it’s unplanned, then great. Grab that. That’s the beauty of social media. But otherwise, you kind of know where the high points are going to be. If this is… Especially if it’s a multi-day event, if it’s a conference, and you’re there for the weekend, or for the week, or whatever else. You’re going to have burnout if you’re just like, “These canapés are amazing. Also look at the chandelier. This carpet is cool. Now someone is talking.”
You got to avoid that. I know you’re excited, and you feel like you want to share every bit of it so they can feel like they’re there, too. But if you know that you’ve got three keynote speakers, plan on hitting…set the scene, “Here we are. We’re so excited for this. Here’s who’s talking.” Shot of them talking. “Here’s who’s talking.” Shot of them talking. Planning that out… Anything you can do to help plan your real-time content is going to make it go so much smoother. Because you’re also going to kind of relieve yourself of that pressure of, “So, carpet pictures, this is what I’ll do. I’ll do six frames of carpet pictures, because I’m not sure what else to do, and I just need to fill this up. And stuff is going on.” That pre-planning helps you understand, “Here are the beats I got to hit. Here’s the stuff that’s most important.” And like you said, 20 hours later, someone still would be interested in it.
Seth: Planning your real time, it might sound like an oxymoron. But it turns out that maybe stories aren’t as real-time as you necessarily think. I, for one, am like the guy who takes pictures, and then I’m like, “Oh, yeah, that’d be a good story.” And I’m adding back from my library. So, brands can do that. It doesn’t have to necessarily be the case that your social media manager needs to be right there in the moment making it happen as you go.
Topher: Yeah, absolutely.
Seth: So, let’s see. We’ve got a couple more audience questions that are in this theme, so let me… I got Slack over here. I’m looking. I’m not reading Twitter as Topher joked earlier.
Topher: I think he’s reading Twitter.
Seth: So, there’s a good question. I’ve got an audience…it is 10,000, to 50,000, to 100,000…million, whatever… Do you have…? I could probably go to the numbers, but I’m going to ask you since you’re doing this work. How do you coach clients with respect to goal setting around or expectations around reach? So, if I have 100,000 followers, what might I see as a peak number for the day in terms of people who saw my story?
Topher: Yeah, if I could answer that with a firm answer, I would be riding around on a gold camel right now shooting fireworks off, because I would be making a lot more money than I am right this second. It’s so hard. And it’s one of the things that we do a lot of work around trying to figure out. When you get into audience sizes like that, it’s the ever-present… “How much of my audience is real? How much of my audience is active? How much of my audience is really engaged with what’s going on?” We tend to kind of work backward from those numbers saying, “Okay, let’s look at our most popular reach number, whatever story had the highest. Now, let’s take an intermediate one.” And somewhere in between, there is kind of the above average range.
So, if we’re getting around that number, it really is…it’s tedious only because as marketers and as people who are running these accounts, we want to have all of our audience see all of our stuff. And so the idea of working backward to go, “Okay, how many people can actually see this today,” is really frustrating. But there’s no kind of magic bullet to say… It’s not like email where if you’re getting that 20% open rate then you’re doing great. There just aren’t hard and fast number around that kind of thing. And it really is going to be industry by industry, and brand by brand.
Seth: Yeah, so like many of the things, you’re just going to have to try some things.
Seth: See what the numbers are. Thankfully, Instagram makes it easy to see when your followers are online. And how much…? So, thinking about that. There are people… either there’s global or there are people who never sleep. But there are more people, there are fewer people. And then, of course, your story lives for 24 hours. And so depending on when the audience you maybe care most about or is most valuable to you might be engaging, they will potentially perceive that story very differently from someone who consumers it 12 hours earlier, right?
If I’m the guy who’s always looking at stories at bedtime, I might have missed the previous day. I’m still picking up the tail end of yesterday as the first part of the experience. How do you think about planning out when to put the content out with your clients, and do you have some folks where you’re like, “No, we’re going to do this even spaced throughout the day.” How many people, do push it all out at 10 in the morning? How do you think about that?
Topher: A lot of it is just that. It’s the audience analysis piece of, “Okay, are you a national brand? Are you a global brand? Are you a statewide brand? Are you a city-wide brand?” Understanding that first and foremost kind of gives you the freedom to say, “All right, if I know that my users are mostly in the Midwest, then I’m looking at Eastern Time zones, and we’re probably looking at lunch and maybe right after dinner.” That’s a pretty safe bet that I can find people on their phones around those times. And then again, it is just the, “Okay, now check. Did lunch do better, or did after dinner do better? Was it 12 or 7 p.m.?” If one of those is wildly different from the other one, then there’s a great next step to say, “Cool, now let’s try this one against maybe something else. Let’s try 3 p.m. and a 7 p.m.”
So, a lot of it is going to be the trial and error, and understanding the audience. The other thing that I think you always have to expect is there’s going to be someone who’s watching it outside of that timeframe that you want them to. Someone is going to be seeing it at 11 p.m. You’re like, “Here’s an event that happened at 11 a.m., and it’s done.” So, one of the things that we coach is some of that is just going to happen. It’s social media. At any point, someone can go back and look at a post from ten years ago if they want to, and you were active on the channel. That’s part of the deal.
With stories, we always coach to try to let people say, “Can this stand on its own, or do they have to see the whole thing for this to make sense?” And if there is some concept that only makes sense as, “Hey, this is just going to be really well executed, but it really has to be part of this whole thing,” that’s fine. That’s definitely not my first choice. It almost is, “Can all of these frames kind of stand on their own? And someone could watch it and go, “Oh, that’s cool. Or that’s interesting,” or whatever else it is. Because if you can do that, then even if they’re watching it out of sequence, even if they don’t see the whole thing, even if they see it 20 hours later, can it still stand on its own and be interesting at the very least if not topical and timely? Sure, great. This is part of the risk you’re going to run doing it.
Seth: Have you ever done something with a client where it really mattered that someone consumer all of it? And so to minimize the number of people who saw things out of order or out of band…push it all out at once? And then does that potentially have the risk of feeling inauthentic if it was actually supposed to be stuff that happened hours apart? Like clearly you can’t… You’re going to look like a fake one way or another. Have you done any campaigns where you’re like, “No, seriously, this all has to go out within one minute.”
Topher: Yeah, we’ve done that. I think a lot of that is really kind of specific to a product launch or a service launch if we’re talking maybe specifically B2B where we’ve got this package, we’ve got these assets. The launch date is today, or there’s a specific kickoff event today. If we space it out over the course of three hours, the stuff just doesn’t necessarily work well independently. So, in that case, I think it’s perfectly fine. Like you said, you’re going to look fake one way or the other. So, especially around that kind of stuff, I have no problem saying, “Great, if it’s launch day – a product launch day, a service launch day, whatever it is – cool, let’s just push this whole thing out as a unit. And it can stand just boom, boom, boom, one after the other.”
Aside from that, I like a more authentic kind of look and feel to that sort of thing just because I think that better fits what everyone else is creating on the channel. I don’t know about other individual users. But unless I’m on vacation, I’m not thinking about, “I’m going to make a really good story of the sunset at the beach tonight.” If I’m on vacation, I’ll totally do that. Aside from that, I’m just randomly occurring on things that I want to throw up and share. So, that’s what your user base is used to. So, as a brand, we usually try to kind of mimic that as much as we can unless it is one of those kinds of touchstone events – a product launch, a new service launch, whatever else. In which case, then I think it’s perfectly fine to throw it all up as one cohesive unit when it’s something important like that.
Seth: Topher Howden, we coach authentic, which is probably a very good way to be… Because that’s kind of a good way to live generally, I think.
Seth: I think we’ve talked about a lot of different things you could do. But you’re in a new engagement…or if you’re a social media manager and Instagram kind of channel manager, and you’re new to a place, or it’s new to the channel, how do you think about the experimentation, the planning, leveraging previous expertise to figure out what works? To get to that place where you’re saying, “Here’s what works.” What does that process look like for you?
Topher: For us with the new engagement and new channel, something like that, we’ll usually just kind of ask some discovery questions around what part of your job, product, service is exciting to you. “What part of it is different from what other people are doing?” Again, I keep going back to what the user base looks for. But you’re not just posting like, “Yeah, I had SpaghettiOs tonight. Here’s a bowl of SpaghettiOs.” Instead, it’s like, “I went to dinner and got an awesome plate of pasta. And I’m going to take a picture of it.” It should be the same thing for your brand. If you’re like, “This is my desk, and that’s my stapler…” Unless it’s a red stapler, and it’s really cool, to maybe not take that. But if there’s something that’s different or the thing that you get excited about at work, the thing that you’re excited about your product, your service, whatever else it is, that’s a great place to start. Again, just going back to that brand awareness piece.
Start giving people that – the stuff that you find interesting. That’s a really easy kind of gateway into, “Awesome. Did the audience respond to that? Cool. Well, then I know that in my back pocket that can just kind of always kind of be apart of my organic campaigns are pulling back that curtain, showing off what’s going on.” If it’s retail, B2C stuff, anything along new product lines is going to do very well. Anything where you can show folks something before they can get their hands on it, start to build some buzz around something, get people excited in your audience for that, that’s another great place to start. Going back to the authenticity piece, the way we look at it is what would you want to see in your feed, in your actual life. Well, then that’s a great place to start looking with your brand around what is it that would be good in feed – what would you get excited about?
Seth: Okay, so that covers the content. There are certain kinds of things people do or don’t want to see, or will or will not resonate. Are there…? And then there are some very tactical things around…again, around timing and use of hashtags or not, and stickers or not, and video or image. Videos have to be no longer than three seconds, five seconds. Take your pick. Do you all have sort of a flow where you actually will do some of that testing with people? Or with brands?
Topher: Yeah, for us, it’s usually very specific to audience growth and engagement. Every brand goes through that phase where they find out about hashtags, and they’re like, “I want them all. I want every single one of them. I want every single person to see this stuff.” And it’s great if you can enter into a conversation. But again… And going back to the authenticity. What are people actually…who are talking about this already going to want to see? That’s the place that we start testing. It starts small. Get into the conversations where you’ve got the most cache in what you’re sharing and what people are going to be excited about. And then you can expand from there. For video, that almost always is a resource question. Do you have someone who can take a good video? You don’t need to be Spielberg behind the iPhone or anything, but at the same time, you want to try to avoid shaking.
Just do you have someone who can take a competent video? Great. And again, is it something that’s visually interesting? Is it something that presents itself really well on video? If the answer is no, that’s okay. That’s great. That’s not a deal breaker. Take the picture, share it that way instead. And then everything else is just going to be what does your audience respond to. If you cover a post in stickers, and location, and everything else, and really specifically that kind of stuff, and your audience goes nuts for it, then great. Your audience is going to be interested in that. You should definitely incorporate that into your tactical planning. But if they don’t, then it’s certainly not a deal breaker. But put that on hold for a little while. Do some other stuff and then maybe come back to it and see if they respond differently to it. Again, the analytics will tell you what your audience wants to see.
Seth: So, try new things.
Seth: Do it consistently. Don’t overlap too many things at once.
Seth: See what works more than anything.
Seth: So there was… We were talking a little bit earlier about this idea that…how do you work hard to make sure that people consume the story in the way that you would like them to consume it. So, of course again, over time, at once. Someone asked a question that was like… I’m just going to read it verbatim. What is your opinion on deleting stories before they actually expire at the 24-hour time period so that you can sort of clear the decks for the next day? Is that something that you…? What’s your opinion?
Topher: My opinion is that I tend not to think of it like that. I think it’s… I understand the rationale behind it. If you’re going to have a multi-day event, or you’re just on a cadence where you’re putting up a new story every day, I tend to think that your audience can… Even if they see the end of yesterday’s story, and it abuts today’s story, typically those should be different enough that they don’t have a problem understanding like, “Oh, we’re on to a new one now.” Again, the analytics tell us that people will start with their very first story and just tap all the way through until they clear them all. That’s the beauty of being able to see the tap forward rate and the exit rate. So, you can measure, “Is it just the completionist who is going to go all the way through and look at all the frames? Or is it someone who is really engaged here and skipping through, and then goes, ‘Nope, I don’t care about this anymore.’” Like I said, this is my personal feeling. I don’t have a problem having those two things that abut each other unless the subject matter is just wildly different. If you’ve got a multi-day event that you’re sharing stuff from, then day one logically abuts day two. If you have products that you’re showing off on a Tuesday, and you’ve got a product that you’re showing off on Wednesday, those two things abut each other, that’s fine. If it feels unnatural to suddenly have that left turn… If you’re thinking about someone clicking from that last frame to the first one, and it feels like a really hard disconnect, then, in that case, I think that would probably be appropriate to go ahead and snip that story off so that the next one can kind of stand on its own. But I wouldn’t encourage people to do that. I think that the platform has kind of, again, trained that user base to be used to that kind of thing.
Seth: Plus it’s more work. But…
Topher: And I’m always trying to avoid that, quite frankly.
Seth: Yeah, there’s some kind of work you can’t avoid. But I was thinking, do you…? And this is kind of one of my last sort of questions that I had planned for you was a little bit more freeform, and it’s thinking about sort of creative approaches and different kinds of campaigns. So, I’m thinking particularly with respect to this deletion question of… Like a takeover. So, if I know I’ve got a takeover planned tomorrow, and I want it to be this cohesive, singular point of view from someone who’s not us, would that be maybe one of those hard cuts where you’re like, “Okay, let’s clear the decks. Or let’s stay clear earlier.” Whatever the right mechanism is to sort of clear the decks.
Topher: Yeah, I think I probably would, in my opinion, lead towards, “Let’s stay away from it so we don’t have to do that.” But yeah, I think that’s a great idea that you’re saying, “This is the takeover. Everything is theirs. They’re not going to abut one way or the other.” We almost always recommend that you have that preview post that says, “Hey, this is happening.” I think it’s the common sense thing to do it not when it’s starting like, “Hey, I have this.” But instead, you want to be promoting that and everything else. That acts as just a lovely bookend to say, “Here’s kind of the last branded stuff that’s coming. Now here comes the takeover stuff.” But yeah, I would learn towards clearing the deck for that beforehand as opposed to deletion. But that’s definitely something you want to have that… You’ve gone through the time and effort of getting someone to do this. And obviously, you want to let that stand on its own, let it be its own thing.
Seth: Yeah, so there’s another creative in there that it’s more of an execution thing. But I think it’s… I want to call it out, which is kind of cross-promotion now, because you have two different kind of eyeball capture areas in Instagram – feed, which is we know now heavily algorithmically curated, and then stories, which of course even the order within the presentation of those are certainly going to be curated. But that once someone eventually gets to you, you now own the chronological frame cross-promotion from feed to stories. What are the other sort of cross-promotional areas…? Well, first of all, just take that one. Feed to stories. Is that something that you either do or coach as a, “You should always be doing this.” Or is this, “Save it for a special occasion”?
Topher: I think I definitely approach it as save it for special occasions. It’s the same way that if you’re posting a story every day, and you’ve got the content to do that, A, do that. Because that’s a great idea. But at the same time, you want to be saying, “Hey, today in the story, there’s going to be this.” Your audience will get burnt out on that. I think that if you do it seldom, they’re like, “Oh, man. Awesome opportunity that we got to see this thing happen in our story.” And you’re setting them up from that cross-promotional perspective. Absolutely do it, sparingly. That’s a heavy hammer to swing. So, when you get to do it, you want to make sure that you’ve got something that you think your audience is going to be really jazzed about. I think that that’s something that you can burn out your audience really fast on. In the same way, it feels unnatural if you’re on Twitter, and someone saying… It’s not a new channel that they’re starting. Like, “Hey, over here, I’m doing this thing.” It’s like, “Well if I wanted to see what you’re doing over there, I’ll go over there and look at it. I’m here to see you do this thing over here.”
Seth: But there’s plenty of that. How long did we see Snap codes as profile pictures on Twitter?
Topher: Too long.
Seth: It was a thing. That’s because it’s really hard to add people on Snapchat as it turns out. See, I can say neutral to negative things about Snapchat, and nothing happens, unlike other…
Topher: Nothing will happen.
Seth: …people who make the stock price crash.
Seth: So, we only have a few minutes left, but this the last topic that I wanted to hit on though is just in the creative space of what are some things that you see people doing with stories from a campaign idea perspective where you’re like, “That… I wish I had thought of that, but now I’m going to go do it.” What are some of your favorite kind of most creative either by handles…? Businesses are not… What are some just really interesting ways where you’ve seen people leverage the native power of stories?
Topher: I think any time that you can make it feel like a kind of unique experience is a great thing. Being from Indianapolis, Go Colts, obviously, they had training camp photos where they were shooting a segmented video that they obviously had to break up within the frames. And it had just a little countdown, get ready to swipe left in three, two, one, swipe it over. And it was a seamless cut to the next part of the video. And instead of it just happening naturally or… Obviously, if I had clicked on it, it would have done this all in the same. But it was like, “Hey, that’s an interesting use of you know that you’ve got a time constraint rather than just being kind of a jump cut to the next scene.” You’ve got… You’re feeling like you’re utilizing the stuff that’s in the tool. I love that kind of thing – when you see the people who… Like we mentioned when the polls came out. Not just doing it like, “Do you like this or not,” but instead doing it with the trivia thing. You get to see, “I’m guessing one of these two answers.” Or using that. Anytime you can find ways to get people to interact with the story, I think it’s obviously getting more and more popular. And when people do that an innovative way, that’s what gets me jazzed. That’s the stuff I love.
Seth: I saw contest results announcements. I’m seeing that more now as a thing. Is that…?
Seth: Contests have always been kind of a big social media engagement driver. Of course, you don’t necessarily get the virality that’s not baked into stories and some of these other kinds of platforms when you’re sharing and commenting on things. But are contests a story thing? Is that something that you all are seeing more or coaching?
Topher: I don’t know that we’re necessarily coaching only because I think that we’re waiting for people to maybe get a little more used to it. And that being the way… I definitely have seen us do a lot more with if you’re going to do a giveaway, that’s awesome to announce the results and that kind of thing. It definitely… Going back, I’m going to disagree with myself here really quickly. If you can say, “Hey, we ran this contest. And if you want to see the results, go check out the story,” I think that’s one way where that feels very natural and is fine. Because it also then gives the user the availability to say, “If it’s me, and I didn’t enter your contest then I can skip that, and that’s okay. But if I did, then awesome. There’s a great reminder for me to go and look and see if I won.” That’s a place where it feels very natural as opposed to just having an Instagram post for the sake of just saying, “Hey, I made a story. Go look at this.”
Seth: Yeah, that’d be super annoying, because Instagram already does a pretty nice job of feathering in reminders that you haven’t looked at your stories. I usually… I never look at the top. It’s not the place I go. Maybe I’m old school or just old. You scroll… But they remind you later.
Topher: Oh, yeah, they’re going to give you plenty of opportunities.
Seth: I’ll pick up later. And again, demographically, I’m okay.
Seth: But it’s a thing. There are one or two more questions that I’m seeing here. So, Cassandra, one of my teammates, has been doing a great job of kind of bringing all these questions in. She’s now telling me there are lots and lots of unanswered questions. So, if you’re out there, and we haven’t answered your question, I’m sorry I didn’t get to it yet. But I promise… And Topher has agreed. We’re going to take a bunch of the questions that we didn’t get to, and it will become part of the kind of living archive that goes along with the video that will end up in our site and in our blog as well. So, if we didn’t get to your questions… But there’s one more that kind of got thrown out here, and we have a couple of minutes. We’ll do the last one here. It’ll kind of take us full circle back around to the top. And the question is… Again, I’m going to kind of read it verbatim, and then we’ll go from there. So, is Instagram, in your opinion, a stronger platform for brand building or for driving very specific actions like purchasing, reading content, that you have a single purpose like, “I’m here to have them do this thing.” Or is that sort of like…? Is brand building versus action just kind of a false dichotomy?
Topher: It’s a little bit of… Yeah, it’s a little bit of a false dichotomy in so much as in this case, you can have your cake and eat it, too. I think it’s still probably stronger for brand building, although the other side of that scale is tipping quickly. Basically every change Instagram has made to the platform has kind of added that functionality into it in ways that feel natural and are becoming easier to the point that… I think I read that they’re testing payment inside the app. That’s in a very limited beta right now. So, obviously, that’s something that they’re going to continue to walk down that road. But I would say that it’s… You can do both. I still think it’s best as a brand-building platform right now. But I think that maybe by the end of the year, we could be saying, “Nope, it’s a 50/50 deal. You can really do both there.”
Seth: Yeah. So, we get this question all the time. Because of the way that the privacy rules are changing and Facebook has basically stopped letting anyone that’s not you track your analytics or even your posts, your content, your public content if you’re not a business… We have lots of people coming and saying, “But I don’t want to be a business profile, because I’m worried about my reach.” They’re worried about it being taken away. Do you get that question, and how do you coach clients?
Topher: For us, we have less of an issue with that typically because we are working with brands, and everything has been set up as a business account specifically so that they are in, if they are in really heavily legislated areas like healthcare or some aspects of business where it’s really regulated, they had to do that initially. So, I don’t bump into that as much, although I completely understand that fear of going to a business, and then you wake up one day, and your Facebook reach is now .7% of your organic audience. So no, I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night or anything when I had that happen. So, I understand that fear.
Seth: Got it. You can’t run ads if you’re not a business profile. So, there are definitely strengths…there are definitely lots of strengths in having a business profile. All right, we’re going to end with this last one. And Cassandra even put it in the notes for me, this is the real question. Here’s the question. What are your top three apps for monitoring your Instagram analytics outside of the native on the phone?
Topher: Yep, well, there’s this program called Rival IQ that I really like. It does good stuff. I’ve heard of them. They’re fine. Generally, that’s kind of our universal around here. We’re very platform agnostic. If a client has a tool that they use, we’re happy to measure within there. From our perspective, it is really important that we kind of have one source of truth for the numbers. For us, that is Rival IQ. It’s given us the most in-depth analytics that we can have and also be able to put all of our clients in there so that we can really compare client to client, industry to industry across the whole thing. Shameless plug, that’s the one that we use.
Seth: Perfect. I love it. There are many great tools out there that are going to have your analytics as well. I’m sure if you’re a Sprout Customer, Hootsuite, Simply Measured…
And everybody has got the analytics. You certainly can get there. Rival IQ is not strictly. But we’ll take that shameless plug. Topher, this has been really fun. I appreciate you hanging in for the entire hour. You didn’t walk out on me. Hopefully, we didn’t offend any of you out there.
Seth: Hopefully. As I said, we’ll answer a bunch of the questions kind of offline. Well, technically online but not with the video. Topher, it’s been a pleasure. And I hope we can do this at some point in the future.
Topher: Thank you. Absolutely. I’d love to.
Seth: Have a good rest of your day. Bye, everybody.