Instagram doesn't always seem like the best use of your limited marketing time, or budget. While insanely popular as a social-media platform--400 million people use the photo app monthly--that popularity is often difficult to translate into sales. Users have proved to be selective about whom they follow, and, aside from paid ads, the app doesn't allow for clickable links within posts. But a few companies have figured out how to quickly amass huge Instagram followings--and turn followers into customers.
Men's outdoor gear company Huckberry is one. The San Francisco firm launched its Instagram campaign in earnest in September 2014. By this mid-January, it had 154,000 followers and counting, wooing them with a combination of beautiful photography and careful strategy. Here, Huckberry managing editor Zach Pina explains how to create the perfect Instagram post. While the return on investment is tough to track, Pina estimates that one like this could bring in $10,000 in sales--in this case, much of it from Huckberry's stock of fall watches, leather boots, and heavy-duty "duck canvas" shirts and pants.
$500 - How much Huckberry has spent for a professional photo.
Huckberry averages 32 comments per post, but the one below collected 70.
2-3 - Max number of posts you should publish per day.
1. Make It Pop
Composition and color are essential to create posts that stand out as users scroll through their feeds. Your selfie game might be strong, but leave the photo-taking to a professional if you can. This doesn't mean you need to break the bank--while Huckberry has paid photographers, it generally gets its Instagram art from partners (Huckberry sells other clothing companies' products, for example) or employees with photography backgrounds. The most important thing: Be sure the subject matter is in line with what your followers expect from your brand.
2. Plan Ahead
This post went up with early October's changing temperatures, when people are antsy for all things autumn. Create a posting calendar, and exercise restraint--you don't want to oversaturate your audience. An occasional strategy: Try drumming up interest for a sale with a preview post. Huckberry once teased a sale on vintage Rolex watches with an ambiguous macro shot, and then followed it up 36 hours later with the big reveal. The watches moved quickly--$85,000 in sales in one week. Pina references a strategy from social-media guru Gary Vaynerchuk: "Jab, jab, jab, right hook."
3. Worry About the Words, Too
Huckberry's playful language appeals to the whiskey lovers in its outdoorsy demographic. Captions that are relatable, funny, or highly informative--even about something other than your products--make users that much more likely to Like your posts (some of Huckberry's rack up more than 6,000 such endorsements) or to tag their friends. Pina writes the posts himself: "People want to see who you really are," he says. "Find your voice, hone it, and then stay super consistent."
4. Make One Link Count
Individual Instagram posts won't allow you to send customers to your website, but your bio page has room for one link at a time. Use the link wisely, but with levity--and don't mention it with every post. "The less often we ask, the more we train our followers to understand that we're here to present rad content and stories," says Pina, "and we wouldn't ask anything of them unless we were really, really excited about it."