min held its first Instagram & Snapchat Master Class at the Yale Club on May 16th. On hand were more than a dozen speakers from across magazine media and digital native brands, each addressing some of the biggest challenges and opportunities media companies face when curating compelling content for Instagram and Snapchat.
During the seven sessions, experts discussed what’s working when creating content specifically for social while also tapping into new features like Instagram Stories. Liat Kornowski, director of social strategy and innovation at Refinery29, summed it up nicely when she said, “what we keep in mind when programming [Snapchat and IG] is we’re inviting ourselves into a space where our audience’s friends are.”
This was one of the main themes of the day: translating a brand’s voice to these social channels so they’re appropriate for the platform. Over the course of the day, several topics were discussed during speaker sessions—these topics ranged from leveraging a brand’s assets to ROI to expanding reach and beyond. If you were unable to join us, we’re sorry, but here are six important takeaways from the event:
1. Social media is a black box. Snapchat and Instagram don’t parallel other digital marketing channels. “You can’t track your audience’s behavior from start to finish, but you have the chance to seed,” said Jessica Liu, senior analyst at Forrester Research (pictured above with Caysey Welton, group editor of min). Social channels differ so much but seeding a campaign with influencers or a hashtag campaign can mean the difference between social success and failing to connect with an audience. This leads us to our next point…
2. Hashtags are powerful but use them sparingly. Not every brand has the resources to hire influencers to post on social media, but one thing every brand can afford are hashtags. Although they lose their resonance when you’re putting various different hashtags with every photo you post to Instagram, a hashtag campaign can be one of the most powerful drivers of engagement. “Driving traffic is probably the least important aspect of Instagram,” said Amanda Lucci, senior social media editor, Women’s Health. “Use Instagram to engage your audience and don’t use hashtags that often unless it’s to create a pattern.” i.e. #WorkoutWednesday
Mallory Johns, engagement editor at Popular Science, also noted that a good way to employ hashtags on Instagram—if you must—is to post them in the comments. This way they’ll have the same impact on your post without the eyesore of having a bunch of hashtags in your caption.
3. Measure the success of an Instagram post by comments. For many of us, we may be feeling déjà vu when it comes to the ever-changing Facebook algorithm. Kevin Driscoll, social media director at Sports Illustrated, said that Instagram recently following this path and introduced a new algorithm that essentially boosts, and prioritizes in your audience’s feed, a photo that has more comments than others posted around the same time. “The KPI I’m most interested in is comments because that translates to shares,” said Nora Barak, engagement editor at New York Media. “A lot of people are commenting and tagging multiple friends.” This is one of the purest forms of engagement you can hope for on a social channel.
4. Hone your brand’s voice. It might sound obvious with editors who do this on a daily basis with content, but Snapchat and Instagram are entirely different animals. One of the hardest things brands struggle with on these channels is translating a distinct voice that’s been fine tuned, in many cases, over years and transplanting it to a relatively new platform. Print, photos and video have been around,” says David Grant, president at Popsugar Studios. “But then you get to the new platforms and there’s no one to turn to.” Naturally, it’ll take a brand a couple years to react to a new feature or an entirely new platform. Reposting content that’s relevent to your brand and having a separate team to manage the multiple accounts most brand’s have is a good place to start. This takes us to point 5…
5. Be consistent. This is especially important on Instagram where the content you post is far less ephemeral than on Snapchat. Your core audience is the most important thing to your brand and being consistent with what those people are expecting from you is what’s going to build your audience. “Our core audience, the audience that keeps coming back, is what we look at,” said Dan Ghosh-Roy, SVP of audience development at Complex. “We look at the content that is most engaged with and build on that.” For example, Ghosh-Roy said that, on Snapchat, Complex’s audience reacted strongly to sneaker and hip hop coverage, so that is literally the only content the brand pushes on the platform now.
However, consistency goes beyond that. Dig deeper and take a look at the number of videos you post compared to photos, look at the number of horizontal videos you post compared to vertical, are you just posting just black and white images? “Is all the content I’m posting timely?” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, executive editor, digital at The Knot. These are the questions a brand should be considering, and although they can seem like minutiae, those are the things that will make a brand seem more consistent on Instagram and Snapchat.
6. Don’t feel that you HAVE to be on both Snapchat and Instagram. Of course, it’s always a good idea to push your brand’s content and mission on as many channels as possible, but Instagram and Snapchat take up resources. For many brands, especially those who reach an older demographic, it makes more sense to limit the amount of energy used on social media. At Saveur, with an audience that skews older, Dan Q. Dao, deputy digital editor at Saveur, says that, “in a field of limited resources, saying no is okay.” And the same can be said of features. Right now, Instagram Stories is the shiny new object and it’s easy to be pressured into putting resources into it. However, Grant reminds us of the incredible energy that goes into producing video and “that capacity is dwarfed by the massive scale of television.” So set out your brand’s priorities and figure out what’ll get the best ROI.