Recently, I looked into Instagram as a potential venue for marketing and advertising opportunities. (Did he really just say “recently”? Into a decade old network with 1 Billion users?!) It hasn’t been a priority in business-to-business (B2B). I decided to go all in and submerse myself in this “tao” of Instagram. And what I discovered was nothing short of enlightenment. *Cue wind chimes, tribal drums, and sound baths*
Admittedly, I wasn’t an O.G. of the IG. When I joined a few years ago, I used it as it was intended: a visual diary, posting photos of my travels, my day, my dinner, my dog, my dog’s dinner. It became apparent quickly that observations of everyday life are rarely engaging. No amazing vistas, no celebrity encounters, no street magic, and with no appetite for Tide pods or spoonfuls of cinnamon. But that’s OK. At the very least it was consoling to my friends and family and casual acquaintances that despite being a writer living in Beverly Hills, my life was as remarkably uneventful and often more boring than theirs. Glad to be of service, my fellow glitterati. So I took a hiatus.
I’m not saying age isn’t a factor to whether or not you’re checking your Instagram feed in between reading this – because it is. But I guarantee that cotton-candy-colored haired, furry-slippered, intermittent-fasting Grammer in front of you ordering their third soy chai latte has 10x or more IG followers than you have legitimate business connections, you LinkedIn All-Star, you. And significantly more important to most brands. But you knew all that and it needn’t concern you from a business standpoint, right? Credit Instagram for giving birth to the growing influencer movement – whether you’re under the influence or not. It’s the real deal and though it may not be something you’re checking every minute for K-pop updates and make-up tips, your future customers are.
Challenging predispositions was my first order of business if I was to truly evaluate the platform for B2B viability. I’ll just come out and say it. Instagram is not just for millennials, though some credit at least part of its huge popularity to a Facebook exodus after our grandparents learned how to “friend” our ex. Stop mocking Instagram’s popularity if only because your competitors have. Good news: the transition from social self-promotion outlet to legitimate business generation has not (completely) left the station. Translation: swallow your pride B2B companies and start addressing Instagram as the money-making enterprise it is or it never will be for you.
Evaluating Instagram’s viability as an effective sales tool for B2B would require me making some changes. I turned my personal account into a business account. This provided me with greater insight into who was following me and when they engaged. More importantly, it opened up the opportunity to use a plethora of apps and online tools for a deeper dive into analytics. Oh, who am I kidding? It allowed me to advertise so Instagram makes it easy.
Next, I’d refrain posting about me. I thought I should focus on promoting my marketing services. Or should I? Young buyers rebel against the hard sell. “Buy our product because it’s great” is the quickest way to alienate. Traditional web ads will certainly work, but many of the web’s most effective sales agents have never directly sold a thing. They’ve built a following through engagement. My objective: increase my followers and create engagement (likes, shares, comments). My product? Words.
The Tao of Tao
When I established the account, I called it the “Tao of Frank” a pseudo-self-important swipe at myself. Then it hit me, why not take it a step further? Online overflows with self-aggrandizing inspirational and motivational quotes. I’d use Tao of Frank to create parody famous inspirational quotes from a First World Problems point of view.
My original Tao of Frank posts appeared a couple of years ago on Facebook wherein I superimposed my face onto established memes that I “red-lined” like an editor. But the new Instagram account I relaunched would need to be all mine if I was to really know what engaged and what didn’t. At first, they lacked a theme and any potential audience would not know what my intent. The point is and always will be: be consistent without being predictable. Let the readers know what to expect yet still be surprised. Writing these snarky quips was the easy part, but Instagram is a visual medium. I created a consistent look and feel. For a logo, I used the Buddha clip art and font resources built into Instagram intentionally making it look self-important.
I alternated the quotes using various colored backgrounds. I remembered the Fyre Music Festival documentary that talked about its use of only a blank orange canvas to create engagement success prior to the festival’s now epic failure. When I checked, my posts on orange had the highest number of likes. I believed I was onto something. I added my Instagram handle @tao_of _frank as the header. I created a consistent brand that would make Lao Tzu proud – or at least make his water buffalo proud.
The Tao of Hashtags
Posts to my (very) small base were garnishing likes. But would the uninitiated buy in? It takes entertainment sites years to develop a following as they polish their act but I’m not doing dedicating years to create an act. I’ve got things to do so I needed a catalyst. Enter hashtags. (Did he really just discover hashtags?! Does he -) Yes, I know about hashtags and I’ve used them effectively for years. Cousin to keywords, many social media sites use hashtags to various degrees of importance. What keywords are to SEO on your website, hashtags are to Instagram.
There is a science of finding a hashtag that attracts new viewers, followers, and/or buyers as your case may be. I searched for similar accounts. I found obviously relevant ones and not so obvious. I varied them, varied the amount I used. Some relevant to the quote, some to the audience. Until I was hashed out. The result was an audience to which they were delivered increased 10-fold.
For explosive growth, I should have made these into videos, but I didn’t because (insert favorite viral phrase for “laziness” here). Videos attract more attention. I learned that there were people who never checked my posts gladly clicked my icon to check my Insta-stories. Even though I never posted a video there, I was to create “videos” by using the gifs they provide. Sometimes it was an animated version of the day’s post, other days he hinted what the day’s post was about, and some others conducted surveys that let visitors select the next day’s quote. Regardless, it pushed those to my post.
Perhaps my favorite part of this experiment was the advertising. I spent pennies on the dollar compared to Google Adwords. IG gives you three options as to where to send people: your profile, your website, or a direct message. It allowed me to zero in on who (ages, sex, profession, interests), and where. The interface was straightforward.
I posted a new quote every day, some days twice, some days an Instastory and a post. Like on every social media platform, I found there were better days and times for maximum engagement. Fair warning: the process of watching the likes and follower count go up or down after every post was indeed addictive. There’s a horde of apps and easy to use free online analytics that makes it all that much easier to burrow down the rabbit hole.
The Tao of Frank
The Tao of Frank on Instagram was more an experiment than anything else. I learned why it’s so massively popular, ran a few ads to better learn its advertising interface, and had fun during the process. With a few exceptions such as products and services that help boost your Instagram results, I think Instagram is still best for B2C companies. But it did teach me strategies and new lessons on how B2B companies can get the most out of their social media efforts. I’ll answer the B2B question this way. I’m reminded of Marty McFly after his rock guitar solo at his parents’ high school dance. “In a few years, you’re gonna’ love this.”