This year Kuno Creative implemented an internal Instagram contest in an effort to grow our account, test the capabilities of B2B marketing on Instagram and, most importantly, showcase the genuine, imaginative people who make up our company. Here we share the lessons we've learned.
In early 2016, the Kuno Creative Instagram account only had about 300 followers; although the account was important to us, we didn’t make it a priority. Before then, our Instagram strategy consisted of updating the account several times a month with fun news about our company culture.
Content posted during contest (2016 only) = all content from 2012 to 2015 combined
Kuno primarily uses Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to generate traffic and leads through social, but Instagram never came up as a viable channel critical to growing our sales leads—the company’s ultimate objective. It’s true, Instagram is not for everyone. Historically, Instagram's API (App Program Interface) did not allow third-party tools, preventing users from scheduling content or automating publishing. Network growth was largely known as an organic effort best suited for popular, consumer-facing companies, celebrities and entertainment brands.
However, when Facebook started to include Instagram as a new placement option for advertisers, it became clear that, if done correctly, a growth strategy could be facilitated with paid advertising dollars. The Facebook advertising platform is arguably one of the most advanced targeting options for paid media distribution, and now that targeting capability could be applied to Instagram as well. A few months after testing Instagram ads with some of our B2C and nonprofit clients, we reported growth in both channel engagement and follower count. Despite this new ability to advertise on Instagram, it was still hard to imagine a sales qualified lead converting on one of our Instagram ads.
Kuno also had reservations about time. How could we dedicate the time to making Instagram content when we didn’t even know if that content would ultimately help company ROI? Yes, we could create custom video and graphics, but to what end? Testing content is one of the first steps in social media marketing, but would the man hours needed to create Instagram content justify an eventual conversion of unknown quality and cost?
In short, our concerns were how long it would take, how much it would cost and whether it was worth our efforts.
Keep this in mind: Instagram is a platform for expression. It’s a channel to share personality, inspiration, adventure and talent.
When I think of Instagram, both as a user and as a manager, I think of a great escape. I want to see beautiful photography from around the world. I want to see illustrators illustrating and cooks cooking. I want to see my favorite sports team and I want to see the funniest dank memes! I want to see friends whom I follow and family whom I love. I do not want to see a B2B company soliciting me to buy, download or leave the app entirely—it’s just not the platform for that kind of content.
After brainstorming a few options, our team came up with a strategy that would effectively grow our Instagram account while adhering to the strengths of the Instagram platform: An employee takeover contest. Here are our contest guidelines:
First, the logic behind determining a fair KPI was challenging. We decided on engagement rate (“Likes” + “Comments” / “Followers at the end of your turn”) because as a rate, the relationship between the numerator and denominator would remain constant. Ultimately, this would reveal true content performance in relation to the constant rate. We could have used growth rate as another KPI, but growth rate did not seem to be a true indicator of content quality; engagement did.
We also decided that we would judge the single best upload of a contestant’s turn. In this case, quality over quantity would inspire contestants to work hard for that single, best upload.
Since our launch in April, Instagram made several changes to its platform, including a major platform redesign (May 11), a major algorithm change (June 2) and the introduction of its latest feature “Stories” (Aug. 2). Although it’s hard to pinpoint the direct effects of these updates, it was the new engagement algorithm—which prioritizes big brands and close connections—that threatened account performance the most. In the wake of the change, small to midsized Instagram accounts (like Kuno) now have to work harder and create better content to earn organic visibility that was once chronological.
Content that capitalizes on viral, trending, real-time events positions itself to be seen by more people. Kuno Lead Designer Walt Winchel created a custom graphic for the season premiere of “Game of Thrones” and earned an incredible amount of engagement relative to our follower base. He holds the lead so far.
Video, GIFs and Boomerang uploads proved to perform better than single image uploads—no surprise here, as interactive content is more inviting to users and central to the Facebook-Instagram platform. High-quality images that included food and arts and crafts were also recognized as high-performing content.
Since the contest began, we’ve had a steady supply of genuine, user-generated content that can be shared across all Kuno social media channels—not just Instagram. The contest not only showcases life at Kuno, but also acts as self-sufficient media generator to populate our other channels.
Although your company may not have the same brand following as Nike or Selena Gomez, it doesn't mean you can’t be successful on Instagram. By showcasing the diversity of your employees in engaging and creative ways, even the most "boring" companies can begin to establish an authentic, inviting brand.