Instagram lends itself to promoting a lifestyle that aligns with many brands in the outdoor industry. With a simple and clean platform for sharing compelling content, it’s no surprise that anyone involved in the outdoor industry—from athletes to brands to active participants—has found themselves on the site.
Instagram is not the simple community it used to be. What was once a fun and straightforward place has now turned into a complex and confusing marketing maze that has even the most seasoned social marketers struggling for answers.
You may be asking what has changed in the last couple of years? When Instagram first launched, it was simple: a sequential feed of square images posted by individuals, celebrities and brands you chose to follow. If your cool cousin, for instance, posted an image at 10:30am and your favourite outdoor brand posted at 10:35am, you would see the outdoor brand’s image first, followed by your cousin’s. The organization made sense, it was easy to follow and, as a user, you could curate a feed of images that actually mattered to you.
Log in to your Instagram feed now and you may very well still see your cool cousin’s post, followed by a sponsored ad for a bank, a friend’s post from a few days ago, something from your mom...and that outdoor brand’s post might be nowhere to be found.
The recent introduction of an algorithm-based feed means there is no rhyme or reason to what will be served up in your feed. Which is to say: you will no longer see the most recent posts first. Instead, you’ll see the posts that a supercomputer in California deems you should see.
Does this mean the end for Instagram marketing? Absolutely not. Although it does mean that marketers must change the way they think about using Instagram, there are still lots of opportunities to leverage Instagram as a valuable marketing platform. So how do you make the most of Instagram’s new structure and algorithm? Consider these key tactics:
ENSURE YOU HAVE A SOLID CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY IN PLACE
The days of being able to post mediocre content or mundane product shots are over. You need to have a strategy to provide the best possible content that will speak to your audience. We know that Instagram is a constant source of lifestyle inspiration for newer generations, and making sure that you show your product in action can pay dividends.
GET YOUR BUDGET IN ORDER
The days of “free exposure” may soon be coming to an end. The acquisition of Instagram by Facebook can only lead us to believe that Instagram is headed to the same pay-to-play format as Facebook. As we saw with Facebook, those who jumped on the paid bandwagon first saw the highest returns—especially while there was still room for organic content. Our suggestion would be to start shifting some of your social budget towards Instagram. Don’t have a social budget? Well, where have you been for the last five years?
CONSIDER HOW YOU CAN CROSS-PROMOTE TO THE FANS YOU ALREADY HAVE
Chances are, your brand already has a large database of engaged followers somewhere else. Think: email lists, Facebook pages, event lists, etc. These followers are already interested in what you have to say, so let them know that they can hear from you on a network they’re probably very active on. Not seeing traction in getting this crossover? Consider a small incentive or contest to entice your fans to transition.
BRANDS AREN’T THE ONLY ONES BEING AFFECTED
Although it may seems like brands and businesses are on the short end of Instagram’s stick, the effect goes further when you look at, say, ambassador strategies employed by many outdoor brands. Recent articles have attempted to explain the lowered engagement, limitations and decreased exposure seen by many photographers, athletes and ambassadors. The strategies we’ve just outlined are equally as effective for ambassadors as they are for brands. But it’s even more important for brands and ambassadors to work together to maximize their exposure and consistency.