Creating a brand from scratch has been an amazing learning curve. In this secret section of the Freedom To Exist website we document our findings, observations and advice on various aspects needed for creating a new brand. This post talks about Social Media.
A necessary evil, and evil is a fairly apt description.
Since we started out Instagram account in October 2015 it has become our most successful social channel. At time of writing, we have 14,000 followers.
It does feel like its very own ecosystem, with an etiquette, language and pulse that sets it apart from any of the other platforms. We have tried various growth hacks, and the learning is that the organic approach is the best for long term results and stability in the follower and likes count. The growth hacks have worked - such as the mass follow, and then unfollow method - but we experienced a big spike in followers, who then dropped off over the coming weeks once we unfollowed them. Growth hacks can also lead to Instagram blocking you. In 2015 you might get blocked for half a day or a day at most, but in 2016 you can be blogged for a week. Im sure if you consistently get blocked this could lead to your account being closed, and in a worst case, you losing your username, which could be a disaster if you have fought hard to unify all your usernames across all your channels (which we did, it felt an important thing to do, when we selected our company name, ensuring the .com combined with all the usernames where available/obtainable was a key aspect when choosing our brand name, there's nothing that gets my OCD on edge more so than seeing an advert for a company who has 5 platforms, and 5 different names, ie @brand_london, @brandlondon, @brand_london_UK, which is something you see surprisingly often. The most common perpetrator for this, is when you see a movie poster).
Good content. Not posting too often. Shareable and not too salesy (when we started we had a lot of "buy now" style posts, but the posts we have had the most likes from are ones from customers who have sent a picture of them wearing our watch) is the key. Nothing groundbreaking,
Im not convinced yet by the Instagram stories. Seems like a way to compete with Snapchat rather than being something the instagram platform needs. It feels un-natural that its not possible to like a story, a big part of the Instagram experience is liking, and not being able to do this feels unnatural. Often I am unintentionally flicking through a users recent stories as my impulse is to like an image or video.
Having experimented with Pinterest, it could be one of the dominant platforms for driving traffic, but I found it to be quite buggy (often if you follow or unfollow in bulk it does not register) and have an amazingly lacking process for generating sponsored posts. Facebook makes it so easy, along the lines of Amazon streamlining to the point where you could buy something without realising it, but with Pinterest you need to export a campaign vie excel, and then feed it back in.
Perhaps its geared for agencies and people dedicated to providing social media support, rather than a boostrap who are doing it all in house - it feels a lot more technical then any other platforms approach to sponsored posts - but it proved to be an unwieldy beast to work with.
It did drive sales, and we did obtain a healthy amount of repins and likes, and we will use it over the upcoming Christmas period.
We really struggled to gain any form of traction or noticeable benefit from using Twitter. Out of all the social platforms it does feel like the one that has adapted the least and looks the most dated. Facebook have absorbed or imitated their competition, whereas Twitter has changed very little. The 140 character limit is born out of the SMS limitation (SMS is 160, but Twitter uses 140 to capture the username) and the world has moved on now with iMessage and Whatsapp being closer to email than the old days of text message.
We tried sponsored posts and ran a number of tests, but found more spam and bots than any other social platform. We often get 5+ Retweets, but looking an those behind the social action its regular an account that looks face and is of little social value.
Now we just use IFTTT to automate our Instagram posts, as this allows us to post natively (our instagram images are embedded rather than require the user to click a link) and Twitter is likely to be use a platform we to amplify our other social platforms rather than post unique contact on.
Maybe they will update it, the character restriction is frustrating and would be the first thing they need to update, and would be a quick win.
A social platform we will experiment more with in 2017. My fear before investing too much time into it, is that Google has a history of closing down projects and platforms that do no perform. Its a bold move, and a streamlining approach which defines their success, but with it being a difficult to use, and also a platform that none of us at fte personally use, it does seem likely to become something that closes in the near future.
It is very tempting to pursue due to the obvious ties with SEO and google ranking, but when using it, combined with the fact that I personally (and Im sure you do as well) have 4 x Google accounts which makes it problematic when logging in as it keeps trying to steer you to create new Google plus pages, it feels like a chore rather than something that will benefit our brand. We will see.