INSTAGRAM: DON’T JUST POST PRETTY PICS, GO IN WITH A PLAN
I want to be that woman. I want my life (or at least my apartment) to look like that. I want to wake up every morning and roll out of bed into downward dog. These are the narratives streaming through our minds as we scroll through Instagram news feed. Instagram’s ability to generate desire is uncanny. In fact, its purely visual nature seems to give Instagram the power to hijack our brains.
Scientists have studied this.
Researchers from George Washington University summed up why Instagram works as a sales-generating marketing channel when they studied participants’ reactions to two types of ads: “Logical persuasion” ads had facts and figures, and “Nonrational influence” ads showed participants fun, sometimes sexy, loosely related images. Here’s what happened: the brain regions involved in decision-making and emotional processing lit up when participants looked at the logical persuasion ad, which meant that the logic regions of the brain were firing. That’s bad for marketers, because those are the same regions responsible for inhibiting responses like impulse purchases. The nonrational influence ads didn’t trigger major activity in the logic regions, which means the subjects experienced less behavioral inhibitions. Instagram is all about the pretty pictures, and as a marketing tool, that makes it a uniquely appropriate medium to trigger emotions and impulses. As if that wasn’t enough, Instagram has the added social aspect. It can build relationships, trust, even friendship, which leads to likability.
Marketer and social physiologist Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion covers 6 principal of influencing people to do what you want and number 5 is Liking. “People are easily persuaded by people they like.” In short: capitalizing on Instagram’s social aspect, as well as the visual aspect, can pay double dividends.
And yet… When you look at most brands’ Instagram feeds, you’ll see completely impersonal photos, or worse, post after post of product images. That’s not what people come to see. The most successful Instagram feeds give the people what they wan, which tends to break down into three categories:
1. Aspiration: Aspirational Instagram feeds play on what we want—what we want to do, what we want to be, what we want to eat, what lifestyle we want to have. Typically, aspirational feeds come from fashionistas, fitness gurus, celebrities and furniture brands. Think of aspiration as a desire engine. Aspirational feeds rely mostly on images, but images that are specifically targeted to appeal to a brand’s specific audience. Aspiration isn’t just about things, it’s about experiences, lifestyle, and ‘living the dream’. Don’t Fall Into the Dark Side of Aspiration. You’ve seen it—the variety of post that goes “Look how perfect my life is. #NoFilter.” These posts seem like they might be aspirational, but they can really turn off an audience. Always have a sense of humor, and more important, a sense of humility.
2. Inspiration: Inspiration feeds into the human impulse to constantly improve and grow. We want to feel inspired, because improvement takes a lot of energy. Inspiration is our fuel. And, we tend to trust those who inspire us. If aspiration makes you want to have something, inspiration makes you want to do something. Inspirational posts make you feel capable of being better, part of something greater, or just make you go “Wow”. Inspiration uses quotes, images and art, and is practically guaranteed to make your people follow your feed.
3.Personality: Personality-driven Instagram feeds give that sense of personal connection to the person or brand. And yes, brands can be personality-driven. Bloggers, coaches, and even some businesses you’d never think of as personality-driven can build devoted followings with this type of content. Personality-driven businesses are those in which customers really come to see the person—and the person is indistinguishable from the brand. Followers feel like they have a genuine relationship with the person, and often they do. Maybe not the kind where you invite each other out to brunch on Sundays, but the kind where mutual support is offered and received. But you don’t have to be an individual human being to have a personality-driven Instagram feed—some brands are doing it too.
(And any combination of the three.)
The most effective Instagram feeds almost create their own worlds - they’re that consistent in style, tone and intent. As if each feed were an art exhibit, they are curated to create a specific effect or emotional response from those viewing them. At a more granular level, each post should address what your target audience wants from you. That could be information, a quick zap of motivation, or a feeling of personal connection (or anything else - if you don’t know what your people want to see, ask!).