Chew on These Morsels of RXBAR’s Audience-First Instagram Strategy

rxbar, instagram

Every brand commits social media mistakes, from skimping on audience research to waiting too long to respond to complaints. One gaffe that brands sometimes commit on social: focusing more on generating eye-catching content than on how audiences will likely interact with that content.

Monitoring Instagram—a favorite platform among young people and fashionistas who change their user behavior as often as their wardrobes—can be a particular challenge for brands seeking to stay on top of user trends. Sami Ari, manager of content and social media at RXBAR, a Chicago-based protein bar company, agrees. In his view, it’s crucial for brands to be cognizant of how audiences are interacting with individual posts day-to-day, but also to focus on the bigger picture of how their content is performing. 

“Brands often get frustrated when great content does not perform well; that’s when it’s important to take a step back and check audience insights for each individual post, which can inform and improve future posting habits," he says. But he warns, "It's not a one-size-fits-all frame of thinking. What may be great for our brand may not be for others, so it's important to always test and adjust strategy accordingly."

rxbar, social media and content manager, sami ari
Sami Ari, manager of content and social media, RXBAR

Sami, who will be speaking on RXBAR’s Instagram strategy as part of PR News’ Visual Storytelling Boot Camp in Chicago on June 22, shares a taste of what makes an Instagram approach focused on audience behavior an efficient one.

Think in terms of your entire feed, visually. Instagram audiences have a tendency to look at an account’s entire feed after they've seen a post or before they decide to hit the “follow” button. It’s important for them to see a variety of content that stays true to brand identity and offers an overall look-and-feel story. When someone completely new to your brand looks at your Instagram feed, make sure they’re not just seeing a wall of still images or videos or the same color theme. Finally, pay careful attention to the thumbnails you choose for your videos, making sure to pick a frame that fits with your overall feed aesthetic.

Tagging is the new hashtagging. Beware of using too many hashtags. There are accounts that use 10 to 15 hashtags at a time, which can lead to an oversaturated hashtag feed. Less is more. This is not a hard rule to follow and ultimately depends on your brand's voice. For instance, stripped-down minimalist captions in RXBAR's posts lend themselves to the RXBAR's simple and straightforward branding. That said, while a hashtag overload can help with quick engagement, audiences are starting to pay more attention to the tagged section of an account. Take LuluLemon's account, for example: There’s a wealth of user-generated content displayed in the tagged section that enriches the audiences' journey of learning more about the brand.

Looking for more up-to-the-moment recommendations and case studies on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube content strategy? Register today for PR News' Visual Storytelling Boot Camp and Digital How-To Conference June 22-23 in Chicago.

Instagram’s new algorithm means it's more important than ever to focus on quality over quantity. Whether or not you post a high volume of content depends on your objective and your audience. However, the way Instagram’s algorithm currently works, users don't necessarily see posts chronologically. This means that if you post twice a day, there's a chance users will see four of your posts in a row in their feed if they haven't checked their account in a day or two. This can potentially create a negative user experience, coming off as spammy. In short, more content does not equal more engagement.

Pay careful attention to when your audience is online. The time at which a post is published has a major effect on its success. Is your audience online when you’re posting? Are you targeting your post to the right time zone, demographic and city? If a post only reaches 50,000 people at 9 a.m. but your usual reach is 200,000, try posting at 5 p.m. instead. This may be common knowledge to some, but it’s helpful to look at post metrics at least once a week and adjust accordingly to catch these kinds of mistakes before they happen.

Yes, video is important—but photos remain a powerful tool. As communicators, we heard a lot about video being king in 2016 and 2017, but there’s something to be said about the beauty of a still image: It forces brands to communicate much more with far less real estate. A 30-second video requires more of a viewer’s time and attention than a striking still image. Swapping in photos also provides much-needed variation in your Instagram feed and, combined with checking performance often, can be crucial to finding the right cadence for your video and photo content–maybe it’s three videos for every one photo, or vice versa.

Follow Sami on Instagram and on Twitter.