The bridal shop’s guide to Instagram
Social media seems to have turned marketing of a bridal shop into a full-time job, and when you have 10 other hats to wear – manager, accountant, style consultant, tea maker and so on – who has the time? Choosing where you concentrate your energy and time becomes all important. After all, you’re better off doing one social media channel really well than spreading yourself so thinly that you end up doing them all badly. In fact, the Instagram app is a tool that can help you do several social media channels well (and we’ll cover it later on).
Why is Instagram a good choice?
Instagram has been a rising star in social media for a while, and has captivated the hearts and minds of many in a new generation of brides-to-be. Facebook – of course – has its place in social media, and is central to a bridal shop’s marketing strategy. But Instagram has more than 400 million monthly active users who have shared more than 40 billion photos. When a social media network is even larger than Twitter, putting in the time and effort to captivate its potential will reap rewards, especially when that social network is still in growth mode.
Create your Instagram strategy
If you’re brand new to Instagram, try it out for yourself personally before setting up your business account. Familiarity with how the app works, and how major brands – in and outside of the wedding industry – run their Instagram pages will give you lots of good ideas.
Once you’re familiar with how Instagram works, you can start on your content strategy. That involves deciding how often to post, what time of day to post, what hashtags to use, and what content you’ll post.
How often should you post?
Accepted wisdom states that you should post two to three times per day, consistently. Regular posting schedules will keep you regularly appearing in your followers feeds, but if you overdo it, you run the risk of annoying followers and driving them to unfollow you. Try not to post a whole bunch of images in one short window. Not only is this considered spammy, posting multiple times in a row may create an Instagram algorithm penalty, meaning your posts will be shown to fewer people.
If posting multiple images in a short period is a must have (eg you’re at an event), combine them in a single post using Instagram slideshow posts, or alternatively stitch them together into a photo collage using Instagram’s partner app, Layout.
What time of day should you post?
In 2016 Instagram announced a change to what was then a chronological feed to instead show posts with higher engagement. Put simply, the more likes and comments your post receives, the more people will see your post. If you can generate lots of comments and feedback shortly after posting, this tells Instagram that your post is good quality, and your post will be moved to the top of your followers feeds and hashtag feeds. The easiest way to encourage likes and comments is to post when your Instagram audience is online.
So, when is that exactly? The general rules are as follows:
Post more during off-work hours
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – when are they most likely to be looking at Instagram? During their lunch hour (11am to 1pm), just before they go home from work (5pm), and during the evening(7pm to 9pm). Avoid 3pm – this is when most people have their heads down buried in their work, and is a time showing the lowest user engagement in Instagram statistics.
Week days have more engagement than weekends
Week-ends can (surprisingly) be a bit hit and miss in post engagement – you are more likely to get stronger engagement during the week when Instagram users are winding down after their work day. So save your important posts for week days. That said, experiment with weekends – you may find your particular audience is more active on weekends, and testing out posts to see what kind of response you get is always a good idea.
How do hashtags work?
If you’re familiar with Twitter, hashtags on Instagram work in a similar way. If you tag your images with appropriate hashtags – like #weddingdress, #bridalgown, #designerbridalgown, your post will show up when Instagram users search those hashtags. This is one of the most powerful ways to grow your Instagram audience and increase your exposure on the social network, so make sure you utilise your hashtags well.
What hashtags should I use?
It’s a good idea to use both commonly used hashtags – so that you appear in common keyword searches – and some unique hashtags, so that you’re easily found by your community. Be sure to add them to all of your posts, and make sure to incorporate around 15 highly relevant hashtags. You can do this either by adding it as part of your original post content, or as a comment (which I prefer as it keeps things looking tidier and less spammy). How do you find commonly used hashtags? There are a number of different apps available to give you a head start – just do a search in your app store for ‘Instagram tags’.
What content should I post?
The bridal industry has a huge advantage over other retailers when it comes to Instagram – most, if not all industry suppliers provide beautiful images of their products, so you should never run dry on images to utilise and upload. You’re also aiming to give potential customers a flavour of you and your company to break down barriers, so posting nice pictures of you, your staff, and the goings on at your shop will help do just that.
Bear in mind of course the image you’re wanting to present – make sure the photos are actually good images (and utilising Instagram filters will go a long way here), don’t go selfie crazy (it’s not all about you), and posting drunken pictures is never a good idea! Whatever you do, don’t post blurry or otherwise bad photos. Instagram is after all a photo network, and a little bit of effort goes a long way.
Creating an Instagram community
It’s always a good idea to be part of the Instagram community, whether you’re commenting on other bridal industry content, or conversing on your own images. It’s always especially important – and polite – to respond to comments on your posts.
What tools are available to use?
Let me start off by saying what tools NOT to use, and that is any app that automatically posts to Instagram for you without you pressing the ‘post’ button yourself. This is strictly against Instagram’s terms and conditions, and can lead to your entire Instagram account being shut down.
Instead, utilise a tool that allows you to pre-schedule posts, and sends you push notifications when it’s time to post. There are a number of different apps that will allow you to do this, with varying pricing plans, including Later, Buffer, and Hootsuite. Hootsuite also allows you to post automatically to Facebook and Twitter and is free for up to three social media profiles, suiting most bridal shops.
For photo editing and gorgeous photo filters, take a look at VSCO, an app that’s consistently in Apple’s top 100 Free Apps, and with good reason.
If you’d like to overlay some of your photos with nice quotes in gorgeous fonts – which can really tug on the heart strings of your followers, take a look at Font Candy.
For reposting other people’s Instagram pictures – a way to utilise your designers’ Instagram feeds with minimal effort on your part – try the Repost App.
The Instagram app itself is also a powerful tool, particularly since Instagram added Post Analytics for Business profiles last year. This will give you lots of extra information. For your followers, it will tell you how many you’ve gained per week, where they live, their sex, hours and days they’re online. For your posts, you’ll be able to find out which posts had the most views and engagement.
But most of all…
Enjoy your time on Instagram – not only may you grow to love it, it could well prove to be a powerful tool for your business.