How should an iconic brand grow its audience on a platform like Instagram?
This question has been a major focus for the nearly 70-year-old candy company, Smarties, in the last few months, and since employing a strategy that values art and design, Smarties has been growing its Instagram audience by roughly 1,000 new engaged followers per week.
Smarties has seen success in growing its Instagram audience by embracing what the platform rewards most - a strong aesthetic, active engagement and visual storytelling.
It's obvious that the candy brand has done its homework, and here are three Instagram growth lessons you can learn from its refresh efforts.
1. Relish your color scheme
As we all know, a brand’s Instagram aesthetic is a huge reinforcer of what a brand’s feel is. By partnering with visual artists and designers, Smarties has curated a fresh look and vibe for their Instagram account. This has proven to not only drive engagement, but it also evokes a sense of playfulness in regards to both food and color.
Not a purist about posting photos which simply highlight the Smarties product, Smarties also regularly posts photos taken by Instagram users in colorful and rainbow-draped backdrops. Smarties has an abundance of colors to play with, which it utilizes even when highlighting photos of colorful balloons, brick walls or other non-candy related items.
This reinforces the notion that Smarties is on Instagram to provide colorful and cheery vibes to their audience - and when the product is featured in their organic Instagram content, it still maintains a strong brand personality and doesn't come across as an advert.
As Sheryl Sandberg noted in Facebook’s earnings call in January 2018, two-thirds of people who visit Instagram business profiles don’t yet follow the brand that they're scoping out. Instagram has become a key platform for brand discoverability, and a place for brands to reinforce their brand personality. The mobile focus of the platform almost guarantees that new visitors of a brand’s profile don’t have a lot of focused attention to soak in every word a brand might say about themselves, and as such, oftentimes on Instagram, a brand’s color scheme is a more effective communicator than its copy.
Smart Tip - Think on a macro level around how your brand’s color scheme and aesthetics play together on Instagram. This will help make your brand all the more clear to new Instagram profile visitors. For brands that have the opportunity to play with color (whether monochromatic, neon or otherwise), embrace it.
2. Campaigns can unlock new worlds of fresh content
Prior to being embraced by lifestyle influencers and brands, Instagram’s appeal originated in its committed creative following. For an iconic brand like Smarties, maintaining a fresh and modern impression on the platform was achieved by commissioning various Instagram influencers and artists to kick off their #smartART campaign, which highlights novel and "Instagrammable" candy art, and plays into the platform’s abundance of creatives who similarly embrace color.
One artist they commissioned, Alexis Jesup of Colors Collective, created Instagram-worthy images using Smarties candy just in time for #NationalSkyscraperDay (which also happened to be #LaborDay). By creatively engaging in other hashtags and creating one for their own creative community, Smarties has significantly broadened its reach on Instagram. With striking visual content that's proven to drive engagement, they're also inspiring their followers to be creative with Smarties. And on its Instagram Stories, it’s not atypical for Smarties to highlight some of their following’s creative contributions.
This campaign was effective at driving growth and underscoring the brand’s commitment to design. This campaign also partnered with Donors Choose by matching donations for classroom art supplies for schools in need across the USA. Through this campaign, Smarties really hits home that their name was aptly chosen, given how much the brand values education and creativity.
Smart Tip - Find topics and themes which are tangentially related to your product or service, then create a whole world on Instagram in service of that through a campaign.
For example, due to the colorful nature of Smarties candy and their name connoting someone who is smart, Smarties expanded the scope of content its brand can stand for. Its presence on Instagram is centered around design, but it also provides them an opportunity to further their philanthropic efforts of supporting art education.
3. Categorize and Highlight the Stories Your Brand Tells
It’s now very clear on Instagram what topics brands are broaching on Stories, and the tone therein (largely thanks to Highlights). Knowing most of the visitors to your brand’s profile will not be your brand’s followers (yet), this space provides added context around what matters to your business. Utilize this real estate on your company’s Instagram profile to summarize your brand’s storytelling focus.
Smarties has shared Stories that go behind the scenes at their facilities, while they also serve up major “ColorInspo” and have another category entitled “Foodies.” They even provide playful designs that can be used for phone wallpaper.
The Stories categories underscore the brand's commitment to art, design, food and playfulness, and will no doubt prove enticing to the many non-followers scoping out their page.
Within Stories, they use a colloquial and fun style of copy that feels natural and light for the ephemeral nature of the platform. Leveraging polls and by reposting content from customers, they drive engagement and a sense of community.
Smart Tip - Understand that most of your business profile views on Instagram will be non-followers. Categorize, define and leverage the Highlights feature to demonstrate to potential customers and followers what types of Stories your brand tells. Use playful icons to represent them, and name them with titles that are memorable - and not too long.
Every brand has its unique challenges when it comes to embracing how it's represented on social media, but even brands that have been around for a long time can find new ways to reinvent what their image is on social platforms. Thanks to a brand redesign that embraces art, color, design and storytelling, Smarties has been able to optimize their page for increased organic Instagram growth and engagement.
Understanding what the Instagram platform values, Smarties is able to communicate who they are as a brand in a way that's not only unique to them, but which is also optimized for growth.
Optimizing for Instagram performance means understanding what that platform awards, prizes and places value on. Smarties very obviously studied the nuances of the platform before executing its approach.