Instagram Power- Book Review

[photo taken from AMA]

As I scroll through my Instagram, I’m forced to skim through an abundance of selfies, snapshots of last night’s dinner, and photos of an airplane wing as people travel back home for Thanksgiving break. However, what catches my eye is a post from Uniqlo (@uniqlousa), which hints at great deals on Black Friday, and a nice Thanksgiving photo/message from Food Network (@foodnetwork). Although Instagram has been primarily for young, tech-savvy users, I’m starting to see more companies utilize the photo-sharing app not only to supplement their social media presence, but also to market their product(s) through images.

Two months after its launch, Instagram hit 1 million users by December 2010. Today, there are over 150 million people around the world sharing photos and videos. With these numbers in mind, businesses are starting to venture past Facebook and Twitter to showcase their products to a new audience. But how can companies successfully use Instagram to boost brand awareness? Is it possible to gain a large following by simply posting photos? How does Instagram even work? Such questions are answered in Jason Miles’ book, “Instagram Power,” which covers how to turn Instagram into a powerful marketing tool for businesses.

In general, “Instagram Power” is a very thorough manual for marketers, covering everything from how to use the app itself to developing a marketing strategy which is what I’d dub, “Insta-pproriate,” on a mobile-first social media platform. However, csmtwerk wholeheartedly agrees that the book caters to an older generation that isn’t as familiar with social media like us millennials, making the text difficult to get through. We did, however, recognize that Miles’ tips would be especially useful for small businesses, as they could benefit the most from social media. He uses his own company, Liberty Jane ClothingRay, as an example of a “thriving six-figure small business” on Instagram, but as a result, his strategies were aimed at companies offering a physical product. This left me, Ray, Skylar, Michelle, and Claire wishing that Miles had used examples of other brands and companies that don’t necessarily have physical products.

The first half of the book highlights the “migration to mobile,” and how Instagram is the perfect medium to showcase products to potential customers. However, the group agrees that the first 50 pages or so could have been condensed into just a few pages, as Miles goes into great detail about how to get started on Instagram instead of jumping right into the marketing aspects of Instagram as his book promises to do. Later on, Miles discusses the importance of effective hashtags, and how it can potentially make or break your brand’s reputation. He uses the example of the hashtag, #McDStories, which ended up being a way for people to complain/bash the brand’s products. To avoid such a mishap, Miles encourages marketers to use “industry-related” hashtags that are brief, but memorable. As Marwick & Boyd state, content should be formulated for a reasonable “imagined audience,” or even the lowest common denominator, where the content is accessible to the largest number of people.

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 6.07.45 AM

[screenshot provided by author]

Though it takes a while to get to the meat of the book, the last half is pretty informative and interesting. As noted by Nicholas and Michelle, Miles discusses familiar (and new) marketing strategies like the AIDA method (attention, interest, desire, action), the “power of free,” and integrating Instagram with different social media platforms. Miles mentions that photos serve as a way to generate buzz about a product. Thus, gathering attention in as many ways as possible is key for a successful company Instagram. As mentioned by Tufekci, attention is extremely important when trying to advertise a product, as the success behind one’s account is determined by the number of likes, comments, and so forth. In addition to general marketing practices, Miles advises marketers to show a personalized side to a brand through behind-the-scenes images, fun snapshots, etc. This not only personalizes the brand, but also lets followers get a behind-the-scenes look at the businesses that they are looking at. This idea of frontstage/backstage performance is detailed in Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which divides human behavior into different types, pending the situation/location. Skylar points out that a backstage performance on Instagram “helps users see what is really going on,” as well as allow the user to “form a personal relationship with the company or brand.” Since Instagram is a mobile-first, photo-sharing application, visual images are extremely important. Posting photos of people working behind-the-scenes (ie: Packing boxes, editing on a computer, etc) shows the work that is being put into a product, allowing users to see what happens as they wait for a product to launch. However, if photos become too personal for a company page, people would deem it as inappropriate or distracting. In Liberty Jane’s case, there are several photos that don’t belong on its Instagram, such as a photo of unknown people, a photo of the author’s kids (yes, really), etc. This shows that backstage content still needs to be relevant to the brand and continue to market the company in a good light.

All in all, there are a lot of things that Miles touches upon, but little of the information is useful to those who already have experience with social media. Yasmeen, Michelle, Nicholas, Claire and I question the author’s credibility as an marketing expert on Instagram, as his company’s following on the app is only around 3,000 followers. This confuses me, because it seems like the tips that Miles gives has not helped Liberty Jane boost followers. I would have also liked to read more about how to cater to a younger audience, since it was evident that Miles was focusing more on older adults that need step-by-step help setting up the app. If a second version of the book were to be released, I would highly recommend that the author discusses how to incorporate video into their Instagram, as well as determine whether to pay for a new sponsored ads on the newsfeed. It would definitely make the book much more useful not only to marketers, but for those in our late teens to early 20’s. In addition, Miles could have discussed the Instagram business blog, which gives examples and useful tips that in my opinion, are much more valuable and easy to comprehend than what was written in his book. All in all, “Instagram Power” is a good book for non-social media users seeking advice/techniques for running a small business on IG, but it fails to keep readers lured in with unique marketing strategies that can be used for any type of product.

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