I opened my last column with these words: A solid plan and strategy is the key to every social media success.
Let's use those words again for this month's column about Instagram for financial advisers.
You may know Instagram as that photo-sharing service your teen-aged kids are obsessing over, but what you may not know is that it's so much more.
Here's a statistic reported by my colleague Ryan W. Neal in his story about Hearsay Systems adding Instagram to its social media platform in an effort to help advisers overcome compliance hurdles: About 70% of Instagram's 1 billion users are younger than 35, a demographic still evading many advisers.
Nothing's easy and Rome wasn't built in a day, but with a well-planned strategy, Instagram can be a wildly successful part of your social media toolbox.
Here's what you must consider:
What will your Instagram be about? The first thing that you need to decide is the same thing you need to decide when starting any social media presence: What is your ultimate goal? You don't use social media because "everyone else does" or "I have to." You use it because you have a clear vision of the message you want to send and how it fits into your branding and messaging.
Instagram is like no other platform you use. Make sure you go into it with this top of mind. You aren't going to recycle tweets and put them on Facebook and you aren't going to put your Instagram photos on LinkedIn. And if anyone tells you this is a good idea because it'll save you time, run away. Run fast.
Instagram isn't just about selfies, GIFs and food. I love how UBS uses Instagram. The company's bio reads "Passionate about the future. About the world we live in. About change." And it uses the account to focus on important topics such as pollution, recycling and climate change. The photos are artistic and compelling.
What do you want your message to be? Make sure anyone following your account knows what you stand for. In the UBS example above, 30 seconds looking through the feed makes that abundantly clear. Do the same with yours. What you stand for and how you ultimately share that might lead you to your next customer.
Your Instagram can be anything — as long as it's not boring. Mix video and photos. Be creative and colorful. If volunteering is a part of your company culture, show your employees volunteering. Let your clients get to know you and your firm. Tag people. Encourage sharing.
Give an inside, behind-the-scenes glimpse. Maybe you have an office in a city experiencing notable weather. Ask someone to take a photo and share it. My pro tip for this one is to ask anyone who has taken a photo of a rainbow to share it with you. Rainbows can be evergreen photos that can be posted with just about any caption. Plus they are beautiful, and people love to click on them.
Hashtags matter, so use them wisely and correctly. Take a look around Instagram to see what other people in the industry are using. Create one that's just for your brand and apply it to everything. There are all kinds of ways to do it, but the key is to #alwaysbeconsistent.
Make it enjoyable. It's hard to put into words, but it's easy to tell when an Instagram account is the real deal or just going through the motions. Take everything you've read above into consideration. Once you know your message, you can work out how you want everything to look.
If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #onsocialmedia or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.