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Branding & Marketing: A Hypothesis on How to Grow An Instagram Following that Actually Wants to Interact with Your SaaS Company

by Gigi Rodgers

· Marketing,tips and tricks

The Instagram strategy for your SaaS company didn’t quite perform the way you wanted it to, did it?

Many of us marketing managers produced the same results, implementing the same Instagram (IG) protocol.
  • Post 3-4x per day
  • S4S (or Share 4 Share)
  • The follow/unfollow method
  • Curate content from other profiles
  • Run contests, etc, etc.

Yet the overall result is the same.

Yes, we can build our number of followers (vanity metric), BUT the number of people commenting on your posts and clicking on your link in the bio, are laughably low.

So you do what we’ve all done.
You look at the numbers and cringe.

how many times have we all made this face...

You write an ‘autopsy report’ and talk about it with the team so you can get your takeaways from the experiment.

You abandon ship on pursuing any further Instagram strategies and allocate your resources elsewhere.

But you make sure the channel continues to have a “pulse” by posting <5x “meh” posts per week.
 

And that’s the end of that story.

But something bugs me about the failed Instagram strategy we’ve all executed on for our SaaS companies.

SaaS is not a sexy field.
Hell, we’re not even a visual brand.

So why would we approach the strategy the same way as if we were slinging Coco & Breezy Eyewear?

What we wish we could do // Images from Coco & Breezy Instagram

I’ve started to rethink the approach to IG strategy for a SaaS company.
 

To get some things straight now - no, Strikingly hasn’t tested this theory and I’m unsure if we ever will.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit on this idea.
 

Here's a hypothesis on how I'd reframe my IG strategy if I were in a "non-sexy/non-visual" business like SaaS. 

And it boils down to this - branding.

It sounds so simple doesn’t it?

But with that backdrop, let’s tap into (2) main components of this branding and marketing strategy: The Behind-the-Scenes & The Access.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Whenever a dvd movie comes out, people will wait for the director’s cut version.

And we all know why.

Because we want to see the behind-the-scenes action.

We want to see:

  • The interviews with the actors and actresses
  • How they created the props
  • How they coordinated this high-impact action scene
  • How the makeup artist created this creature
  • The bloopers, and more.

Why not offer the same visibility about your SaaS company's marketing and biz dev strategies?

The team behind Grow & Convert ran a live content marketing experiment.
 

They announced to their blog that they were going to challenge themselves in, “creat[ing] one blog post for a B2B company (in an industry they had no previous experience in)...and promote it for them. The goal being to drive more traffic to this blog post, in a 30-day period, than the [B2B company has produced, for] existing blog posts”.

Throughout the experiment, they “opened their kimono” to how they approach:

  • User research
  • Analysis on what the company was currently doing on their blog
  • Their approach in how they would come up with a blog post idea for this B2B company
  • And their promotion and distribution strategy for the article

images from Grow & Convert

They posted:

  • Screenshots of their spreadsheets 
  • The questions they asked during the user research interviews
  • How they went about filtering which online forums were worthwhile to promote the article in, and more.

To sum it all up - they hit their goal (ahead of time), the B2B prospered, and us content marketers who didn’t know the process got schooled.

Now, what does all of this have to do with you and your SaaS company?

Entertain this thought for a moment.
 

Why can’t you do the same, but for Instagram?

Tell people that you're going to run a live marketing strategy. Make it into a video.

Show them how you’re going to set up EVERYTHING.
 

Have someone record 1-minute videos of you explaining (and showing):

  • why you're approaching it this way
  • what you hope will happen
  • the KPIs you’ll be measuring and why
  • your SEO checklist, etc.

And remember, in IG, you can post a deck of (10) 1-minute images and videos in one post.

See where I’m going with this?

Every week, or day, update the audience on your results.

Are you where you want to be? Yes or no?
If no, why not? What’s your best guess?
Where do you think you need to pivot?, etc.

Show your frustrations. When some days just feel like...

Show your victories.
We'll empathize with you because we're going through (or have in the past) the same scenario.

We remember those SAME frustrations and roadblocks.
And those SAME feelings of accomplishment when you look at the numbers and the strategy worked.

That'll in turn, make us WANT to root for you.
We will WANT to see you succeed.
Which will having your audience coming back to see - 'What happened on this episode? Did they win'? - every day

And on top of that, shit gets REAL when you're live. Your team will MAKE this strategy work!

But, of course, you don’t have to do a live marketing strategy.

Walk the audience through one of your older experiments and why that one worked out.
 

What spreadsheets and systems did you put into place?
What were the hiccups?
What do we need to watch out for, that you learned during the experiment?

It’s the same cycle and probably a LOT less pressure on everyone.

ACCESS

This one's easy.
But time consuming.

Run a bi-monthly giveaway to the audience on Instagram.

But not giving away your company’s swag (Nobody wants your mug and t-shirt. #sorrynotsorry).

You're giving away TIME and ACCESS to key individuals in your company.

Run IG contests where one lucky audience member will be able to talk with the Director of Marketing or the Facebook Ads Manager or Business Development Strategist - for 15 minutes about WHATEVER they want, which will most likely be about their business.

And this isn't a long and drawn out contest.

It's a contest that will last for, let’s say, <5 minutes on Instagram.

You post on IG (or IG stories) saying, "Whattsup Grammers! You have 3 minutes to make a 2-sentence comment below. We're going to pick a winner to talk with our VP of Marketing about your personal brand or business for 20 minutes. It's 9:55am right now. This contest ends at 9:58am. Good luck"!

Are your creative wheels turning?

And your team is going to be such a 'Giving Team', that they’re not going to give this winner “fluff advice”.

Good strategy holds water with your audience.
And word gets around.

But there’s more -

To be a part of this IG contest, it should be suggested the audience turn on their notifications to be alerted when you post.

Now you REALLY have their undivided attention.

When you have your audience’s undivided attention and you’re giving out highly valuable strategy to the people, you’ll naturally start to gain attention.
 

Word will spread.
Your fan base will widen.
People will naturally be curious and click the highly coveted link in your IG bio.

Get it?

Think of it in this light.
 

Going this route, you can give people access to the well of knowledge so that they can learn to:

  • make better hiring decisions
  • build their email list
  • increase sales
  • suggest a book that will help them with investing decisions, etc.

It's whatever you and your team would like to share that adds value, or utility, to your audience - and what they are trying to accomplish.
 

Business-driven individuals will take notice.
And your opinion and strategy on matters will become respected in your community.

But this strategy isn’t all liquor-filled chocolate treats.

To make this happen, especially the live experiments, it would take a MASSIVE amount of coordination.

Let’s get into the rub.

THE OBJECTIONS

OBJECTION #1:

Agreed.

This isn’t one of those projects where you can pull someone into the team, who is already wearing multiple hats for other projects going on, and add this to their plate.

You’re going to want your team of, let’s say at least 2-3 people, focused on their one part that contributes to the big picture.

And that’s because they’ll be tackling:

  • Long form articles
  • Video production and editing 
  • And creating audio clips.

You will be dipping your toes into all three fronts and they're ALL full-time tasks aka "a time suck".

Now, let's check out the thought process for distribution flow -

Would I write a long form article? Yes.

Would I then get the person on the team with the best radio voice (or close enough) to read and record it - turning it into an audio format using Anchor.fm? Yes.

Would I then take that podcast to the ‘chop shop’ (Premiere Pro, Final Cut, or an app on your phone) and cut it into 1-minute teaser bytes for Instagram - leading the audience to the full podcast that is embedded in the blog post on your website? Hell yes.

Could I have a video of a person talking about the podcast or article (again a trailer video) for <1 minute to post on Instagram/Instagram stories? Yup.

And after all that - you have your Distribution teammate who will be:

  • Coordinating a profile takeover with another SaaS company that offers services in-line with you and your audience's needs
  • Performing outreach (e.g., do they feature podcast shorts on IG feature pages?)
  • Set up IG collaborations (e.g., S4S or Share4Share), etc.
  • Getting the word out to blogs and publications about what you're doing (whattup Mashable and TechCrunch...)

And there you have it.
How you like my flow?

And it gets even better -

To record the audio podcast - use your phone and go somewhere (relatively) quiet.
To record the video - use your phone and stand in front of a window for good lighting.
To edit the video - use your phone (though I’m a Premiere Pro luv-ah)

Be more focused on the creative aspect and the content output than on the equipment you need to execute on this strategy.

I’ve looked at the quality of a video recorded using an iPhone4s and - hot damn! - I can’t tell the difference between that and a Canon HD.

Can you?

Video shot with an iPhone 4s in Thailand / Video by artisland

Though even if you could, do you REALLY think the audience will care?

OBJECTION #2:

I have no clue.

I look at this strategy as I would SEO strategy - you need highly targeted content and patience.

It’s a collective of ideas, posts, and contests that stack on each other to EVENTUALLY produce quantitative gains you can see.

It’s the long game.
 

OR you could see results quickly because you and the team are doing amazing work and your audience spreads the word about you to everyone in their circles quickly.

Again, I have no clue.
Though, to mediate expectations, I would bet on the long game.

IT'S YOUR DECISION

This is all a hypothesis.
 

It could work as is.

The idea may (and probably does) need tweaking.

Or perhaps Instagram for SaaS companies is a lost cause, in general.

Who knows.

But if a marketing manager is reading this and the failure of your IG strategy for your SaaS company left a small chip on your shoulder, here lies an alternative to your approach - if you choose to take on the challenge.

What are your thoughts on Instagram strategy for SaaS companies? Did you run a successful campaign for your SaaS company (you unicorn, you!🦄 ✨)?
Share the wealth of knowledge in the comments below.