The social media world is ever changing, and keeping up can be exhausting. Should you be on TikTok? Is Instagram over? Where should you be focusing your time and energy?
Social Media Expert Abby Thomas of Dirtywork Digital appeared on my podcast, Start, Scale Succeed for Episode 48 to share her thoughts on TikTok vs Instagram, and how you can make them both work for you.
I wanted to find out more about getting visible on Instagram, engaging with your audience, and Instagram vs TikTok. Read on for my questions, and Abby’s expert advice.
Is Instagram dead?
No! There is a lot of talk at the moment that Instagram is dead. When experts say this, it creates fear for small businesses, especially if Instagram is your main source of online marketing. Instagram still has 2 billion monthly users. The audience is still there. Instead Instagram is changing and evolving from being primarily a photo sharing platform, to a mixed used platform which encourages more video and original creative content.
The challenge is to figure out how to change up your content in line with the way that Instagram is moving.
What should you be posting on Instagram?
Firstly we can stop aiming for a polished aesthetic. Unless you are a luxury brand, most product businesses can let go of creating the perfect looking feed, the pressure of which can cause procrastination and paralysis.
Instead aim for a good variety of content, speaking directly to the audience you are targeting. For instance if you are targeting Gen Z or Millennials you want to make good use of memes, and events like the Met Gala, linking these back to your brand.
Change up your content. Carousel posts full of education tips add value but take a lot of time to create. I now limit myself to 1 carousel post a month, and instead focus on creating reels for tips. It doesn’t look as polished, but is a lot quicker to create, and people respond better to it.
Keep things brief. Remember people are often scrolling their phone whilst doing something else like watching tv, so unlikely to read lots of detail. You want quick digestible content rather than epic essays – this is why it is so important to use captions when creating video content.
Finally remember Instagram is a platform to nurture your audience. People crave connection. Engage with your audience, find out what they want, ask them questions, and have conversations in your comments. It is less about you, and more about focusing on and serving your audience.
Where does TikTok fit into your marketing strategy?
TikTok is 100% the place to be in order to grow your audience. There is nowhere better for numbers of scale and reach. I advise my clients to use TikTok as the start of the sales funnel. This is where you can reach the widest audience, and then drive these people to your Instagram account which acts as your shopfront and portfolio.
TikTok is all about storytelling, and raw, organic posts which are relatable, and where you show behind the scenes of your business. It is more like vlogging, you may be sharing a day in your life, unboxing products, packing orders etc. It is very service level content.
Instagram is where you delve into more information such as why people need your products, what the benefits are, the problems you address with your products etc. This is where you nurture your audience and convert them into paying customers.
What does this look like in practice?
For instance if you were selling an activewear brand
TikTok posts could include:
- Going to a gym class in your activewear
- A video of you making a smoothie, and chatting about new colours that will be launching soon
- Films of yourself doing a yoga pose
Instagram posts could include:
- Reel showcasing the USP of your product
- Explainer of how the kit is made
- Images of the activewear
- Asking the audience what colours they would like to see future products in
There is a difference between the audiences, and you can tailor your content to each platform, to ensure that it feels fresh and unique.
How can you show up online if you struggle with being on camera?
Many of us find it hard to show up on camera. If you are an introvert, this can feel an insurmountable challenge, showing up online daily. How then can you let your audience get to know you?
It is doable, it is all about thinking outside the box and getting creative.
- Create a character for your brand. Have a look at Duolingo on TikTok. They have an owl as their mascot, use it in all their videos, rarely speak about the app, and rack up millions of views.
- Gather user generated content from your community.
- Get other people involved, have your partner, team mates or friends regularly appear and talk about you.
- Use your voice so that people start to get to know and recognise you. You can talk over an image just of your hands packing a box, or a timelapse video of you fulfilling orders.
It is also worth taking the time to get more comfortable on camera.
Get used to picking up your camera on your phone and documenting yourself. Choose a quiet moment, where you are on your own and feel comfortable, perhaps walking the dog or parked in your car.
You don’t need to look at the camera, but try to get used to having a phone in front of you and speaking about your day, or responding to a question you have asked yourself. You don’t need to watch it back, the aim is to get used to talking to the camera.
It all comes with practice, and you will get better through trial and error. You will look back on early videos and be critical, but you will also find that the world doesn’t collapse after you posted it. I promise you it gets easier.
What should you do when trying to build an account on Instagram?
I have a different view from many social media managers, which is that you don’t want to spend hours and hours engaging on Instagram. That time is better spent working in your business or creating content. So once you are established, limit how much time you spend doing this.
At the beginning you will need to be doing a little bit of community management and engaging with other accounts. Make sure you know your audience really well, and consider other brands, businesses and profiles that they may be interested in.
Going back to the example of running an activewear brand, your ideal customer is likely to also be interested in nutrition, yoga retreats, and the outdoor lifestyle. Engage with posts by these accounts, for instance commenting that something looks delicious as a new smoothie place that has opened. Just be authentic, and this will give you a little more reach. When their audience sees these posts, they may click on your profile. If your bio and grid are strong, then they are likely to follow you.
My other top tip is to make sure that the words you use in your bio and captions are searchable. Make sure the keywords for your brand are in your Instagram name, which is different from handle. For instance I’ve got Social Media Manager | Strategy | Abby as my name, and if you search for social media managers I will be one of the first people that comes up.
How often should you be posting on TikTok & Instagram?
The more content you pump out, the more chances you get to reach a new audience. As you can post quick and easy content on TikTok, you can put out posts throughout the day as soon as a thought comes into your head about a brand.
The most important thing is to find a rhythm that works for you. Social media managers will talk about being consistent, but there is no point in trying to post daily if you will not be able to maintain this. The main thing is you don’t want to post and ghost.
What should you do if you haven’t posted in a while?
Instagram is very clingy. You can get away with not posting for 3 – 5 weeks. If you haven’t posted for 2 months or longer you may be better off starting from scratch with a new account because your reach will be really low.
For instance, If you have 10, 000 followers, and haven’t posted on the account for 2-3 months, the first post you put up after this break isn’t going to be seen by many people unless you do a reel to get more range. It will take a lot of work to revive this account, you will need to go back through your audience, engage with them directly, nurture relationships, and heavily use features like reels and live stories to compensate for the break. That is why it is sometimes better to start from scratch, as you may have a much smaller audience, but they will be more engaged.
However it is important to be able to take a break from Instagram and other social platforms. Burnout and overwhelm is common. If you can schedule 2-3 posts to go out over the period of your break, something simple like reviews, testimonials, or product images. This will ensure there is content that people can engage with. You maintain your presence whilst mentally taking a break. Alternatively consider outsourcing your social media for a period.
What are the most beneficial actions you can take on social media if you have limited time?
It will depend on your goals, whether you are launching, nurturing or trying to build your audience. However these 4 tips will work for everyone:
- Check your social media accounts in the morning, and make sure you reply to any comments or direct messages front the night before
- Use interactive elements in stories:- try a poll asking How are you feeling today? Get people to answer questions, for instance share a picture of you making your morning coffee and ask are you working today
- Capture your creative ideas – often our best ideas come when we are in the shower, driving, or falling asleep. Have a file in your phone or notebook at hand where you can jot down these ideas as they come up. Then next time you batch create content you have made it a lot easier for yourself, as you have a list of ideas to use.
- Get on TikTok!
Many thanks to Abby Thomas. You can listen to the full podcast here and find out more about Abby’s work here.
I hope that this post helps you to continue on your journey to success and if you need any extra support then check out my free resources on my website, follow me on Instagram, subscribe to my monthly newsletter or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org