How to Build Your Brand and Customer Loyalty Through Instagram

Instagram is the highest-engagement social media platform.

Each individual audience member is far more likely to engage with your content on Instagram than other platforms, which means that smaller audiences are still valuable.

 

The real question is, how do you get and keep those audience members?

Successful Instagram accounts thrive on creative visuals. Because of this, brands can craft distinctive identities and successfully target specific customer personas, not through Facebook-style audience targeting but through self-selection and carefully curated content.

Many marketers dismiss Instagram on the grounds that it’s only for Gen Z and younger millennials. The truth is that Instagram’s appeal and demographics are growing, and older generations can also be reached with the platform. After all, the effects of amazing visuals aren’t limited to any one age group.

 

Here are three impressive examples of brands who have built their identity and customer loyalty with smart and strategic use of Instagram.

There’s a few common themes in the examples below. Read through and see if we noticed the same things about how to build a brand on Instagram!

 

Impressive Example: @titosvodka & @vodkafordogpeople

 

Tito’s Vodka has separated its Instagram presence into multiple accounts—the main @titosvodka account represents the brand, while @vodkafordogpeople highlights some of the brand’s most important social causes: rescuing dogs and supporting nonprofits that benefit animal welfare.

What’s impressive about the Tito’s Vodka Instagram?

The two highlighted accounts have very different, but complementary, roles in branding and loyalty-building.

 

What is @titosvodka for?

  • Building trust through curated content: @titosvodka typically posts in response to holidays, relevant popular hashtags, or to offer entertaining and useful suggestions.
  • Engagement through practical suggestions and effective writing: @titosvodka posts recipes for interesting drinks using their vodka.
  • Highlighting heritage and brand values: the account showcases the brand’s authentic Texas small-business roots.
  • Specifically for fans of the brand.

 

 

What is @vodkafordogpeople for?

  • Consistency: @vodkafordogpeople uses emotional cues and demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility in every post.
  • Outreach: even people who aren’t fans of Tito’s can be drawn in with cute dog pictures.
  • Engagement: @vodkafordogpeople posts a profile of a Tito’s fan’s pet every other day and tags their owner in the description.
  • For dog fans and brand fans.

 

These accounts together showcase something critical about the Tito’s Vodka brand without pushing it in their audience’s face. What are they doing?

  • Demonstrating brand values and charity in an authentic way.
  • Choosing a cause and showing commitment in a way that appeals to a passionate group of potential customers.

 

Impressive Example: @letterfolk

 

What’s impressive about the Letterfolk Instagram?

Letterfolk has built its brand on relatable, self-aware humor, straightforward acknowledgment of the people behind the brand, and genuine community connections.

 

Letterfolk’s brand identity is so strong that they no longer even need to create their own content. The majority of photos on the account are from lifestyle accounts or companies in the same niche—people who actually want Letterfolk to repost their content, because that gives exposure and confirmation of their content’s value.

 

Letterfolk is able to do this because it developed its own niche. By crafting its own style—humorous, self-deprecating letterboard messages in a family lifestyle setting—it created a style which others enjoyed, followed, and began to replicate themselves.

The brand directly participates in a small-business ecosystem of like-minded, but not competing, companies and lifestyle blogs. Their target customer persona is established and captured; they focus on taking advantage of it.

 

The manicured, minimalist lifestyle ideal.

 

The self-aware reality.

 

Their images utilize both aesthetics and the targeted, entertaining messages that resonate with people in their niche. Yes, Letterfolk is selling itself, but it’s not necessarily selling the dream of being organized. It sells participation in a community that accepts and celebrates its own shortcomings. Because Letterfolk created that community, it comfortably resides in the epicenter, where engagement is fruitful and exciting.

 

Impressive Example: @cleopatrasbling

 

What’s impressive about the Cleopatra’s Bling Instagram?

The account creates a clear and consistent identity through marrying history, jewelry, and travel blogging.

Jewelry is typically displayed on fruit or other visually interesting food. We love this, but what makes it so compelling?

 

In addition to being individually beautiful, every picture communicates multiple ideas and feelings:

  • Expensiveness.
  • Delicious food.
  • Luxurious goods.
  • A sense of historical exoticism.
  • The interesting juxtaposition of dissimilar items.

 

This final element ties everything together.

 

The brand compounds a sense of exoticism by combining fine jewelry with fruit in a way that makes the products seem like ancient artifacts.

Think of ancient Egyptian royalty being fed grapes and fanned by their attendants. Seems over-the-top, I know, but you have a clear picture in your head of what I’m describing.

The page utilizes on-brand writing that takes advantage of this collective nostalgia—this feeling of decadent, unsurpassed abundance.

 

Takeaways

Building a brand on Instagram can be successful without a huge budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s quick or easy. Contact us if you need help!

 

Instagram Success Themes

  • Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.
  • Quality images and the ability to curate well-composed content.
  • A clear brand identity and understanding of its key elements.
  • Understanding how to target distinct customer personas.
  • A consistent aesthetic theme complemented by a consistent tone across all written content.
  • Creating a sense of community and seeking callouts from other accounts in similar niches.
  • Direct engagement with your audience, whether as a person or as a personality.
  • Being open-minded and testing creative strategies to find your niche.

Optimizing Images for SEO

According to Google, images are beyond critical for SEO, overall user experience, website “stickiness,” and retaining visitors in a world where the average online attention span is a mere eight seconds.

Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how effective image optimization can be for SEO. Especially when you consider close to 90% of data the brain transmits is visual.

Don’t believe us? Here’s a thought experiment for you: try recalling the latest eCommerce site you visited. What jumps to mind? Product description and specs or the look and feel of the site as a whole (lifestyle and studio product photography, macro imagery, etcetera)? Makes sense, right?

Well, this is by no means an accident but rather purposeful. And behind all these crisp, colorful, and high-resolution images is SEO optimization—playing a pivotal role in driving qualified users—like yourself—to the site.

Why Does SEO Image Optimization Matter?

While you may already know the answer to this question, it’s important to understand why and how image optimization affects not only SEO, but also overall site health. Large and unruly images served across all devices without the help of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) can severely impede user experience, time on site, conversions, and ultimately site rankings in the SERPS.

Pro tip: With Google Pagespeed Insights, you can see which opportunities are available to improve your site’s speed, with image optimization being a major component.

All that said, we found it prudent to outline some best practices for SEO image optimization across your site to help mitigate any unforeseen challenges due to slow loading times, the inability of crawlers to index site content appropriately, and poor UX for your visitors.

Image Optimization Best Practices for SEO

Choose the best format

By now it’s safe to assume we’re all somewhat familiar with basic image formats across the web. We’re talking your standard GIF, PNG, and JPEG images found ubiquitously upon sites of all sizes and denominations (For the sake of space and clarity we’ll keep things as simple as possible with these three formats. However, we are aware of the versatility and applicability surrounding JPEG XR and WebP image formats as well).

That said, the selection of a format should be determined by the image’s intended function.

Is animation needed to boost engagement and convey a specific message? Go with the GIF.

Is the highest image quality necessary? PNG might be the best bet.

JPEGs, then, are typically the preferred format for preserving most of the image detail while simultaneously reducing file size—ideal for site speed and load times.

No matter what format you decide upon, it’s important to optimize the size of each image to reduce site lagging. There’s a handful of third-party tools available to accomplish this such as exgif, optipng, and pngquant.

Resize your images appropriately

When developing the front-end of your site, ensuring a maximum width for each image load is key to preventing an oversized image from slowing down the site load time.

Put simply, imagine a hero image that’s 5000px wide, yet your site width doesn’t exceed 1200px.

The image will still be served within the constraints of the site. However, loading all 5000px will significantly slow the site down.

The solution? Resize and upload the images within the maximum width you need. And if you aren’t sure what that is, have your designer dig into the CSS to find out.

 

 

The only caveat here is to take extra care in resizing these images if you’re using a responsive design. So be sure to check with your front-end designer to ensure whatever max width you’re resizing to falls in line with the responsive nature of the site.

 

 

Name your images appropriately

Ask any web designer or content manager and they’ll relay the importance of naming conventions for images across the site. Not only does this keep everything organized on the backend but—more importantly—Google uses filenames to index the image subject matter.

For example, space-gray-macbook-pro.jpg is much easier to crawl and index than img000456.jpg.

What’s also pertinent here are descriptive alt texts for each image.

As a refresher, alt text (i.e. alternative text) serves as an image descriptor (what the browser displays to users with screen readers, and when the image cannot load properly).

Additionally, captions provide useful information to Google for indexing purposes, so it only makes sense to include as much straightforward information as possible to help enhance visibility.

Manage the file size of each image

As previously stated, JPG, PNG, and GIFs make up the “big three” image formats outlined on the web. They all feature a different compression method.

Why does this matter?

It matters because the compressed file size of each image can differ greatly from one another—which can have a direct impact on site speed and load times. In fact, Google has confirmed that site speed plays a crucial role in SERP rankings for both desktop and mobile.

So, it behooves you as an SEO, site owner, or content manager to opt for the smallest image file size possible while maintaining the greatest quality (the JPEG format often works best).

 For Mac users, imageoptim is a fantastic free tool for optimizing image sizes.

Create an image sitemap

Unless you’re using WordPress and Yoast SEO, odds are your images aren’t automatically added to your sitemap—a crucial step in providing Google additional details about your images they might not have otherwise captured by crawling the site.

More importantly, image sitemaps, unlike standard sitemaps, can contain URLs from other domains. This allows webmasters to use CDNs to host images, which allows for quicker image load time. It also enables Google Search Console to report any crawl errors found on the site once the CDN’s domain name is verified.

Make your images responsive for mobile

With a sizable, if not majority, of web traffic stemming from mobile, a slow site can be detrimental to respective rankings.

The key to mitigating any pains stemming from a slow site speed comes in the form of responsive image loading for mobile. Meaning, if you have a 1000px-wide image on your site but the mobile display is only 350px-wide, loading that extra 650px will waste bandwidth and prevent the page from loading quickly—which is not good for SEO.

Luckily, there’s one snippet of HTML code that solves the issue: srcset. Here, this piece of code prompts the browser to load different image sizes for different display resolutions. So, with that 1000px-wide image, you can include different size options in the syntax so the rightfully-sized image is served on the respective display based on a specific device and screen size.

 

 

Some CMS’s (e.g. WordPress) automatically generate this code for the convenience of the user and offer a plugin to optimize images for retina displays when necessary.

 

 

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what comprehensive SEO image optimization can entail. Google and a variety of third party websites offer additional information on schema markup for images, the merits of using a CDN to enhance site load times, leveraging browser caching to reduce load times for sites with plentiful images, and even opting for “lazy loading”, where images are served only when they’re prompted to be shown on screen.

 

Needless to say, there are a myriad of tips and tricks out there to help optimize your image SEO and therefore your site experience, relevancy, and overall content, so research wisely.

 

 

 

Is Your Agency a Service or a Partnership?

Characteristics of service relationships, mismatched relationships, and partnerships between clients and marketing agencies.

 

Even great relationships experience growing pains or occasional miscommunication. What makes a relationship perfect is when both parties work together to move past it.

 

Like any other relationship, it almost seems cliché for agencies and clients to get frustrated with each other.

 

“[An agency-client partnership] is actually the hardest relationship… It’s like a real marriage. Not every day is great, but every day you make a conscious choice to stay together in the name of great work.” -Anselmo Ramos

 

Moving past this frustration isn’t always easy. Between an agency and client, a roadblock can happen because of a very specific type of communication breakdown: is this a service relationship, or a partnership?

 

What is a “service relationship”?

Like a gardener, janitor, or call center representative, an agency in a service relationship is expecting to do the job and be done. The agency performs better once they understand the client’s business, but following a rigid set of guidelines leaves them without room to leverage individual expertise.

 

These relationships are a hallmark of fundamentally replaceable contractors.

 

  • If you get a different person every time you call your agency, or if your POC has to read up on your file during the call, you’re probably in a service relationship whether you like it or not.

 

  • If you expect your agency to perform starting Month 1, and if you aren’t comfortable showing them key documents or discussing future initiatives, you’re asking for a service relationship.

 

What is a “partnership”?

Partners work together for mutual continuous growth and benefits. By working together with open communication, partnerships foster personal relationships and understanding to develop better solutions.

 

Partnerships aren’t fast or cheap, which makes them more valuable. They take time to form and require patience during the process.

 

  • If your agency contacts pay attention to your industry knowledge and incorporate the best insights into their strategy, or if they’ve taken the time to study and understand how your business works, you might be in a partnership.

 

  • If you walk your agency contacts through your key selling points, and recognize that even low-performing experiments give useful data, then you may be in a partnership.

 

Why would anybody want a service relationship?

Some agencies are built around having many service relationships. They can be well-suited to companies with small budgets and niche products that don’t face high levels of competition.

At first, a service relationship may sound ideal to a prospective client. After all, if an agency doesn’t perform quickly, it’s easy to move to another.

 

The problem is that these only work for a narrow subset of agency-client relationships. In most cases, hopping between agencies quickly just means you aren’t giving any of them a chance to perform.

 

More realistically, most companies looking to hire an agency have a large bottom line, a complex funnel, or plans for future growth. Taking advantage of any of these takes more than a few hours per month of an agency’s time, and more than a month to be fully realized.

 

Planning a successful SEO or paid media strategy takes not only time, but a clear understanding of competitors, current opportunities, and the offering itself.

 

When a client looks for a service, or settles for an agency that wants to provide a service, they won’t get the partnership that enables both to succeed.

 

The only way to make sure proper expectations are set early is for both sides to be on the same page about forming a partnership.

 

How to tell the difference during a pitch

Clients care about track record, and agencies know it. That’s why good pitches point out if an agency is in the top 1% of performance, has Google All-Star status, or has unique competitive advantages such as TitanBOT.

 

However, pitches rarely include detailed information on what kind of relationship the agency expects. Instead, prospective clients need to read through the lines and pay attention to what the agency highlights.

 

Low costs? Likely a service.

Excessive focus on secondary metrics like CPC & CPM over ROI, CPA or profit? Likely a service.

Cookie-cutter pitch? Look forward to the same with your accounts.

 

Long-term relationships with clients? Partnership.

Transparency on average client growth, with pack-leading improvement? Partnership.

People-focused culture? Good agencies see both their people and their clients as valued partners.

 

Building a partnership with your digital marketing agency

All working, mutually beneficial relationships are two-way streets. They rely on trust, good will, and cooperation from both sides.

 

For every experiment that fails, another succeeds—and the benefits outweigh the costs. The best agencies stay on top of new features on every platform, and actively pursue finding the next best practices.

 

Remember that your agency has every incentive to make your accounts perform, but they have never worked with your accounts before. Even if they have clients in the same industry, every company is different.

 

Since you are the expert on your own company, any agency you work with will need time to get up to speed and understand your products as well as you do. This isn’t a failing—it’s a sign of an agency understanding that every account and campaign is different.

 

By providing as much information as possible, your agency can take full advantage of your knowledge to create the best campaigns possible. Wouldn’t that make both of you happy?

 

 

At Titan Growth, building a partnership is our ultimate goal for every client we work with. Great campaigns are born out of collaboration. Contact us today to see if a partnership would be right for you.