Why Building a Cult Following on Instagram Will Maximize Sales

At ALEX AND ANI, we understand the value of an Instagram fan and wanted to make the user experience better for those who were consistently asking the names of – and where they could purchase – various products. Through Curalate’s Like2Buy solution, we believe that Instagram users have access to the most seamless shopping experience via Instagram to date. All they have to do is like content on our account and visit the link in our profile. From there, they can shop their likes or all of our posts. We launched this feature last September, and after less than a month our fans adopted this new process. According to Curalate, we have some of the highest conversions they have seen among their clients proving the power of our most engaged fans.

As a young brand, you should start creating a distinct aesthetic

While it’s always beneficial to see what other brands in your vertical are doing, as well as those that you tend to align yourself with, you need to determine what your fans want. We’ve been on Instagram since 2012, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that we had dedicated resources to really invest in the channel. At that time, we started increasing the cadence to which we post to maintain a more consistent presence, including a consistent number of hashtags on each post to drive engagement, and testing and learning what our fans like most. After about six months we were able to really start to gather valuable data, which drives much of our ever-evolving strategy today. For us, posting five times a day during the week is ideal, striving to include seven hashtags as long as they are relevant helps keep us topical, and #charmedarms and photos that really showcase the product work best. User-generated content has been another huge driver for us. As a brand committed to engaging with our fans, regramming fan content creates instant brand ambassadors and it shows how they are gifting, receiving and wearing our products every day.

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Debunking social media myths

While there are general best practices for every channel and reports are always coming out about new revelations, it is important to create your own playbook. What works for one brand may not work for yours. One of the most valuable things I can share is that you won’t know what will work until you know what doesn’t. When you start to look at data over a longer period of time you will notice your outliers, both in terms of successes and opportunities for improvement. When you take a closer look at those posts collectively, you’ll start to notice some trends in terms of what made that content more or less snackable to your fans. From there you can increase and decrease that type of content accordingly, and it also opens the door to experimenting with new types of content. You want to set up the expectations for what fans will see by following your account, but you also don’t want to become predictable.

Recognize what doesn’t work, and change tack

For ALEX AND ANI, our fans like a simpler aesthetic and something that feels a bit more accessible. Several INC 500 brands feature super polished, glossy-style photos on their Instagram accounts. For them, it works. For us, we never want to put out content we don’t love, but at the same time, beautiful images from our latest photo shoot may not work well, while a behind-the-scenes teaser does. The ALEX AND ANI fan wants to feel like they have been invited to be part of the story; not that they’re standing on the sidelines trying to get a glimpse. Because our fans are so highly engaged, we realized very early on that it’s important to create as many moments for meaningful interactions as possible and for this reason we aim to publish content that is diverse, elegant and contextually relevant in a very inviting way.

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Find your edge, and go easy on the filters!

Our best tip is to take a great photo from the start and limit the use of filters. We essentially eliminated the use of filters on our photos earlier this year and haven’t looked back. While it is always fun to experiment and even jump on the bandwagon to the latest editing app, at the end of the day, we want fans to see a photo and know it is ALEX AND ANI before they even take a closer look at the products. When fans come to our page, we want everything to feel cohesive as part of a beautiful collection of images that make up our story. Another tip is to understand the Instagram audience, which tends to be a bit younger – at least for us – than other channels. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit edgier on this channel and find ways to tie in things like Donut Day or what’s happening on the current television program of choice. Another huge win for us is our licensing partnership with Disney. While we don’t even sell those products in our own stores, we see countless fans showing off their ALEX AND ANI-style #disneyside and as many people know, Mousketeers are extremely passionate and highly engaged. Our most popular post to date received nearly 30K likes, which was 7% of our fan base at the time.

Quick wins pay off

If you want to make a big splash, try collaborating on content with another brand. Leveraging each other’s fan base will help expose your brand to an audience that may not have otherwise known about you. Another easy win is hosting a contest. Who doesn’t love the idea of having a chance to get something for free? If you’re able to do something really simple like ask your fans to follow your account and comment on a post, you will have the opportunity to grow your fan base very quickly in a short period of time. Just take warning that these new fans won’t stick around after the fact unless you keep putting out amazing content. Lastly, if your brand ever hosts sales, fans tend to go comment crazy on these posts, tagging all their friends – making this another great option to explore.

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