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Noelle Federico on How to Really Stand Out on Instagram [PODCAST]

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Where do you start to build your brand’s Instagram presence? In this Marketing Nerds episode, SEJ’s Social Producer, Caitlin Rulien, chats with Noelle Federico, Business Manager and CMO of stock photography company They discuss brands who are rocking Instagram, how to gauge success, and apps to help along the way.

Noelle Federico on How to Really Stand Out on Instagram [PODCAST] | SEJ

You’ve worked with brands building their Instagram presence. What are your key insights from this? Where does a brand start in building their presence on Instagram?

Noelle: One of the biggest things in branding is to get your messaging intact. Whatever your message is, whatever your brand is, you want to be able to communicate that in all your social media platforms. You want your Instagram platform to reflect that. You want to choose content that backs up who you are as a brand, and that supports your message.

For instance, if you’re a candy company, you don’t want to have pictures of vegetables, or dogs, or books. You want to have pictures of people eating your candy, your candy in packages, perhaps your candy being given as gifts. You want to stay on point. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make with social media is they go all over the place and they’re not using their social media to support who they are as a brand. That’s really what social media is for, to create engagement with your customers or your consumers.

Caitlin: That’s something I’ve always told my clients, too. While we’re all into Instagram when it comes to taking pictures of food, it’s more difficult for brands using Instagram for business or blogging. Not being able to use links aside from in our profiles is probably a big reason for that.

How would you recommend brands really capitalize on this visual social media platform and stay on point and on brand?

Noelle: One of the companies that does a really good job of that is FedEx, and they are obviously not food. What they do is they ask people to take pictures of their trucks where they see them. If you go to their Instagram page, you may see people with a FedEx package, or you may see a truck or a plane. That creates engagement because they’ve asked their consumers to post photos. That also keeps reinforcing their brand because every time you go to their feed, you’re seeing either a FedEx box, a FedEx envelope, a FedEx truck, or a FedEx plane. So if you’re a brand that’s not food-oriented or fashion-oriented, which are natural fits for Instagram, you have to get a little bit more creative on how to engage your base.

Starbucks does a really good job of that as well. They ask people to photograph themselves in Starbucks stores and with Starbucks cups or drinks. You’ll see in the Starbucks feed a lot of different people capturing a moment in time, and they happen to have a Starbucks cup in their hand or they happen to be in a Starbucks store.

If someone is selling a product or a service that isn’t food-related or easily photographed, you have to think, “How can I engage people and still hit my points on branding?”

Caitlin: Yeah, and I think that’s a really good tactic. Why not try to bring your followers in to help you and create stuff to go on to Instagram?

Noelle Federico on How to Really Stand Out on Instagram [PODCAST] | SEJ

Could you give us a few things to keep in mind when trying to come up with a strategy specifically for Instagram?

Noelle: First of all, you’ve got to post good photos. You need to take your own and make sure they’re good and they’re high-resolution. If you’re going to do something like post a quote in a photo, keep in mind that most people are reading things on their mobile device. So if you’re going to put words to a picture, if they are in a color that’s unreadable because of the background of the photo or the words are too small, people are immediately going to scroll by that because they’re going to think you didn’t even take the time to post something that was legible. So you have to make sure you’re posting quality photos.

Keep in mind that pretty much everything is on a mobile device now. You want to look at what you’re posting with the idea that whoever is going to see it will view it from a mobile device. Then you have to say to yourself, “Is this engaging enough?”

People have very little time, so they’re scrolling quickly through their feeds. You want to capture their attention with something. You want to evoke emotion in them. For Instagram strategy, you want to be working with, “What is going to inspire people, or what is going to make them stop for a moment and like your photo or share your photo?”

It’s going to have to be something that is engaging to them. The people in charge of social media strategies need to be creative because there’s so much chatter out there. If you’re going to create a strategy that works, it has to be sourced in original content that’s authentic, clear, legible, in bright colors, and with engaging photos. The photos should have a point; they should be part of your strategy. They should somehow back up whatever your messaging is on social media.

Caitlin: As a social media marketer myself, one of the questions I ask is, “Hey, what’s in it for my readers?” They’re here for a reason, and I want to be able to create something unique for them for the purpose that they’re following me.

I think that’s a really important thing to keep in mind. It’s like, “Hey, create something authentic and unique for your customers.” You’re not trying to get every single customer in the world or every single viewer in the world. You’re trying to get your target demographic. I think a lot of marketers tend to forget that.

Do you have any particular recommendations of great apps that you found or that you use for creating or editing graphics?

Noelle: There are a couple of good ones for different things. A lot of people like compelling black and white photography, and Instagram has some good filters, but they don’t have finite black and white filters as they used to for some reason. There’s an app called Black and there’s another one called Camera Noir. Those are good for black and white photography. There’s an app called Boomerang that does a good job if you want to make a short looping video.

Facetune is a good one if you’re taking photographs of people and they need a little touch-up or they need a filter. Snapseed is a powerful editing app that I like. Typic is a good one for text-over-photo. Layout is good for collages and Pic Stitch is good for that, too. Those are a couple of my favorites.

Caitlin: Those are all great suggestions. I’ve seen one called Ripl, and I recently started playing around with that. You can put up a photo in the background, whether that’d be from a stock photography website or one of your own, and then you can do text overlays that are animated. You’re not necessarily doing video, but you have a still photo with important text, and you can include a link in that which is also really interesting.

What other brands have you seen at the cutting edge of Instagram?

Noelle: Ben and Jerry’s does a really good job. Like the names of their ice cream, they have clever captions and they have funny comments. Lots of times, they’ll put ingredients together and take a picture of that, and then hashtag it with the name of the ice cream that those components are in. That’s a way of being creative and keeping their people engaged. Of course, you’re looking at it, and then you think, “I would love some of that ice cream right now.” I think it works well.

There’s a company called Chubbies and they do a cool job because they make American flag shorts, and they have all these compelling story-type photos of people wearing their shorts doing different things, like an impromptu wedding or the impromptu proposal. I like cutting-edge companies that are being creative, doing something cool that you don’t see all the time.

Of course, Nike does a phenomenal job. They use a combination of images from their ad campaigns which people recognize, and of course, they have a lot of high-profile spokespeople. They also have all those inspirational athlete stories. They do a combination of all that on their Instagram feed, and I find it to be compelling.

One of my other favorites is because they stay true to their brand. They just post a word of the day, and that’s what they do. But they have 101,000 followers and they’re just doing word of the day. To me, that goes to prove that if you stay consistent with your brand and your messaging, you will create a following because people will be interested in the particular thing you’re trying to market, or sell, or create engagement for.

If you just stick to what you do and you do it really well, you will attract the people who want to be a part of your brand or want to buy your product. They’ll naturally want to be a part of what you’re doing because you’re doing it so well.

Caitlin: Yeah, and you know your brand. You’re a specialist at that. There’s a reason your brand is your brand. So if you focus on that versus something that’s totally out on a limb, you’re going to do better.

Do you have any other tips that you’d like to leave with our listeners?

Noelle: My biggest thing to leave with people on creating a strategy is being authentic. The best brands that are on Instagram are being authentic, and they’re using their post to build trust and create engagement. They’re using creative and informative content and highly shareable content. Your focus should be engaging people, not selling widgets or even selling coffee for Starbucks. Your intention with social media should always be to create a relationship. That will naturally create engagement and make your campaign a success.

Relationships are what will make your business work no matter what venue you’re using. No matter if you’re putting an article in a magazine, or you’re using a television ad, or you’re on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest, you want to create some kind of a relationship with the person on the other end that’s looking at whatever it is that you’ve put out there.

To listen to this Marketing Nerds Podcast with Caitlin Rulien and Noelle Federico:

Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Danielle Antosz on Twitter, or email her at danielle [at]

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
In-post Images:

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Rina Caballar Editorial Assistant at Search Engine Journal

Rina is the Editorial Assistant for Search Engine Journal. She assists the SEJ team with the editorial process and also ...

Noelle Federico on How to Really Stand Out on Instagram [PODCAST]

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