Some excerpts from the panel, moderated by Peggy Jo Donahue.
Clockwise from top left: Natalie Bos Betteridge (@jewelsdujour), Molly Clarke (@rockthatgem and @ringliaison), Liz Kantner (@liz_kantner)
What is the biggest mistake that brands / retailers make on their Instagrams?
@jewelsdujour: Posting content that resembles a continuation of their ad campaigns instead of ‘raw’ images of their pieces or photos that convey their brand identity. The beauty of Instagram is how relatable the in-the-moment content translates to the consumer, giving the brand a personal connection through seemingly intimate images. There are plenty of other platforms and areas for professional product photos (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, traditional media ads, etc.) but, in my opinion, Instagram is not one of them.
@rockthatgem: Biggest mistake? Being too obvious in their self-promotion. No one wants to hang out with a friend who only talks about themselves, so why would a customer want to feel like they are being blatantly marketed to in every single post from a brand? It’s important for brands to tell their whole story, not just the selling aspect. Have a variety of posts, including fun ones like behind-the-scenes pics, sneak peeks of new products and things that inspire the brand. Giving a shout-out to another fantastic brand shows that your brand isn’t self-centered.
@liz_kantner: One mistake is not posting enough.
How can companies make money off their Instagram feeds? How can they link the images to let users purchase?
@jewelsdujour: This is something I wish Instagram would make easier, not just for companies but for influencers as well. I know for certain that a number of items I have posted on my Instagram have sold because the customer saw it there first. I believe Instagram has set up a way for paid advertisers to link their posted images for purchase, but—as far as I am aware—it’s not a possibility for regular users. You can use the link in your profile to lead interested customers to your website, but that is not the most effective way to drive users to your site. Too many steps.
@rockthatgem: Make sure the link in their profile goes directly to the shopping page on their site. If a customer likes one of your product posts, they want to buy it NOW. They don’t want to sort through your site trying to find it. It’s also important to predominantly post about products that are in stock. Customers don’t want to get to your shop page to find the product isn’t available. They won’t remember to come back in two weeks when it’s back in stock. An additional method that can be handy is to use the “Like to Know it” app, which sends an email to registered members when they heart your Instagram photo, providing them with info and links to purchasing the product. A brand can also offer a page on their website that features photos of their Instagram posts that are “shoppable”. Customers click the image they originally saw on Instagram and are provided with links to all the products to purchase. There are several website apps that can do this for you, or you can curate this page yourself.
@liz_kantner: When posting a specific piece, change the link in the profile to a link to purchase the piece in the image.
What is your advice on Instagram filters?
@jewelsdujour: I rarely use the Instagram filters directly on the platform. Instead, I use a photo app that allows me to edit the photos I take on my phone. However, when I edit the images, I try to keep the colors as real as possible, usually just adding a flash so that the richness of the various hues comes through. With jewelry, it is best to represent the pieces as truthfully as possible.
@rockthatgem: Instagram filters can be fun on non-product posts, but when showing the beautiful color and quality of your product, natural light and no filter (or just a little bit of brightening for darker photos) is best. You want your customer to know exactly what the product will look like when they receive it. Anything else and you may have a return on your hands!
@liz_kantner: Natural light is best, always!
Visually, are there any new shifts/trends in what makes a great post?
@jewelsdujour: For fashion and, to some extent jewelry, images of products being worn as part of an outfit can be more effective than just a simple product image. In general, beautiful, eye-catching images will always engage users over un-inspired photos, no matter what is being captured.
@rockthatgem: For a while there was a pressure and focus on Instagram to post “perfect” photos. Fashion bloggers would always have a pure white background and hold a bunch of tulips or coffee art, but with too many people mimicking each other you couldn’t tell one person’s post from the other. They all looked the same. Now there is more of a shift towards variety and uniqueness. Show your brand’s world through your eyes, rather than copying what everyone else is posting. Your different view is what customers will be attracted to.
@liz_kantner: A photo with a strong focal point. The previous trend was showing many pieces at once, but now the cleaner and simpler the better.
Simple product shots vs lifestyle shots on models? Which is better and what is the best balance?
@jewelsdujour: It really depends on how the image is put together. Oftentimes, a simple product shot presented in an artistic way can be just as compelling as an image of the product being styled on a model. Conversely, if styled correctly such that the focus of the image is the product (and not the sex appeal of the model), then I find those images equally powerful.
@rockthatgem: A blend of product shots and lifestyle shots on models is key to having a cohesive Instagram. You want customers to be able to see your products solo and up-close, to depict what their view will be like once they own the product. But you also want lifestyle shots so customers know how they will look when they wear your product. Your models should depict a lifestyle and beauty that your customers want. Models should be attainable goals for your customers — showing them in a mansion with an expensive car and dripping with jewels isn’t attainable. But showing a model on a vacation with friends, happy and laughing and looking especially beautiful in her jewelry is possible for your customers. They want to be on vacation too, and your jewelry is the first step towards that.
@liz_kantner: Both are good, balance is key! Every few photos throw in a model shot!
Are non-jewelry shots good or bad (i.e. the company dog, the avocado toast breakfast in the hip hotel during Market week)?
@jewelsdujour: This depends on what the brand wants to portray. I find that a few non-jewelry, real life shots of the person behind the iPhone camera lens makes the Instagram account more human and less ‘corporate marketing team manufacturing statistically studied content.’
@rockthatgem: I highly recommend non-jewelry shots! Again, no one wants to be aggressively marketed to all the time. Non-jewelry shots tell the brand’s story on a broader scale. Just make sure your non-jewelry shots are clean and relate to the brand in some way. It’s ok to post about the cool coffee shop next door to your retail location, or about the jewelry the stars wore at the Oscars. It’s not ok to post a photo of how you haven’t washed your hair in a week—unless you somehow make it funny/relatable to show how you’ve been doing trade show prep or swamped with making orders all week! Consider your posts through the eyes of a customer before posting them: Is this something they want to see? Does it fit with the look and message of your brand? If not, don’t post it.
@liz_kantner: If you don’t share non-jewelry images, how will people get to know your brand? Think about it this way: 70% jewelry, 30% lifestyle.
jewelsdujour: Hashtagging is an art and overuse is definitely rampant. Luckily, the latest version of Instagram crops the caption after two lines of text, which eliminates the large chunk of hashtags many users post. Between four and eight are considered the sweet spot for number of hashtags. They definitely work if you use relevant keywords and keep them short and not too specific.
@rockthatgem: Wisely chosen hashtags work. When choosing hashtags to use for a post, consider which words suit the image. Hashtags are a filing system, so it doesn’t make sense to file your posts incorrectly. Avoid using super simple words, like #sun #fun #hot #cool #wow. Those tags aren’t descriptive enough, and are so oversaturated that no one will ever see your image in those tag feeds. Look up potential hashtags before you use them to see how popular they are. Combine words to create a more descriptive and better tag. Don’t use #follow4follow or #likesforlikes—it’s so spammy and dilutes the integrity of your brand.
@liz_kantner: Yes and no. They are great to categorize a specific event and they are a good tool to discover new things, but using a general hashtag like “jewelry” won’t grow your following. Too many people are using that. Hashtags that are specific but not too specific can be great –a perfect example being GemGossip’s #showmeyourrings. It’s great for discovery and has built a strong community.
How should a company’s Instagram posts differ from their Facebook?
@jewelsdujour: Posts can be similar than what is posted on Facebook, but should present the company’s identity from a different point of view. Facebook has become more of a newsfeed for companies, whereas Instagram can be anything you want it to be as portrayed through the company’s images and content posted.
@rockthatgem: Customers expect different posts from Instagram versus Facebook. On Instagram they want to see a variety of posts so they can get to know a brand beyond the products. On Facebook, customers are there to see what their friends and family are up to, with a few brand posts scattered in. On Facebook, they want to see your best new product or hear about a great sale, not know what you had for breakfast.
@liz_kantner: Facebook is great to share links and promotional graphics while Instagram is best for really beautiful photos.
How can retailers get more engagement on their Instagrams?
@jewelsdujour: Posting at least once a day definitely helps generate more followers and likes, as well as being consistent in posting. Following related companies and influencers and commenting on others’ posts are both effective ways to booster engagement.
@liz_kantner: Spend 30 mins a day thinking about who your client is and where they are hanging out as well as what they like. Find them using geotags and engage with them.
How can retailers/brands use other people’s Instagram pages to get their name out there, besides self-promoting themselves in comments?
@jewelsdujour: Being genuinely supportive in the context of the comments—and not openly seeming to have an alternative agenda—is the best strategy. Commenting because you actually like their post will naturally come across as authentic. Commenting on every post in your stream can appear contrived. It’s a delicate balance.
@rockthatgem: When commenting on someone else’s Instagram as your brand, make sure you are going into it with pure intentions. If you are about to comment because you want their fans to check our your Instagram, don’t do it. It reeks of selfishness, and people will see through it. Comment on posts to congratulate, agree, be positive, show excitement, etc. The quality and goodness of your comment will attract people to your page, to find out more about this brand that was so kind and supportive in their comments to another brand.
@liz_kantner: Write thoughtful comments. Engage in a real conversation.
Are stores discovering new designers on Instagram?
@jewelsdujour: If consumers are buying based on images they see on Instagram (which often means discovering new designers), the same can certainly be said for retailers discovering new designers. This is where social media influencers and bloggers have helped tremendously in helping to support and expose new discoveries to their followers. Like editors, Instagram influencers and bloggers have a multi-faceted following within the industry and outside of it.
@liz_kantner: Yes and no. I think that store owners and editors are incredibly busy, but, may come across a designer. Don’t count on that. Follow people who you want to meet and post thoughtful comments on their photos.
How often should a brand post on Instagram and at what times?
@jewelsdujour: A few times a day – say two to three – and spaced out throughout the day so that images are not posted back to back. If you have a following that is mostly based on the Western Hemisphere, then stick to those time zones (and same if Eastern Hemisphere) – mornings and afternoons seem to catch more viewers. But since Instagram has become such a global platform, it could be argued that any time is a good time to post.
@rockthatgem: Three times throughout a day on Instagram, with two product posts and one non-product post. That way you can reach the morning, afternoon and evening followers. I find that the best times to post are Friday and Saturday nights, and nighttime in general. Think about when people look at their phones to relax and scroll through Instagram. It’s first thing in the morning on their commute, and at night before bed. Afternoons they are at work and don’t have the same kind of time to spend on Instagram. The same goes for weekends during the day — people are out and about doing chores or enjoying themselves. Also think about your time zone and the time zone of your followers. If you post at 7am in NYC, followers in California haven’t woken up yet and may not see your post hours later. Don’t waste good posts when no one is around to see them.
@liz_kantner: 1-3 times a day. In the evening / later at night. When people are relaxing after dinner and watching TV, they are also looking at Instagram.
What are your Instagram pet peeves?
@jewelsdujour: There is one Instagram trend that I really cannot stand. It is when a company posts nine partial images that when viewed on its account page finally reveals the full image. First, the posting of nine partial-images back to back clogs up feeds; and second, the final objective of the trend forces the follower to go to the account to view the entire image – if they are curious enough (I usually am not). For me, the instant gratification of a single post in my feed is the beauty of Instagram.
@liz_kantner: Have fun and don’t overthink it too much! It’s better to be posting than not posting.