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Put Instagram to Work for You

The platform’s visual appeal is an ideal pairing with broadcast marketing

Who just turned six years old and has over half a billion monthly followers? It’s not a cute kiddie country music star or a cat. It’s a social media platform.

iHeartRadio keeps it simple: all music starts, all the time, many of which appear to be candid shots. Say “happy birthday” to Instagram! She was born Oct. 6, 2010, and has grown up to be a mainstay for nearly half the people in the United States with a smartphone.

As of June, when the most recent official stats from the company were released, Instagram claimed 500+ million monthly active users. They report 300+ million daily actives, 4.2 billion daily likes and 95+ million photo/video posts daily.

Critics are quick to point out that 80 percent of users are outside of the United States. Okay … so is most of the world’s population. Even so, the number of Instagram users is at 100 million in the United States.

Why is Instagram such a natural for radio stations? Instagram enables radio stations to communicate emotions visually and connects with listeners in an environment where they’re having fun and spending a lot of time.

The only unwelcome aspect of connecting with your listeners on Instagram is that meaningful reach and engagement come with a price. You may not realize that Instagram is owned by Facebook, which, like any company traded on Wall Street, is held accountable to drive profit.

To generate greater revenue, Instagram began cranking back organic reach in 2015; it seems inevitable that the platform will, in the end, be totally pay-to-play.

LA station KIIS FM is heavy on the videos, many of which were shot at concerts.

Z100 New York’s account features pop stars, memes and event promotions. As a reminder, organic reach allows brands to reach consumers for free. But now Facebook and Instagram require an advertising investment that “amplifies” whatever you’ve decided are your best photos or posts. The good news here, however, is that the advertising you do purchase on either of these platforms can be highly targeted and cost-efficient.

I agree it’s a shame that Instagram has reined in its organic reach, but don’t let the idea of purchasing social media advertising for your radio station rub you the wrong way. If you do, I’m afraid that deep down you truly don’t believe that media advertising works. I mean, that’s a bit hypocritical for anyone who works in commercial broadcasting, isn’t it?

Let’s talk content quality. I know that many radio stations have had Instagram accounts for years, but even a cursory peak shows an abundance of self-serving promotional graphics, pics with little relevance and just plain poor photography.

Every image that you “amplify” through advertising counts! Here are a few suggestions for images.

1. Star power performs very well on Instagram, so utilize the stars of your format whenever possible. This can have huge payoff if your on-air talent is seen with celebs during interviews, at a show signing autographs or just enjoying a beverage together.

2. Utilize Instagram to supplement on-air contesting by offering key clues with interesting imagery that make it easier to win.

3. Present listeners with an insider view of something they’d never get to see unless you showed it to them. Take them behind the scenes, such as backstage at a show or present some extra-cool photos from a news event.

Video works great on Instagram as well and the same rules apply. When creating video, you gotta make it count. If you haven’t tried the new Quik app (free from GoPro), you’ll be amazed at what you can produce quickly yourself.

Who produces your content for Instagram? It should be somebody who has excellent photography skills, understands social media’s potential emotional impact and has been educated about radio’s local mission.

Do not choose a person to be in charge of this just because they’re young and use Instagram a lot. That would be like hiring someone to host your afternoon drive because he or she listens to a lot of radio. Take the hiring of your Instagram producer seriously, whether a part-time, 10-hour per week role or an agency that sources content for you.

I’ve received flak from station managers for suggesting even a minimal focus on social media because it doesn’t generate direct advertiser dollars. They typically argue that station staffs are small and the minute they don’t concentrate on the core product of broadcasting, the station will suffer. To naysayers and haters, I say that avoiding reality is not healthy for ratings and that you as an individual manager or owner will eventually be labeled as “out of touch” sooner than you can imagine.

So be smart. As she blows out her candles and thinks about how popular she is, little Instagram’s birthday wish will be that you’ll choose her as yet another way to communicate with your listeners — by sharing memorable imagery right where they’re hanging out and having fun.

The author is president of Lapidus Media and a longtime contributor. Email him at[email protected].