In this post I explore the pros and cons of social media marketing using Twitter and Instagram. I explain how they can be used effectively to increase profile views, likes, followers — and drive traffic to your site. If you’re looking to promote your online business using these platforms, here’s the place to start.
Why Do Companies Use Instagram And Twitter?
Social media marketing enables companies to reach prospects and customers. Many of these individuals are already interacting with brands through social media platforms — such as Instagram and Twitter.
Instagram and Twitter are widely used for sharing images, videos, and small segments of text. Companies use the platforms to propagate:
- Information about their company
- Visual media demonstrating their products in use
- News within their industry
- Evidence of public relations and outreach (e.g. working with local charities)
Collectively this helps to raise brand awareness and create a ‘voice’ for the company. It helps the public to understand their values, and what they offer.
differences between Instagram and Twitter
The two platforms are similar in many ways. There’s just some subtle differences to take note of.
Purpose: to show something about your business.
Creation: offers the functionality to create visually-striking filtered images/videos within the app itself. Text cannot be shared on its own without visual media attached to it.
Consumption: all content is consumed within within the Instagram app.
Flexibility: users are discouraged from exiting the app to an external source. URLs are limited to 1 per user, which can be listed in the ‘bio’ section of the profile.
An example of an Instagram post I made to demonstrate my Rectrix Goalkeeping gloves.
Purpose: to say something about your business.
Creation: unlike Instagram, Twitter facilitates short, text-only conversations between members — “tweets”. Other forms of media (e.g. images, video) are generally created externally and shared via the app.
Consumption: most content is consumed within the app itself. However, it’s also common for users to leave the app to read articles and blog posts shared on the network.
Flexibility: users are allowed to share multiple URLs and media from external sources. Therefore it’s much less restrictive than Instagram.
Introducing https://t.co/hn62UWuIzW – the network which makes televised sport more social. Watch games at the best local bars, along with fans of your kind.#WorldCup2018 #Football pic.twitter.com/XmodoS4Vg5
— Punter2Pro (@punter2pro) June 13, 2018
This Twitter post includes a URL to a fan site I launched during the World Cup.
There’s no harm in publishing the same content on both platforms; it’s common practice for most businesses.
In the following sections I’m going to explain how to generate sales from Instagram and Twitter using organic and non-organic methods.
“Organic” Approach to Social Media Marketing
The “organic” approach to social media marketing means using the networks naturally and reaping the rewards.
There’s a few basic things you need to do in order to set up Instagram and Twitter and kick-start your organic social media campaigns.
- Complete your profile. Pack your profile bio with relevant keywords, upload a neat profile image, and add your URL. This is the very first step to representing your business on social media.
- Post high quality content with the relevant hashtags included. Doing this regularly helps to build up an organic following by engaging with the public. I recommend using the auto suggestions on the platform; they’re always fully up-to-date, and relevant.
- Engage with your following through comments, likes and messages. This demonstrates your commitment to the industry and business. It helps to make your brand feel more personable.
This is all, of course, the traditional route. It’s how social media media was intended to be used.
But it requires a lot of time and persistence to grow your following organically like this. After a lot of hard graft, you might feel the urge to give your social media presence a extra ‘push’ in the right direction. For that, you’ll need to approach it differently.
“Non-Organic” Approach To Social Media Marketing
There’s some less elegant approaches to social media marketing — and they divide opinion. They could, however, be the push your social media campaign needs to get off the ground.
Here’s what I think about several “non-organic” approaches to social media marketing:
- Paying for followers. It serves no real purpose apart from falsifying your popularity. Plus if the following is too high it makes your account look utterly ridiculous, anyway.
- Spamming content. It essentially makes the social network an over-crowded, dirty environment. Long-term it won’t help you build a brand. It’s pointless.
- False representation. There’s tons of fake accounts on social media being used to promote a product or brand whilst posing as someone else. Impostors are usually pretty easy to spot. It’s an annoyance to the 99.9% of users that see straight through it.
- Identifying potential customers from competing accounts. This means scouting out popular profiles with a following you’d like to have, and attempting to convert some of their followers over to you.
- Liking and sharing content to gain attention. This involves engaging with other users purely to generate more exposure. It’s somewhat ‘unnatural’ and contrived.
In some circles these methods are frowned upon. But in my opinion, there’s a line that separates fair game from spam. The two above approaches don’t cross that line — unless you really overdo it.
Now I’ll explain how to combine these “organic” and “non-organic” methods to generate more sales from Instagram and Twitter.
How To Increase Profile Views, Likes and Followers
Below is a guideline for how you can approach social media marketing without investing too much of your valuable time and money.
Instagram and Twitter
- Like posts with hashtags related to your product or industry. In doing so your (@username) handle shows up on the creator’s notifications, giving you a little bit of free publicity. It’s a subtle way to let people know you’re there.
- Follow your competitors. This might sound unusual at first. But if they follow you back, then (a) you stand to be seen by your competitors’ followers, and (b) it opens to the door to future collaborations.
- Follow your competitors’ followers. Find competitor social media accounts with the demographic you’d like to reach out to, and start following some of their members. Around 10-15% will follow you back. Getting to your first 1,000 followers is relatively easy using this method.
- Unfollow accounts that don’t follow you back*. If a member doesn’t follow you back, then they won’t see your posts. Therefore they aren’t much use to you. Unfollow them after a week or so using an app such as CrowdFire.
- Engage with people in your comments, @’s and private messages. Social media is there to be personable, and to give potential customers a point of contact. Try not to be too formal.
- Be sure to maximise your hashtags. Include as many hashtags as you can in every post. Make sure they’re all highly specific to your industry/products. I recommend placing hashtags on their own line, or in the comments of your posts (to keep it neat).
- Comment on posts where potential customers can see you. Look for popular posts busy with activity from potential customers. Make comments to highlight your authority. Be sure to actually contribute rather than spam your product.
- Post stories to show up in your friends’ feeds. For current or short-term developments within your business/industry, you can quickly post it up. You don’t have to focus on quality.
- Use Live video to show what’s going on right now. Similarly to stories, Live Video broadcasts are a great way to make a real-time appearance on social media in order to promote your brand.
- Retweet relevant content from your feed. This is a good way to reap the rewards of content that you haven’t actually created yourself. Be selective, though: what you retweet tells your followers a lot about you as a company.
- Use tweet threads. This is a recent feature which enables users to continue a story or discussion through multiple connected tweets. Recommended for lengthy discussions.
- Use the events calendar. By following events and happenings your Twitter calendar can help you plan your content in advance. Every month is packed with key dates to work around.
* I've suggested some "churning" techniques, for raising your followers. Both Instagram and Twitter try to prevent that. So If you overdo it, then you run the risk of having your accounts locked or completely closed. Therefore I only recommend doing this intermittently, between other activity on the networks. Don't make it your sole focus.
With all these steps, you’re aiming to build a targeted following to help grow your brand. And the more followers you have, the more organic comments/likes/shares you’ll get going forward. Getting that snowball effect going is the key.
Working Around Restrictions
Social networks impose restrictions on accounts. This makes it difficult to market products and services using their platforms. Here’s how to troubleshoot various problems you may encounter.
Inability to post a URL. Use the bio section to place your most recent link and refer to it in your latest posts e.g. “Link in bio”. Alternatively, include text links in your images, and combine with a URL shortener so people can remember, and type, the link in easily.
Image created using the Adobe Sparks mobile app. URL shortened using the WordPress PrettyLinks plugin. Both free.
Getting potential customers to the point of sale. Use the Shopping for Instagram feature by linking your profile to your online shop (Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce). You’ll need:
- An online shop located in a Shopping for Instagram country
- A Facebook page for your businesses
- An Instagram business account
Learn more on setting up your WooCommerce shop with Instagram.
Tweets can’t fit enough information. Traditionally you’d need to create multiple tweets (which is still a viable workaround). However, there’s now a new feature — tweet threads — which allows users to continue a story or discussion through multiple connected tweets. It’s the neatest method.
Instagram and Twitter
Follow/Unfollow limitations. You’ll need to mix in some ‘regular’ activity. Try posting tweets/images/other media. Use the network in a natural way for a couple of days, and then try again.
What’s More Effective — Instagram Or Twitter?
On paper, Twitter is the platform for marketing. It comes fully loaded with all the components for advertising. This includes the “URLs allowed” policy, a higher character allowance for text segments, and an API which enables users to automate a host of tasks — such as automated tweets, likes and follows.
Instagram is much stricter. Yet, somehow, it’s still the most effective social media platform for marketing products. I’ll explain why.
Why Instagram Has the Most Impact
Twitter’s user experience is tarnished by spam messages, images and website links. The platform is plagued with bots and fake accounts. Users have to sieve through the newsfeed just to find something legitimate. As a result, content loses its effectiveness.
Instagram isn’t devoid of spam, either. But it doesn’t let you include links in posts, which deters a lot of spammy advertisers from the get-go. It also doesn’t allow users to post text without visual media attached. Instagram forces you to be creative, to compete against stunning visuals — and essentially work harder — to advertise your product.
Instagram users are held to higher, more ‘elegant’ standards. With those high standards comes meaningful engagement. Thus Instagram users pay more attention to posts than members of many other social networks, like Twitter. It grabs attention and holds it; that’s why it’s so effective.
But Social Media Marketing Isn’t Everything
Aside from social media, there’s other avenues such as PPC, SEO, outreach, public relations, and paid advertising space. Success doesn’t hinge on Instagram and Twitter activities.
I think it’s partly because the barriers for entry are low; just about anyone with a smart phone can produce striking content on social media, and disseminate it to the world. It’s accessible, and easy to get started. The majority of modern companies use it — therefore it’s fiercely competitive.
Furthermore, social media is all about the here and now. We consume and dispose. Most of us barely look at the very things we ‘like’. Companies struggle to gain recognition for more than a fleeting moment.
Social media leaves behind those without the time, energy — or inspiration — to run innovative ongoing campaigns. That’s, perhaps, why I haven’t seen major success from it.
So what’s the solution?
The approach I take is to focus on long-term “evergreen” content — in the form of articles, blog posts and YouTube videos — alongside social media campaigns. Unlike social media posts, “evergreen” content stays relevant. It can be found, for years to come, by motivated buyers actively searching for what you offer. It’s an approach that requires little ongoing input and creativity; plus your existing content is recyclable, too.
So keep your marketing options open. Social media isn’t the be all and end all. As a starting point, I recommend reading about the advantages & disadvantages of “evergreen” content.
Also check out my other posts from the Marketing & Strategy section of this blog to learn other promotional techniques.