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Dogs, Boats, & Celebrities: Cabela’s Instagram Approach Drives Stellar Engagement

The Cabela’s social team knows what its audience want to see, and is delivering splendidly – as their 840.6% engagement rate between January and the end of May this year plainly shows.

How can you throw your own brand’s Instagram engagement rate into overdrive? You might not be an outdoor outfitter, but Cabela’s can certainly teach you a thing or two about the power of knowing your audience.

Cabela’s Instagram Snapshot

cabelas (1)The Company

The “World’s Foremost Outfitter” of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear was founded by Dick Cabela in Nebraska 1961 as a direct mail-order business. Today, Cabela’s catalogs are shipped to 50 states and 125 countries, and their online business is thriving.

What The Data Tells Us

From January through the end of May, Cabela’s enjoyed  a massive, growing engagement rate among its followers on Instagram.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 2.41.41 PM840.6% means an average engagement of more than 3,600 comments and Likes on every single post. Every. Single. Post. That’s the mark of a brand who truly knows their audience and what their audience wants to see.

What They’re Doing Well

I wanted to know how Cabela’s built this kind of engagement momentum – how are they making content this appealing to their followers? A reliable gauge of this on Instagram is looking at the top most engaged-with posts over a given time period. This information provides a panoramic view of what people are responding to.

I found that Cabela’s top three most engaged-with posts, in particular, provide a full-bodied portrait of Cabela’s successful Instagram strategies at large. Coming in at #1 is this gem:

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 2.14.45 PMThat’s Luke Bryan, a famous country singer, and his fresh catch. This is a fantastic example of how showcasing an artist that appeals to your audience can be successful – especially because the marketing focal point (Cabela’s Outdoor Adventures) is never lost.

It’s also a good reminder that an astronomical engagement rate for the time period you’re evaluating doesn’t necessarily mean astronomical engagement rates on each post – this post alone received more than 23,000 Likes, but not every post was so successful. That’s why it’s important to dig a little deeper into the data to see exactly what’s going on – replicating posts like this and avoiding posts that pull down your glorious engagement rate.

The second-most popular post during the time period was the following:

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 2.23.07 PMAs I noted in the L.L. Bean post, Instagrammers love pups. But that’s not the only takeaway here.

In this post, Cabela’s is doing a brilliant job of putting itself in its audience’s shoes – in midwinter, everyone can relate to the desire to throw off that bulky jacket, enjoy the sun, and perhaps enjoy a brew. Note that Cabela’s is also asking a question, which prompts people to respond with a higher level of depth than simply Liking the photo.

And the bottom spot in the top 3 goes to this post, proving puppies are a reliable engagement-driver once again:

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 2.27.04 PMIt reminds us how powerful (and time-efficient) it is to feature other Instagram user’s pictures in your brand’s feed for the purposes of cross-promotion and serving up killer content.

Be A Friend

Note that Cabela’s most popular posts do not heavily feature product – they replicate what a friend’s post might look like on your Instagram feed. This is an incredibly important lesson for any brand.

If you aren’t providing your followers with value that gives them pleasure separate from your brand, they’re not going to stick around for too long and they’re certainly not going to engage with you at the rate that Cabela’s followers do.

How do you forge an intimate connection with your Instagram content? How do you decipher what your audience is interested in seeing?

Let me know in the comments below, and download our guide if you want to know how to measure your retail brand’s social media efforts better:

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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