How One Niche Brand Engages and Grows Its Instagram Audience
When B&H Photo opened over 40 years ago in New York, social networks didn’t exist. There was no online shopping in 1973. But shopping has changed over the last decade.
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In 2016, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 1.86 trillion US dollars and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 4.48 trillion US dollars in 2021.
Smaller businesses can find opportunities and awareness on a global scale via digital marketing.
B&H Photo, as the name suggests, is a photography equipment store, selling cameras, tripods, and everything in between. The brand has been savvily riding the online retailing wave the last few years, growing its e-commerce sales to more than 50% of its total revenue.
In this post, we look at B&H Photo’s Instagram account and their activity over a two-month period to understand the tactics and overall strategy they use to keep their audience engaged.
Over half of B&H photo’s audience interacted with the brand in a two-month period.
According to our research, average engagement as a % of followers on Instagram is 41.3% across Interbrand 100 companies.
Overview of B&H Photo’s Instagram
B&H Photo has 221K followers on Instagram. In the last 2 months, they have grown their community on Instagram by over 6K, which is commendable for a retailer in such a niche space. Here’s how they do it.
1. Engage with and Educate Your Audience
B&H Photo has been the second-most active commenter on their own posts in the last two months.
It shows that the brand is listening intently to conversations happening on Instagram and engaging to answer questions about store hours, photo resolution, and focal length. They are holding conversations with the photographers who follow them.
Takeaway: Social media has provided brands and customers with a two-way communication channel. Customers expect to hear back from brands as soon when they pose a question, no matter the platform.
A quick response shows your customers that you value what they have to say, creating a seamless brand experience, generating a positive association with your brand, and possibly making the difference between a purchase at your store versus your competitors’.
2. Incorporate User-Generated Content
Photographers make up a close-knit community, inspiring one another and sharing tricks, tactics, and gear details like shutter speed and exposure.
Instagram has become an indispensable tool for these photographers, enabling them to share and extend the reach of their work and connect with others in the field. B&H has leveraged this already-existing community to create a beautifully curated feed, sourced from a diverse group of photographers.
Over 40% of B&H’s posts are user-generated.
With a UGC strategy, B&H has managed to bring the photography community and conversation to its account, building followers that, in turn, result in engagement. The post below was B&H Photo’s most engaging post during this data period—culled from @jasonjko’s account.
Takeaway: B&H fill its feed with gorgeous photos from talented photographers across the globe, which would be an otherwise tough and expensive task for the brand. Photographers, in turn, gain a wider audience and sense of credibility from partnering with B&H.
Incorporating UGC content is a successful strategy for brands looking to fill their Instagram feed with interesting and unique images. Consumers trust UGC 50 percent more other media. UGC can boost sales and engagement, while generating traffic and virality for a brand. In our earlier posts, we discussed how brands like Red Bull and Starbucks use UGC in their Instagram strategy and drive huge engagement.
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Connecting with influencers who can provide UGC content and creating contests to encourage submission from users are great places to start with your own UGC strategy.
3. Partner with Influencers
B&H Photo partnered with top influencers like Chris Burkard (an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author with over 2.8 million followers on Instagram) and Brooke Shaden (an expert fine art photographer with over 165K followers on Instagram). The influencers that B&H chose have varied specializations, which creates an engaging dialogue and helps answer a range of questions for diverse audiences. B&H used this tactic to promote the launch of the new Sony A7RIII mirrorless camera.
The NEW @sonyalpha #a7RIII is here! With new features like BIONZ X & Front-End LS, 399-Point AF & 10 fps, UHD 4K30 w/ HLG & S-Log3 Gammas, 5-Axis Stabilization and Dual Card Slots…it’s safe to say @sonyalpha delivered! . . Preorders for the #Sonya7RIII start 10am ET, tomorrow Oct 26th. – bhpho.to/SonyA7RIII
A post shared by B&H Photo (@bhphoto) on
B&H used its partnerships with the best photographers in the field to highlight the various strengths of this camera, adding reach (a wider audience, including Instagram users who follow B&H’s influencers), relevance (conversations by authoritative figures in this space on pertinent topics), and resonance (discussion that all B&H followers can relate to).
The brand uses both the “traditional” Instagram feed and Instagram Stories to leverage these influencers and make sure they use all the Instagram features to be relevant to all segments of their audience
Takeaway: The Influencer Marketing Benchmarking Report by BurstMedia showed that influencer campaigns are a good deal for brands, earning $6.85 in earned media value for every $1.00 of paid media. This is one of the reasons why there is an increased focus on influencer marketing.
As our very own survey for the State of Social 2017 showed, “Nearly 1 in 5 brands (19.9%) strongly agree that influencers play a vital role in their social strategy.”
Brands should take steps to identify the right influencers and work with them to build brand awareness and drive a more wide-reaching, relevant, and resonant conversation around their brand among likely users and buyers. Asking influencers to share their experiences and how they relate to your brand and/or field (across traditional and emerging social channels and features) is the first step.
4. Experiment with Different Media Types
B&H Photo experiments with different media types to drive audience engagement. They utilize Instagram’s newest features, like carousel images (apart from videos and photos) and Instagram Stories (along with the “Swipe up” feature to deliver more details to the audience), to share exciting launches and other events with its followers.
In the Instagram story highlighted in the last point above, B&H Photo creatively gives the audience a glimpse into the informative session they had with some of the top photographers in the field today (influencers), building an authoritative voice on the subject and helping keep the brand top-of-mind for its audience.
Takeaway: Experiment with new media types like Instagram Stories, the carousel feature, and video on Instagram. Monitor which content resonates most with your audience, so you can create more of it. Different media types speak to different audience segments and give you new ways of reaching marketing goals like conversions and engagement.
5. Use Instagram Features to Your Advantage, Understand Its Limitations, and Cross-Promote
B&H Photo uses Instagram’s Stories’ succinct messaging to give their audience the most pertinent news about new launches. B&H Photo understands its audience and knows that their followers appreciate in-depth and detailed information about newly launched products, so they use the “Swipe up” feature in Instagram and link it to their YouTube channel—where they discuss the new camera in a much greater detail.
Takeaway: Understanding a platform’s strengths and weaknesses helps your brand strategize about how to use that platform and its new features to add value to different campaign stages.
Creating a thoughtful campaign with the right media types (in this case supplementing the Instagram stories with a YouTube video) and features (“Swipe up” feature in Instagram Stories) to support the buyer’s journey can help activate particular audience segments and can take your brand’s marketing initiatives to a whole new level.
Cross-promoting your brand’s other channels can also help extend and deepen your reach, and increase engagement. B&H Photo understood that their audience wanted to see products explained in further detail, so the brand routed its audience to a YouTube video to learn more.
The video generated 87K views in just two days.
Instagram has emerged as one of fastest growing social networks, with over 800 million monthly and 500 million daily active users. The platform has added a whole list of new, exciting features in the last few months, and it continues to innovate. Creating a presence on this platform and measuring performance, from conversations to conversions, has become critical for brands across verticals.
How are your brand’s social marketing efforts going on Instagram? If there is anything we can help you measure, please get in touch by filling out the form below. And check out our new guide, the 30-day Social Marketing Transformation Plan, to learn how to diversify your content and build a robust content calendar.
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I'm a Social Media Analyst at Simply Measured. I love food, music, movies, and long walks. Let's talk about social media data!