6 Ways to Use Instagram to Boost Your Business, According to a Product Manager at Adobe
Veronica Belmont is a product manager, podcaster, and technology evangelist living in San Francisco. In her full-time role at Adobe, she's a product manager on the Adobe Spark team, where she works to help social media creators, marketers and influencers bring their brands and creative ideas to the masses.
Belmont is also a podcaster and previously hosted Mozilla’s IRL: Online Life is Real Life, where she spoke to people all over the world about how technology and the internet is shaping their existence — from the relationships we make to the policy that is changing how we access the internet. Belmont has also worked extensively as a public speaker, startup advisor and presenter for companies of all sizes, including IBM, Intel, Sony, AOL, Discovery Digital and more.
In this interview, Belmont shared
Thank you so much for joining us Veronica! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve had a somewhat unusual career path! I started as an audio/video producer, began podcasting, moved professionally into on-camera hosting and producing, started working with startups as an advisor, and then transitioned into product management. The common thread is that I’ve always lived at the intersection of technology and creative expression. I’ve never been especially “artistic,” so finding ways to use tech to express myself has been important.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority on social media marketing?
First of all, I’d love to get into how we (our team at Adobe Spark) thinks of “social media marketing.” This was one of the things that resonated most with me when I joined. We’re all social media marketers. If you have a side hustle or a charity you’re passionate about, or you’re a freelancer like I was, you’re implementing the same strategies for your own content that many social media marketers employ at massive brands. Understanding your audience and knowing how to craft your message is just the start. I’ve worked with both planning and participating in campaigns of all sizes, so I’ve definitely seen what works and what doesn’t.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
That’s a good one! I think for me, the most interesting thing that happened was how I got my first product job. I decided to switch careers back in 2016, to get out of freelance production and into product management. But though I felt that I had the skills necessary to get into that field, I didn’t have the typical background to make the jump into a big company. So I started learning as much as possible, and establishing domain expertise in areas that interested me. One of those areas was around bots and conversational interfaces. I spent months becoming an expert in that area, and reading and writing all about the industry. Eventually, I became an admin for a huge Slack community of bot makers and enthusiasts, called BotMakers. Another member saw me in there and heard that I was looking for a PM role. Lo and behold, he hired me to be the first employee at their new startup as a PM. So there was some luck there, but I also positioned myself in the right way for success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us a lesson you learned from that?
I won’t name names, but I will say that at my first week at one job, I forwarded a phishing scam email to a coworker, which caused our Instagram account to be compromised. I felt horrible because one, I should have known better (I have literally recorded entire podcasts about the danger of phishing scams). Two, I put another coworker in a terrible position. And three, it was my first week on the job. Everything worked out okay, but I felt terrible.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues?
It really depends on where your audience is, but I’ve seen the most success for companies with Instagram. Instagram gives brands the most support, I’d say, for reaching the right users with targeted ads while also now giving them the ability to sell directly from the platform. Plus, there are endless social media influencers that have access to very targeted audiences that can fit a micro-brand’s niche perfectly ... I think it allows brands to have conversations with customers in a really authentic way.
Let’s talk about Instagram specifically. Can you share six ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Have a consistent look and feel to your posts.
We all know the importance of a good brand, but carrying that over to your visual aesthetic on Instagram is important too. Brands and influencers alike are using tricks like custom Lightroom presets or consistency around content (and how often you post) gives customers a sense of familiarity. Plus, they know to look forward to your content every day!
2. Be a fan.
If you want people to be a fan of your brand, then you need to be a fan of your users. Get out there and find the people who represent the message your brand is trying to convey. If you’re a fitness brand, find the influencers in that space, follow them, and engage with them on Instagram! Comment on their posts, like, etc, but make sure it stays authentic. People can smell a phony (or a bot) a mile away, and that will do more to hurt your reputation than help. And most importantly, integrate user-generated content into your feed! It shows you’re appreciative of your viewers and fans.
3. Make use of Instagram’s tools.
Instagram lets your create shoppable posts, so if you’re selling goods make sure to use this important feature. If Instagram is where your customers are (and for some brands, it might not be!) then make it as easy as possible for them to buy what you’re selling. Make sure the images are clear and beautiful, and that you have an active Business Instagram account that’s linked to a Facebook page. There are some other rules as well, so check up on them before you get started.
4. Create a content calendar.
As I mentioned, posting on a consistent basis is the best way to stay top-of-mind for your users. Creating a content calendar (I love using Airtable for this kind of project) enables you to have a future-looking plan of all the things you want to communicate. Maybe you’re planning posts for the holidays, or you have a special promotion that you’re going to be running. Front-loading a bunch of content will make it a lot easier to get those posts out when they’re most effective.
5. Use templates.
I’m a little biased here, considering I work on the Adobe Spark team, but I’m a huge fan of templates — and Spark has a lot of great ones to choose from. I’m not a designer, but I know what looks good. Being able to create content using templates designed by actual professionals helps me have a starting point to work from. Plus, if you’re using multiple social networks to promote your brand or business, it helps to have those templates be able to switch between aspect ratios for everything automatically. You’ve got enough on your brain to have to remember which networks are square or 16:9.
6. Hashtags are your friend.
When I first started out, hashtags seemed like an unnecessary addition to my posts. However, I’ve seen how well they’ve helped people find their niche online, and how well they’ve enabled brands to expand their reach on Instagram (where pretty much everyone company in the world has a presence). Create something very specific to your brand identity, and encourage your fans to post with that hashtag. Essentially, you’re helping your community go viral without having to do all the work.
Because of the position that you are in, you're a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Be kind. It’s so easy to say, but it can be very hard to live (especially online, where people feel like there’s very little consequence to not being kind). That can mean responding to an email request for help or advice or saying something nice to someone who is having a tough time. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the vitriol online ... but a little kindness can go a very long way.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with? Why?
Serena Williams. She’s kind of my idol right now. So smart, savvy, and dedicated to her passions. Also, I want her workout tips!