How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Use a media calendar to organize daily, weekly or monthly themes” With Julia Joy & Candice Georgiadis
For all social media, I recommend using a media calendar to organize daily, weekly or monthly themes to concentrate and fully develop topics. On every platform, but especially on IG, you are creating a story, so your content experience needs to be more like a chapter book, not a pile of random postcards. And be consistent! There needs to be a story behind the Stories — you can’t post just one. Think of it as a TV show; there’s an overall theme that plays out over a series of smaller episodes. To leverage Instagram, ask yourself (or likely your team and your community): Is your brand sassy? Sophisticated? Edgy? If your service is all about a luxury experience, show off all of the small ways in which clients are pampered and, of course, the results.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Joy. Jules (as her friends call her) is the PR Director for Swyft and an experienced media adviser, having consulted for over 100 SMBs. She specializes in media relations, engagement, social marketing and creating cultures of communication. You can find her online commenting on the state of PR and she is often featured in media and business news outlets.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My favorite thing is communicating. As a kid, I ran focus groups with my friends and provided my family with surveys to get to know each other better. I fell in love with PR when I interned for an entertainment public relations agency in LA and from there, I grew into corporate and agency positions, always developing my ability to engage stakeholder groups and to create cultures of communication.
I have had amazing professional experiences while working for agencies, tech companies large and small and consulting with over 100 organizations — creating visibility, expanding communications, defining engagement, and connecting with external audiences. My motto — everything you say and everything you do is Public Relations — reflects my comprehensive approach to meeting communications challenges.
I grew up in Oregon, where my fondest childhood memories are of climbing gorgeous, towering trees, picking fresh summer berries and playing on the Oregon coast. I dreamed of moving to NYC to study fashion but instead meandered through school, obtaining a degree in Graphic Design. After a brief return to Portland, I moved to LA to continue my studies and broaden my horizons (code for getting out of the rain!) An inspiring Communications professor recommended me for a highly coveted paid PR internship, where I blossomed with a passion for communications.
While my children have brought immeasurable joy and balance to my life, I have never given up my first love — PR.
In 2001, I founded Z Group PR as a freelance consultancy after years working with communications teams and public relations agencies. I have been told by more than one client that my poise, writing skills, and media expertise make me a valuable asset, but it is my straightforward approach to marketing, cheerfulness and passion that makes them want to work with me. I enjoy being involved professionally in many business groups and I am a registered Girl Scout Leader. Now, with 25 years of experience, a second marketing degree, and an MBA, I can solve client PR issues faster than you can say, “Super PR Lady!” I am an “international steward of creativity” with extensive expertise in media relations, brand management, and marketing strategies spanning a myriad of industries.
I offer proven abilities in strategic marketing, corporate messaging, traditional and digital communications and social media marketing and am highly adept at developing vertical markets, identifying business opportunities, creating unique ideas, and building strategic alliances that drive market expansion and generate revenue growth.
As a polished communicator, I enjoy building influence and consensus with professionals of all levels.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
Well, in person I would joke that I am an authority on social media marketing because I am old, which always gets a laugh. Really what I mean is that I learned communications the old fashioned way, in a traditional, non-technical environment, where we had to do it the hard way… like actually write things without Googling them first and call experienced (impatient) journalists on the phone to pitch press releases in person. I did not have the option of hiding behind a screen. It was stressful and while I have enjoyed each piece of technology that has come along since my early career (I started before email was a real thing and I was the FAX expert at the office in my early days) by practicing the craft the hard way.
My early traditional media experience made me more thoughtful (more fearful really in some ways) and more strategic in my thinking. When placed in an environment where today’s easy tools are the norm, I see people who did not have a broad traditional media experience early in their careers making mistakes. When social media came along, instead of being new to mass-communications and jumping on the bandwagon, I treated like any other tool, and while it is extremely useful and enjoyable to use social media, I still approach it from a more traditional vantage point. This makes me well suited to communicate on behalf of and across an organization, including with the C Suite, and to bring social media into focus for public relations and marketing strategies. I am also too old to buy the hype. Email was going to change everything about PR and it certainly made our jobs easier, but it also created an all too easy on-ramp to crappy media relations. Social media has the same downside — it’s so easy that it is deceptive. Communication is still a strategic art and a science, regardless of what tools are made available.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Ha. Too many and lots that I cannot share due to client confidentiality, but there is one that I still love and highlights the always interesting relationship between PR and journalism. Mid-career I worked as a spokesperson for a public entity that happened to be involved with an ugly public lawsuit. The regional media had decided that we were the bad guys and each morning’s paper brought a fresh new take on how horrible we supposedly were. Through consistent and unrelenting relationship building, I turned the entire media focus towards the real issues, to the point that by the end of the crisis, my organization was the recipient of many sympathetic news stories that resulted in solidifying community support . It was not fun. I hated being yelled at by reporters and frankly, I cried in my car more times than I care to remember. However, I had the truth on my side and because I am ridiculously competitive, I would not let my organization go down without a fight. It was an exhausting two-year slog, but I am a much better practitioner because of it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yep. Still laugh about this one. I turned in a perfect press release to my CEO for approval. He loved everything about it. And at the end he asked slyly, “Did you want to spell your name correctly in the contact section or is this a PR thing?” I spelled my own name wrong in a press release! Yikes! One I learned to relax a little so that I could take a step back and really see a project as a whole and two, I learned that every good writer needs a great editor.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
My go-to for business is still Twitter because it started as a news source and has maintained, even with all of the changes, a deep connection with media, journalists, and communicators. I have Twitter friends that have recommended me for jobs, sent me clients, promoted my work, and collaborated with me in ways that made me better at what I do.
Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
- Leverage Instagram by remembering it is not Facebook. I do not think business users understand key points or differences about the platform. Understand the tool and dive deep into how communities are built here. For example, business users need to understand that there is not yet an option to use direct links in posts, so you have to edit or reframe your content with that in mind. It is tricky to link directly to product web pages and to incorporate links into video so you cannot simply take your existing Facebook or web advertisements or content and drop them into Instagram and expect results.
- What the above means is that to leverage Instagram organizations need a specific Instagram-focused strategy with specific links and specific web destinations that are well supported within the platform. This means that on the backend and on the creative side there may be some extra work to develop a streamlined presentation and process to sell or promote from Instagram because you may have only one link you can use in the profile section. Advertising is a lot easier now due to the integration with Facebook in terms of billing, running campaigns, and managing ads, but on the creative side and the messaging side, there’s practical issues that will need to be addressed.
- A lot of executives are hearing about “Influencers” and Instagram is the ideal place to connect with an influencer and to bridge product sponsorship or product integration within an existing account. However, this does not end well for some organizations and an experienced marketer needs to be on hand to implement a strong influencer campaign. I am starting to read articles where money is wasted, influencers are sued, or marketers have egg on their face because they jumped in without asking the hard questions. Leverage Instagram means understanding the specific community and environment first.
- Yes, everyone wants to sell stuff, but when you try to lead people away from IG to a website, messaging and the customer experience can get wonky. To leverage Instagram for business, first, I would ask any organization to consider why they are wanting to lead followers away from IG to tie it to existing marketing? It is not a broadly proven sales platform yet, so the secret sauce for many organizations connecting with Influencers is to keep the content where the fans are and to use IG for branding and PR, not sales. If you have determined that there is a true need to redirect followers, again, Instagram is tricky because not all accounts can use links and the vibe changes immediately after someone clicks away. My advice is to understand all of that before you move forward.
- Don’t be stingy with the advertising budget if you want to leverage Instagram for business. Know that the differences between organic and paid reach will have an impact on your results and your customer’s experience. Many posts will need to be boosted, as increasing engagement is harder these days.
- For all social media, I recommend using a media calendar to organize daily, weekly or monthly themes to concentrate and fully develop topics. On every platform, but especially on IG, you are creating a story, so your content experience needs to be more like a chapter book, not a pile of random postcards. And be consistent! There needs to be a story behind the Stories — you can’t post just one. Think of it as a TV show; there’s an overall theme that plays out over a series of smaller episodes. To leverage Instagram, ask yourself (or likely your team and your community): Is your brand sassy? Sophisticated? Edgy? If your service is all about a luxury experience, show off all of the small ways in which clients are pampered and, of course, the results.
Because of the position that you are in, you are 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. :-)
Well, I am a Girl Scout at heart and I would love to save the world in all the very important ways it needs to be saved, but from a professional standpoint, I would like to change my industry in a way that limits the number of inexperienced practitioners who are left to their own devices to do the work. I laugh and cringe on a daily basis at the number of bad PR pitches and press releases that journalists post, share, and complain about publicly as a warning to (or as a way to humiliate) those in the profession who cut corners. I think that PR people are on a whole very ethical. It seems to be a calling for many of us to uphold the ethics and values of our profession, out organizations and our clients. Then some bozo sends a vagina cream pitch to a financial tech writer and all of Twitter sees us as a bunch of twits. There needs to be structure and oversight within the profession and out in the greater communications world because I am offended and scared for my profession when someone inexperienced and unaware has the power to bring us all down a notch. A consumer-level grasp of social media does not make you a PR practitioner. I would start a movement that elevates our profession, removes the myths, and gives us the credit that we deserve, while training or terminating the people who do not take the responsibility to heart. We are in a scary place in general with media and journalism these days. PR practitioners need to do their part to uphold the ideals of journalistic integrity and if we are pitching crap products to the wrong publications via poorly scripted and executed mail merge blasts, we really are part of the problem.
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 US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Great question! I would love to chat with Jay Carney at Amazon, Sheryl Sandberg, Elliot Hill over at Nike, and Dan Wieden and David Kennedy (of Wieden+Kennedy) together, if possible.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!