Social Media Marketing on Instagram. Exploration of Strategic Perspectives

Master's Thesis, 2018

71 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Content


2.1 Definitions and characteristics of Instagram as a marketing tool
2.2 Analysis and goal setting for a successful Instagram account

3. DImensions of social Media marketing on instagram
3.1 Content Marketing
3.2 Engagement marketing
3.3 Influencer Marketing
3.4 Hashtags
3.5 Instagram Advertising

4.1 Research Design
4.2 Case Study: Sabro GmbH
4.3 Case Study: Kosmetik4less GmbH & Co. KG
4.4 Case Study: PETA Deutschland e. V
4.5 Comparison of the Case Studies




Case Study Interviews

Interview Sabro GmbH

Interview Kosmetik4less GmbH & Co. KG

Interview PETA Deutschland e.V


With 800 million users worldwide Instagram is one of the world’s leading social media platforms. The reason for the increasing relevance of Instagram is its mobile, local, social and visual character, which reflects how individuals are currently using social media and will continue to do so in the future. Instagram's combination of emotional visual content, story-telling and interaction with the community also makes it a platform that allows brands to differentiate themselves from others - to become unique in what are often very saturated markets.

While Instagram is a new application and previous research focuses mainly on long established social media platforms such as Facebook, this thesis aims to explore the various strategic perspectives of successful social media marketing on Instagram by developing a theoretical frame work and presenting the practical strategies of three very different organisations in a multiple-case study design.

The framework and the case studies prove that the five identified social media dimensions - content marketing, engagement marketing, influencer marketing, hashtags and Instagram advertising - are applied in practice but are adapted very individual on each organisation, its goals and its target group.


SNS, Social Networking Sites, Instagram, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Strategy, Multiple Case Study

Social Media Marketing on Instagram: Exploration of Strategic Perspectives


With 800 million users as of September 2017 and 80% of accounts following the business profile of a brand, Instagram is a great tool for social media marketing for various kinds of organisations (Instagram, 2018a).

There are two main reasons why organisations should look to invest time and financial resources in establishing a successful Instagram channel. Firstly, Instagram can be defined as mobile, local visual and social. Instagram was founded as a mobile application and is optimised for mobile use. Users can easily upload pictures on the go and find local content by searching for according local hashtags and location tagged images. The core of Instagram is the visual sharing of high-quality pictures about an interest or brand. Moreover, the community and exchange with other users both play a key role on Instagram. These four traits encompass how individuals use social media and have a strong influence on the attractiveness and popularity of Instagram (Kobilke, 2014, p. 212).

The second reason organisations need to be active on Instagram is that most markets are already saturated and as a result, the demand for unique brands is strongly increasing. Instagram is highly emotional and the embodiment of story-telling and therefore the perfect tool for creating and extending a unique brand (Weinberg and Diehl, 2005, p. 265).

While the relevance of social media marketing on Instagram is very high, so far little attention has been paid to it. Previous research concentrated mainly on longer established social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. But Instagram has a large community and is the fastest growing social media platform. Moreover, the characteristics of Instagram are very different than the traits of other social networks and for this reason one cannot use the research about Facebook and Twitter for creating a successful Instagram account. This thesis aims to explore the various strategic perspective of successful social media marketing on Instagram by developing a theoretical frame work and presenting the practical strategies of three very different organisations.

The Master thesis begins by clarifying the terms social media and social media marketing and differentiating Instagram from other social media channels. Then it moves on to consider analysis and goal-setting for a successful Instagram account. The main section goes on to discuss the five social media marketing dimensions on Instagram, which are content marketing, engagement marketing, influencer marketing, hashtags and Instagram advertising. Then the practical applications of these dimensions will be assessed by analyzing the Instagram marketing strategies of the organisations Sabro GmbH, Kosmetik4less GmbH & Co. KG and PETA Deutschland e. V.. After that these three case studies will be compared. In the concluding section, the limitations of the thesis and recommendations for further research will also be outlined.


In the following section, significant terms such as social media, social media marketing and Instagram will be explained and the benefits of Instagram will be examined by comparing it with other leading social media platforms Twitter and Facebook. The most important steps for developing a successful Instagram channel such as target group analysis and goal setting will then be described.

2.1 Definitions and characteristics of Instagram as a marketing tool

According to Touchette et al. (2015) social media is defined as „the ways of communication that involves two parties consist of users and web publishers that provide a space in which information is collaborative, and users can interact and participate collectively. Thus, the main function of social media is to link with others through the internet connection”. Alternatively, Evans (2008) proposes the following definition: „self-generated, authentic conversation between people about a particular subject of mutual interest, built on the thoughts and experiences of the participant”. Simply, social media is about connecting with others and sharing content online.

The use of use of social media as a marketing tool may be described as social media marketing (Faßmann, Moss, 2016, p. 1). While social media offers opportunities for most organization divisions, the following text will focus on social media marketing’s ability to achieve typical marketing goals like increased brand awareness and rather than goals like employer branding.

Instagram was founded in 2010 as a mobile photo sharing application that enabled users to share pictures and videos exclusively for iOS. In 2012 Facebook acquired Instagram and an android and desktop version of Instagram was released and has continued growing strongly since (Aßmann, Röbbeln, 2013, p. 26). Today Instagram has 800 million worldwide active users, which makes it one of the most relevant social media platforms and the 25 million active Instagram business profiles shows the relevance of Instagram as a social media marketing tool for various kinds of organizations (Instagram, 2018a).

For practicing successful social media marketing on Instagram, it is very important to understand the characteristics of this social network. For this purpose, it is useful to compare Instagram with the leading social networks Twitter and Facebook. Each of these networks can be used for successful social media marketing but depending on the traits of each network, different social media marketing strategies are necessary.

Firsching and Moss (2016, p. 27) developed the following positioning model about Twitter, Facebook and Instagram which is shown in Figure 1. Their model indicates that the three social media sites differ widely in term of the forms emotionality, informativeness and the insensitivity of the promotional character. The underlying study is based on the analysis of interviews with social media users who are 14-18 years old (F1), social media users who are 21-26 years old (F2) and employer and social media manager of agencies (F3). The interviewed groups share very similar views about the characteristics of the three leading social media platforms.

While Instagram is ranked highly for emotionality but not promotional character, Twitter is seen as highly informative and with slight to medium promotional character. The reason for these differences is that Instagram is a photo-sharing application and pictures are a very emotional medium and in contrast to that Twitter is a mainly text-based application and is therefore more informative. Moreover, Instagram is primarily a platform for positive personal and social information, whereas Twitter’s main focus is on sharing news and users tend to share more negative emotions (Manikonda et al., 2016).

Facebook is classified as a hybrid with emotional and informative elements and very high promotional character. The main reason why Facebook is seen as both informative and emotional is that many forms of media including videos, pictures and texts are seen as connected to Facebook. Moreover, Facebook has been developed as a desktop platform whereas Instagram has been designed as a mobile application. Therefore, the design and functions of both social network sites are reasonably different. Instagram is very simple, compact, optimized for quick mobile consuming of content and focuses on a few key functions, however Facebook has more features, a more complex design and more communication options. Advertising on Instagram is very well integrated into the feed and the advertisments look almost identical to content posted by users. On the other hand, Facebook displays numerous advertisements in the feed and permanent additional advertisement banners on the right side (Faßmann, Moss, 2016, p. 28, 29).

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Figure 1. Comparison of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (translated, Faßmann, Moss, 2016, p. 27)

Instagram displays by far the highest degree of emotionality. The reason for this is the visual focus of Instagram. Pictures and video are the core of Instagram and these are classified as very emotional. Consequently, Instagram users also expect very high image quality and less informational texts. (Firsching, 2017, p. 88, 89).

Further characteristics of Instagram are the strong community, the use of Instagram as an inspiration source and the higher aesthetic and artistic degree compared to other platforms. Beyond that, the users identify more as creative and innovative posts of brands on Instagram are seen as less commercial. These characteristics make Instagram a tool for creative content marketing and a place for emotional brand presentation but require a different social media strategy than other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (Faßmann, Moss, 2016, p. 27, 28).

2.2 Analysis and goal setting for a successful Instagram account

In an interview for the journal Business Horizons, the social media marketing manager of Murray State University Dana Harward summed up one of the most important points about managing social media in an organization: “With social media, you must have a plan, goals, initiatives, and a mission. If you don´t know what your mission is, there´s no reason to use social media tools” (Howard, 2014, p. 663).

As this quote shows, successful social media marketing requires a lot of preparation and strategy development. For building a social media strategy, the most used and scientifically proved framework is the POST-method which was invented by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in 2008. The method consists of four elements: people (target group), objectives (goals), strategy and technology (platform). The model focusses on the overall social media strategy and the selection of the social media platform and is recommendable for starting with social media marketing (Aßmann, Röbbeln, 2013, p. 122 - 128).

After developing the overall social media strategy, an organization may concentrate on plans for the individual social media platforms. To develop its Instagram channel, a company would find it useful to conduct Instagram target group analyses and to set goals for the Instagram account.

Analyzing the target group and its needs is one of the most important phases of successful social media marketing (Pein, 2015, p. 118). An organization needs to define its target group on Instagram for creating valuable content. Therefore, it is useful to look at current demographic statistics of Instagram and to analyze the general target group of the brand. An organization may have, for example at Facebook, a target group with similar interests but an older and more male demographic than on Instagram, because of the differences in average age and proportion of women in the two networks (Aßmann, Röbbeln, 2013, p. 96).

The second step is goal setting. It is very important to define clear objectives for an Instagram account for having a direction and basis for developing social media marketing strategies. Moreover, precise targets are relevant for measuring the success of the channel.

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Figure 2. Social media goals of companies (translated, Bitkom, 2018)

In figure 2, the most important social media goals according to 332 German companies are visualized.

These goals are also often mentioned for being active on Instagram. While some companies are more interested in increasing their brand awareness, for other enterprises creating relationships with customers is more important. Regardless, the statistics indicates that the main goals of social media activities are on marketing related topics. Just 23% of the interviewed companies listed recruiting of new employees as their social media goal (Bitkom 2018).

One Instagram goal missing in the graphic is increasing sales. While Instagram was not known as a branding instrument when it started, it has become a brilliant tool for increasing sales by content recall. Users can’t click directly on a link under a post but they do see presented products on Instagram and can easily use search engines for getting to the online shop or homepage (Firsching, 2017, p. 91).

In contrast, the goals of non-profit organizations can differ. The following statistic is based on a survey with over 9,000 small-to-medium-sized nonprofits from the United States and Canada. The three main social media goals are: sharing news about the organization, the cause and brand recognition. When using social media non-profit organizations are also mainly interested in marketing goals and not in human resource targets (Hubspot, 2018).

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Figure 3. Social media goals of non-profit organizations (Own representation, Hubspot, 2018)

After defining these qualitative meta goals they need to be divided in smaller quantitative measurable smart goals. The abbreviation SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. For example, for the meta goal increasing brand awareness a smart goal could be increasing the reach up to 10% till the next month and measuring it by the increasing number of followers in that period. For defining achievable goals, the organization need to prove if the quantitative goal is feasible with the available organization resources (Pein, 2015, p. 125, 126).

The previously mentioned steps are the foundation of every social media strategy and have to be followed for successful social media marketing on each social media platform. The following section will show how defined Instagram goals could be achieved and how the needs of the Instagram target group can be satisfied by applying different dimensions of social media marketing on Instagram.

3. DImensions of social Media marketing on instagram

For developing a successful social media marketing strategy an organization should be active in the following five dimensions:

- Content Marketing
- Engagement Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
- Hashtags
- Instagram Advertising

These dimensions are suitable for commercial social media use of companies as well as for non-profit marketing of organizations. Depending on the Instagram goals, budget, target group and organization, the intensity of application of each dimension may differ. In the following sections these dimensions are explained in detail.

3.1 Content Marketing

Pictures are the core of Instagram and therefore content marketing plays a leading role in social media marketing. Firstly, it is very important that the shared content is emotional, aesthetic and of high-quality. Moreover, an organization needs to develop a content strategy which coincides with the target group and the Instagram goals of the organization. The following clarifies how to build a successful Instagram content marketing strategy.

The term ‘content marketing’ tends to be used to refer to “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action” (Content Marketing Institute, 2018). Creating valuable content for a specific target group is the main focus of content marketing.

This content needs to be balanced with the Instagram goals. In a recent study Ahmad et al. (2016) proved the positive impact of social media marketing on brand health. The term ‘brand health’ can be defined as brand awareness and brand equity. As shown in the previous section, it is very important to identify one’s Instagram goals. It is essential for developing a content strategy and the measurement of the achievement of the goals is a valid indicator for analyzing the success of an Instagram account.

Most content strategies on Instagram are based on story telling. The term story telling is generally taken to mean integrating brand messages into a story for reaching customers in an emotional manner. It is a good instrument for transporting content in a way that can be easily absorbed by the brain. The reason for this is that stories touch the recipient and trigger feelings that remain in the memory. Therefore, stories are much more attractive for the brain than are the listing of products, service or organization facts. The story-telling method operates very well in the social media environment because stories can be told quickly and easily in a variety of media to be spread online (Hilker, 2017, p.123).

For instance, a travel company could post a photo report about a vacation destination on Instagram. This can be seen as visual storytelling, offering a travel-interested follower an emotive impression of a new culture or country. As a result, the user gets inspired and it improves their attitude towards the travel brand. By using this method regularly, the chances increase that the follower books their next holiday through the travel agency or recommends the company to friends (Firsching, 2017, p. 16, 17).

There are three different kinds of media for sharing content on Instagram: photos, videos and Instagram stories. In the beginning, it was just possible to post square-shaped pictures on Instagram. It is now possible to post photos in other formats but it is still recommended to use the square-shaped design because the pictures at the account page are presented in square-shaped format (Firsching, 2017, p. 92). While picture quality is not so important for Facebook, for Instagram it is a crucial criterion. One could almost say that the success of an Instagram account depends on the quality of the pictures. The underlying reason for this is that Instagram’s main focus lies on sharing pictures not text and additionally the highly aesthetic characteristic of Instagram has a strong influence on it (Firsching, 2017, p. 88). Furthermore, Instagram is the embodiment of filtered pictures. Filters can impact the mood and style of photos, can increase the recognition value and are also a tool for brand staging. For instance, filters which contain the shades red and yellow have a stimulating and brightening effect (Pein, 2015, p. 395).

Videos are also very common for social media marketing on Instagram. They are between 3 and 60 seconds long and are another method for delivering emotional brand messages (Instagram, 2018b). But they operate in a different way than videos on other social platforms such as You Tube. While You Tube videos are very long and detailed and are offering entertainment or solutions for problems, on Instagram users are looking for easy-to-consume videos that match their interests. Afterall, videos on Instagram are mainly watched on mobile handsets and are automatically played without sound (Firsching, 2017, p. 89). As a result, it is useful to create short videos which live from images and don´t rely on sound or subtitles.

Joglekar et al. (2017) conducted a survey about micro video on content-driven platforms. Micro videos are around 5-10 seconds long and for the purpose of the study over 120,000 micro videos were analyzed. While social factors influence the engagement with a posted micro video, the quality of a micro video has the strongest effect on the number of likes and comments. The quality of the first seconds of a micro video is most important because users decide very quickly if they want to engage with a micro video (Joglekar et al., 2017).

The third kind of media on Instagram are stories. This function was released in August 2016 and is very similar to the story feature of Snapchat. While Snapchat was the first mover of stories on social media, Instagram stories became a very well-liked and widely-used alternative (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 292).

Instagram stories are the newest type of content and offer additional advantages compared to photos and videos. They can consist of any number of pictures and videos, are shown at the top of a user’s feed and can be watched by clicking on them. They visible only to a user’s followers and disappear after 24 hours. Instagram stands for high-quality pictures but Instagram stories offers the chance to post content which is less perfect but remains authentic (Instagram, 2018c).

One main gain of Instagram stories is that they are shown at top of the user’s feed and therefore have an effect similar to that of an advertisement. As an organization, it is even useful to post stories just because of this feature. A similarly relevant advantage is the chance to include links into the stories. Usually users are just able to include links in their biography and into paid ads. Every picture of the story can be marked with a link to the homepage, online shop or a blog article of an organization (Instagram, 2018c).

Manikonda et al. (2016) evaluated the posting behavior on Twitter and Instagram by textual and visual analysis of shared content from users who are active on both social media platforms. Whereas over 60% of the posted Instagram pictures display friends and selfies and are emotion driven, over 78% of the Twitter posts are categorized as activities and captioned photos such as memes and quotes and tend to focus on opinions. The study observed that “the differences are deeply rooted in the very intention with which users post on these platforms, with Twitter being a venue for serious posts about news, opinions and business life while Instagram serves as the host for light-hearted personal moments and posts on leisure activities” (Manikonda et al., 2016).

A study of Hu et al. (2014) who analyzed posted Instagram pictures indicated similar results. According to the study the most posted pictures on Instagram are also selfies and images of friends. Further photo categories are food, gadgets, pets, activities, fashion and captioned photos.

All of these picture categories are positive, lifestyle and interest focused, aesthetic objects, emotional and involve self-presentation. These are traits which users are looking for in pictures on Instagram. As a brand, it is important to keep these traits in mind when producing Instagram content.

When designing Instagram content the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) model can be very useful. AIDA was developed in 1898 by Elmo Lewis and is widely applied in online marketing. When applying this method, a commercial company controls the four cognitive phases through which an individual passes between seeing a new product or service to the point of purchase (Hassan et al. (2015). It can be used for all kinds of organizations including non-profit organizations. In that case, the organization is controlling the steps from somebody seeing an advertisement to taking a specific action. Moreover, it can be implemented in the social media marketing strategy of small, medium and large organizations.

Miles (2014, p. 95-97) explained the use of the AIDA model in non-profit social media marketing in detail. Firstly, a non-profit organization has to reflect on how it can create appealing content for getting the attention of supporters and donors. The selection of the picture or video is very important. While the picture should raise awareness about an issue, it should also be presented in an aesthetic, emotional and positive way to coincide with the content a user wants to see on Instagram. A suitable short quote in the picture caption can be powerful for increasing the attention and strengthening the message. The next step is typically Interest but in the non-profit context it can also be seen as conviction, because a non-profit organization is interested in securing a target audience’s concern in the general issue and also in the certain charity. An organization also needs to offer a solution for the problem, which they should portray in their Instagram post for showing what kind of value the specific organization can offer. The next step is instilling the desire to make a difference. A non-profit organization can control this need by delivering education and training about the issue to the interested supporters and donors. The last step is action. While in profit-orientated businesses this stage means often buying a product or service, in non-profit-oriented businesses there are a number of actions that can be taken. Examples of actions are: following and liking the channel of the organization giving temporal, skillful or financial aid or attending an upcoming event of the charity. As an additional step to the AIDA model, a charity could thank their supporters on Instagram (Miles, 2014, p. 95 - 97).

In a recent study Hassan et al. (2015) researched the use of the AIDA model in social media marketing of small businesses. The paper is based on a focus group discussion with 22 small company entrepreneurs. Hassan et al. (2015) confirmed that by using the AIDA method, small businesses can increase the effectiveness of their social media marketing.

Although it is very important that pictures on Instagram fulfill these criteria, it is equally important to consider a themed strategy. Most accounts of organizations post about several different topics. When starting to create a content strategy, a brand should think about some themes they want to post regularly about. These themes need to match with the Instagram goals and be valuable for the followers. For example, an enterprise which wants to increase sales could focus on presenting pictures of new products and discounts. In contrast, a company that wants to improve their brand image and to seem more authentic to their customers, could show behind-the-scenes Instagram stories of their office and work routine. And a non-profit organization which is interested in using Instagram as a public relation marketing channel could post emotional videos of their global missions and success stories. But an organization should retain a tight focus and avoid posting about too many different themes (Kobilke, 2014, p. 231).

When attempting to show the human side of an organization the following types of content can be useful. Firstly, behind-the-scenes pictures and videos are very popular on Instagram. This kind of content is used by influencers, celebrities and brands. Organizations can show how a product is developed, how an event like a trade fair or fashion show is organized and executed or they could post pictures of their work routine. Furthermore, they can post interviews and present their employees and their office pet (Kobilke, 2014, p. 234, 235).

Tutorials are a creative way of offering valuable and enriched content to followers. In a step-by-step video a brand can show how to use their product or service. Depending on the brand image this can be done in a smart, informative, trendy, luxury, simple, entertaining or funny way. For instance, a food company could shoot a video about preparing a trendy dish in an aesthetic hipster way and use the ingredients which they are selling in the tutorial (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 295).

Another idea for varied interesting content marketing are Instawalks. An Instwalk is when an organization invites engaged followers and customers to an organization-related place and in turn the invited guest shares pictures and videos of the event on Instagram. Instawalks could be organized, for example, on the company premises, in the office rooms or at a special brand event such as sponsored sport event or an international fair trade (Kobilke, 2014, p. 236).

For companies who are using Instagram for increasing sales, coupons and special offers are sometimes a good content theme. To increase store visits on a special day or over a specific period a local company might announce a free giveaway in their local store on their Instagram account. Special offers during a product launch or posting about happy hour offers might also improve traffic (Miles, 2014, p. 183).

Other content on Instagram is trend-driven and very dynamic. It is useful to analyze trends in the community for inspiration. The community plays an important role on Instagram and an organization can participate in posting content that is currently popular in the community of its target audience (Kobilke, 2014, p. 233).

According to several authors it is advised to avoid inserting big brand logos or brand slogans on Instagram content after taking the picture. This approach makes the pictures appear like advertising and doesn’t match Instagram’s ‘less promotional’ characteristics. It is much better when the brand logo is part of the taken picture – in a sense, hidden (Firsching, 2017, p. 88; Kobilke, 2014, p. 231). For instance, the international humanitarian non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders posts many pictures without their brand logo on Instagram but on some pictures, they are wearing uniforms with the Doctors Without Borders logo (Instagram, 2018d).

When being simultaneously active on several social media platforms, it is not recommend to reuse content from one social media site on another platform. Sometimes it can be acceptable to reuse content but if the same content is posted often on more than one platform, users become bored and won´t be motivated to follow several accounts of the same brand.

As this section showed, creating content which is valuable for the followers is key in social media marketing. Furthermore, content strategies for Instagram differ from content strategies on other social networks. When the special content features of Instagram are used wisely and to the benefit of an organization, they can be a powerful social media marketing tool.

3.2 Engagement marketing

The engagement rate on Instagram is higher than on every other social media platform. Even the commenting and likeing frequency on Facebook is 15% lower than on Instagram (Kobilke, 2014, p. 218). The reason for this is the strong community on Instagram. Having know-how and experience in management of engagement on Instagram can boost the success of an account intensely. Therefore, all strategies which involve the exchange with users are listed and indicated in the following section.

The term ‘engagement marketing’ tends to be used to a brand’s “deliberate effort to motivate, empower, and measure customer contributions to marketing functions” (Harmeling et al., 2016). There are several methods in social media marketing for influencing engagement on Instagram.

On Instagram, it is very important to be in close contact with the followers. This statement counts for positive user comments as well as for negative user comments. When someone posts a negative comment such as a complaint, an organization should not delete or ignore the comment. The best way to respond is to respond quickly and concisely in a friendly way and to try to solve the issue privately. But it is also very important to answer and acknowledge positive comments and avoid focusing only on the negative. Instagram users appreciate personal and individual answers. The writing style of the comment should also coincide with the brand identity. For example, a funny brand with a very young target group could reply in a colloquial and joking way. In contrast to that a more serious brand could respond in a more serious and very kind way (Kerpen, 2011, p. 81 - 93).

In case negative comments and posts about an organization are accumulating and a crisis appears imminent, engagement marketing can prove a powerful crisis-management tool. A study of Guidry et al. (2015) evaluated 711 negative Instagram posts created by unsatisfied customers and employees about the 10 biggest global fast food chains. However, none of the companies replied to the negative posts, which the researchers of the study recommend taking action for in order to prevent or manage a crisis. First of all, Guidry et al. (2015) suggest monitoring the negative posted content and conversations of consumers and employees on Instagram. Constructive negative content can be used for improving products, services and processes. Furthermore, criticism should be acknowledged in order to solve issues. Another implication of the study was to focus on establishing social media guidelines for employees. A quarter of the negative posts were by employees and this could have been avoided by discussing the employees’ issues privately and solving them, while at the same time sensitizing the employees about the damaging consequences of negative posts and developing social media policies (Guidry et al., 2015).

In a recent study Coelho et al. (2016) measured the impact of post types of Instagram and Facebook on engagement. It was proved that posts about events and promotion led to the greatest involvement on Instagram. Furthermore, Coelho et al. (2016) demonstrated that Instagram is “more efficiently utilized when used as a means of promotion that provides hedonic benefits to users, rather than commercial benefits through direct promotion of products, services, and prices”. Therefore, most brands can increase their engagement rates by focusing on this kind of content. But an organization also needs to keep in mind that social media marketing is very individual and that some types of content work better than others for individual organizations. Thus, these effects can vary over time because Instagram is very trend driven. As a result, an organization should constantly measure what kind of content receives the highest engagement rates. Another interesting outcome of the study were the performances of the control variables. There were no statistically significant differences in engagement during the weekdays and weekends but the engagement rate varied from month to month. There are several mediating variables that influence the development of the number of likes and comments such as national holidays (Coelho et al., 2016).

While most engagement marketing strategies focus on posted content or engagement with followers, it can also be used for generating new followers. As mentioned before, the community on Instagram plays a key role and therefore it is useful to become socially active in one’s niche.

A good opportunity for attracting attention is liking pictures of other users. It is the simplest and quickest option to get noticed by community members. Furthermore, liking the picture of an individual has a similar effect as paying someone a compliment and gives the recipient a feeling of appreciation. By doing so an organization can generate a lot of traffic on its Instagram profile and it is very likely to quickly increase the number of followers with this method (Miles, 2014, p. 57).

Another chance is to comment on the content of other users. This approach is even more personal and leads to a higher reach than just liking a picture or video because it will also be seen by the friends of the person who liked the image. But in contrast to just liking a picture, writing valuable comments takes much more time and effort. In both cases it is recommend to only like and comment on pictures in one’s niche or the content of users who are followers of the organization. This method is much more efficient and effective than following random users because the chances are much higher that a user who is interested in the niche of a brand will also be interested in the organization’s account than some randomly chosen user (Miles, 2014, p. 58).

Contests are another effective tool for increasing engagement on Instagram. The lowest form of engagement which can be achieved is the liking of and commenting on the contest post. But contests can also be organized to reach higher forms of engagement like the following of an account, creating user-generated content or creating awareness for the account by tagging friends in the comments. Furthermore, they can also be used for recruiting qualified employees, promoting events, launching a new product, product development and much more.

A fruitful contest needs to be prepared in detail. Firstly, the goal of the competition needs to be defined and parameters for measuring the achievement of the goals need to be determined. Hashtags can then be selected for the contest. The hashtag should be related to the organization, unique, not too long and easy to remember. Thereafter, a brand needs to decide how to select the winner. For instance, an organization could choose the best contribution, let the community rate in form of likes or let every participant win and then share a ‘winner photo’ to all users on their homepage. The last step of preparing a contest is to develop conditions of participation and to create the post for announcing the competition. In the following stages the organization would accompany the competition and then follow it up and evaluate it after the conclusion of the competition (Kobilke, 2014, p. 237 – 242).

As Han et al. (2015) noted by analyzing 51,000 pictures, the engagement of Instagram posts can be influenced by hashtags. According to the study interest-based hashtags such as #pennstate received more likes than seasonal hashtags e.g. #halloween and popular hashtags such as #tbt. In the section hashtags, the advantages of using niche and interest hashtags will be discussed in more detail.

Following Erkan (2015) the number of Instagram likes and comments depends significantly on the industry of an organization. The engagement – in the form of liking posts – of companies in the beverage sector is 2.5 times higher than in the high fashion sector. However, the commenting rate is 8 times higher for brands in the electronic industry than in the clothing industry.

User-generated content is a relevant component of engagement marketing on Instagram. User-generated content can be defined as “any own-created material uploaded to the internet by non–media and it has a greater influence on people’s consumption. […It] is an activity of online users self-express themselves through sharing their views, opinions and feedbacks on what they have consumed or used.” (Bahtar, Muda, 2016). This explanation is just a part of user-generated content because it just focuses on user generated content of products and services and commercial goals. But user-generated content can also be used for improving the image of a brand, finding innovative ideas by crowdsourcing, inspiring and convincing followers to change their behavior and much more.

A successful example of engagement marketing with user-generated content is that of the city Nuremberg, which has organized the contest #NürnbergBildDerWoche (in English: #Nurembergpictureoftheweek); where the city reposts the best pictures of Nuremberg on its Instagram account every week. It is an effective city marketing method for increasing the attractiveness of Nuremberg as a tourist destination. Furthermore, the city selected nearly 200 Nuremberg Instagram pictures of its followers and arranged a photo exhibition which increased the awareness of its account (W&V, 2018).

While several users create user-generated content by themselves and without the influence of the brand they are posting about, organizations can also motivate followers to post user-generated content for example by organizing a contest.

Previous research focused of the influence of user-generated content on purchase behavior. According to Goh et al. (2013) user-generated content has a stronger effect on purchase behavior than content created by brands themselves. Bahtar and Muda (2016) developed a framework based on a literature review for showing how user-generated content influences online purchase intention. The following hypothesis was made: Perceived risk has a negative effect on perceived usefulness, but perceived usefulness and credibility has a positive effect on attitude towards user-generated content. In turn, the positive user attitude towards user-generated content will influence the online purchase intention (Bahtar, Muda, 2016).

Furthermore, engagement is often used as an indicator for measuring the success of an Instagram account. There are several ways to measure success by using engagement data. Firstly, one can measure the development of the number of followers. Other opportunities are measuring the amount of likes or comments and to analyze which content is receiving more interaction and which less, if the comments are positive or negative and how the number of likes and comments develop over time. While these are evaluation methods in absolute numbers, the measurement of relative numbers is advantageous for further analyzes. The interaction rate is calculated by comparing the engagement with the number of followers. There are several tools available for analyzing and controlling engagement such as Hootsuite.

To conclude, there are several factors and tools which influence the engagement on Instagram such as content, temporal factors, community engagement and contests. By knowing, applying and adapting the controllable indicators, an organization can increase engagement and achieve its Instagram goals.

3.3 Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a widespread approach in social media marketing. It is an efficient instrument for obtaining high quality reach and improving the image of a brand. According to 64 interviewed marketing experts, influencer marketing is the second largest trend in the area of mobile marketing (Statista, 2018a). The following section will cover all information about successful influencer marketing.

While influencer marketing is often portrayed as a new marketing concept, it is actually based on the long familiar approach of testimonial marketing. The term ‘testimonial advertisement’ tends to be used to refer to individuals who are not affiliated with the advertiser but who recommend the purchase of a product or service to the target group (Haase 1986, p. 125). The role of an influencer is very similar to a testimonial. The only differences are that an influencer can additionally impact the general behavior and opinion of a specific target group such as changing the lifestyle or eating habits and not just the purchase behavior and the expression influencer is primarily used for individuals who are active in the online field, such as blogging and social media networks (Kamps, Schetter, 2018, p. 143).

There are two kinds of influencers: experts and multipliers. Experts are just focused on one particular topic and have expertise about a special field. They are highly regarded in their community and very trustworthy. Most experts only co-operate with organizations who match their values and whose products, services or attitude they truly consider as good. They trigger trends in their field and are very rarely called into question. For products with high acquisition value, high risk or long consumption period experts can be very expedient influencers (Schlüter, 2013, p. 42, 43).

In contrast to that multipliers engage with more than one topic. Their knowledge and interests are broadly diversified instead of specialized. Therefore, they also attract more diverse followers who have various interests and represent varied demographics. Multipliers are able to spread messages quickly and area-wide in a personal way. They are useful for bringing new products or services to market (Schlüter, 2013, p. 42, 43).

Depending on the product involvement and marketing goal, one kind of these influencers could be more suitable than others. For example, for the launch of a new chewing gum, a multiplier could be more favorable.

Influencers can be found for every kind of niche and with several different backgrounds. Djafarova and Rushworth (2017) have explored the influence of celebrities and non-traditional celebrities on purchase behavior of young women. The in-depth interviews of 18 female Instagram users indicate that Instagram celebrities are effecting the consumer behavior but non-traditional celebrities such as individuals who became famous by their Instagram pictures have a stronger influence on the buying behavior. The underlying is reason is that they are seen as more trustworthy and users can relate to them more in comparison to celebrities.

The credibility of an influencer is the main reason for using influencer marketing. According to a study of Gruner & Jahr (2018) 85% of the 886 questioned Instagram users think that credibility is the most important trait of a co-operation between an influencer and a brand. Other relevant traits are being informative, presenting a clear benefit and being current (Gruner & Jahr, 2018).

In contrast to classic testimonial marketing, influencer marketing is often more creative. For example, the travel blogger koelnformat shows impressions of her Great Lakes family road trip on Instagram and is sponsored by Mercedes Benz. The family-friendly car is an authentic part of the travel story (Kobilke, 2014, p. 245). Another example for a successful innovative influencer approach is the channel takeover of an influencer for a limited period. During that time, the influencer can post insights of his daily life on the channel of an organization (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 296).

Before starting to search for an influencer, an organization should consider which goals it wants to achieve with the co-operation. Potential goals could be creating brand awareness, re-positioning a brand, launching a product or service or market entry (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 296). Further fields of application are content promotion, event management, corporate communications and crisis management (Kreutzer, Land, 2017, p. 209). Influencer marketing can be just for one campaign or part of a long-term co-operation (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 296).

There are several options for finding suitable influencers. Firstly, an organization needs to identify its target audience for knowing what kind of influencer they are looking for. For a successful campaign the influencer should have followers with similar interests as the followers of the organization (Faßmann, Moss, 2016, p. 17). After that a brand can search for influencers on its own by niche hashtag research or by using influencer marketing software. Examples for tools which offer search engines and statistics for finding influencers are Klout, Tapinfluencer and InfluencerDB.

The number of followers is not always a good indicator for the reach of an account because likes and followers can be bought easily. The price for 10,000 Instagram followers is only around 60 Euros (Performance, p. 144). Therefore, the interaction rate and mentioning on other accounts can be more reliable for finding true influencers (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 298).

Depending on the organization and influencer there are several remuneration systems. A brand can send an influencer free products or vouchers for services. These gifts can vary from small inexpensive gifts to expensive sponsored travels. The influencer is then able to test the product or service and to mention it later. Another opportunity is that the influencer is raffling the free give aways to his users. This strategy leads to high credibility but can also lead to drawbacks in case the influencer doesn’t like the product or service (Grabs et al., 2017, p. 296).

Another option is to pay Influencers for product or service cooperation. According to a recent survey in 2016, two thirds of the interviewed marketing experts planned an influencer budget for 2017. The costs for an influencer post depend on the number of followers and the niche of the influencer. For example, an influencer in the modeling field with averagely 63,000 followers earns medially worldwide $434 per post but an influencer with the same number of followers in the music industry gets less than half of that paid for a post (Statista, 2018b). The media values within a sector varies even more widely. The media value is defined as the estimated price which a brand has to pay for achieving a similar reach. For instance, in the field of traveling, a small German influencer with around 100,000 followers such as jaworskyj has a media value of $516 and the German influencer ohhcouture who has 861,797 followers has a media value of $4,277 (Influencer DB, 2018a).


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Social Media Marketing on Instagram. Exploration of Strategic Perspectives
University of Potsdam
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Social Media, Marketing, Case Study, Social Media Marketing, Instagram, SNS, Social Media Strategy, Social Networking Sites
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Lisa Jessen (Author), 2018, Social Media Marketing on Instagram. Exploration of Strategic Perspectives, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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