Why The Lakers Get Instagram Stories Right

It’s time to face reality. The chronological days of Instagram are over. A new wave has surfaced. It’s a reality where posts might appear at the top of your feed three days after the fact. It’s annoying, I know.

This new reality isn’t going away though, and it means that anyone in sports must pivot their strategy. A win or lost, after-the-game post is not relevant three days later.

In-feed posts are no longer real-time. Instead, you have to think of them as evergreen. They are a news source anymore. They have to be able to be relevant 24 hours – even 72 hours after the fact.

The rules have changed. It’s time to pivot. This means teams must rethink sharing game previews, score updates and anything else that’s time sensitive in-feed. Instead, they belong on Stories.

The Lakers have done a fantastic job this season with their approach to Instagram Stories. They have leveraged them for game previews, uniforms, highlight and score updates. All things that are real time, instead of constantly forcing them in-feed. And, their visual identity is the best of the best.

Below are a few examples of the content they share:

 

 

Working in social is all about pivoting. We might not agree with or like all the change, but it’s our job as marketers to go with these changes. Pivoting with changes creates a better consumer experience. And in the long run, that’s how you create a winning presence.

So, it’s time to face the facts. The Instagram algorhithm probably is not going anywhere. How are you adjusting your strategy to reflect that?

Pivoting With Instagram’s Changes

If you work in social and digital, there is one thing that is certain: Things will change. Whether a new platform emerges or an existing platform implements changes, the rules of the road are never the same as they were a month ago.

The hard part about all the changes is you have you have to rethink your strategy. Forget a yearly social strategy, a quarterly social strategy seems to make more sense.

Instagram is one of the platforms that has undergone tremendous change in the past year. From Stories, to Live and algorithm changes, it’s not quite the simple and beautifully curated feed it used to be. You have to be thoughtful about the content, timing and frequency.

With all these changes to Instagram, it’s time to sit back and reflect. How have you pivoted your strategy to adjust the new landscape? Instagram is no longer about posting pretty photos. Below are a few thoughts to think about as you approach Instagram:

 

In-feed posts are no longer real time.

Because of the new algorithm, in-feed posts are no longer served to your fans in real-time. This means you have to rethink your content strategy with your regular Instagram posts. Ask, will this be relevant to my fans hours (even 24 hours) after the fact?

Since the news feed is no longer real time, you have to shift your content strategy. For example, line up graphics, score updates (not final, but end of quarter ones), etc. are probably better served elsewhere.

 

Maintain high standards for your in-feed posts.

In-feed posts might not be real-time anymore, but they should be held to the highest standards and creative filters. Only your best content should should go on the feed. It’s 100 percent quality over quantity.

With the new algorithm, content reaches fans and consumers differently. There hasn’t been a ton of disclosure (at least from what I’ve seen) about what exactly the algorithm weighs, but one trend that seems clear… if you post too much, you might cannibalize your own reach. The best of the best content goes here or you’ll hurt your engagement and reach.

Think about pivoting your approach to a less is more mentality. In-feed posts should be about the best expression of the team and the brand. It’s about strong photography that tells a story and provides a unique angle… and content that might be a little more evergreen. Remember, content must capture attention, be engaging and not have to rely so much on timing. This line sums it up well:

 

Stories drives real-time + deeper storytelling.

Instagram Stories has so much potential since the real estate is front and center and you can upload pre-existing content. One of the strongest and most interesting opportunity is to find synergies between your in-feed posts and Stories.

As you plan your approach, think about how you can leverage the tool to drive deeper storytelling in a moment. Your in-feed posts and Stories can work together to drive more consumption of your content. For example, maybe at the end of the game you have your final score graphic and leverage Stories to showcase “plays of the game”. Use in-feed post to drive people to Stories (or vice versa) and let the two work together and drive more consumption of your content.

Additionally, Stories is a good place for real-time moments and game updates given the disappearing nature, lack of algorithm and real estate. Consider this as your real-time tool for Instagram versus in-feed posts.

If you need inspiration, here are a few examples of good Instagram Story content:

 

Carousels matter.

Finally, the last update to Instagram is the ability to upload 10 pieces of content (both photo and video) into one single post. This feature is great because it lets brands and teams tell a story in another way. It’s also a good solve for more content at a time that the algorithm does not favor it.

Move through the slideshow and enjoy Jason Day's swing. 👌

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Welcome Home @juliuspeppers_

A post shared by Carolina Panthers (@panthers) on

We've acquired forward Thomas Vanek! Swipe the slides for full details + a few 🔥 highlights of the newest Cat!

A post shared by Florida Panthers (@flapanthers) on

Take the time to think about how carousels can play into your content approach. And, think differently about it. Below are a view good examples (and, if you want more, here’s a fantastic thread).

 


 

What ways have you pivoted your Instagram strategy? I would love to hear in the comments below! Thanks for reading.

Instagram Stories Is An Opportunity for Creativity

Last week Instagram rolled out Stories. The feature is essentially an imitation of Snapchat. Users get to string together photos and videos that appear in a slideshow format and disappear after 24 hours. Stories do not appear on your profile grid or in the feed.

This seems like an easy opportunity to leverage Instagram Stories like Snapchat; a raw, first-hand perspective. There’s actually a huge opportunity to differentiate how brands and teams use Instagram Stories from Snapchat Stories though. Below are three thought starters on Instagram Stories, with some best-in-class examples from teams and brands:

 

It’s not about function, but about audience.

These tools and platforms are not about function alone, but also about the audience. The natural inclination is to leverage Instagram Stories like we do Snapchat Stories, but think about the audience.

Brands and branded content (done right of course) has been largely more accepted on Instagram than on Snapchat. People flock for raw, first-hand perspective on Snapchat. On Instagram, people flock for great visual and interesting, dynamic content. This opens up the door for doing something different on Instagram Stories than Snapchat Stories. It does not have to be about the same raw, first-hand perspective.

As you start to brainstorm content for Instagram Stories, don’t think about the function alone. Think about your users and the content they crave. While Snapchat and Instagram tools might be very similar, the way audiences currently use them are different. Think audience, not function.

 

Take advantage of the upload feature.

One of the main advantages of Instagram Stories that allows us to think outside the selfie for content, is the ability to upload pre-existing content. This feature opens up a door of opportunity that Snapchat does not allow.

I would compare Instagram Stories more to Snapchat Discover than Snapchat Stories. The ability to upload existing content means that brands and teams can create dynamic programming through Stories. Video work, graphic work, animations, etc. can all be a part of your Instagram Stories. And, since the audience expects content from brands, this polished content will probably be more widely accepted on Instagram Stories versus Snapchat.

Do not waste time with Instagram Stories by sharing players running on and off the field over and over again. The upload feature gives you the ability to do something different. Take advantage of it.

 

Find synergies between your standard post and Stories.

It would be easy to separate your approach to your standard Instagram post and Stories, but there’s an opportunity to find synergies. How can you drive people from your post to your Story and vice versa? Red Bull, for example, leveraged Instagram Stories to have users pick their favorite photo to be used a post.

There are other opportunities here too. If you have a compelling emotional photo as a standard post, can you use Instagram Stories as a function to tell the more in-depth story through video? If you have a picture of one of your players working out, can you use stories to give insight on what exactly the workout was for the day? Find a way to have your post and stories synch up in harmony. They don’t always have to live together, but there’s an opportunity to use them both to drive more consumption of your content.

 

There are a lot of lessons and insights to still be gained with Instagram Stories, but at first glance, there’s definitely a big opportunity here. For inspiration, I’ll leave you with a few teams who have leveraged Instagram Stories creatively (MLB, SF Giants, Callaway Golf and Clemson Football):

 

 

 


 

What do you think about Instagram Stories and its potentional? Share your thoughts below!

 

Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 

15 Tips for Making the Most of Instagram

Instagram is on every marketer’s radar by now. With more than 300 million active users and 70 million pictures uploaded daily, the platform is a great way to reach fans. The visual nature of Instagram lends itself well to sports too. After all, there are incredible and emotional moments captured everyday off and on the field, court and rink.

When it comes to executing on Instagram, the concept is simple: Upload a photo with the 1:1 ratio, pick a filter and add some copy. We all get that. If you want to step up your Instagram game though, there are a lot more ways to think about the platform. Below are tips to inspire you.

 

1. Focus on the photos.

Good creative work can really help teams stand out on social media, but sometimes it makes sense to let the photos do the work. Instagram is one of those instances where teams don’t need a lot of crazy design work to stand out. Some of the strongest accounts focus on the photos alone. Take a look through the @GoShockers and @KUAthletics accounts. There’s something powerful in the simplicity of letting the photos tell the story.

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Even if you want to have more creative behind your Instagram account, don’t underestimate the power of a beautiful photo on Instagram. Reserve your best and brightest photography for the platform. Find the ordinary in the extraordinary. Use different angles and perspectives. Make a statement. Tell the story in a different way. It will pay off.

Summer sunsets at The Ted are back! 🙌

A post shared by Atlanta Braves (@braves) on

 

Mr. All-Time Assists #WATCHUS

A post shared by Wichita State Athletics (@goshockers) on

 

Battle scars.

A post shared by LA Galaxy (@lagalaxy) on

 

Teddy Behind-The-Scenes

A post shared by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

2. Listen to your community.

Instagram gives social media managers direct access to feedback. Take the time to review the comments and sentiment on each post. Keep track of the comments to see if there is a trend— do your fans keep asking for certain type of content over and over again?

Caity Kauffman, the Social Media Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, has noticed a trend with their Instagram account. Her observation below is a great example why it’s so important to listen to your community.

 

3. Hit the regram.

There’s power in the regram, so download the app Repost for Instagram and leverage artistic and creative fan content now. Instagram’s power lies in its community, and when you bring fan content into your profile, it creates a more emotional connection with the audience. As you look through photos to regram, it’s important to share photos that fall in line with your team’s brand and image (of course). Don’t regram everything that has to do with the team or league; leave the regramming to powerful and good content that adds value to your audience.

#WarEagle! @rshirey6853 Aubie doing his thang!

A post shared by Auburn Tigers Official (@auburntigers) on

 

 

4. Leverage Instagram artists.

The Bulls let two artists takeover their Instagram account during Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Both artists’ style fit the team’s look. They produced stellar content for them.

There are Instagram influencers all around that love sports, your team, etc. AND can create stellar content. Figure out how to leverage these influencers creatively like the Bulls did. It’s a great opportunity to mix up content and bring in a new audience through the influencers.

 

Our fans #SeeRed (photo @nopattern)

A post shared by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

 

5. Keep it simple.

Simple is extremely underrated. To stand out from all the noise, don’t make it hard for fans to consume the content. Yes, even 140 characters is too many these days.

Don’t overcomplicate the copy. Less is often more, especially on Instagram. Omit needless words, focus on the message that’s important and keep things simple. Let the photos do the talking.

Want an example of this? Here are a few examples of teams keeping it short and sweet:

#namaste

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

#OldTimersGame

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

Focus.

A post shared by Tampa Bay Lightning (@tblightning) on

 

#ONEfocus

A post shared by Indianapolis Colts (@colts) on

 

The Legend.

A post shared by Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) on

 

6. Don’t be overly promotional.

Instagram is not about a hard sell. It’s not about pushing an agenda, selling or linking; it’s about telling a visual story. Focus on why people flock to the platform (to consume gorgeous images). Do this and  you’ll build a robust community.

Even when there’s a game or message to plug, it’s important focus on the photo first and then the message. The photo will pull people into your content to read and engage. You have to push information while still focusing on the visuals:

 

 

7. Pick the right hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way to build a community on Instagram. Don’t be afraid to tap into hashtags relevant to the team, city or content to attract new users. Studies actually show that the most hashtags used the more engagement. QuickSprout found that Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags have the highest engagement.

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On the flip side, using too many hashtags can look spammy and take away from the aesthetics of the account (as Sean Callahan points out in the comments below). How can you attract a new audience without taking away anything from the account? Find the balance that works for your team. The post below from the @NCAA is a good example of picking the right hashtags– going beyond the brand to tap into relevant conversations– without going overboard.

 

8. Post consistently.

Social media doesn’t take a day off, so it’s important to post consistently to build a loyal following. According to a blog post from Buffer, most major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram. And, there’s no drop-off in engagement for posting more. The bottom line is this: If you have quality content fans want, don’t be afraid to post it.

 

9. Listen to the analytics.

Numbers don’t lie, so let them do the talking. Iconosquare is a free resource that will give data on the best times to posts, filter impact, tag impact and more. Leverage this free resource now to know what works best for your audience on the platform.

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10. Use push notifications for players.

Players are a huge part of a team’s story. Regramming is a great way to highlight the content from their personal accounts. If you want to feature players’ content on your profile, then consider setting up push notifications for when they post. This will make it easier to keep up with when and what they are posting. Here’s an example of teams sharing player content:

✈️🗻 #Repost @benrevere9: Off to Denver Colorado. T UP!!

A post shared by phillies (@phillies) on

 

Congrats @damianlillard! 🎓

A post shared by Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) on

 

 

Want to turn on the push notifications? The directions are below.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 10.53.30 PM

 

11. Leverage Layout.

A few months ago Instagram announced a new app called Layout. The app allows users to combine multiple photos into a single image. It’s simple, straightforward and allows for some unique creativity. One of the strongest features is the mirror effect. Here’s an example of what it can do from the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles:

Juice. #StrongerTogether #Layout

A post shared by Miami Dolphins (@miamidolphins) on

 

 

If you are looking for a way to change up content, Layout is one way to mix it up. Download it today and give it a try.

 

12. Capitalize on user-generated content.

The @Dodgers take fan content a step further from the regram and repurpose it for their platforms. From a “We Love LA” campaign to #TopDeckThursday, they have found a way to empower their fans to help to their story while keeping the content inline with their look and feel.

 

#TopDeckThursday by @johndoukas.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

#TopDeckThursday by @b0ugie23.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

A different type of #LADSunset. #WeLoveLA (via @gilbrtortiz)

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

The benefits of UGC doesn’t stop on Instagram though! Displaying curated user-generated content on your website and in-venue is also a great way to showcase your community and account. Consider using Tagboard or Postano to do so.

However you decide to leverage user-generated content,
it has huge value: It gives you more content (while being cost effective), shows a different perspective and and connects fans even more to the community.

 

13. Keep a consistent look and feel.

If adding creative to the account is important, consider creative a cohesive look and feel. This will help fans know what to look for with the content and help the account stand out. The Miami Dolphins, Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Lakers and Tampa Bay Lightning are good examples of teams that have nailed a sharp and consistent look:

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14. Use Instagram’s mobile layout to your advantage.

Instagram’s layout on mobile allows you to have some fun. If you want to mix up your content and surprise, consider a photo hack by splicing up one picture into nine small images to create one giant visual. Here’s an example from the @Sixers:

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The app Giant can help you splice and dice photos easily for this hack. Download it here.

Additionally, Instagram’s layout lends itself nicely to countdowns like this example below from the @NFL:

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15. Mix the content up with video.

Instagram allows users to upload up to 15 seconds of video. If you aren’t using video in your content mix already, consider doing so! Instagram video engagement is on the rise. During the 2015 NCAA DI Men’s Basketball Tournament, Instagram video captured 64% of viewer engagements, compared to 19% for Facebook native video uploads and 14% for Vine uploads (source). Find ways to highlight plays and tell the team’s story creatively.

If you need Instagram video inspiration, then @MLS is a great place to start:

 

#MayThe4thBeWithYou // via @chicagofire

A post shared by Major League Soccer (@mls) on

 

 

As you ramp up your approach to Instagram, be sure to also check out 13 tools for the platform here. They can help you manage, grow and maintain your presence!

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There are many tricks and trades to the Instagram platform, so be sure to share your secrets below!

Thanks for reading!