The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never held more truth. With the advent of photo-sharing applications such as SnapChat and Instagram, the way people communicate is beginning to shift. On a daily basis, thousands use a simple picture to tell a story of the day’s events or to share a specific feeling.
With this change comes tremendous potential for businesses looking to connect with their customers in a whole new way. That’s why the staff of Forty-Niner Shops at California State University – Long Beach jumped at the opportunity to integrate Instagram into their already socially-motivated marketing strategies.
“We’re always looking for ways to share our goods and services through new modes of communication,” explained Kalien Clark, Communication Student Assistant. “Many students are spending more time on Instagram than Facebook, so it made sense for us to pursue that avenue.”
When the store joined Instagram, Kalien, who manages the initiative, focused on highlighting their merchandise with daily pictures. After reading an article about how to get more followers, however, she quickly realized that there were multiple ways she could connect with students.
“Now, we’re really trying to tell a more personal story with our content,” she explained. “For example, I regularly post memes related to college life, tips for new students, quotes, DIY projects and more.”
Tony Hoang, Communication Student Assistant, believes this strategy helps students relate to the store on another level.
“We’re able to engage with our audience personally and show them we’re not only real people, but also their peers,” he said.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to integrate our store into our students’ lives,” added Marianne Russo, Communications Supervisor. “We can still get our message in their face without simply trying to sell, sell, sell.”
The approach has been effective, too. In fact the store, who has only been on Instagram for three months, has already gained 600 followers, a number that grows on a daily basis. Their audience consists of both current and incoming students, parents as well as community members, many of whom actively interact with the account.
For instance, the store often poses trivia questions to their followers to encourage engagement. Most recently, they asked their audience to guess how many Scantrons were sold between the months of January and May and include the hashtag #49eranswer in their response.
The first person who came closest to the actual number received a back-to-school goodie bag with pens, pencils, a t-shirt, notebook and candy.
“Over 50 people participated,” explained Clark. “It was a fun and easy way to advertise the fact that we offer school supplies, without making our message seem too pushy.”
The initiative has also opened up a new line of communication for their customers. Staff members have noticed more and more people asking questions through comments on the application.
“Students ask what time we open or how they can reserve their textbooks,” Clark described. “So, it’s just another way for us to extend our customer service. I’m able to respond from either my personal account or the store’s account and get them the information they need quickly.”
Instagram has been especially integral in connecting with the freshmen class. The store has heavily marketed their social media presence this summer during orientation sessions to both students and parents with great results.
“New students are constantly coming in the store to get their new ID, so we created signage for that area that educates them about our Instagram presence and all that we offer through the application,” said Hoang. “We’ve definitely seen an increase over the past three weeks during those sessions.”
Moving forward, the store plans to further expand their follower base by getting more students involved. Their next promotion, called Spotted at the Beach, will aggregate content directly from students by encouraging them to post pictures in their Long Beach gear with a designated hashtag.
“It’s a good way for them to flaunt their CSULB pride and for us to tap into the passion they have for our school,” Russo added. “We’re excited to see where we can go from here!”