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Five Ways to Use Instagram to Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Don’t neglect your captions”, with Melissa DiGianfilippo & Alexis Krisay


We’re using Instagram stories heavily because they’re performing well. Whether it’s highlighting a work in progress, a completed project, behind the scenes previews of a television segment, or coordination of a client event, it’s a great tool to highlight the work that we are doing. Instagram stories also give potential clients an idea of our expertise and can spark an interest in finding out what we could do for their businesses. Rather than just telling, Instagram stories allow us to show all of the work that we do.

I had the pleasure to interview Melissa DiGianfilippo and Alexis Krisay. Melissa DiGianfilippo is partner and president of public relations at Serendipit, where she leads all of the firm’s clients’ public relations and communications efforts. Melissa leads a highly skilled team to help clients achieve their goals. Under her direction, Serendipit clients have achieved millions of dollars in positive press coverage across international, national and local media outlets including CNN, Nancy Grace, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Late Show, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Reuters, Associated Press, Huffington Post as well as local broadcast and print outlets in all U.S. markets. In 2018, Melissa was named the top female PR professional in Arizona by Arizona Foothills Magazine and a Most Admired Leader by the Phoenix Business Journal. In 2014, Melissa was named a Rising Star by Student Housing Business, as well as being named on the list of Generation Next: Forty Under Forty by AZ Business Magazine. Melissa serves as the Marketing Chairperson on the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix Connect Board, and on the board of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) in Arizona.

Through her extensive background in online and offline strategic marketing operations, Alexis Krisay has sharpened her instincts, innate talent, and passion for all things marketing. Known for her out-of-the-box thinking and contributions of fresh ideas, Alexis has helped dozens of clients within the residential and commercial real estate, lifestyle, spa and wellness, and health and fitness industries effectively identify market opportunities and pair them with strategic and impactful, results-driven marketing solutions. Alexis has 15 years of experience in the fast-paced, ever-changing field of marketing, cultivating a deep understanding of what makes people, brands and organizations tick. Alexis is an active member of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). She was named a Student Housing Rising Star in 2014 and on the list of 30 Under 30 in 2013, both by Student Housing Business. Alexis graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in communications and marketing.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

We both shared a clear, persistent vision on how to do the agency thing different. How to do it better. We had worked for large marketing and PR agencies in the past, so we knew instinctively that there was a way to make clients and employees happier. The idea of doing things better ultimately led us to open Serendipit Consulting, a full-service PR and marketing agency.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

We’ve been in this industry for more than 15 years, so we’ve been along for the ride as social media has shifted, grown and opened up new avenues for reaching target demographics. Of course, there’s been a lot of trial and error to get where we are now. The majority of the time in world’s recent ‘digital decades’ were a period of growth and learning for everyone. Today, as marketers and as an agency, we have a solid understanding of what works and what doesn’t when marketing a business through social media. It’s always changing, so it’s a constant process of education, exploration, and imagination to stay up to date on the latest social media trends. A few times, we’ve played the role of actual trend setters which is exciting! Today, Serendipit stands out from other agencies because we don’t believe in cookie cutter approaches (unless we’re baking). While we’ve developed basic efficiencies and processes, our mission is to ALWAYS maintain a fresh perspective, and bring only the best strategies and ideas to the table — for ourselves and our clients.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Choosing one is tough. Over the past 10 years, we’ve had the chance to work with some amazing and very recognizable brands and people.

In 2010, we were approached by a up-and-coming brand called WeGrow — a hydroponics superstore. Its first location in California was dubbed the “Walmart of Weed” by national media. While it was risky for our relatively young company to be associated with a cannabis brand, we decided to take the risk. Working with this client gave us some amazing exposure into what is now one of the fastest growing industries in America, no pun intended!

We helped WeGrow gain national and international credibility as it expanded into Phoenix and Washington D.C., landing press coverage on all the major national outlets — CNN, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, USA Today, The Late Show and many, many more. Our successful media relations and crisis management for this brand propelled us into work with many other local and national brands, and earned us a great reputation working with cannabis-related brands. While we never anticipated getting into cannabis marketing, it’s been an interesting and unique challenge!

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?

Just under two years into the business, we had the opportunity to work with a major food distribution company. Our mission was to drive nationwide brand awareness for its refrigerated salsa brand, sold exclusively in Walmart stores across the country. Looking back, it’s hilarious to even type that, but at the time we were a bit green, wide-eyed and ready to try something new. Oh, and the budget! They were giving us a whopping $100,000 for 3 months! At that time, that was around a quarter of our annual revenue, so in taking on this client, we believed we were on top of the world.

WORST. IDEA. EVER.

Do you know how hard it is to market a refrigerated salsa brand sold exclusively in Walmart stores? We bit off way more than we could chew, including producing a YouTube e-mercial series that starred a Chili Pepper and told the story of his escape from the salsa factory. We hired street teams across the country to go to select markets to hand out coupons and do taste tests at major events and in Walmart parking lots. We paid mommy bloggers to enter into salsa recipe challenges and taste test competitions. We hosted a nationwide jingle contest. We actually WORE CHILI PEPPER COSTUMES to make video recaps of all of our work for our client, weekly. The seasoning? The client was absolutely over-the-top INSANE and made it a habit to call us and scream at us over the phone at least 3 times a week. To add insult to injury, we made our entire office, family and neighbors live off of chips and salsa for the entire 3 months. So that $100,000 actually turned into around $10 of profit. MAJOR LESSON LEARNED.

Looking back now, it’s beyond comical. But it was a valuable lesson. We learned the critical importance of appropriately pricing our work, and the realities of accurately budgeting for the hard costs entailed in executing a project. As a bonus, we also learned how to read a client up front to determine whether or not they would be a fit for our brand and core values.

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?

Ten years ago, we would have said Twitter, because we actually got one of our first and largest clients from a Twitter conversation. We were honest with a major real estate brand and told them that their marketing was pretty bad, they could use some major help, and we were just the people to provide it. Our brazen message caught their attention, and we ended up securing them as a long-term major client.

Today, for most of our clients, Instagram is really standing out as the best way to boost revenue. When executed properly, Instagram ads can drive quick purchase decisions. Also, Instagram influencers add a whole additional layer of added value that can drive real revenue increases. The swipe up feature that can take a viewer to a brand’s landing page from an Influencer’s story is a game-changer and boy, is it working! We’re seeing this work well for many of our clients. A particular example is Bodify — a Coolsculpting boutique in Phoenix. We consistently drive qualified leads to the brand through Instagram. Month over month, we’re seeing revenue increases.

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.

Instagram Stories/IGTV

Since the launch of Instagram Stories, and more recently Instagram TV, they have surpassed Snapchat’s audience, becoming one of the most popular features on Instagram. Content discoverability is what gives Instagram an edge. Many users may not know this, but each city has its own Instagram Story, compiled from other users’ stories with relevant location tags. By tagging a location in a story, businesses can increase their story’s reach. Business owners who tag a location in their story see their account and content instantly become more discoverable, opening up new sources of engagement. Videos are the most popular types of stories, driving the majority of impressions. Businesses also have the ability to add URLs to stories that can link out to their websites, specific products, or services they offer.

At Serendipit, we’re using Instagram stories heavily because they’re performing well. Whether it’s highlighting a work in progress, a completed project, behind the scenes previews of a television segment, or coordination of a client event, it’s a great tool to highlight the work that we are doing. Instagram stories also give potential clients an idea of our expertise and can spark an interest in finding out what we could do for their businesses. Rather than just telling, Instagram stories allow us to show all of the work that we do.

Branding

Instagram is the ideal platform to bring your brand directly to your target audience and generate awareness. However, to effectively use Instagram correctly, business owners need to understand how to craft content that aligns with their brand. This all begins by figuring out your brand’s tone of voice and understanding your target audience. First, brands need to identify who they really are — if you could personify your brand, how would they talk to the target audience? Are you trying to be knowledgeable, edgy, trendy, professional, etc.? Once you’ve identified your brand tone, you can start crafting appropriate messaging. When creating your messages, stop and think about what your audience is looking for on social media. What information your brand can provide that’s useful and relevant to the target audience? Being too “salesy” or posting content that is not reflective of your brand and expertise can and will be a major turn off for your audience. Remember to outline and implement a brand engagement strategy for how you address questions, comments, and reviews. Consistent voice and tone in branded posts can help build brand awareness and audience engagement.

Example: We recently held a three-hour branding workshop with one of our clients, Bayless Integrated Healthcare, to completely renovate their marketing message. The results are reflected in their social platforms, especially Instagram. We created an entirely new, patient-focused strategy for posts that are presented within branded, well-thought-out layouts and consistent tone-of-voice. This mix and match of branded graphics, video content, and photos tells the story of Bayless — all inside a 3×3 grid.

Get Creative With Your Content

Take a picture, add a filter, and post away. Right? Sure, that worked when Instagram was still in its beginning stages, but the channel has matured, and consumers now expect quality, attention-grabbing content. Up to 10 photos and videos can be shared in a single Instagram post, giving users the opportunity to swipe through to view each individual piece of content. Instagram albums offer businesses a way to combine photos and videos to tell stories and share information in a highly engaging way. But don’t neglect your captions! Instagram may be all about captivating visual content, but captions present an additional way for businesses to bolster their story and their message. Captions help expand the meaning and impact of an image, give it context, and evoke emotion from viewers.

Example: With our Student Housing clients we know we have to focus captions around current social trends, college-related news, engagement posts, etc., to keep students engaged and interacting. We’ve had great success in running engagement-driven giveaways. For example, this Thanksgiving followers were asked to comment with their favorite Thanksgiving food for a chance to win a $100 gift card.

Collaborate With Influencers

Using social media influencers on Instagram is a wonderful way to build relationships and brand loyalty for a business. Whether an influencers’ audience is large or small, they’re able to reach consumers that businesses may not be able to engage with on their own. Start by identifying key influencers in your particular market that are relevant to your industry or brand, and build a relationship. This can mean anything from a takeover — where an influencer takes control of the account for a day, to providing them with products or services in exchange for sponsored content on their page.

Example: Influencer marketing has dominated the social media realm this year, and it’s something we have successfully worked on with many of our clients. One that’s found a lot of success with influencers is our client, Bodify — a CoolSculpting boutique. Bodify has partnered with online blogger and influencer, Marika Meeks, a breast cancer survivor. Marika used CoolSculpting to find her “new normal” life after cancer. Marika and her pitbull, Stella, are a well-known Instagram blogger-duo who help bring brand awareness and engagement to Bodify.

Shoppable Posts

Instagram recently launched a shoppable posts feature in the app. Followers have the option to shop products directly from an Instagram post; buying a product without ever having to leave the app! All businesses have to do is connect a product catalog to their Instagram account. From there, they can tag a product just like they would tag a person.

Example: One of our clients, Robbins Brothers The Engagement Ring Store, utilizes the in-app sales tool to drive customers further into the sales funnel. Instagram users scrolling through their posts can simply tap on a ring in any of the photos to see the product name and price. Clicking on the tagged product description and price information takes users directly to the ring on Robbins Brothers website, where they can make further inquiries or even buy it! This tactic establishes Instagram as a sales tool and not just a branding tool.

Share Your Company Culture

Instagram is a platform built solely for visual content, making it the perfect place to show off the parts of your business most people don’t get to normally see. While company culture varies from business to business, it’s important to highlight what’s unique about your day-to-day operations. While it might not drive sales and increase business directly, sharing company culture with followers helps to build trust and create a connection that is deeper than just superficial interest in your product or service. Highlighting your company culture can mean posting a behind-the-scenes look of employees working on the next big product launch, a boomerang from the latest company outing, or simply documenting fun office happenings.

Example: At Serendipit we’re proud of the stellar company culture we’ve created in our office and it’s something we love to share with our followers. We consistently update our Instagram story — spotlighting daily office happenings, company outings or gatherings, the office dogs (because Serendipit is dog friendly all day, every day), silly moments, victories, and the day-to-day operations. We are sure to designate one post weekly that showcases our company culture in the form of an employee spotlight, office happening, or a big “win” for the week. Our followers, current clients, and prospective clients are able to put faces and personalities behind our brand. Best of all, we have the chance to give everyone a better look at the work we do for our clients… and how much we enjoy it!

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. 🙂

Melissa — I would love to come up with a creative movement based around keeping young kids safe on social media. I’m the mom of two girls, and one of the biggest fears I have is how dangerous social media can be to a generation who were basically born with a smart phone in their hands. Bullying and harassment, sex crimes, oversharing and social media addiction — these things are legitimate fears for people of any age — but we have to do a better job of keeping kids safe.

Alexis –

My passion would be to figure out how to educate, encourage and nurture entrepreneurship in teenagers/college kids/young professionals. So many kids have brilliant ideas, but I think they’re intimidated by trying to figure out how to break into business. With proper mentors, coaching and encouragement they can get started and learn how to build a thriving business. I want the average joe to feel confident that they can start and run a business. I would love to create an incubator program in my community.

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 🙂

Melissa — I’m an avid podcast junkie, so I’m going to go with the two people people who I’m currently obsessed with who have great stories: Jennifer Hyman (CEO and CoFounder of Rent the Runway), and Rachel Hollis (The Hollis Company, The Chic Site founder and author of Girl Wash Your Face).

Alexis –

I would have to second Melissa’s request for Jennifer Hyman. I love her company, and I’m amazed by her determination. I also truly admire Joanna Gaines. Her passion for creating and building her business as well as balancing life with her family is impressive. I constantly want to know, how does she do it all?