The power of Instagram is in the visual quality of the posts and the engagement of the audience. Companies selling drinks—whether alcoholic, non-alcoholic, energy boosting, or healthy—have an opportunity to tap into the easy marketability of this particular platform to elevate their branding message in ways not seen on Facebook or Twitter.
This Beverage Company Doesn’t Sell Drinks
Successful beverage brands on Instagram have found a way to market to their audience online, often without new consumers ever having tasted their drink. Drink company Dirty Lemon promises their audience a feeling of wellness if they replace sugar-laden sodas for improved digestion, reduced inflammation, and other health benefits.
But they’re not specifically selling their drink in every Instagram post; they’re selling a lifestyle.
Now, you might think this is a gimmick consumers see from a mile away, and you’d be right. Except Dirty Lemon manages to appeal to their audience through quirky humor, making fun of contemporary culture, and in essence letting their audience in on the joke. By designing their bottle with fun colors that pop on Instagram, they depict their brand as a fun-loving, down-to-earth lifestyle that their consumers can be part of—for $65 a 6-pack.
If that price caused a record-scratch sound in your head, you wouldn’t be alone. But Dirty Lemon pulls it off with healthy, natural ingredients in carefully measured quantities that take the guesswork out of mixing a healthy beverage, and consumers can get the nutritional benefit delivered to them the same day. They’re not only selling wellness, they’re selling your TIME back to you.
And they’re selling it via the most popular social media platform in the world.
For Dirty Lemon, it works.
Depicting Dirty Lemon beverages in a car, out with friends, relaxing in a comfortable chair watching the sunset, the company showcases its product in a lifestyle their consumers covet. The difference here is this lifestyle is attainable. These scenarios are never out of reach, like drinking their brand of beverage on a yacht, or in some far off travel destination.
So how can you market your beverage on Instagram as successfully as Dirty Lemon?
Let’s find out.
First, Get on Instagram
If you’re not already there, open a business account on Instagram. Despite their audience numbers being 1 billion shy of half of Facebook’s, their engagement is off the charts. Instagram also very much desires real-world brands with physical products to use their platform, so the perks of being part of the IG community are out there to be found. Be sure to fully fill out your profile. Then, you’re really ready to get started on the platform.
Design Your Marketing Around Instagram
This means design your products with IG specifically in mind. This means a more streamlined look, less text on the product that’s better suited to a photo, and specifically photogenic at the post size IG requires. Bottles with a bunch of badges—gluten-free, non-GMO, organic, et al—are a thing of the past. They clutter a clean aesthetic, and they can detract from your Instagram look.
Consider Your Instagram Aesthetic
Speaking of your Instagram look, you need one.
Your IG posts need to have a consistent quality throughout every post. Whether that’s a dreamy, pastel-shaded aesthetic meant to invoke a feeling of relaxed calm, or an earth-toned theme designed to inspire people to get out more, and when they do, they should take your drink with them, you need a thought-link through all your posts. Color scheme, a particular kind of filter on the photos, a consistent subject theme in the photos themselves, whatever you choose. But it must speak to what kind of message you’re sending to the audience you want to cultivate.
RedBull very much appeals to athletes and outdoor extreme sports enthusiasts. Craft breweries appeal to a young, active, fun-loving crowd. Find your niche and make yourself at home.
One thing not to do, however, is only post photos of your product. It’ll feel like a selling scheme (which is what it is) and people will quickly grow bored.
There’s an 80/20 rule: 80% entertainment/education/information and only 20% product placement.
Your product should be included, but not the only part. Photos of your location are fantastic peeks behind the scenes. Snaps of your employees give them a connection to the people behind the brand. Shots of local events you’ve been involved with, or the vibe of your local neighborhood are also great ways to interest consumers. For the product photos you do post, consider their context. Post friends enjoying your drink rather than just the drink. Showcase the quality ingredients that make up your drink. Get creative. This part is a lot of fun.
You also need to ensure your photos are quality. It doesn’t take an expert to consider angles and lighting of the photo subject, and a few minutes of touch up or strategic filtering goes a long way. If you’re not sure you can do it with a smartphone (those cameras are getting better all the time though), then invest in a better camera, or consider hiring a photographer who has experience creating an aesthetic theme with a variety of shots you can use for weeks and months to come. It’ll paint your brand with a professional brush.
Engage, Engage, Engage!
One of the quickest ways to hear crickets on your Instagram feed is not to respond to those commenting on your posts. If your followers are taking the time to talk to you, talk back. Encourage that engagement as much as you can. Answer questions. Show them you’re listening to them. Maybe run giveaways so the audience can experience your product risk-free. Invite them to visit you in person with discount offers, tours of your brewery, or a product launch party with an invite-only guest list. The more comfortable you can make them feel with your brand, the more engaged they’ll become.
Share any user generated content they give you. Run a contest where the best photos with your product will become part of your marketing strategy. Starbucks’ White Cup Contest encouraged people to doodle on a cup, and the winning design would be printed on a limited edition reusable cup. In 3 weeks, Starbucks received nearly 4,000 entries. The winner, a year later, said the contest changed her life and inspired her to start her own business with her art.
The audience you’re hoping to attract will tell you what they like to see. Study their likes and other companies they follow, so you’ll have insight into what they like and what they want to see more of. It’ll be easier for you to gain followers if you’re already showing their interests.
#Hashtags Make All the Difference
The right hashtag means the difference between obscurity and popularity. Posts with just one hashtag see 12.5% more engagement than those without. More is better, but there is a balance. The sweet spot is between 7 and 11 hashtags per post. But it’s not just the number of hashtags, but their creativity. They inspire audiences to post user generated content. They drive participation. They drive engagement. 70% of hashtags are branded, so being specific to your company marketing strategy is key. #drinkoftheday, #drinksofig, #happyhour, and #coffeetime are some of the community hashtags that spark relevancy within the beverage industry and are popular with users. Using them will help you gain exposure to the targeted audience you’re seeking to connect with. Trending hashtags that have something to do with your post are also a way to increase traction on Instagram, but they must be relevant. Popping in on a political hashtag with your branding won’t get you anywhere, and just wastes everyone’s time.
Influencers Do One Thing Well: Influence
If you’re looking for credibility, attracting the attention of influencers—people who have an established audience in a specific industry—can give you an in with a wider audience.
They can persuade people to give your beverage a try and lend your brand an authenticity that’s harder to come by without them. They don’t have to have millions of followers to be effective.
Their relevance to your industry can go a longer way toward increasing your brand awareness than if a fitness or music influencer posts about your products. Consider finding local influencers if you can. These influencers have a chance for more immediate engagement than someone far flung who can’t immediately comment on your product.
Instagram is a great place to find your tribe of consumers, people who will connect with your beverage brand because your aesthetic fits theirs. If you can tap into a brand voice that speaks to specific people in these IG niches, you’ll quickly learn why this platform is the place to be for brand marketing, and specifically for beverage brands. An Instagram marketing strategy can be a great tool, but remember, it can also be fun.
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