5 ways to build your brand’s Instagram following

With an estimated two million plus Australian active users last month*, Instagram has evolved from a simple photo-sharing app when it launched in October 2010, to the powerful storytelling platform it is today. And with the introduction of Instagram advertising, its reach and influence is tipped to grow exponentially.

There’s no set formula to building a healthy Instagram following, and unlike Facebook and Twitter, it’s not as easy to promote your posts (although Instagram ads have just launched in Australia, there’s no self-service tool yet).

Growing a following takes time, but with the right tactics, you can significantly boost your brand’s exposure. Here are some tips.

 1. Start with a hashtag strategy

Don’t use a hashtag just because it’s popular. #love #instagood and #picoftheday are amongst the most overused hashtags on the ‘gram, but do they really lead you to your target audience?

Instead, think niche and think local. If you’re Instagram strategy focuses on healthy eating and wellbeing, why not pair a popular hashtag like #paleo or #cleaneating with Sarah Wilson’s #iqs. And if your post is relevant and location based, tap into local hashtags like #bondilife or #brisbaneanyday.

Think about your own, unique hashtag too. People often share images of products and brands they love, so make sure your hashtag is discoverable in your Instagram profile. And don’t forget to keep it short – we’re more likely to add #FUIC than #farmersunionicedcoffee.

2. Work with the Instagram influencers

The power of the Instagram ‘influencer’ (for want of a better term) is undeniable. From models and fashionistas to food and mummy bloggers, some of these users reach more people with one post than a magazine might do in one monthly edition.

Collaborating with Instagram influencers usually requires an additional cost, either in the form of paid sponsorship or product, but the investment can pay back in spades.

FORWARD recently teamed up with Rachael Finch to launch Vitasoy Coconut Milk. Rachael has a following of over 67K on Instagram, many of whom share her health and nutritional values. Rachael was given the opportunity to create a number of Vitasoy Coconut Milk smoothies and breakfast recipes, which she later shared with her followers. The response was dramatic. Hundreds of followers liked and commented on each post, giving Vitasoy a chance to gauge public opinion of the new product.

If you’re thinking of partnering with an Instagram influencers, it’s worth considering these points.

 3. Take advantage of special events

Special events provide us with opportunities to give handles and hashtags a little extra exposure. Whether it’s a media and influencer dinner, product briefing, launch party or experiential activity – special events give your audience an opportunity to capture content for their own Instagram channels.

FORWARD recently hosted a series of intimate dining events for one of our clients, and a number of highly influential guests were invited to attend.  To maximise the chances of guests snapping content for their social channels, the following was taken into consideration:

  • The hashtag and brand handle were seeded before the event via invitation or in email correspondence
  • Hashtags and handles were printed on event materials – signage and menus
  • Guests’ Instagram handles were followed by the brand before each event
  • Our MC was asked to politely remind guests (in a charming way) of the hashtag before the start of each event

When planning your event, it’s also worth considering what visual opportunities will be available to guests throughout the event. How’s the lighting? Do guests have time to capture the images they need?

Most importantly, don’t forget to like and repost your guests’ images and thank them for posting and attending.

 4. Run a competition

Another simple way of boosting your follower count is through an Instagram competition. Contests are relatively easy to execute and the prize pool doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive.

There are two main types of Instagram comps:

  • Enter to win, which requires users to post a photo with the relevant hashtag and your handle
  • Share to win, where the user is required to share your content (including your hashtag and handle)

Some things to consider when running Instagram comps are:

  • Make sure you ask fans to follow your account
  • Remember to draft Ts&Cs, and host them somewhere people have access to them – a Facebook note is a good back-up. And don’t forget to make sure your Ts&Cs comply with Instagram’s
  • Don’t make the entry mechanic too difficult – you won’t receive many entries if users are required to take a pic of themselves bungee jumping from the Harbour Bridge

For more tips, explore the Instagram blog here.

 5. Instagram ads

And finally, you could consider paid media as a means of boosting numbers.

Instagram has just launched ads in Australia, with Vegemite, Toyota and McDonald’s among the first to go live. The platform is still in a testing phase, so it might be a while before brands have access to a self-service tool like Facebook.

Keep in mind, all ads are required to go through a centralised global process – including approval by co-founder Kevin Systrom – so premium execution is a must.

For more info on Instagram ads and general tips for brands click here.

*Data estimate obtained via


4 essentials for selecting a brand ambassador

Brand ambassadors can be a powerful tool in any PR and influence campaign on the proviso that you choose the right one. It’s a big decision for any brand and needs to be carefully considered as they can either propel or tarnish a brand.

Remember Kate Moss’ infamous cocaine photo in the UK’s Daily Mirror that led her to being dropped as ambassador for H&M, Chanel, and Burberry in 2005? Or the 2009 revelations of Tiger Woods’ sexual indiscretions that cost him lucrative deals with TAG Heuer and Accenture.

Yes, they’re extreme examples but something every brand wants to steer clear of! On the flip side, there are good examples we can learn from…

I was interested to see Jennifer Hawkins in Sydney Confidential today, as a celebrity ambassador for a property development in Newcastle – it just goes to show you the power of an ambassador.

Australian celebrities do a particularly good job in this area, but you could also put this down to sound, strategic choices by brands. A couple of the biggest, Myer and David Jones, spring to mind with Jennifer Hawkins and Megan Gale, both have squeaky clean profiles and they’re aspirational, yet approachable at the same time. They definitely set the standards high for other Australian celebrities.

With a brand ambassador putting a face to your product and service, it can be an effective way to increase brand awareness but, in this social age there is even more pressure to find trusted ambassador that is the right fit for your brand.

To do so, you have to define what you mean by ‘right fit’. Do they already use your products or services? Do they fit a similar demographic profile to your customers? Could your customers relate to them? These are just some questions to ask when you’re thinking about the right brand fit.

Further to being the right fit for your brand, there are some other general considerations; here are four essentials we believe your chosen ambassador should have:

1. Profile

First things first, your ambassador needs to be highly recognisable. They need to have a profile and a decent one at that to ensure your get the reach and awareness you’re after, particularly when you’re paying the big bucks! When I say decent I don’t necessarily mean the biggest, you could have a brand that offers niche or unique products or services, so the market you are trying to connect with could be small. The key here is relevancy – make sure your ambassadors audience is relevant to your target market.

2. Reputation

To take a famous line from a Bond movie, “Your reputation precedes you,” know what people think and say about your ambassador. This will give you a good indication of how your audience will feel about them and how the ambassador will perform in their role. Do your research to unearth skeletons early, It can be quite obvious, but if your brand ambassador is trying to promote your health supplements and they are a chain smoker and have been photographed by the social pages, then that’s probably not the best look!

3. Credibility

This one is important – would your customers trust your ambassador? Would they easily identify the connection between your brand and your ambassador and genuinely believe they use your products or services? You don’t want a situation like Bonds’ ambassador Nick Kyrgios who admitted to not actually wearing underwear! Also, are they a brand tart – what other brands are they associated with and how would that affect your brand? You should make this clear at the outset how this could hinder or restrict your own ambassador campaigns.

4. The ‘X-Factor’

Ah, the ‘X-Factor’, by the way, I’m not talking about the show, but the concept is similar. This essential consideration is not usually rational or logical – it’s just a bit of je ne sais quoi! Your ambassador should have the ability to make others stand up and pay attention, the thing that makes them the most photographed or followed person of the moment, think Rachel Finch*, she is very hot right now. Customers should have a sense of admiration for them – ‘I want to be like them’ or ‘I want to do what they’re doing’.

Now, go forth and find your ambassadors and make sure you pop back soon to read my next blog on how to get the most out of your brand ambassador!

*Vitasoy is a client of F4

10 Expert Tips to Strengthen Your Content Marketing (Without Spinach)

Yesterday, I went to the Festival of Content Marketing and Branded Entertainment, also known as BEFEST. In its third year, this conference brings together some of Australia’s best marketing minds to talk about where we’re heading in the brave new world of content and branded entertainment. It seems that branded entertainment took a backseat to content marketing; but regardless here are my ten most useful, entertaining and informative outtakes. I have curated these to ensure they are neither sad nor relaxing because as I now know, this would place them in the “death quadrant” for sharing, according to Upworthy.

1. Branded Content is not new – and can drive massive sales of bad tasting products

I have been saying this for years, and thanks to Colenso BBDO’s Nick Worthington’s opening keynote, I can now prove it. One of the first pieces of branded content was Popeye the Sailor Man from 1929 who purposely ate spinach to stimulate consumption amongst kids who had rickets. The Popeye cartoons were so popular during the Depression, sales of spinach in America increased by 33%, and it briefly slotted in as the third most popular kids food after ice cream and turkey. “Popeye” spinach is still the second largest-selling brand of spinach in America. So, if Popeye can do it, we can too.

2. If you invest in amazing content production with a big idea, $0 media is needed to support it

The Jean Claude Van Damm “epic split” between two reversing Volvo trucks captured the attention of the world and has thus far been watched by over 75M people, making it the most watched automobile ad on YouTube ever.   It only ran once in a paid TV spot during the Grammys and the rest was all online video and viral sharing. Agreed, this is not exactly $0 in media, but still relatively little in comparison to the sheer reach and impact of the video.

3. You can’t just rely on organic reach, $$ are needed to fire up virality

Creating the content is only half the story. Getting it distributed is just as important and relying on organic reach within the mass of competing content is a very risky strategy. You may end up with the proverbial “castle in the content desert”. You need early adopters to share it and if you are fortunate in finding those important influencers who, if they support you, will ensure that you get the additional reach your content really needs to fire up. It is not just the content creation that is important; you need to put some gas on the fire and by this I mean save some budget for amplification.

4. Trying to be perfect every time is unrealistic – you need to create a lot of content ideas to get something that will be great

“Success is going from one disaster to another with no loss of confidence!” I loved this. Again from Nick Worthington, Executive Creative Director, Colenso BBDO Auckland. He says that if you only develop one idea it will be shit. But by law of averages, if you develop ten ideas then at least one will be good. Results come from taking risks rather than playing safe.

5. We need to entertain people.

Lets deliver stuff that people are going to love and share. “But how do we do this with an audience that inherently has ADHD?” asked Michael Abdul from The Sphere Agency. We need to stop the hard sell. Move away from cluttered environments and put the consumer first. For real. So that means creating content that really appeals to the target audience, which has relevance, and primarily will entertain them.

6. The five point content strategy

Lauren Quaintance, co-founder and head of content at Story(ation) shared a five point plan for developing content strategy:

  • Who you want to talk to, and why they should care about you
  • Do an audit of what you currently have and find out what works
  • Define what success looks like. What action do you want your audience to take?
  • What processes do you need to be a publisher. Do you have tone of voice guidelines, editorial calendar, meetings structures and approval processes.
  • Measure Learn and Optimise

Importantly, make your content strategy a living document, not something gathering dust in the corner.

7. Focus on Insights

John Ford, founder and CEO of The One Centre suggested that focusing on insight is one of the important keys to great content and to do this your need to focus on five C’s:

  • Character: Who they are and who they can become (with your brand)
  • Culture: The things they do, the life they lead and the rich fabric of life around them
  • Cause: (Role) What is the big idea that bridges between the person and your commercial interests?
  • Creativity: What ideas will turn them on?
  • Connectivity: (Sort of media planning) What are the devices they are using? What types of content are they currently using and consuming?

8. Think like a woman

This sounds a bit sexist, but as it is from Dove, a brand very close to my heart, I will let it pass! Kate Smith, Group Strategy director of M&C Saatchi (and ex-Ogilvy London where she worked on Dove) said content zig zags and thinks more like a woman. It is more fluid and unpredictable. (yes, she really said this, so don’t get cranky with me). She says there are three key things Dove taught her:

  • Think culture and content first and not channel: understand the world around your brands. Think about where they live as much about what your audience might or might not watch or read. Start a conversation. Invoke reaction.
  • Engage don’t execute: Trigger emotional responses that appeal across demographics, across countries and across genders. Don’t try and limit the reaction or emotions evoked.
  • Open not closed: allow the audience in. Use discovery of the story to create a sense of curation in the content. Don’t show people how to feel, let them feel it for themselves. Let your communications travel with the audience take on new significance.

9. Execution is as important as strategy – so is agility

“What differentiates execution from strategy? It is the difference between architects and builders. The executors are the ones that get their hands dirty” so said Jeanne-Vida Douglas from Filtered Media.

We really need to understand what the audience is interested in hearing about and what we can actually talk about. Execution evolves over time and you have to let it evolve – so agility is one of the key elements of a content plan – the ability to change.

Where you start may not be where you end up, and that is ok. A key piece of advice from Kristen Vang, director and founder of Hatchd Digital in Perth is “Do one thing really well. Don’t try and do everything at once (Facebook, Instagram, blog, Twitter etc) – do one thing well and then expand from that.

10. Measurement is not optional

A great model of measuring content success was shared by Todd Wheatland of King Content


  • What? How many people saw it?
  • Key Measures: Views, downloads, visitors
  • Tools: Google Analytics, Platform Analytics


  • What? How often does audience relate and share comments?
  • Key Measures: Likes, Comments, Shares, Time on Site
  • Tools: Posting and social tools, Google Analytics


  • What? How often do content consumers turn into leads?
  • Key Measures: Registrations, subscriptions
  • Tools: Lead forms, cookies, offsite tracking, CRM


  • What? How often do content consumers turn into sales?
  • Key measures: Revenue, contracts
  • Tools: Lead forms, cookies, offsite tracking, CRM

So there you have it, in 10 easy steps. Follow these and you will be a content marketer, my friends. And no spinach required. With many thanks to Tim Burrows and Mumbrella and the whole BEFEST crew, presenters and panellists. A very engaging day with lots of, dare I say it, content to think about.



3 Australian lifestyle influencers you should be following on Instagram

Instagram as an influencing platform has really found its feet lately. With more than 75 million daily active users worldwide, and now having reached 2 million in Australia, it is little wonder that brands are discovering how to successfully use the platform’s power players to communicate with audiences. Here is some work FORWARD recently did with @rachael_finch on Vitasoy’s new Coconut Milk Launch.

Successful brand communication on Instagram assumes a certain level of trust is established between the influencer and their fans. Engagement is key when selecting an influencer to connect with. You want to tap into an active audience who see your chosen influencer as a trusted and relevant authority in the health, beauty, fashion or general lifestyle categories that relate to your brand.

Increasingly, followers don’t seem to mind their Instagram feeds containing sponsored content, as long as the post is visually appealing and the products relevant to them.

Keeping the above in mind, 3 Australian’s you should be following to experience Instagram influencing in action are; Kayla Itsines, Miann Scanlan and Mimie Elashiry. All three manage to maintain integrity and a consistent aesthetic style when posting both national and international branded content.

Interestingly, they are also proof that Instagram is no longer just a supportive tool of blogging, but can in fact be used to build an online following that can raise an individual’s profile in the mainstream media, inspire the creation of a blog, or launch an international modeling career.


1. Health & Fitness  | @kayla_itsines | 1.4 million+ followers

Kayla Itsines is a fitness dynamo who has built a monolithic Instagram following, as a way to inspire others and share her 12 week nutrition and exercise Bikini Body Guide. Featuring somewhat less artistic photography than Scanlan and Elashiry, Itsines includes a lot of user-generated content on her account unlike other personal Instagrammers, as well as self and brand promoting images. Unsurprisingly, active wear brand Nike and trendy Norwegian water company Voss are frequently featured. Other brand related content includes fake tan and health food products.


2. Style & Wellbeing | @miannscanlan | 60,000+ followers

Miann Scanlan is an ex-fashion PR consultant, who after a personal hardship returned to live beachside in her home state of Queensland. A clear lover of the colour blue, sponsored posts for fashion and wellbeing brands are organically weaved throughout her posts on spiritual health and the latest bohemian apparel and jewellery trends.

In Issue 14 of Renegade Collective magazine, Scanlan discusses using Instagram as a brand platform, “Create some positive intentions before starting out, think about why you are using the platform and what you want to get out of it.”

Scanlan, who launched her blog in early 2014, was the winning blogger in a competition to style the latest Cleo x Billabong collection. The opportunity to take part in the creative process of two powerhouse brands is a clear demonstration of the power that digital influencers currently hold.


3. A Model Life  | @mimielashiry | 443,000+ followers

Mimi Elashiry, an 18 year old model from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, was once turned away from modelling agencies, but is now working for fashion and lifestyle brands all over the world as a result of her prolific social media presence. Elashiry’s feed is a combination of professional model shots, cheeky selfies and sneak peaks of fashion trips with other ‘cool’ kids, from Byron Bay to Paris. The brand mentions aren’t exactly subtle but still tie in with her aesthetic and tone of voice, with a range of jewellery, fashion, health food, and even music festivals name-dropped, tagged and positively reviewed.


SunRice Appoints FORWARD as Consumer PR & Influence Partner

FORWARD today announced its appointment as Consumer PR & Influence agency partner for leading Australian food company SunRice.

FORWARD will work collaboratively with SunRice’s marketing team to plan and implement consumer media, blogger and influencer programs across SunRice’s range of products, including everyday rice, health & wellbeing range, and gourmet rice. FORWARD will focus on educating and inspiring Australians about ways to include rice in their meal repertoires

Nathan Low, Head of Marketing and Innovation SunRice said, “FORWARD has a great track record in building brands and demonstrated a deep understanding of the food and nutrition space.  Fergus and his team have come up with some innovative ways for us to connect with the media, key influencers and of course, our consumers.”

Fergus Kibble founder of FORWARD said, “SunRice is driving real category innovation, with some terrific new product launches, and more in the pipeline. We are excited to be working together to help Australians find out more about how to cook with rice and use it creatively in new and interesting ways.”

SunRice’s Corporate Affairs account will continue to be managed by leading rural and regional PR specialist agency, Sauce Communications. Sauce will also continue to partner the SunRice Marketing team in the execution of projects in regional Australia.

To lead the SunRice account, FORWARD recently appointed Emma Koubayssi as Senior Account Manager. Koubayssi is a seasoned communications professional with over a decade of experience gained at leading Australian consultancies; Ogilvy PR and Bang PR, and at Diffusion PR and Kindred Agency in the UK.

Koubayssi said, “It’s an incredible time to be joining the agency as FORWARD continues to grow. The team is awesome, and I was impressed with their experience in influencer and content marketing. Being part of a boutique agency that values big strategic thinking is a win for me, and I’m looking forward to working with some of Australia’s most recognised brands.”

5 Capabilities Your Social Team Must Have

As a Marketing or Brand Manager, it’s now your remit to attract and retain a base of brand fans on platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and possibly Snapchat too! Given that social media is not a discipline in itself, it’s simply a new platform that delivers a message to an audience, it may be hard to determine which of your agency partners should ‘own’ this critical area of communications.

Do you ask a single consultancy to manage all of your social strategy, execution and community management, because surely this ensures the integration of a single campaign message through multiple touch points, and less agency management time for you? Or, should you engage a mix of agencies for different platforms? Confused? FORWARD breaks down the capabilities that your internal or external team should have, regardless of whether they sit in Marketing, Customer Service, External Relations or a funky warehouse in hipsturbia.

 1. They are experienced at building relationships

A team who puts the customer or key stakeholder ahead of everything else is worth gold in social media. Timeliness is everything – and crucial down under: Australian consumers are some of the most demanding in the world, with 72% expecting a response to an online request within a day, and 41% within an hour!

2. They have experience at managing issues

A poorly timed marketing campaign, like that of Malaysia Airline’s bucket list competition to win free flights on the recently troubled carrier, or jumping on a trending hashtag a la DiGiorno’s Pizza, without regard for the domestic violence conversation #WhyIStayed and what it relates to, quickly turns it into a PR nightmare.

By working with a team experienced in putting out fires like these, you stand a good chance of them not happening in the first place. And if they do, the appropriate response can be underway in seconds, versus you anxiously waiting for the External Relations Director to come to your rescue.

3. They understand the news medium of social channels

Twitter is a channel in which news breaks, whether it’s disgruntled customers causing their dissatisfaction to trend online or images of an event, meaning content can spread across online and traditional news outlets, often globally, in a matter of minutes. Working with a consultancy that knows how news unfolds and when to harness the news agenda, or avoid it, means your social media channels are being managed strategically.

Facebook is also prone to blunder, but your audience is far more likely to be a forgiving fan than a heavy hitting news journalist or troll looking for controversy.

4. They have outstanding communication skills

Having conversations in real time on a public platform is very different to making an ad that goes through multiple checkpoints with legal and other specialists before it’s shared. You’d be crazy not to have someone who doesn’t know their sh*t from they’re sh*t to be tweeting, responding to fan comments, having conversations or dealing with complaints on your behalf.

5. They understand the value of reputation

While it used to be so much easier to manage the message in the era of traditional media, it still required those communicating it to articulate a brand’s value proposition, and to do so consistently and regularly. The same rules still apply in social.

No single department or consultancy can ever ‘own’ social media, namely because social media is a conversation. And how do you own a conversation where the number of participants is infinite and the direction is out of the brand’s hands? Choose a person, agency or platform that can help encourage conversation and point it in a certain direction, one that aligns with your brand. In the very least, having these capabilities provides a good place to start.