When we initially launched our Instagram presence, it failed. We were the brand that was on Instagram because it was the place to be. We assumed that all platforms and all content were created equally. We reused content found on our other social channels on Instagram without a real strategy, which ultimately was not successful. After we failed fast, we decided to relaunch the channel with a new strategy unlike anything FedEx had ever done before on social.
Our objective when relaunching Instagram was to create a strategy that was tailored specifically for the channel that showcased FedEx in an authentic tone and voice, ultimately aligning to Instagram's look and feel.
We didn't want to be just another big brand on Instagram trying to be cool. We wanted our new Instagram strategy to be intentional, fun, authentic and true to the platform. If we were to be successful with our new presence, that would in turn help us garner more followers, higher engagement on the channel and foster deeper two-way relationships with our audience.
After benchmarking with top brands, we learned that for our new Instagram strategy, our posts had to have a strong, authentic presence. That was our North Star during strategy development.
In a somewhat uncomfortable move for our organization, we pivoted away from sharing marketing content and "stock image" styled photography on Instagram, as we found this content was not true to the platform's nature and came off as inauthentic.
To be credible on Instagram, we uncovered the simple truth that we needed to stop talking about ourselves on the channel and instead let our followers do the talking.
To do this, we implemented a purely user-generated content (UGC) strategy which let our fans become our global photographers. From Brazil to Australia, we started sourcing UGC from all across the globe encouraging followers to share with us as they spotted "FedEx in the wild."
We go through around 1,000 UGC images a week and pick a few of the most striking and relevant images to share.
We purposefully share a range of UGC styled media. We have found that our real-time UGC is highly engaging. When the snow storms hit New York this month, we found a UGC image of a FedEx truck driving through a snow-filled Times Square, which was one of our highest performing posts ever.
Another real-time example is when Instagram first launched its long-desired zoom feature, we put up a UGC image the day the feature debuted that had a FedEx plane in a beautiful sunset that required followers to zoom in to see. This was a way we incorporated relevant trends with UGC.
We also show uniquely shot UGC images of our trucks and planes. Our plane images resonate with our audience that proudly proclaim themselves as "aviation geeks."
Outside of our global FedEx fleet photos which are our primary UGC images, we have also experimented with other UGC to make our content as relevant as possible.
For example, we had an influencer UGC activation where we saw that a top fashion influencer happened to pose in front of a FedEx truck for a street-style shoot. We were able to connect with her, and she let us use her image on our page.
Another example happened this past Halloween when we identified influencers looking for a unique costume for their child. FedEx released a kid's courier costume this year, and we surprised and delighted a few people with them. One influencer had a photoshoot with her son in the costume and sent us dozens of fantastic UGC images. We used her image for our Halloween post, and it performed very well.
Ultimately through our UGC strategy, our customers and fans across the globe have become our voice on Instagram, and by doing so they are our brand storytellers. This has added immense credibility and authenticity to our posts and our overall brand story.
In the first nine months after switching to UGC, our followers quadrupled. Since the shift in strategy, our follower growth rate has skyrocketed by 404%.
Through our UGC strategy, we have fostered an engaged following that is building affinity, trust, relevancy, and loyalty for the brand. We have also deepened our relationships with our audience by being proactive and starting two-way conversations.
Users are thrilled when we tell them how much we like their image and that we'd like to feature it. Since our audience knows we are looking for FedEx around the world images, they are inspired to continue sharing their images with us and with their own followers, which grows our social reach.
The word of mouth buzz from using UGC has also been tremendous. Because we are reaching out to our followers, they are quick to tell social media, "FedEx found my picture and wants to share it – how cool is that!"
Another impactful result is that our UGC strategy is completely free. Our audience is appreciative that we notice their images and are happy to let us use them. Since we are not paying for their photos, our ROI for Instagram has been significant.
At the end of the day, by letting our fans tell our story, we have been able to transform our perception from being an out-of-reach corporate entity to an authentic, personable friend that our audience can trust.
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