“Don’t just put content out there. You have to do the extra work to get people to look at it, and you need to engage like-minded fans with witty and funny posts,” advised Jennifer Puno, co-founder of Map, and one of three top Instagram influencers who shared their insights about the power of visual storytelling and how to build brand awareness through Instagram communities at Social Media Club Los Angeles (SMCLA)s panel discussion on Saturday, March 21 at Cross Campus L.A. The unique program coincided with Worldwide InstaMeet 11, the Instagram-sponsored event which encourages like-minded individuals to come together in person, explore new places or locations, and bond over the love of photography.

resizeModerated by Golin digital marketing manager and SMCLA member Corianda Dimes, and sponsored by Dogtown Coffee, InMotion Hosting, Nature’s Bakery, and Marquis Organic Energy, “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…and Dollars” also featured Jonathan Nafarrete, co-founder of VRScout, a virtual reality and immersive cinema media publication, and Jennie Yoon of Casetify (formerly Casetagram), which turns Instagram photos into smartphone cases.

CApRMnXUkAAOB99While all three panelists offered a wealth of interesting perspectives on the topic, Yoon emphasized the important recurring point that brands must understand their audiences and their online behaviors so they can craft appropriate Instagram marketing strategies that resonate with those consumers and boost engagement, and can solidify a brand’s identity. This is precisely what Puno did at Map, where she and her team were able to organically grow their Instagram following by 10% week over week without the use of paid media.

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Another central theme of the discussion was authenticity, especially when engaging individual influencers. “Be genuine when reaching out to influencers, and don’t cut and paste emails!” said Yoon. Nafarrete, named by Business Insider as a “Top Instagram User That Advertisers Are Dying To Work With,” added that brands need to be genuine in their Instagram engagement activities, as well as on all social media platforms, so that consumers feel they are having authentic, meaningful two-day dialogues, and that companies are really listening to what they have to say.

The panelists also discussed and shared with the audience a number of great Instagram marketing tools, including Harvest for tracking cost per acquisition; ScrewIt, for taking slanted photos; LaterGramme, for scheduling and managing Instagram posts via the web or smartphone; and VSCO, for tweaking photos on the fly.

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Following the discussion, the panelists and attendees embarked on the L.A. edition of Worldwide InstaMeet 11 by walking around Santa Monica; taking cool photos; and then posting them to their respective Instagram accounts with the #WWIM11 hashtag. The photos ranged from ordinary to the bizarre, such as this image by Liz Kelly of a snake-carrying resident on the Santa Monica Pier.

resize (2)For a more detailed recap of “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…and Dollars,” please check out the Storify summary here.

Keep following SMCLA on our Facebook group and page, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for information and tickets to our April event, which will address strategies for landing your dream social media job.