In 2013, 59% of the world’s top brands were active on Instagram – a number that has increased significantly since then. This mobile photo-sharing platform closed out 2014 with 300 million monthly active users from all around the world, with over 58 million photos uploaded per day, and with close to 2 billion likes dispersed among them. Imagine having the potential to reach that many consumers in one dynamic place.
Intro to Instagram
You’ve heard of it, but here are a few facts to prepare you for looking at it as a business tool.
Instagram is a social media app created in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012.
Instagram’s niche in the social media world is visual communication. Only pictures and short videos can be shared through the app. Content like text posts and news links, so popular on Facebook and Twitter, are not what Instagram was designed for; that, in large part, is what draws users to the service.
It is also, in large part, what deflects businesses from including it in their marketing strategies.
Making Instagram Work for Your Business
Here is how your company can use Instagram’s unique photo-sharing platform to present your brand more creatively and connect with millions of potential consumers.
- Drop the sales pitch. Think about your company’s brand instead – its image. Use Instagram to “build your brand” and increase customer awareness of your company rather than to run blatant advertisements. Focus your efforts on what matters to your industry, what makes your brand unique, and what feelings your products or services invoke in consumers.
- But do show off your products or services. If you run a retail business, take pictures of great new products that just came in shipment, or share pictures of your most popular products in a casual, conversational way. If you run a hair salon, share before and after photos of recent, trendy cuts. If you’re an insurance agency, share pictures of a community event your team was involved with. Think about what matters to your target market and post content that will appeal to it.
- Give followers insider access. Customers in the social media age expect a lot from the companies they do business with. They demand full disclosure in the form of product details and industry practices. Posting pictures and videos showing, in unique and engaging ways, your service processes or product development will pique users’ interests and make them feel connected to your brand. Share shots of your team members hard at work collaborating or testing out the new power drill/guitar/ingredient you just got in. Show them having cake in the break room for an employee’s birthday. Aside from giving followers the kind of behind-the-scenes photos they want, including your team just as much as your products.
- Get involved. Hashtags are everywhere right now. They are a social media phenomenon, but more specifically they exist to categorize posts and target audiences more precisely. And they exist for everything. Participate in #EarthDay or #ArborDay posts if you own a landscaping company. Find “trending” keywords you can associate with your brand and services. As news stories break, or something note-worthy happens in pop culture, new hashtags will develop, allowing Instagram users to chime in with their own points of view and opinions. Join them. Being current, in a relevant way, and having a sense of humor is a smart way to connect with potential customers. Be sure to respond when followers comment on your content. Speaking of “followers,” follow them back – create a rapport, engage with your audience.
- Give back. While Instagram users do not want to see obvious advertisements, they do appreciate incentives for their attention. Offer discount coupons to new followers; run giveaways for followers who post the best photo in answer to your promotion. A bookstore might call for photos of followers’ favorite reading spots. This creates further engagement and gets users talking about your business in their own posts, likely to be seen by thousands.
The Logical Next Step
Social media has transformed the way we communicate and it is fast transforming the way we do business. Do not let your company fall behind. Make Instagram work for your brand and become part of the revolution.