Like many social media platforms, Instagram is immensely popular and this popularity can be harnessed by you as a business owner to help to build your brand. Visual content is ever more important to online marketing strategies, so it follows that using Instagram for business propagation is a no brainer. Yet relatively few business owners have an Instagram account for their brand.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a picture-sharing social media platform that was created and launched in October 2010. It was inspired by the instant Polaroid-style cameras and the style of photos they produced 30-40 years ago. The creators of Instagram conceived of the idea of blending the concept of the Polaroid and the Telegram – and this exciting platform was born.
Instagram is a quirky and fun way to share images taken on smartphones – manipulating them with filters and other effects, to experience the lives of your friends and followers through pictures as they happen. Unlike many other social media platforms, Instagram is all about the image. It allows otherwise mediocre-quality mobile phone photographs to be transformed into professional-quality snapshots, shared over an array of platforms instantaneously from the central portal of Instagram. Other currently compatible platforms are Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.
Instagram is an enormously popular app – in only its first two years, its user base grew to more than 80 million, with 5 million new images being generated every day. Today the user community is estimated to be more than three 300 million, with over 70 million images uploaded daily. These generate more than two-and-a-half million likes every day.
Who uses Instagram?
The Instagram demographic is primarily younger, with the vast majority aged between 18 and 34. Young women in an urban environment represent the largest user group. The age bracket of users is creeping up, however, and many men are also enthusiastic users of the platform. Like its owner Facebook, it is likely that over time the user base will cover all demographics.
How is Instagram useful for small business?
Instagram may have initially been a tool for personal photo sharing, however, it has evolved into a platform that has various business and brand applications, specifically in the building and nurturing of customer relationships. Using Instagram for business is a valuable storytelling avenue – and storytelling is a premium way to engage your target consumer audience. With this form of consumer engagement, an emotional response can be generated and recall is almost guaranteed.
There are a number of ways to effectively use Instagram for your business marketing strategy:
- Define your brand
- Enhance and maximise your brand’s visibility
- Start a conversation about your brand
- Build a loyal following
- Differentiate your brand from its competition
Instagram can be used as either a broadcasting tool, or a conversational tool – or both. For example:
- As a broadcasting tool to take and share images for your followers.
- As a conversational tool, inviting your followers to share their images with you.
Ideally, you will use it for both of these purposes – creating a two-way conversation between you as business or brand owner and your customer base. This also makes your own job easier – not only are you creating content, but you cleverly encourage your follower community to create content on your behalf.
Instagram tips and tricks for growing your business
When used to its full potential, Instagram can serve your business in many ways. After you create an account for your brand, follow these simple Instagram tips and tricks to maximise its effectiveness for you:
- Define your target follower
Who are you trying to attract to your brand? What kind of accounts in your niche are those target followers already following? What kind of hashtags are those niche accounts using, and what hashtags are your ideal followers using? What kinds of photos generate the most attention?
- Use an actionable hashtag to build a community
Hashtags can be leveraged across other social media networks – so your reach is magnified. Keep hashtags short and simple, easy to remember and appealing to use.
- Relate to your followers – but stay true to your brand
You need to constantly adopt the mindset of your target audience. What will they find valuable? What do they want to see? What will encourage them to interact? Think outside the box and relate anything you post back to your brand, business, or philosophy. Post a range of content to keep things fresh and appealing. Humorous memes and inspirational quotes are very popular and seem to generate the most engagement and sharing.
- Don’t saturate followers’ feeds by over posting
Over posting is one sure way to lose followers. Over posting will clutter the feeds of your followers and while they do want to see what you are sharing, they don’t want to be bombarded – it’s too much like spam or that annoying call centre that won’t leave you alone. Instagram does not require daily posting; make your followers look forward to your material – they will value it much more. Additionally, keep captioning concise.
- Promote, promote, promote
Like using any social network for business marketing, you need to promote your Instagram feed. Install social icons with links on your website home page to connect your visitors to your social media channels – including an Instagram icon. Run Instagram campaigns across all social networks you use. Use your business hashtag and encourage others to do so as well. Encourage any employees to add a link to your profile in their email or other electronic signatures. Likewise, add an Instagram icon to your LinkedIn profile. Repost Instagram images to Facebook and Twitter – both business accounts and personal accounts.
- Use Instagram to its full potential
Familiarise yourself with all editing tools and special effects – and use them. Use analytics tools that are available on Instagram to track the success of your posts. Investigate how Instagram supports business and use it to your advantage. Follow the blog, Instagram for Business, to gain more insight and tips for augmenting your own use of the network.
- Find inspiration everywhere
Follow other similar brands and businesses, and take inspiration wherever you find it. While you should always have unique content, you can “pinch” ideas from others and tweak them to make them your own. If your followers are being creative with your brand, repost and benefit from their own inspiration. Instagram is all about sharing and your fans will appreciate you adopting their material to showcase it for your brand.
- Interact to grow your follower base
Interact with your followers by liking or following user photos, direct messaging, tagging, commenting, mentioning a user by name and using hashtags. Liking is among the simplest methods of growth on social networks; we are, as a community, ego-driven and we all appreciate as many likes as possible when we post. When those likes come from a business entity, the ego boost is just that little richer. Following gains more individual traction, as does tagging – though you should only ever tag users you personally know.
- Partner with a compatible cause
Promote and share partnerships with select followers – non-profit organisations, for example, that have a commonality with your brand.
Using Instagram for business building should be a significant aspect of any social media marketing strategy – and is guaranteed to give you the competitive edge if you use it to its full potential. Your goal as a business owner is to maximise engagement – there is no point having 10,000 followers if you only attract 100 likes and a couple of comments or shares per post.
HOT TIP: A successful Instagram account will have significant engagement, with followers tagging others, adding their own hashtags, liking photos, click-linking your profile, and otherwise interacting on a regular basis.
In today’s competitive marketplace, the savviest businesses and brands are using any and all available avenues in their marketing strategies, and Instagram has so much to offer.
Have you had a look around our blog? If you want to take your business to the next level and nail your social media strategies, this is a great place to hang out. There’s plenty of information on all social media platforms.
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