Instagram is often considered to be a teen platform, something that businesses and advertisers should not take into consideration. However, lots of studies suggest that Instagram becomes the most popular and the most influential platform of them all. A close to an exponential growth of the network (and being owned by Facebook) makes Instagram a perfect social media handle for businesses.
Instagram is very visual. Probably, the most visual o them all because the bulk of the content comes through either pictures or videos. A majority of people are visual learners by nature, so it comes as no surprise that people indulge in Instagram. Plus, Instagram allows you search by tags, which helps to find content easily.
Instagram growth and reach cannot be denied. Over the past 5 years when Facebook bought the platform for 1 million, no one expected the little photo sharing app grow to the size it is today. So, why Instagram?
It boasts more users than Pinterest and Twitter. It shows no signs of stopping either; the growth of the network is exponential. This is why there is a huge potential in using Instagram for marketing.
Ease of use
Instagram is probably one of the easiest platforms to use. Snap a photo, upload it to the app, choose a filter, say a few words and you’re done. We all can snap a photo of something as we go through our daily activities. It may be our desk, morning coffee, new cool office gadget, sticky note, a plant, beautiful weather, anything. Plus, you can share Instagram post to Twitter or Facebook and, depending on your activity and frequency of posts, that might suffice your daily post for the other platform.
Unlike its big sibling Facebook, Instagram has no rules of limiting the reach of your posts. People who are following your handle are able to see all of your photos; it doesn’t discriminate based on how often users engage with your posts. Also unlike Facebook, you can start a conversation with your followers in private messages. This makes using Instagram for marketing very attractive.
Instagram provides that sense of immediacy. Similar to Twitter, Instagram updates are usually posted “in a moment.” Besides, because these updates are visual, they allow your followers to feel like they’re in this moment with you. An image of a new office or a new product is so much more impactful than a text or link update.
You can send private messages to users through Direct Message, so if you’re running a special offer for followers or want to ask them a question, you can send it privately. The process is the same as with public sharing, but instead of sending it to “Public,” switch to DM in the last step of photo uploading (where you add comments and decide to repost to other networks.
Treat Instagram as a beautiful showcase of your brand. Some companies (such as IKEA) go as far as to turn their Instagram account into an actual online catalog of their products. If you don’t have that wide range of products or you have a service-based business, don’t throw Instagram to the curb. You can find creative ways to showcase your services in a visual form. Interior designers, gardeners, dentists and nail technicians can show the final product. Legal consultants or accountants can post testimonials. Everyone can post behind-the-scenes moments into their everyday work, office celebrations or white board with product development ideas. Furthermore, there are quite a few tools that help you create beautiful graphics, so you could create tips or share inspirational quotes.
Using the same filter creates a branded feel
Sure it’s all nice and dandy but how do you grow a following to whom you’ll showcase all these beauty? Let’s count just a few basic ways to do it.
First, take care of your profile. Upload a nice profile image that should correspond to an image you have on other platforms. Create a short, sweet snippet in the bio section. Most of the times, Twitter bio with a few tweaks (if any) will work just fine. Insert web address. Come up with a publishing schedule or frequency that will work for your business. There is no need to post every day (also that would be great), but don’t post 3 images and disappear from the platform completely.
Encourage existing followers
Don’t forget to let your followers on other platform know that you have an Instagram account. An initial announcement, a reminder made next month and occasional Instagram post sharing should be enough for people to click the link and follow you on Instagram if they prefer. You can tip them that Instagram followers will get direct messages of upcoming sale 24 hours before everyone else or something along those lines. This will give you an initial boost in followers, so you don’t have to start at 0. It also might be a good idea to follow a few handles yourself. Think of people and companies with whom you come into professional contact. Look for your partners, distributors or vendors who are present on Instagram.
Research what hashtags are most prevalent in the industry. Find a few general hashtags as well as more industry-specific. If you have a specialty, put it in as well. See what you most successful on Instagram competitors are doing, what hashtags they are using and what kind of imagery do they put out there. Also, later you can come up with your own brand or campaign hashtag to help you organize your images so people could view them together as a cohesive album.
People who already follow you on other platforms might follow you on Instagram if you’re doing something special. The first, most obvious way is to put a different content. If people see the same image and text travel from one platform to another, they don’t have a reason to follow you on multiple platforms. Be creative and think of a way to show your brand’s story with image, not only tell it with words. You can also create special content that cannot be found anywhere else or run a special Instagram sale event for followers. You can also preview new products by revealing it over a few posts; this could be done through revealing an outline, a shadowy image, an image from a different angle until the final reveal. You could also reveal the whole image first, then take a photo from a different angle, and focus on details.
Nordstrom encourages likes in exchange for lowering prices
Posting videos to Instagram is another great way to employ the platform. Videos get lots of engagement. It also doesn’t have to be long, 10–15 seconds is the optimal length for a video on Instagram. You can also get creative, case in point: Lexus Instafilm.
This feature is not necessary for when you first start on the platform, but keep it in mind once you perfect the organic ways to use Instagram. A lot of users got angry when McDonalds rolled out their first advertising on the platform. Wait until big companies try it out and comb all the issues out.
However, it’s time to consider getting yourself an Instagram platform if you don’t have one. Especially, if you’re in a highly visual business, such as fashion or culinary, or if your primary audience are teens and young adults.
Originally published at thesocialmediacurrent.com on August 21, 2014.