Social media is a powerful way to create buzz around your company and market your products and services. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard about Instagram, or maybe you’ve scrolled through hundreds of images and wondered how it can be used to enhance your business’ marketing strategy. Either way, Instagram’s platform creates an instant response in its users.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a mobile-based photo- and video-sharing app with a social networking component that allows users to share their images across other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Flickr. By posting a photo or video, it appears on your profile, which then can be shared among your followers, being displayed on their newsfeed. Vice versa, you can follow other users who have their own Instagram accounts and share their content, which is displayed on your newsfeed.
While Instagram may be considered by Luddites to be another distraction for the Smartphone Generation, there are obvious benefits to seizing this technology and working its unique social aspects to enhance your business model. In fact, Instagram beats out both Twitter and Snapchat as the most widely used app for teens. That demographic alone should be reason enough to convince you to begin investigating how to use Instagram.
How Can You Use Instagram?
Instagram differs from Facebook and Twitter (among many others) by being almost-exclusively visual-based. So, if you’re thinking you’re able to copy-and-paste your previous strategies on this platform, then you may be wasting your time.
First, begin by downloading the Instagram app for your mobile phone. Don’t worry, it is free to sign up and is supported by both iOS and Android devices. Next, you’ll be prompted to register for Instagram—be sure to insert details that clearly represent your business. Make sure to use your business’ name for the name fields, as well as uploading a profile pic—your company logo is essential here.
Following this, you’ll be asked to import your Facebook friend, and then your phone’s contacts. It is up to you to decide whether you’ll be starting from scratch, but if your business has a Facebook presence, this is a good way to combine your social media marketing and avoid having to find new customers.
Once you’re finished importing customers, you’ll be given a list of people to follow for your account. Take advantage of their suggestions and follow as many as you’d find relevant to your business. At this point, your account is set up, but you’ll need to enter your information. On the bottom of the screen, click on the icon that looks like a folded newspaper, which takes you to a menu where you can finish the finer points of your profile. Be thorough and enter as much information (URL, business name, etc. ), as this will be displayed for other users to see.
Now that your account is set up, explore the app until you’re comfortable with its functions. If you’re worried about your initial ineptitude to reflect poorly on your business, create a dummy account and experiment with Instagram’s many features. You’ll see that Instagram is a very intuitive app and can be extremely addicting!
Instagram Marketing Strategy
Take a look at competitor’s businesses and how they advertise. You may be surprised to realise that some businesses haven’t even begun using Instagram in their strategies, so you may have a competitive advantage already.
There’s a couple of objectives for using Instagram to build your business. Naturally, you’ll want to steer traffic towards your website and increase product sales, but realise that Instagram’s visual-based orientation can also increase the awareness of your brand. You’ll also notice a heavy integration of hashtags, which we will cover later in this article. Remember that your written content (blogs, whitepapers, etc.) doesn’t really lend itself to this medium, so don’t expect Instagram to enhance that part of your marketing strategy.
Create a realistic assessment of your business’ goals. Think of what types of preexisting content you have that can be recycled on Instagram (images, video-versions of white papers), and craft a strategy for your business for the future. You’ll have to consider a few variables:
- How often should I post?
- What part of the day should I be posting?
- What’s my schedule for posting content?
- What unifying theme should I have for my content?
Don’t oversaturate your followers with too many posts, but stick to a steady schedule and amount—one to three posts during peak usage is idea. You’ll have to adjust your schedule for your goals—for instance, your posting schedule will change depending on whether you are marketing towards Perth versus Melbourne-based audiences. Try different times of posting material to see if it engages your audience or is ignored. From these attempts, you can establish a content calendar based on the data you receive.
If you’re looking for tools to help you automate this process, look into using Hootsuite (http://www.hootsuite.com) or other applications. They can allow you to set and “forget” your posting schedule while you dedicate your time towards building your brand.
By adding a number-sign, #, before a phrase, you are creating a hashtag, which aggregates all posts and draws attention towards a phrase. For the absolute neophyte, read this (http://www.takeflyte.com/hashtags-explained) to bring you up to speed on all things hashtag-related. On Instagram, your ability to create hashtags related to your brand—branded hashtags—and have that link back to your brand is invaluable for creating brand recognition. Do be careful when choosing hashtags. Choose a hashtag that embodies the spirit of your company, but also encourages others to share related content. Brands benefit from the increased exposure to new followers, while users compete to have their content featured as part of your brand’s Instagram profile—that’s also not to mention the increase in the snowball effect of your having brand gain followers.
For example, one of the most popular Instagram profiles, Lululemon Athetlica (http://www.lululemon.com.au/?sl=AU), has #thesweatlife, which encourages its users to post their workouts and content to be featured on their Instagram. You’ll notice that this hashtag they’re promoting is not their company name, but focuses on their company’s message. It’s also a clever blending of “the sweet life” and “sweat”, which can be construed as ultimately being a product of purchasing and using Lululemon’s goods.
Building the Look of Your Instagram Brand
One great feature of Instagram is that you can make a cohesive look for all of your images. This helps preserve your brand identity under a unifying them. Scattershot images tend to look as though you don’t care about the look of your brand, and thus your audience will associate your brand with amateurism. Your goal should be the ability for users to stop scrolling when they reach your content and interact with it. If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource for Instagram’s filter types, click here. Don’t forget that you can use other online resources (http://vsco.co/vscocam)to filter your pictures before uploading rather than limiting yourself to Instagram’s built-in filter, which users may associate with your competition.
Tailor Your Content to Your Audience
Your content should reflect your brand and it’s products/services, but not be exclusively limited to it. Including pictures of staff members, related industry content, and trends of your followers is an effective way to visually represent your brand. And as with hashtags, featuring user-generated content (with their permission) kills two birds with one stone, increasing your engagement among followers while saving you the hassle of creating original content. Finally, before posting your content, make sure to use an appropriate caption that describes the content while also is in line with your company’s brand message. For instance, an established brewery built on tradition and integrity is going to have a different tone to their captions than a skydiving company.
Okay, this is just the beginning of understanding how to use Instagram and its ever-expanding traction among users. Be sure to experiment often and post quality content. You owe it to your business to explore this resource, especially as other social media avenues are closing off their doors to the organic reach of this app. Good luck and happy posting!