You can lose hours on Instagram looking at all of the gorgeous eye candy, but did you know it’s also a very effective marketing tool for business?
What is Instagram?
Instagram has been around since 2010. Two years after its launch, it was purchased by Facebook. It’s important to know that this image sharing platform now boasts 500 million monthly active users. Instagram estimates more than 300 million people use the service at least once a day. This platform allows for hashtags and commentary with its video or image sharing but users cannot post a non-image or video Facebook-style update post.
To get started using it, download the app on your phone. While you can discover people, like, follow, and comment from your computer, uploading must be done on a tablet or a phone. Currently businesses and personal accounts function in the same way. If you’re looking to understand the intricacies and how to’s of posting, this article covers it all.
Once you know how to post, here are a few ways you can use this social media image platform to increase sales and reach out to customers and potential customers.
Some marketers debate the effectiveness of hashtags in getting found on social media platforms but not on Instagram. Hashtags are huge here. On each post you can use up to 30. There’s a nice autocomplete feature that makes suggestions for hashtags as you type. Instagram uses hashtags to help categorize content but also as commentary. You’ll see hashtags that convey emotion as well as subject such as #doneright and #summerlove.
When the autocomplete feature suggests a hashtag, it also presents the number of instances that hashtag has been used on the site. It’s a helpful way of figuring out how popular your hashtag is. You can use popular hashtags, like #TBT (Throwback Thursday for posting older pictures) or #nofilter to gain likes. If you use popular hashtags, a lot of people will see your content. However, they’re not all going to be your ideal client/customer. It’s better to use more targeted hashtags that appeal to your intended audience since that’s whose attention you’re trying to get. Search for users that post about what you sell or do. Look at their posts and note what hashtags they use.
A final note about hashtags, you can’t use non-numerical symbols (outside of the #) sign. So if your business name contains an &, you’re going to have to decide whether you will spell it out as “and” or leave it out. Whatever you choose, be consistent in your usage.
Employ Strategic Follows
Maybe it’s because of the visual aspect of the platform, and not getting bogged down in text, but users tend to follow back on Instagram. Take some time and search for users, as mentioned in the previous section, and follow them. Often they’ll return the favor. Now they’ll see your content in their streams and be more apt to interact with it.
If you’re a business where locale is important, use the geotagging/location feature on Instagram. This allows you to mark where you are. You want to do this for two reasons. It shows people where you are (in words) and marks your location on the map. Users can choose to see all the images from a given area. Now if someone selects your city, they’ll see your post.
Yes, you want business through Instagram but you don’t get that by merely posting a new image every day. Take the time to follow, connect with, and like other people’s images. This is not all about you. You would never walk into a museum and hang your own work of art next to others. Appreciate what they have to offer. If they feel like you’re interested in them, they’ll be more interested in you as well.
It’s important to learn to navigate the app, through posting and connecting with people first. Once you’ve mastered that, you can start thinking ads. Ads appear in users’ feeds. There are several kinds to select from and you can use image ads or video ads. Here’s what you need to know about paying for views on Instagram. To run ads you will need to connect your Facebook page to your Business Manager on your Instagram account. Here are a few additional tips on Instagram advertising.
A Final Word About Best Practices with Instagram
Like all social media marketing, you don’t want to make this account all about your business and the hard sell. Share new products and services, but also share things you love, places you visit or those that inspire you, fun behind-the-scenes images at your business, and how-to’s on using your product or service. Need some ideas for posts? Here are 26.
Have fun. Be fun. Share beautiful things. Feature your employees and your customers. Like their posts. Instagram is a brilliant way to let people see your world. But if it’s all marketing propaganda, you won’t have very many people who want to visit for long. Instead, use posts that are welcoming, intriguing, and helpful and watch your audience, and business, grow.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.