Despite being one of the most popular social media networks out there, many businesses overlook Instagram as a viable network for marketing.
Part of this likely comes down to the fact that Instagram, unlike other social media networks, does not allow for clickable links in posts (a feature specifically established to avoid an excess of promotional links and spam).
So, while it’s fair to say that Instagram makes marketing challenging, a creative business Instagram account can do wonders for your brand.
Not sure where to start? These ten steps will help you establish and use Instagram to expand business reach:
Before you even start posting on Instagram, think about how you want to express yourself visually. The most successful brands on Instagram have a “look” — their own style that is consistent and very eye-catching.
Look at the Instagram for WeWork, a New York City-based shared workspace company. The images combine professionalism with a carefree, live-life-to-the-fullest attitude and a youthful, urban style. They have created a lifestyle associated with the brand.
When you look at their Instagram, you want that lifestyle. That’s how they’ve landed more than 56 thousand followers.
So think about your brand as a lifestyle. Think about the colors you want to associate with it, and the mood and attitude you want to convey.
Resist the temptation to imitate popular Instagrams just because they’re popular. What draws people to certain pages is their uniqueness, not their ability to be like everyone else. Figure out what makes your brand unique, and make that a part of your vision.
Hone Your Photography Skills (or employ someone who has them)
The good news about Instagram is that you don’t need lots of photography experience or even a nice camera. In fact, the app is specifically designed for smartphone cameras.
So, while you can certainly upload your own professionally-taken photos to Instagram, the intended nature of the medium is to showcase beautiful images captured by a simple smart phone.Getting shots that really stand out takes a good eye and practice.
If the extent of your smartphone camera use is the occasional impromptu snapshot, it will help if you read and follow a smartphone photography tutorial or two.
Remember, also, that ideally you’ll be taking pictures for Instagram using the Instagram app, which captures photos in the distinctive square. Using the app avoids the need to crop your photos and can help you improve your eye for the format.
It’s also a good idea to choose a “signature” from Instagram’s add-on filter pack. Using one filter consistently will give your photos a similar look that will help pull your page together visually.
If you have neither the time nor inclination to create photos yourself, it’s best to have at least one person on your staff who can do it well, even if you choose to upload professional photos and graphics. Posting images in the here and now can increase your engagement and keep your Instagram dynamic rather than static.
Once you’ve worked out your brand’s personality, you’ll need to create your profile. Choose a name that is as close as possible to your brand’s name and easy to remember.
You will need one static profile image, preferably your logo, and a very brief statement about your business (very brief — like one sentence. Instagram is about being visual, so save the detailed About Us for your website.
The last thing to add to your profile is your URL. This will be the only place where you will have a clickable URL on Instagram, so naturally, you don’t want to neglect to add it. Since you can only have one URL, you may want to periodically point it to a special offer or splash page (that also steers people to the website).
For a good example, look again at WeWork:
You probably already have a Facebook and/or Twitter account. Use them to announce your new Instagram page and invite your followers to follow you there. A lot of people use more than one social media network regularly, and Instagram in very popular.
You might find that some followers who don’t really interact on the super fast-paced twitter are more engaged with you on Instagram.Also be sure that you have icon links to all of your social media networks on your primary website and blog. We put ours on the sidebar along with other links:
While it’s true that Instagram is mostly about visuals, it’s still a social media network, which means that if you want to get the most out of it, you have to interact with other accounts.
Start by following relevant contacts who have instagram accounts, then use the search and Discover (the little compass on the top right of the page) feature to find relevant accounts to follow.
Don’t follow random people hoping to increase your number of followers. If your content is good and you tag well, people will find you.
Instagram allows two main types of interaction: Liking (i.e. clicking the heart symbol on a post) and commenting. You should be doing both, keeping in mind that you should only like and comment on posts that are relevant to your brand in some way (you can create a personal account for everything else), and should never use the comment feature to promote your brand.
The comment itself is exposure — if people are interested in what you have to say in a non-promotional way, you’ll gain followers.
Humanize Your Company
Brands that are successful on Instagram are the ones that don’t come off like they’re conducting big business, even if they are. Instagram users tend to like things to be smaller, more personal, DIY.You can build acceptance and trust on Instagram by making posts personal — but not too personal.
Introduce followers to your team, show people what you’re office is like during break, feature your staff participating in charity events. If something funny or unbelievable happens (“You’ll never guess who came into the shop today!”), Instagram it. (Ask permission if you’re posting a picture of anyone not on your staff).
Things like a vacation snap might be good to post if it’s a particularly breathtaking shot, but don’t post a dozen of them. Every Instagram post should be well-thought out and visually consistent with your brand.
Highlight your Perspective
Beyond the look and lifestyle of your brand, there is a perspective that is uniquely yours. Highlight that in your captions and the occasional text graphic (such as a tip or inspirational quote in an appealing typeface made with Canva). Adagio Teas, for example, brings it’s single-minded focus to its followers with simple brand reminders like this:
As people relate to your perspective, your brand recognition will grow.
Use Photo Map
Instagram’s Photo Map feature allows people to see where your photos have been taken on a map.Photo Map is a valuable feature that expands your reach by automatically adding your images to their location pages.
So, for example, if you’re based in Philadelphia and use the Photo Map feature, users with no connection to you can click on the place name of other Philadelphia photos and be taken to a Philadelphia location page that includes your images.
Use the Tagging System
Tagging is very important for expanding the reach of your posts, but don’t overdo it — Instagram doesn’t have the short character count Twitter has, but over-tagging (i.e.: adding more than 4 or 5 relevant tags, tops) looks spammy.
And, of course, all tags should relate directly to the image; using popular but unrelated tags to get your posts seen flat out is spammy.
Feature Instagram Video
Instagram is most known as a photo platform, but it also allows you to post video. Instagram videos can be 3 to 60 seconds long, allowing enough time for a quick tip, tutorial, or “behind the scenes” glimpse of your business.
Instagram videos can be recorded via the app, just select video at the bottom of the screen once you’ve tapped the camera icon.
Once your video is recorded, you can add filters, just like with Instagram photos.
Used effectively, Instagram is a valuable social media platform that can greatly expand your reach. Since many Instagrammers are loyal and may not use Facebook and Twitter with the same frequency (if at all), adding it to your marketing strategy can help you reach new people and grow your business.
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