As with all social media platforms, Instagram can offer businesses an excellent way to enhance their reach and expose their goods and services to new markets and potential customers. Part of the appeal of using social media marketing in general is the way it allows brands to share and interact with followers and build a sense of kinship. In turn, this builds loyalty and, ultimately, can increase future sales.
This is particularly true with Instagram for two interesting reasons. 1. It is principally a mobile based app, meaning it is literally already in the hands of a massive audience (some 400 million daily users according to the latest figures). This means more exposure for your business and even more potential to add a human, personal dimension to your brand. And 2. People connect with visual mediums. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and Instagram affords users the opportunity to share and connect in a more visceral, immediate way than arguably any other social network.
For those who may be late to the party, Instagram is a platform for sharing photos and 15-second videos. Visual content from users that you follow is displayed in a timeline-style format and anything you publish is displayed to the people who follow you. Hashtags applied to pictures allow users to search and filter according to topic while content allocated a ‘trending’ Hashtag can be seen by all users in the relevant section of the app (more on that in a minute). The simplicity is part of the reason behind Instagram’s surging popularity. But while large companies with established followings seem to have no problems getting consumer engagement and results (Coca Cola, Nike, Starbucks and the like), how can you use Instagram to generate interest, build a following and drive traffic to your small business? Here’s five tips to get started:
- Take beautiful pictures and use the opportunity to show your products or services in an unusual, creative way. Use interesting filters and camera angles to enhance pictures and inspire interest. Just make sure your new found camera-trickery doesn’t distract from the subject of the photo.
- Sell the lifestyle and benefits behind your product, not necessarily the product itself. With the opportunity to showcase what you do in such a visually manicured way, take advantage of the medium and highlight a ‘serving suggestion’, not just static, stock pictures.
- Take photos of your team’s offices, think about the behind-the-scenes photos that most people wouldn’t otherwise get to see and give your customers the opportunity to peek behind the curtain. Better still….
- Allow your employees to share some of their personalities and their experiences outside of work. Encourage them to take appropriate photos or video for you to use on the business’s Instagram page and contribute a collaborative, human element to your company profile.
- Feature celebrations and special occasions – both of the business and your wider community. Again, this can help to build a sociable, familiar element to your brand and drives a level of engagement with your audience.
In short, imaginative pictures and videos that show personality but stay relevant to your business. And not too many! Bear in mind users of the app follow a lot of people and different companies and probably don’t want to be bombarded by any one individual too much. It’s recommended a business shares one maybe two posts per day.
As mentioned earlier, maximising reach on Instagram is all about utilising the infamous hashtag. Hashtags become necessary if you want your posts to show up in the app’s search function and become invaluable when an associated topic begins to ‘trend’. Hashtags allow you to curate content around a specific theme and expose your posts to anyone searching for that particular tag, expanding your reach beyond your regular followers. A common mistake some businesses make is using random hashtags they made up – no one is searching for these! The real value comes from finding ways to post content related to popular or trending hashtags. When you do this, your images have a chance to show up in the Trending Tags section of the app and are published to all Instagram users.
Like all social media, Instagram is a two-way deal and can generate huge rewards in terms of exposure and traffic for a business when used well. Follow like-minded companies and tastemakers in related industries, comment on other user’s’ content and contribute to the conversation to be part of the community. As a platform to share what you do, piggyback on trends and demonstrate how relevant and contemporary your small business is, it’s getting harder to beat.
By David Marrone
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