Although it’s only a little over 3 years old, Instagram has made a significant mark in the world of social media. With over 150 million unique users producing over 1 billion “likes” each day, Instagram is a social media platform worth noticing. With its simple interface and easy to use “feed”, it’s an application that appeals to a wide range of social media users. Instagram is also available on both iPhones and Droids, the two most purchased smart phones to date, having an almost equal number of users on each device. This gives Instagram users the ability to reach an even larger audience. And, since it lends itself to phone photographers (you cannot upload photos through your computer), its popularity is even more significant. Recent studies show that more than 63% of adult cell phone users access the internet from their smart phones and of that percentage, 34% access social media utilizing almost exclusively their mobile device. This makes social media platforms that have applications an even greater necessity for growing a business in upcoming years. Learning the in’s and out’s of applications like Instagram is a valuable investment of time and an inexpensive form of marketing. Here are a few helpful hints to get you started.
Create a Business Account
Most companies make a separate Instagram account for their business. This keeps your personal friends from being inundated with promotional posts and allows followers interested in your business from seeing one too many photos of the sushi you ate for lunch or your adorable puppy sleeping in the sunshine. That isn’t to say that a business Instagram should never stray from business related posts. As with anything, diversity keeps people interested and can help your followers feel connected to you, but having separate accounts can help keep you focused on your goal for your business’s promotion.
When you create a business account, try and keep your username as close to your actual business name as possible (if you lack a unique business name, it may be difficult to find an unused username). This ensures that people will be able to easily remember who you are and will associate your account with your business. Next, take advantage of your Instagram profile. Put a couple words about what your business does and then post a link to your business’s website or Facebook page. This will allow you to post about promotions and deals within your photos without having to type out your website’s address every time. Simply say, “See business website link in profile.” This will allow for followers to quickly access your website and saves you time in the process.
Learn About Hashtags
The term “hashtag” is relatively new within the world of social media (utilized mostly within Twitter prior to Instagram’s conception) and yet it’s caught on among social media users very quickly. As Google defines it, a hashtag is,
“a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.”
Think of them as a way of tagging or identifying your photo. To get the most use out of them, you’ll want to do some research. Make up a list of 10 or so words that you feel describe or pertain to your company. Then go to the search section of the Instagram app (this is the star looking symbol that is right next to the home tab). Tap in the search bar and click on the “Hashtags” button. Then enter the pound (#) symbol followed by one of the key words you came up with. See what comes up. You will find that certain words will produce more photos than others. This is an indication of how popular a hashtag is. You’ll have to do some trial and error with selecting what words to hashtag. As a rule, 4-5 hashtags per photo is the magic number for adding some context to your image without going overboard. Spending time within Instagram will help as well as you can begin to see what hashtags are most popular among those you follow. What can also be helpful is following other businesses offering a similar product or service. Or try following @Instagram itself. @Instagam will post things that are uniquely relevant within the community of Instagram as well as draw attention to special holidays or events across the world. Staying on top of these trending topics and hashtags to help you get a better feel for how to tag your own photos to get the most views, likes, and (hopefully) followers!
Engage Your Followers
It’s important to keep in mind that people follow businesses for different reasons than they follow their friends. A friend’s Instagram feed will include images that are familiar to a person. The photos will be special because they know and care about the person. With a business however, you have to put in a little more effort. Followers expect creative posts, photos that are great quality, and exposure to unfamiliar environments. Instagram is all about living vicariously through others. So keep that in mind when deciding what photos to post. Make sure that the photo is good quality and looks engaging, showing a subject that in some way relates to your business.
Give Something Away
While regularly posting photos with diverse content will keep your followers engaged, photo challenges, giveaways, and contests have proven very successful for promoting one’s business Instagram and getting more followers. Perhaps the most popular trend in photo challenges right now is “Photo-of-the-Day” challenges. For these, a business will post a list of 30 things at the beginning of the month, one for each day. The idea is that followers can use your list to give them ideas of things to photograph each day. The most successful photo challenges will usually feature the most creative photo on their own Instagram feed to help promote that user or they will tie in some kind of related giveaway. For example, if you’re a company specializing in outdoor equipment, you might create a special hashtag (#outdoorgiveaway1) to have your followers tag their photos with so that at the end of the month you can pick a favorite photo and reward that user with some outdoor related item.
These giveaways help your followers feel that you’re as invested in them as they are in your and your business. It’s a way of saying thank you and rewarding loyal fans. Instagram encourages its users to use the platform to promote their business or brand, so they’re always featuring success stories and offering tips on how to make contests better.
While one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram is #nofilter, standing strong against the “hipster” filters that Instagram offers, is not usually in your favor. Instagram is a place where people go to find beautiful images. If utilizing Mayfair on the photo of your well-organized office helps it look even classier, then use it. Instagram thrives on creativity and idealized representations of reality. Also consider utilizing a pic-stitch tool/ app. These allow you to put numerous photos into one, helping you convey more information in one post (try the applications Pic Stitch, Diptic, or Frame Magic). Keep in mind that while your Instagram is supposed to promote your business, it’s also supposed to tell a story. Utilizing filters, photo editing tools, and other related applications will only up the interest of your followers and ensure that they stay engaged.
Some Random Instagram Facts
– Instagram photos are still far more popular than their video feature (although the video does have some valuable applications for different types of businesses).
– “Mayfair” is by far the most popular and “liked” filter on Instagram at this time (followed by “Inkwell” and then “Walden”).
– Instagram is a unique platform in that it provides a 24/7 audience. While Thursday remains the most popular day for posting photos (#tbt anyone?), Sunday is the most effective, garnering the most likes compared to other days of the week.
– If you’re going to post a video, post it in the evening. People are more likely to watch something with sound when they’re at home rather than at work.
– 13% of internet users utilize Instagram regularly.
– Consider allowing your employees to utilize Instagram to document their workday. This creates a greater connection between your business and its followers.
– Link your business Instagram with your business Twitter and Facebook accounts. This will up your photo’s exposure and reach a more diverse audience.