Instagram just announced that they have 150 million monthly active users. That’s a big jump from 100 million users in February.
As this juggernaut of a social platform goes from strength, it’s time to look at what Instagram is, what it can do for your business and 4 words that you need to remember to build an engaged community (and have some fun!) on Instagram.
Since Instagram was acquired by Facebook it has kept going from strength to strength. Instagram’s tagline is “Capture and Share the World’s Moments” and Instagram is all about just that. Moments. Visual Moments.
I have a lot of clients and readers ask me about Instagram – what it is, should they use it, how to use it for business. So I wanted to share my thoughts on Instagram, why you should consider using it for business, and how to do it the right way.
Here is how Instagram describes the platform:
Why Consider a Presence on Instagram
Instagram is all about sharing moments. In a world that has experienced a massive shift to Visual Social Media, where we communicate in pictures and images, I suggest that most businesses should consider a presence on this platfrom. But only when it’s done right. And with 150 million monthly users, chances are, your target market and ideal client are on Instagram (or about to be, if it continues to grow at this rate). Take a look at the growth:
You see, Instagram is about sharing moments. It’s not about blasting out images of your products or services 24/7. There are certain ways that you can share your world on Instagram that are cool, and there are ways that are not cool. Here are some things I know about Instagram:
- Instagram is a highly engaged community. Highly engaged. For a platform that focuses purely on likes and comments, it sure does get a lot of likes and comments. Add to that, the fact that Facebook acquired Instagram and allows you to link the two platforms, it is easy to leverage cross platform posting to your personal profile OR business page.
- Instagram is mobile. Hint Hint. It’s about taking others with you and sharing moments of your day. (read: it’s not about sharing countless product photos or links to your website).
- Instagram is NOT link heavy. In fact the only way to share your website or “home base” is via one linkable URL on your profile. Some marketers may think this it is annoying and restrictive to not be able to easily link outside of the platform. I actually like it. It means you have to get a little creative and you can’t put links on every post. And it means that you do have to stay within the spirit of Instagram – sharing moments. Visually. This may change if Instagram brings in ads,but for now, I like the fact that Instagram is all about organic growth.
- Instagram is about Taking Us With You. Successful Instagram accounts take their followers with them – out and about, behind the scenes, giving sneak peeks into their lives – not just their personal lives or just their business lives, but both. Think “Snapshot” – a snapshot is what you should be providing on Instagram – a snapshot into your world.
…which brings me to the 4 words….
Take Us With You
Take Us With You on Instagram. Think Daily Life, Behind the Scenes, Meet the Team. If you keep those 4 words in mind, then the idea of posting up image after image of your products & services doesn’t seem to be such a good idea any more. Sure, you can post some images about your business but you can be creative with how you do it. Take Us With You refers to taking us with you in your daily life – it can be about your business but it shouldn’t be all about your busineess.
Here are some tips for why you might consider having a business account on Instagram, and how you can use it the right way:
Tips for Using Instagram for Business
#1 Be Consistent and Keep It Simple.
This is the one thing I am always stressing on any visual platform. On Instagram it is no different – be consistent and keep it simple. Start with posting one great photo every day. Be consistent, post once daily and then grow from there – but there very successful businesses that post just one great photo every day on Instagram.
#2 Engage, Like, Comment
Follow other users. Follow your followers. Engage with them. Comment on their photos and like their photos. It’s the same simple rule that works on every other platform. Likes breed likes. Comments breed comments. Following breeds following. Engagement breeds engagement. Community breeds community.
#3 Use Hashtags for Greater Reach
Instagram is a hashtag-heavy community. Hashtags are searchable and although there are many fun ones flying around, they are for the most part quite useful for finding and following people relevant to you. For example, if I post a photo and add the hashtag #greenjuice it is quite likely that I will attract followers that are in to healthy eating and love their greens and green juice – as well as businesses from that genre. The same goes for #socialmedia or #marketing or #fashion or #fashionblogger – or for any popular hashtag. Search on hashtags that you think are relevant to your business and do a little market research. A popular hashtag in your niche might be worth adding to relevant posts. And a unique hashtag can be a great way to build community fast.
Film-maker Hailey Bartholemew has inspired thousands of people to post images of hearts that they find in the world around them via her hashtag #findinglove. This community was inspired by her beautiful short movie Finding Love (all shot on an iphone!). Check her out at @haileybe and you will see what I mean by sharing “moments”. Sometimes, the simple act of providing something valuable, or inspiring to others, can help to build your platform – with much greater rewards down the track. There is no need to “push” for sales are you are already top of mind with your ideal clients.
Hailey is not shouting “hire me as a film-maker” (although yes, she is completely awesome and very creative) – she is providing value and sharing moments. Raving fans, community and clients will come naturally from those moments and the thousands of moments that her community are now sharing with her.
#4 Showcase Your People
Instagram is about people. About our lives. About our moments…. even if you have a business account, use it to show the people behind the business, social occasions, the “behind the scenes”. On Instagram, we don’t want to know your business, products and services. We want to know about the people and the moments BEHIND them. Even if your business is just you, take us with you as you go about your day. You would be surprised about the “moments” that appeal to us all.
#5 Don’t be Afraid to Use Instagram Video.
I wrote about Twitter’s Vine here, and how short, snapshot videos can be a great marketing tool. At the time I did not know that Instagram was going to introduce video. Given the reach of Instagram, I very much doubt that Vine can complete with Instagram having its own video function, but we shall see. Needless to say, I love Instagram Video.
There are so many things you can do with Video on Instagram – not only can you now upload your own videos for 15 seconds, but you can also use their unique editing function to take short segments of video that are pieced together on your phone with a unique “edited” feel. And then you can add filters to make your video look even better. I am loving that! Here is a snapshot of how Instagram Video looks:
Play with Instagram Video. Use it to highlight your team, your daily life, your customers and clients and yes, you can showcase your products and services, but do it in a fun, non-salesy way. There is no harm in a little PR for your business, but keep it in the context of “sharing moments”. The occasional “exclusive sneak peek”, tour of your new office, preparing for an office party, some down-time or some out of hours fun can be great on Instagram.
So, How About It? Will you give Instagram a shot (pun intended!). Be sure to leave your @username in the comments below so I can say hi back!
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