A couple of weeks ago, I found a very interesting book about Instagram as a marketing tool. As a Instagram lover, my pictures have never looked so good with all the filters, I just had to write about this topic. Naturally we can understand that visuals are more attractive to us, people, than words. But how can we market our products and services through this platform? Is a company really capable of increasing their sales via Instagram? The answer is YES!
In this final blog post, I will share with you 10 tips and tricks on how to use this platform to the best of your abilities. Starting from you business profile to different marketing options to crossmediale possibilities, we’ll discuss it all!
However, to start of easy, let’s first have a look to what Instagram is all about.
Instagram’s the name
Instagram was launched in October 2010, and has since then grown into one of the largest social network sites. It even outnumbered Twitter in December of this year in regards to the no. of posts. Indicating that this platform is getting bigger and bigger. Of course the take-over by Facebook, with an investment of $715 million dollars, didn’t do instagram any harm. Yet with 300 million monthly active users and over 75 million daily users in 2014, this platform offers marketing specialists and companies massive opportunities.
Due to the clear emphasis on visual content it obtains a very high reach, significantly higher than that of other social media platforms. Also very interesting to see is that this platform is, overall, more used in ‘rich countries’ than it is in the more developing areas of this world. Yet the overall division of male and female are almost equal, with a percentage of 51 against 49, the men are “dominating” the platform.
Today, already 59% of all top businesses, regardless of the industry of operations, are on Instagram. Meaning that if your company isn’t yet present, you can bet your competitors are!
When we look at which businesses are doing well online, we find that the no. 1 brand on Instagram is Victoria secret! Now, we can’t just blame this on the slightly higher representation of men on Instagram. This company is an expert in the field of attraction and visual content, no wonder they rule this platform. Here we see how powerful visuals truly are. This is also the reason why your content must be thoroughly thought of.
How to beat Victoria Secret?
From the book ‘Instant profits with Instagram’, I’ve selected 10 steps you should consider when using this platform. When executed correctly, these tips and tricks will ensure you’ll reach your goal!
Step 1 Your business profile
Overall, creating a profile on Instagram isn’t all that difficult. However, when creating your business profile you should consider the following.
Your brand image. Not only will visitors be able to determine it is truly your account, they also be able to find exactly what they are looking for when they see your brand image. When talking about your brand image, we mean your logo, name, corporate style and more. When people visit your profile, they must immediately be convinced: this is you!
Your profile picture. What could be more important on a photo-sharing platform than your own profile picture? Again, your picture should tell viewers what your business does, what’s it all about. What do you stand for and what can customers expect from you?
The notification section. This part of your profile allows followers to find you site from anywhere. more importantly it allows followers to receive information about when something new is posted, or new images are being uploaded to your Instagram account page.
Your Site URL. This is a must! Your site’s URL must be clearly visible, as should any hyperlinks which you choose to add to the site. If a visitor does not know where to find you outside of Instagram, then what’s the point? How are you ever going to grow you business? Simply posting images on the site isn’t going to cut it for you.
Besides these four essential components, you should consider offering relevant information to your followers. As mentioned before, if your followers can’t find you outside of Instagram, there is really no point in joining. Make sure there is an email address or telephone number available. Make sure people know how to get in touch with you, how to ask questions. Yes, there are some limitations in regards to the number of characters you can use, but the information above should be manageable.
Step 2 The visuals you post
“A picture says more than a thousand words!”
The beauty of Instagram, is that is offers us a new dimension to storytelling. In the past, storytelling has always helped us in marketing. A good and strong story sells better than a 100 good advertisements. Today, with the use of Instagram we can enlarge the effect of storytelling by means of images. You want people to connect with your brand, you want to stand out from the rest.
One way of accomplishing this is by adding both personal (fun) and business related pictures. However there must some kind of relation between the pictures, together they will tell the story for you.
Here are two examples of business popular on Instagram.
So what type of pictures should you consider uploading?
Photos of your product lines. It doesn’t matter if you sell clothing, linens or a particular service, let your customers see it. Just imagine how connected they must feel when you show a glimpse of the new product.
Images of your employees. Even though your customers never sees the people behind the scenes, having a face behind the voice is refreshing. It doesn’t matter if your business is solely online, the people who work for you and develop your brand are part of the story you want to tell.
Photos of events or charitable causes. If you can connect with your customers on a human level, you should! It’s a great advantage when followers see this personal side of you, it makes you more real and genuine. So consider adding the images that show the charitable work you do, the people you help within the community or the fun activities with locals. This is all part of your business and enhance the story you are trying to tell.
I would like to make one small note on this section. When posting these type of pictures, make sure you don’t push your charitable character on your followers, try to use these visuals in a subtle way. remember, we all dislike that “hoity-toity” behaviour.
Step 3 Hashtags
“83% of Instagram users post pictures with hashtags”
One of the most important features of Instagram is the usage of hashtags. Oh boy, how we love them! For your business profile it is very important to stay on top of the trends in hashtags, they will allow you to connect with followers on a human level and to engage by commenting on their photos. More it allows you to build on the number of followers you’re going to gain because of a cool hashtag.
The usage of cool and trendy hashtags can offer you so much for free. It’s almost similar to a good PR strategy. How, you may wonder?
The more attention you can garner with your hashtag → the more free marketing you can gain from your followers by means of re-posting or sharing → the more people are going to see your brand name → the more they are going to learn about your products → the easier it will be for your business to grow online.
“The no. 1 most liked hashtag is #love”
When you want to incorporate a cool hashtag, such a throwback thursday, you have to make sure it is in line with your type of business and story. Using a hashtag that has nothing to do with who you are and what you’re standing for, will only make you look ridiculous. Almost like your mom, trying to be cool. A clear no no.
To make it more practical here are some examples on how to incorporate them in your posts.
Events: If you are hosting a function or a formal event, It’s a great idea to use the industry related hashtag to showcase your new product or something likewise.
Customers. If a customer is using one of your products and you can use an industry related hashtag, do it! Not only will that particular customer share the image on their account, it will possible share it on other social media platforms as well.
The beauty of using the industry related hashtag is that it is going to be re-posted by others who are tagged and shared on other social media platforms. This will ensure you more visibility on Instagram as well as on other platforms. More on this topic will be discussed later on.
Step 4 Filters and applications
On Instagram there are a number of filters you can choose from. Do you want to highlight a certain colour, effect or fabric? There is a filter available.
“The filter scoring the most likes is Mayfair”
In regards of the applications Instagram offers its customers, there are many options available for businesses to use. Not only is there an application of Instagram available for the smartphone, which is growing every year with 66%. There are more options out there.
- Print out the images which are shared, and have a physical copy
- Search for images by means of keywords
- Use email to subscribe
- Use folders to download images – this applications allows followers to download a number of pictures, and archives them.
Step 5 Video
What can you do with Instagram video?
You can create fifteen second clips, which is relatively long in comparison with Vine videos. On Instagram you can edit the video and like with your pictures, you can choose exactly the same filters, This all to ensure you upload the best quality possible.
Video is a great way to show your followers a glimpse more of what is coming. There are really so many things that video can convey better to an audience than a picture ever could.
If your company is launching a new revolutionary product, the best way to share this is by means of a video. When reaching a milestone, starting a competition, ask questions to your visitors, a video is the best tool.
Step 6 Stimulate emotions
In order for followers to engage with your content you have to stimulate certain emotions. Here are some tips to accomplish this.
Make It Inspirational – for example, if your selling healthy products, show athletes using it.
- Inspire Your Visitor – inspire your followers. For example by posting pictures of people who’ve lost weight, using your products.
- Showcase Your Employees – If your company only exists online, it is nice to see a face behind all the content. It will make you look more human.
Acknowledge Your Staff – This is a great way to promote your employees online. Not only will this make you appear more real, it will also give your staff the feeling they matter. it can increase the intrinsic motivation on the working floor.
- Show You Are Human – Adding this all together, the most important factor is to look human. Show fun, behind the scenes pictures. It is also fine to show some mistakes that have happened, no big deal. Be real and true to yourself. Your followers will notice this and like you for it.
Step 7 Start networking
Networking online is just as important as it is in real life. Networking allows you to stay connected to the right set of people. So how is this doable through Instagram?
The first step is to gain followers. This can be done by using multiple social media platforms. Think of Facebook and twitter. Instagram offers you the possibility to post your content on Instagram and at the same time they’ll post it for you on other social network sites. This is a great way to let you community know your present on Instagram.
Secondly, you should look at who is following you. Who is an established follower? Who can be considered as an influencer on Instagram? Who always likes your content? Once you’ve figured this out, follow them back! This is how you’ll build up your network.
Lastly, follow other brands. Yes, you’ve read it right. Start following your competitors, see what they’re up to. What are they posting? Why? How engaged are their followers? You can learn so much from what they’re already doing. You don’t always have to invent the wheel yourself!
Step 8 Go viral!
So what’s next? Now that you understand how to post a picture or video, what do we do next? Let it go VIRAL! This is easier said than done. In order to go viral, one has to create an experience. Showcase your company in a way no other company or competitor can compete with . Come up with goes well beyond the imagination of your followers. I know this is very difficult. However with the right look, approach and planning you can create content which will go viral.
When this happens, it will draw more followers to your account, more exposure, more engagement and eventually more sales figures.
Step 9 Measuring statistics
The beauty of Instagram is that all the likes and comments tell you something. You can measure the likes and dislikes of your posts. What are people commenting, is it positive or negative? Either way, you can use these statistics, listen to what your followers are saying. If you don’t want to lose any followers, you may want to consider analyzing their comments and likes. Maybe they would prefer more fun pictures, pictures from behind the scenes or perhaps they prefer to see your product line instead. Measuring statistics and changing your strategy every once a while accordingly, will ensure that visitors are getting the most out of the images you choose to share with them as a business.
Another option Instagram offers you, is to track your hashtags.
You can find the contributors and who is sharing the images which are posted using hashtags. The level of engagement, how many people are sharing or re-posting the image with certain hashtags. And finally insights in context, and how it relates to the images you are sharing. When analyzing these statistics it is important to realise that likes simply mean people like your photo. When followers are commenting on your posts, it is a form of engagement that takes place.
Striking a balance is important, however if customers continuously tell you they don’t want to see that type of visual, you might want to consider to lose it. In the case one picture turns out to be very offensive towards your followers, you’re in a very bad position. Thankfully Instagram offers you to delete the picture instantly, before more harm can be done.
Step 10 The business blog
I hope the information above has already helped you gain a better understanding of this platform. However, if you’d like more support along the way, Instagram is there to help you. When you start your business Instagram account, you must realize that is quite different from a personal account. Obviously the type of post differ from each other. A business shouldn’t post visuals that are offensive to your followers. In order to make it all clear and easier for businesses, Instagram is offering a helping hand by means of a business blog.
This blog consists out of several tutorials and more tips and tricks in relation to photo sharing, the frequency of your posts, API examples and news from Instagram headquarters. I would advise you to follow this blog and to keep up with the topics they discuss. By doing this, you’ll not only get a great feeling with this platform and all it has to offer, but you’ll also keep up to date with new terms and conditions, applications and more.
Unfortunately, this is where I leave you. Over the past 10 week, I’ve learned a lot, and I hope you have too. From now on, it’s up to you to continue this online adventure!