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Our thoughts & tips on small businesses, freelancers and sole traders

The Master Guide to Instagram

Written by on April 17, 2013

Facebook continues to fight for the biggest share in the world of social media by paying a staggering $1 billion to acquire Instagram. After paying such a hefty amount, you can imagine just how vigorous Facebook’s quest is to keep both businesses and users wrapped around its fingers. Soon after its launch, Instagram soar to the top as a champion to the notion of using images to communicate more effectively with others and also in helping businesses portray a strong brand image on a social media platform. But many businesses are still struggling to master the usage of Instagram as this tool still remains quite new to the corporate world. If you’re looking to make this new leap in social media and step ahead in your game, this guide is just what you need.

The best thing about social media is that it helps businesses reach out to their customers from all around the globe without having to be in any close physical proximity. Social media is a powerful tool in terms of how it allows businesses direct contact and communication with their target audience without costing them the thousands of dollars that otherwise would be required for marketing and communications through the traditional channels. You can be in a basement, on a toilet seat, or even on your vacations but still stay in contact with your target audience and remain in communication everywhere you go. Though you might be familiar with Facebook and Twitter, you must be wondering how you can use Instagram to help your business. Here are some strong points:

CREATE A BRAND IMAGE

Build your Instagram business brandThink of your social media platforms as your shop window. In traditional marketing, shops always put particular emphasis on the decoration of their store windows to attract more customers. The reason why Instagram is such a great tool for marketers is because it helps businesses decorate this virtual store window of theirs and portray a brand image that can help bring in more customers. Pictures are evocative and so they can really help in showcasing your brand. By using particular colors you can really control the feel, atmosphere, and perception that your target audience will have when your brand name pops in their head.

But when it comes to using pictures to connect with your customers on Instagram, always make sure the pictures you are using are actually representative of your company and brand. Don’t just go and share any picture that fancies your eye. Make sure the pictures you are posting are in line with the image you want to give off for your company and brand. When you create a profile on Instagram, a rotating display of the recently shared pictures by you would appear above your bio. This is why it is important that you keep updating your images with new yet relevant posts.

DRIVE TRAFFIC – FOLLOW, FOLLOW, AND FOLLOW

Get Instagram followers for your businessLike all other social media platforms, with Instagram too, you need as many followers as possible. Here again, putting up compelling images is your strongest way to driving more traffic to your Instagram profile and hence increasing your followers. For example, if you are selling a product, try getting some great shots of some of your customers using your products and of course enjoying while doing so. These images will help put forth a strong impression of your product and company to other potential customers. Marketing tactics like featuring your loyal customers on Instagram will also help in giving off a personal message and image of your brand to other potential customers that will better relate to pictures of other ordinary people like them rather than models and actors. So start by sharing as much as you can but wisely!

 FOCUSING ON PARTICULAR HASH TAGS

It is important that you categorize all the content you share on Instagram and the best way to do so is through hash tags. This will also help you to build a prominent brand for your product or service. But don’t go around using all kinds of random hash tags that you come across. If you want your target audience to remember you and identify well with your brand persona, it is important that you carefully select a few hash tags that best represent your company and brand and then stick to them. Using your brand name or names of your best – selling products and services is the most obvious hash tag to stick to but you can always get creative and create new hash tags relevant to certain marketing campaigns you are running. A good example of this is the hash tag recently used by Tiffany, #truelovepictures. They launched a campaign to encourage customers to send in pictures of them sharing their love with Tiffany jewelry.

Launching a new campaign? If so, this is the perfect opportunity to introduce a new hash tag exclusive to your brand and popularize it amongst your fans and target audience.

RUNNING COMPETITIONS

We all know just how much people love freebies. The best way to get more and more followers and customers running after your products is by launching competitions on your social media platforms and enticing your fans to participate by luring them to free products, samples, promotional discounts, etc. Here Instagram can play a great role. Ask people to share their pictures and give out awards to best images. Everyone loves an interactive photo based competition more than anything.

But rewards and freebies is not the only way to get your followers interacting with you. Recently, General Electric ran a very successful campaign on Instagram for hiring for their GE Instagram Photographer position. They challenged their followers to capture images that best portray the company’s four distinct ways of working which are Building, Powering, Moving, and Curing. The follower that sends in the most representative images would be offered this position.

Instagram can also be used to instill more loyalty in your followers and customers by giving them a sneak peek into how your company works to deliver the products and services that you deliver. Here again GE did a great job by taking their customers into their factory floors, research labs, and other offices to show them where all the action takes place in delivering their products.

INTERACT WITH FOLLOWERS

Interact with your customers on InstagramThough Instagram is best known for its visual interaction, it still allows you and your followers to post comments on pictures and engage in conversations. Keep an eye out on what conversations are going on regarding your products, services, and the pictures you are posting and get involved in those conversations to let your customers know that their voices are being heard. The best way to get people to invest their time in your company is by you investing your time in them. And engaging in conversations with them is the best way to do so. You can even use their comments in other marketing campaigns to show potential customers what your current customers are saying about your products and services.

If you are still not quite sure on how to get started on your first content strategy on Instagram, here are some basic ideas that you can base your strategy around:

  1. Start with pictures of your current products or services
  2. Take your customers into an exclusive sneak peek into upcoming products or services
  3. Take shots of your brand representatives and ambassadors
  4. Showcase some creative and unique uses of your products
  5. Take your followers into some behind the scene images
  6. Take some pictures of your products in the wild
  7. Sneak peeks into future ads and marketing campaigns
  8. Random photos that relate to the lifestyle and image that your brand portrays

Start working around these basic content strategies and you will soon find yourself coming up with new and creative ideas each week. Follow what other businesses and competitors of yours are doing on Instagram and use their ideas to your benefit. The more you involve yourself on Instagram, the better you’ll be able to reap its benefits.

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