Instagram for Business: Everything You Need to Know About the Social Engagement Powerhouse
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Are you trying to use Instagram to market your business? Chances are the answer is “yes”. Instagram is an online mobile app meant for sharing: photos, videos and social network status updates. It enables users to take pictures or videos and share them publicly or privately using the app. You can also post to Instagram using other social network platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
According to Instagram’s FAQ page, “Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with your friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”
Instagram is in fact a powerhouse; it boasts 400 million monthly active users, and over 40 billion photos have been shared to date. For businesses, this translate into the fact that Instagram is becoming more and more important to their business strategy. This goes for both worldwide businesses and the little guy like you or me. Instagram is now a hub where regular people find (and judge) the visual identity of a business. (c. Hootsuite)
Instagram is one of the best tools for people and large businesses alike to build their brand through pictures. This is a HUGE opportunity for you and your business as Instagram’s engagement knocks it out of the park.
According to Forrester, they have cited that Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent, which means 58 more times than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter!
It is safe to say that if you are in business, Instagram should be part of your overall social marketing strategy.
The Science of Instagram
At IMU we continue to stress that social media channels are not meant to be like Ebay or Amazon. Users simply do not want to see bland pictures of your products in their feed. A good post is just not as easy as taking a picture and posting it with a cool filter. If you are posting for your business, there is more to that. You want your posts to make an impact. This means that your posts need to be well thought out, carefully crafted or curated and shared with a specific idea or purpose in mind.
Here are some ideas when crafting your Instagram image posts to best reflect your brand:
- Choose brighter images. Using good lighting is extremely important. These types of images will garnish more likes and your images will be more professional and eye pleasing.
- Take creative shots when you are posting your products. This can be done by framing your product in a certain way, using a unique angle or including other items with your product in the picture. When you find an angle that is gathering the most likes or comments, stay consistent with that angle so you are consistent with your messaging and branding within Instagram.
(Source: Warby Parker)
- Use cool colors vs. warm. Blue, gray and white get more likes and follows than red, orange and yellow.
- Use filters. While the #nofilter may be a novelty and excite some of your followers, filters can be used to give your images an artistic twist. Using them can portray your products or products-in-use in a new or refreshing light.
- Experiment with color vs. black and white. Use a variety of lighting techniques in your posts provided that it accurately reflects your brand. For example, using black and white can give your images an undeniable professional look.
In addition to your images, your captions matter.
When you began your journey of using Instagram for business you may have wondered, how can I portray my brand with a social network site devoted to only images? The caption is where your brand can tell its story. Instead of describing your product under the image, tell a story about how that product can make someone feel. Depending on what your product is, it is important that your descriptions speak to the audience that you serve. For example, if you’re selling health and wellness products, an appropriate description under a particular supplement would be the feeling of placing in a national marathon.
One Instagram account who does this well is National Geographic:
Each one of their photos, whether it’s native or user generated, tells some sort of story in the caption. This allows you to expand on the meaning of the image, put it into context and also engage with your followers by asking for questions or comments. (or likes, of course!)
Hashtags began on the social media platform Twitter, but they quickly spread to other platforms. Instagram, in particular, took the hashtag strategy to the next level. The Instagram strategy is much more targeted and important because brands have realized that proper hashtagging can make or break their Instagram account.
The first reason that hashtags are so important is they make your images and videos searchable. People on Instagram can search content based on hashtag, which means they help to organize images across Instagram. This helps people discover you and your brand’s content.
There are many schools of thought on how many hashtags to use with each Instagram post. While you are able to use up to 30 hashtags, some schools indicate 3-5 hashtags are suffice. However, other analytics have indicated that the optimal number of hashtags is 11 hashtags per post. My advice here is to use your judgement based on your audience on Instagram. If you see posts from your followers that are hashtag-heavy, it would indicate that they are comfortable with a high number of hashtags. If you are in a niche or have a following where less than 5 hashtags are used, stick with that number. Any more hashtags added may be considered spammy and desperate.
There are two mistakes businesses make when it comes to hashtags: too many (or too little) hashtags (as indicated above), and irrelevant hashtags. For example, if you have a blog where you are showcasing healthy recipes, you would want to use food and nutrition related hashtags. If you hashtag #me or #love, it is obvious that you are going for non-strategic attention to your post.
Other ways to be unique on Instagram and win at the hashtag game is to create your own hashtag for your brand, and use other popular hashtags sparingly. For example, Nike uses their own brand in their variation of hashtags.
Another powerful way to use the hashtag is to have none other than your very own users create your content. Your brand can create a hashtag related to your brand, and only your brand, and ask your users to post content using this hashtag.
An extremely successful and unique user generated content campaign that garnished over 15,000 submissions was done by fashion designer Marc Jacobs. The fashion designer announced that their next campaign would feature model submissions through Instagram or Twitter. All the user had to do was post their image and hashtag it #CastMeMarc.
Not only did this campaign master user generated content, but it also used another social media staple; the selfie. Followers were already doing this, so they may as well tag it and create content for the fashion giant. (source Hootsuite)
Another well planned Instagram hashtag user-generated campaign was done by the popular American eatery Applebee’s:
If we look at the description, they do a great job at giving their followers an actionable #hashtag. Not only does this strategy work well at getting their followers to interact with their Applebee’s experience, share it on Instagram, but it also works well across all social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. Giving your followers an action to take is the perfect way to get your audience to engage with your brand.
Tip: You say you have a small home business and nowhere near the scale of a nationwide restaurant chain? No problem! Create a catchy #hashtag that is all your own. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is, in fact we say the more the better! Place this #hashtag on every social media post you create. Soon you will be surprised at the recognition you get.
Like Google, Instagram is a place where users are searching out content. Using hashtags help to put your brand in front of those people who are searching for keywords (eh hem, hashtags) that are related to your brand and/or your niche.
Other Marketing Tips on Instagram To Make People Love Your Brand
Be Your Own Best Instagram Fan
No one is going to be your spokesperson for your home business, except yourself.
By now you should have your own personally branded website / blog. See what we recommend here.
On your personal site you need to promote your Instagram account as much as humanly possible. Your Instagram feed needs to be prominent on the homepage of your blog, with plenty of social media sharing buttons on every page. Send reminders for people to visit your Instagram page from your Facebook page. Create a YouTube video talking about your amazing and wonderful contests you run on Instagram.
Have an email signature? (of course you do!) make sure there is a link to your Instagram account.
You are getting the point here, right? The point is that you must be actively promoting the site, or you will fail to see a large increase in your followers, the opportunities are endless.
Don’t be Shy to Be Inspired
We will never forget the first time we heard the term “Curator of Content”. Exactly like a curator at a museum, you may take the opportunity to realize great works when you see them. In the world of art, there are whole schools of thinking that have resulted in large art movements. Creating your content should be no different. In a global internet world we get the opportunity to see what other people are doing and take inspiration from them.
You are encouraged to keep an eye out for what is working for other people, and make it uniquely your own. Your fans admire and like you because you are, well, YOU! So take the opportunity to be inspired by what is trending in the world and using it to “Wow” your audience with it branded to yourself.
Connect Your Instagram Account to Other Profiles Available
Within your settings on Instagram you can connect your Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr profiles to name a few. You can set it once and then leave it. It will continue to keep posting to your other profile feeds. Even if you are not paying attention to those profiles at the moment, if you have them out there, you do not want to run the risk of having a stale news feed if someone finds you during search. Posting regularly will keep your profiles fresh and legitimate.
You should never portray yourself as someone else if you are on social media for business or a brand. People buy from people on social, not companies. Show that you are a real person, who has a real life, and is someone other than the face of a company. Post a picture of your disaster of a kitchen table after a raucous family meal, or seasonal picture like a pumpkin you just carved. Get creative. People like to see the behind-the-scenes of the inner workings of any company.
Be sure to respond to direct messages, comments, and likes if you want to. People have taken the time to interact with you, so you must take the time to reply. Repost others photos and make comments, shouting out to your followers. You will get endless love.
The New Instagram: How to Keep Your Posts Seen in the Feed
At the end of March 2016, there was a lot of buzz that Instagram had launched its first algorithm change. While there was no official launch date, we do know that they are making this change in order to calculate which photos users want to see in their feed, vs. the traditional chronological order. Depending on the specifics of the change, this means that the pictures you like, and similar pictures, will then appear higher in the feeds.
Now, you may remember, many Instagram users were sounding off with the mantra, “#turnmeon”, all over their images. What this meant is that users were telling the audience, that in order to see their posts, they would need to click the three little dots on their profiles, and choose “turn on notifications”.
Here at Intentional Marketer University, this algorithm change wasn’t a big deal. And here is why. We would rather see all of our users posts (even if it is not in chronological order) then to miss them completely. Right now, your business posts could be hidden layers deep in the audiences feed, with a high chance of members never scrolling that far down to see them. Instagram’s new algorithm promises that if a person has liked your photos, they will now be sure to see them. And that is why we encourage you to have a strong Instagram game! Make sure people are seeing your posts.
Without a solidified roll out date, the algorithm change may or may not have started to affect you. But here are 3 simple moves you can do today in preparation for the big shift. If you are a small home business owner worried that you will no longer be seen, these simple and easy ways to connect with your followers will help, starting today.
Option 1: Ask Your Followers to #TurnMeOn
If you want your followers to get a notification every time you post a new picture, simple ask your followers to #TurnMeOn.
Next, give them the simple instructions for how to do this.
Ask your followers to Turn On your notifications.
Go to the 3 small dots in the upper right hand corner, click.
Look for “Turn on Post Notifications”. Click.
It’s as simple as that. Now, some of your followers will be sure to follow your instructions and go with the flow. But what do you do about your followers who either do not want to be bombarded with notifications, or are the type of person that do not care whether they see your posts or not (even if they are a follower!)? Keep reading for a more subtle way to continue getting your posts seen.
Option 2: Work With the New Changes Instead of Fighting Against Them
At Intentional Marketer University we often repeat the main objective for running your business marketing on Instagram: post quality images that your followers want to see.
If you are still posting before & after pictures, out of focus, poor quality, or overly salesy images, take notes… because this new algorithm is going to be the final nail in the bad marketer’s coffin.
(Source: Instagram account: @alexprager)
Make your Instagram feed feel like a professional magazine
The sure-fire way to get your posts seen and interacted with is to persuade your followers that you are high quality and bring value to their life through your posts. This also convinces the algorithm that you are relevant to your followers and worthy of showing up in their feed.
If you share posts that receive likes and comments, you will continue to stay relevant. To both your followers and the Instagram algorithm.
The #1 piece of advice we give at IMU is to make your Instagram feed look like your favorite magazine. Starting today, chose great images, in focus, good lighting, and interesting topics. Be an attention grabber. Follow up with helpful tips or advice in your descriptions. Putting these steps into place will solidify your position as the expert your followers want to keep seeing.
Option #3: Do Unto Other Instagrammers as you Want Done Unto You
We already know that Google and Facebook are primarily concerned with showing trending topics first.
If you want to read more about this topic click HERE
What do trending topics mean for you and your Instagram relevancy? If you share topics of interest with your audience, the more likely they are to engage with you.
Furthermore, when you take the time to comment, follow, and share your follower’s posts, they are inclined to do the same for you. Pay attention to what posts are generating a lot of attention in your feed. Keep a sharp eye out for posts that are getting a lot of attention on your competition’s pages and your follower’s pages.
#Hashtags are the most common method of finding out what people are trending. You can use a website tool like hashtagify.me to find all of the trending #hashtags on Instagram.
As you notice hot topics emerging, this is your best option for a similar post. The new Instagram algorithm is only concerned with showing your followers posts of interest.
This option seems like an obvious solution, but should not be overlooked. The bottom line is that you see what your followers (and followers of your competition) like, and then post more like them.
If you are serious about your business, and having a solid presence on social media, then you should not be ignoring Instagram. The level of engagement, the number of users and number of photos being shared per month is simply too powerful to ignore. Rather than worrying about the changes being made to Instagram, you should embrace them, and allow it to make you a better steward of your profile on Instagram. This means, post things people actually want to see! Engage with your following in a sincere and human way! This will only take you farther than your competition. The spam and blatant selling will fall away, and what’s left, will be you and your business ready to create relationships.
Let us know in the comments how you feel about Instagram. Did we miss a topic that has helped you increase popularity on the channel? Make sure to let us know in the comments below. Did you find this article helpful? Feel free to share it with anyone else you think might want it.