Most people probably associate Instagram with pictures of angry cats or boring videos of their friends’ vacations. If you go to the picture and video sharing service’s main page, it surely doesn’t discourage such a conclusion. But successful company owners and managers aren’t most people; they look at pretty much everything as a potential tool for making their business bigger, better, and more profitable. To these driven professionals, Instagram represents a gold mine of opportunities to reach their customers. With over 150 million users, Instagram reaches out in a way that was never before possible.
As an operator, isn’t one of the primary objectives of your company’s marketing effort to make your customers more familiar and comfortable with your brand? Getting them to think about your business in a positive, even friendly manner, establishes grounds for a great relationship. Before you dismiss Instagram as just another social media outlet, learn how you can be an Instagram pro.
What It Takes
So what can a savvy businessperson be an Instagram pro, and how can you apply a subtle but clear messages to your own approach? Success is about reading your customers’ desires, and providing them with images that appeal to their perspectives.
You might think that the first step would be to open an Instagram account, but you should make sure you’ve laid the groundwork first. Here are seven tips for a successful Instagram experience.
1. Establish a Solid Online Presence
An Instagram account standing on its own probably won’t do much for you, no matter how many pretty pictures you upload. You need context – something else for people to link to and a reason to keep them continually engaged, so your brand stays fresh in their minds. A well-designed and frequently updated web site is essential for just about any business, and a business blog with relevant, high-quality content is a plus. If you’re also engaged on other popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, use them to your advantage. Instagram can be a powerful tool, but it’s only one piece of a larger puzzle.
2. Make a Commitment and Keep It
Social media success requires time and effort. With Instagram, the worst you can do is set up an account and then leave a blank feed to show the world. If you honestly think you don’t have time to mess with Instagram (or any other social media site) personally, hire someone you really trust to manage your social media. You’ll still need to monitor the efforts to make sure that all posts reflect your brand in the best way possible.
3. Be Fresh. Be Original.
Don’t use bland, boring stock photos or something you nabbed from Google Images (be mindful of copyrights!). And don’t rely on recycled photos from your web site, catalogs, or other promotional material. Take a little time to create something original. It doesn’t have to be complex or stunning; it just needs to resonate with your customers and fans. Some big brands have photo contests among their customers – another way to keep customers engaged while providing fresh content. Write a brief post to accompany each photo and tie it in to your overall theme.
4. Hard Sells Won’t Work
Social media sites are social. Though you are trying to promote your brand, the trick is to maintain a balance between brand awareness and socializing. Accordingly, don’t limit your offerings to images that blatantly sell. Instagram is one of the least effective outlets for hard-sell tactics.
5. Post Frequently (but don’t overdo it!)
Overexposure won’t do you any favors; posting too many photos in too short a time period can be perceived as spamming. As for the optimal time to post, some studies have indicated that it really doesn’t matter, because the Internet is open 24 hours a day.
6. Use Hashtags
Perhaps you are as sick as we are of hearing “hashtag this” and “hashtag that” on TV commercials, but hashtags really do serve a useful purpose and help your photos get seen. You can be a little more liberal with hashtags on Instagram than Twitter. And try to integrate them seamlessly into the body of the post accompanying your photo if you can, instead of clustering them all together at the end of the message.
7. Link With Your Other Social Media Sites
Link your Instagram account with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and they can all work in concert to strengthen your brand. Have fun engaging with your customers; read and respond to their comments. Also visit other Instagram sites, to participate by leaving your own comments; it could be a good way to build relationships.
If you need a little Instagram #inspiration, the following companies are a great place to start!
One of the most active Fortune 500 companies using Instagram extensively is Nike. The brand is all about peak performance, and the joy that performing well provides. The company has been brilliant in creating a brand that goes far beyond its products, and touches a positive nerve in the marketplace. They achieve this goal not by pushing what they have to offer, but by reminding viewers of the emotional boost they experience when they are active. Customers are reminded to Just Do It™!
Another Fortune 500 company that has great success with their Instagram account is Ralph Lauren. Their posted images convey a lifestyle of abundance and immaculate taste, which, ironically, describes their target customers. Merely looking at the images hits that little switch in viewers that reminds them, “That is how I want to see myself.”
A third example of a major corporation that uses Instagram to its advantage – Lowe’s – might seem to have little in common with the other two. But if you look at their images, you’ll see projected a sense of style, the same way Ralph Lauren shows its colors with images.
Now it’s your turn to raise brand awareness and show off your company’s creative side. All it takes is 7 easy steps to get started on Instagram – what are you waiting for!?