How to Leverage Instagram for your Business
By Karen Geier
Since the dawn of smartphones, people have been sharing their photos online. First, it was in galleries on Flickr. After that, it was on Facebook. And then, about four years ago, an upstart company fundamentally changed the way we share photos, and now Instagram has become the #4 social networking site in the world.
Should Your Company Be On Instagram?
While it’s true you can now see many more companies on Instagram than ever before, it’s important to know why a company would be suited to the platform. Companies that excel at Instagram have the following factors in common:
- A strong visual component to their brand. Instagram is about the look. While you can caption your photo, no one will read 200 words under your image. For example, does your company make baby clothes or dog collars? If so, think photos of babies, animals, and fun.
- A lifestyle connection to their brand. Is your brand associated with food, wine or travel? These are experiences people want to live through vicariously.
- A team of people to take, edit, upload and caption photos for the Instagram feed, and update it regularly.
If your company doesn’t fit that mold, you could still make Instagram work, but you will have to be creative. Taking followers behind the scenes of your company to show how your products are made or your services work is an interesting way to set up your feed.
How to Get Started With Instagram
Visiting instagram.com and downloading the app is the first step. Once you’ve downloaded the app, select a username that is either your company name, a company alias that is popular, or an acronym of your company’s name. This ensures discoverability when you begin posting.
Plan Your Success
Before you begin it’s important to assemble the team responsible for your Instagram account and plan out the visual style, posting frequency, and post types you want to convey. In a spreadsheet, make 3 columns:
- Posts About Our Brand
- Posts About Us
This will ensure that you focus on what’s important to your brand and potential followers. The goal is to open your brand’s story to customers so they have a connection to you every day. The inspiration section can help you think of the basic elements that connect people to your brand (Starbucks often posts seasonal images when they are ushering in new products, for instance.)
Posts About Our Brand are the obvious points you want to cover: product launches, interviews with the CEO, media hits, new store openings, etc. are all good uses of this pillar.
In Posts About Us you want to think about how to bring the inner workings of your company and the people who facilitate them into the story. Maybe it’s showing a mannequin being dressed in a window by your staff. Maybe it’s behind the scenes at an event or media interview. Paul Smith often takes brands with him when he does business trips, by posting from cafés and side streets in cities he’s visiting.
You need to determine your posting frequency, but you should strive to post 3-5 times a week for optimal follower activity.
Following Other Accounts
Once you’ve settled on your publishing plan, it’s time to follow other accounts so you can begin to like and comment on their activity. To find out who to follow, look for users who post regularly with tags germane to your brand.
Getting others to Follow You
In order to get followers, you need to do two things:
- Tag all of your content well, and make sure your existing fans/followers/users know you’re now on Instagram.
- Tag your photos with at least three descriptive tags. Users often search the same tags every day, and will discover your content that way and begin to follow you.
Make sure your website, e-mail campaigns, Twitter, Facebook, etc. all notify your fans that you are now on Instagram. This will ensure that you gain qualified followers quickly.
Campaigns Using Instagram
The most successful campaigns using Instagram are tagging campaigns. Randomly rewarding users for using a brand-specific hashtag is a great way to get started. Holding photo contests can also be a great way to bridge your social media. Assemble a short list of semi-finalists from Instagram, and allow Facebook and Twitter to vote on the best photo.
You can also have people guess what your Instagram is, or award a prize for the person who submits the best caption. Every day, you can post a strange photo, ensuring regular traffic back to your feed.
It’s easy to get started with Instagram, and with a little bit of planning and careful tagging, you can build a new audience on this highly visual platform.