Three hundred million users are uploading over 70 million photos each day on Instagram. With more than 200 million monthly active accounts (65% are based outside the U.S.), Instagram’s global audience combines visual imagery with likes, comments, and hashtags to fuel powerful conversations. (Instagram) Have you dismissed Instagram as a teenager’s trend, not worthy of your time or attention? I hope the above stats cause you to think again.
Instagram has been slow in adopting paid advertising for business accounts, despite its parent company being Facebook. Instead of jumping in and fixing kinks as they occur, Instagram decided to work with current ad partners and the Instagram community to trial paid advertising. Instagram isn’t accepting new ad partners right now, but they are starting to roll out tools for businesses to measure data. (Instagram) Their Business Tools Suite, listed below, will be available only for marketers who purchase ads.
- Account Insights-track impressions, reach, and engagement on organic content.
- Ad Insights-offers analytics on paid campaigns, measuring effectiveness through impressions, reach, and frequency.
- Ad staging-allows individual members of a team to collaborate on ad creativity for upcoming campaigns right in Instagram.
In the mean time, since there are currently no paid advertising options to increase your reach on Instagram, you’ll have to rely on your creativity and authenticity to attract followers and convert customers. Instagram’s focus on purely visual content may pose a challenge for some businesses, but with the right balance of relevance, style, and creative expression, you can take advantage of this unique opportunity to tell your brand’s story and humanize your business.
- Decide who you are as a brand. Finding your brand’s personality is the first step to successfully conveying that image on Instagram. It can also help determine the best strategies and styles to make your visual voice resonate with your audience.
- Create a unique, engaging visual experience to inspire a positive response. Social sharing is about conversation, not sales. Instead of just promoting your product or service, try to discover common ground between what’s meaningful to your brand and interesting to your followers.
- Give your Instagram followers every chance to contribute. User-generated content creates images and testimonies that you can reuse, and also strengthens follower relationships by making each person an active, valuable part of your brand. So, ask questions, respond to questions and comments, hold contests, and be sure to recognize your best and most loyal followers.
- Showcase your best work. Create a portfolio of everything your business has to offer. You can also feature employees, clients, or partners to display the skills and expertise that make your business great.
- Measure your success. Find out if your Instagram activities are successfully engaging your target audiences by looking at your metrics. You can also check out some great free tools like IconoSquare, Totem (formerly Nitrogram), and SimplyMeasured’s Free Instagram User Report.
After you’ve decided who you are as a brand-your voice, your style, your presentation strategies-do some research into what your followers find interesting and decide how you can use that information to promote your brand in a way that’s meaningful and engaging to grab the attention of your audience and other Instagrammers. What are your goals? Do you want to reach a new audience, gain brand awareness, or increase your visibility? Instagram has several features to help.
- People tab-found on the Explore page, this feature highlights interesting accounts to follow. Discover other businesses in your industry and see what they’re presenting. Research into Instagram’s high-rollers and take cues from images and videos their creative teams produce; see if you can adapt some of their strategies for your brand.
- Verified badges-these are Instagram’s stamp of approval, to ensure the authenticity of the brand you’re following. No posers here. In fact, Instagram participates in an ongoing removal of spammy accounts to improve the experience of its users. (Instagram)
- Themes-discover what’s trending and create strong visual content tying your brand/product/service to the theme in relevant, creative ways. For brand recognition, find a consistent look that works for you. Whether you use the same filter, the same subject, or the same background, pick something that says “this is my brand” in your posts-then play around with the other elements of your content to keep things fresh.
- #Hashtags-we’re all familiar with what the pound sign has become since the advent of social media, but are you using this powerful feature? Tie your content to themes, make your pictures easier to find, create contests, and organize your content. By using hashtags, you open your content to other circles who enjoy and use those same hashtags-even if they are not already followers of your brand. (SocialMediaExaminer)
Don’t forget about video! With a longer 15 second format, Instagram’s video features provide a fresh, creative way to visually redefine your brand – something essential to staying visible in today’s mobile market.
- Build interest and anticipation. Are you organizing a fundraiser, or planning a spectacular sale? Take advantage of Instagram video to promote special offers, new products, or upcoming events.
- Engage the right audiences. Instagram video opens up a world of opportunity for online interaction. Video-based contests and polls, for example, can help drive traffic and provide a wealth of user-generated content.
- Showcase your business in unexpected ways. Hyperlapse allows you to capture high-quality time lapse videos which you can use to show behind the scenes shots, products in the making, your amazing employees, and more.