Woman using Instagram app on Apple's iPhone 6
Aug 11, 2017

How To Use Instagram For Your Business

It’s no surprise that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are an important part of a business marketing plan, however many businesses overlook the important role Instagram plays in that marketing plan.

Instagram app on Apple iPhone 5

Why is Instagram so important? It all has to do with the increased use of mobile media and Millennials preferred use of platforms like Instagram over Facebook or Twitter. Also, according to a study done by Forrester Research, Instagram users are 58% more likely to like, comment, and share a company’s post than a Facebook user and 120 times more likely than Twitter users. Those are some pretty impressive statistics and a really solid reason to add Instagram to your business social media plan.

So now that you’re convinced of the importance of using Instagram in your social media efforts, let’s go over some tips for making the best of your Instagram presence.

Picture Quality

Instagram is a picture-based social media platform so it is really important that your images are formatted and optimized properly to get the best response. How do you do this? Here are some tips:

  • Squares are the best way to go. However, if you use a non-square photo Instagram will ask you to crop it in order to fit the feed view, but when you click on it the entire photo will still show up.
  • 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels. In order to get the best quality, it is suggested that you try to aim for 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels.
  • Use natural light when possible. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the person or object is that you’re taking a photo of, if the lighting is bad that beauty will have a hard time showing up. Natural light is always better if possible. If you’re photographing something outside, then the best times of day to shoot are early morning, late afternoon, and overcast days.
  • Take the time to find the best shot before taking the picture. It’s always best to study the object or person you’re trying to photograph in order to find the best angle, and don’t be afraid to shoot from several different angles. A lot of times it’s the unexpected angle that creates the best shot. Sometimes just a little change of perspective will make an ordinary photograph extraordinary.
  • Embrace white space. White space gives your photographs and your Instagram feed room to breathe. It creates a professional feel and brings attention to the object or person you’re trying to highlight. So don’t try to fill your whole photograph up with visual stimulation, stay focused on the object you want to highlight and then leave the rest of the space open.
  • Be picky about what you post. It’s tempting to want to post as many photos as you possibly can, because we’re all told that the more you post the better with social media. However, with Instagram the aim should be to have the best quality of photos in your feed, not the most photos in your feed. Be really picky about what you post there. Make sure the photo is exceptional and it really tells the story that you’re trying to tell.

Hashtags, Tagging, and Gathering Followers

Hashtags and tagging are great ways to not only categorize and organize your posts, but it is also a great way to spread the message about your product and your company. Hashtags help you get a wider audience and pick up new followers. When you use a hashtag it makes that photograph more discover-able by other people who are looking for that thing but may not know you or your brand. For example, if your company sells bikes then using the hashtags #bikes, #Trek, or #bikefreedom will categorize that photo and now anyone who is searching those hashtags will see your post and have the opportunity to follow you too.

Tagging is similar to hashtags in that it helps you to get a wider audience and pick up followers but it does so by tagging particular people, brands, or companies and through that use of tagging your company can pick up the followers of those people, brands, or companies too. So in the bike example above, we used the hashtags #bikes, #Trek, and #bikefreedom. Trek is the name of a bike manufacturer so you want to tag that company in your post too by searching for their tag on Instagram and adding it to the photo like this @Trekbikes.

Here are some tips for using Hashtags and Tagging:

  • Search for popular hashtags and brands. Find out what the most popular hashtags are and find a way to incorporate those into your postings too. When a hashtag is popular it means a lot of people are using it which means if you use it too there’s potential for those people to start following and interacting with your company brand as well.
  • Don’t use too many hashtags and tags. It is best to use no more than 3 to 5 hashtags per post. You want to use just enough to be effective but if you fill your captions or comments with lists of hashtags and tags it clutters your image. It may also have the opposite effect you are looking for in that instead of gathering more followers it could push them away. They may think that you are not sincere and just fishing for followers which makes you look desperate. That is not the image you want to go for in your marketing.
  • Use relevant hashtags and tags. Always make sure the hashtags and tags you use are relevant. Again, filling your post with irrelevant hashtags and tags makes your company and brand look desperate, plus it will bring in followers that are not relevant to your brand. Remember, more is not always better.
  • Create your own hashtags. Creating hashtags that are relevant and unique to your brand and customers is a great way to stake your claim in the hashtag world. Just make sure they are relevant and be consistent with using them. For example, if you are a bike company and you are promoting the freedom that bikes create then using the hashtag #bikefreedom might be one that you use frequently.

Generating Activity & Conversation

There are many ways to generate activity and conversation on your posts, however here are a few basic rules to follow:

  • Time of Day. This is something you will need to experiment with to see what time of day generates the most activity and conversation on your posts. However, there are some commonsense ways of estimating when the best time to post are for your company. For example, if your demographic customer works really early in the morning but gets off at noon then it is probably a good guess that the best time to post something aimed at them is after 12 in the afternoon. They are not likely to be on their social media before they go to work, but more than likely once they get off work they will be relaxing and seeing what you have to offer them.
  • Create contests. A great way to get your followers to become active and engage with your brand is to create a contest complete with unique hashtag and ask your followers to take part in it. An example would be having a photo contest with the tag #ShowYourBikeFreedom and asking your followers to post their bike photos that they feel best embraces the freedom a bike creates for them. Then ask them to post that photo with the hashtag #ShowYourBikeFreedom.
  • Post frequently. Start by posting 1-2 posts per day and be consistent. It is best to space your posts out too. How many times you post per day is something you need to test to see what frequency gets the best post engagement. You can do this by posting 1-2 times per day for a month and seeing how much post engagement you get. Then the next month post 2-3 times a day, steadily increasing until you notice that engagement is going down. Basically what you want to find out is what frequency of posting gets the most engagement for you. This will be unique to you and your brand. However, once you find that sweet spot you will start to see post activity and conversation skyrocket.
  • Respond to ALL comments.  When a person comments on your post it means it moved them in some way. You should always respond to their comments as best you can in order to create a conversation between your brand and your followers. This gives a sense of belonging and that you care about what they have to say. Be sincere, kind, and engaged with them and you will have loyal raving fan followers.
  • Leave comments on some of your power-user’s posts. These are people who are always liking your posts. Engage them and keep them coming back to your posts.

Making Sales

  • Link in bio. One of the best ways to increase your company’s sales is to post a link in your Instagram account’s bio section that leads to your home or product page. You may want to update this link from time to time so that it features a sale or specific item that you want to highlight. Keep in mind that if you are highlighting a specific item or sale that you update the link to go back to your home or product page once that sale or item is no longer being featured.

Instagram Stories & Video

Instagram stories are videos that only last 24 hours on your Instagram feed. After that they are gone. These types of posts are really great for creating scarcity and urgency with your followers as well as excitement for what you have to offer. There are several ways to utilize these stories as well as traditional short video posts for your business.

  • Deliver specials. Create a short Instagram story that delivers a limited time special offer and have the offer direct them to the link in your bio. Once they click on the link it should take them to your webpage where it explains to them how to take advantage of this special offer.
  • Give your followers a sneak peek or show off a product. A great way to use Instagram stories and video is to create one that gives your followers a sneak peek of an item or service that is coming soon or to show off/highlight a product or service that you now sell.
  • Create a behind the scenes view of your business. Showing your followers how your company works and who your employees are is a great way to share with them and create a sense of community and trust.

With these tips and a bit of creativity and planning, Instagram can be a viable and consistent way to increase your business’ brand awareness, website traffic, and finally sales. So what are you waiting for? Your customers are looking for you.

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