Which social media platform has over 700 million active users, 50% of which follow a business, and 60% who say they learn about a product or service there? (1) (2)
If you guessed “Instagram”, you’d be correct. It is in the name of this blog, so I’d be surprised if you didn’t!!
When businesses come to us in need of social media management, Facebook and Twitter get mentioned the most. LinkedIn more and more too, now that new-ish owners Microsoft have upped their game. Instagram doesn’t come up that often, and when it does we’re always the ones gushing about its benefits. In fact, we’ve been making a push lately to encourage more of our clients to join Instagram. Here are some reasons to consider incorporating Instagram into your social media strategy. Or, if you already have signed up, how to make the most of your account.
Playing in the big leagues
Okay, so as of August 2017 Facebook has over 2 billion users. YouTube – the world’s second largest search engine – has 1.5 billion. In the ranking of social media networks, Instagram comes a strong third with 700 million. In Summer 2016, Instagram had 400 million users – a massive recent explosion. Now consider Twitter… lagging way behind on 328 million. Those statistics alone might make many seriously think about using Instagram for business. (1)
And Instagram is not just popular with the casual user. More than a million advertisers have cottoned on to the fact that Instagram presents a great opportunity to connect with a large audience of potential customers. (3)
Visual and interactive marketing
Why does Instagram work so well for many businesses*? Firstly, it’s a highly visual platform. Looking at Instagram’s big sister, Facebook, we all know that images and videos consistently outperform articles and links in terms of reach and engagement.
Secondly, Instagram provides a great way for businesses to stay in touch with their users. Whether it’s through direct messages, commenting on posts, or through Instagram Stories, Instagram has a creative, human feel to it that other platforms can’t really match.
* I say “many” businesses, because there will always be exceptions. Most business categories, however, can find engaging visual content to push out. It’s all about being inventive.
No boring content allowed
You post pictures and videos on Instagram by capturing them on your phone or uploading from your image gallery. Although there is a basic desktop version, Instagram is all about the mobile. After editing or adding filters, you can then upload your content, accompanied by a relevant or fun caption.
I stress fun because that is, on balance, the tone of Instagram. Its users are most likely surfing the app in their free time for enjoyment, and aren’t looking to be bombarded with sales-related posts and corporate jargon.
You don’t have to be constantly cracking jokes but people respond better to business accounts that act like they are managed by a real human, not a committee of marketers. Your caption should contribute to the focus of your post, not detract.
You can’t schedule on Instagram yet (although there are some websites out there that can do it but probably means a manual process their end) and you can’t post from a desktop. This all encourages a fresh, off-the-cuff and mobile-centric use of the platform. When you’re thinking of what to upload, bear in mind that content with faces in it gets 38% more ‘likes’. (4) People like to see people.
Oh, and stock photos won’t perform well compared to an original image. A high quality image, mind. I have seen business Instagram accounts full of badly lit, grainy snapshots. You may get likes from fake accounts or spammers, but a genuine audience won’t want poor pictures (or bought ones) appearing in their feed. You need to give them a good reason to follow you.
The controversy of links
Anyone who knows their stuff will tell you Instagram doesn’t support clickable weblinks in captions. It only allows for one, which is hosted in your bio. Yet we still see people use them! They can’t link through to anything, and you can’t copy the URL either. So unless someone is going to memorise your link URL and manually type it into their browser (would you?), you’ve made your business look a bit bad.
Choose one weblink you’d like to direct people to – perhaps a current offer or enquiry form – and pop it into your account bio. This helps people focus in and will drive traffic through to it. You can of course change your bio link as many times as you want.
As a personal user of Instagram, this is one of the reasons why I love the platform. Compared to the busy newsfeeds of Facebook and Twitter, which constantly scream links at you, Instagram is refreshingly quiet and zen.
Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement. (5) They are an important part of discovery on Instagram, allowing your business to gain exposure to target audiences and specific areas of interest. They don’t drive huge engagement, but they are an organic way for people to find your branded content.
Although Instagram limits hashtagging to 30 tags per post, you certainly don’t need to use anywhere near that many to be effective. Deploying two or three clever, niche hashtags looks a lot better than filling up your caption with #gym #fit #fitness #exercise #weights #workout #health #muscle #sweat, etc…
If you start typing in a hashtag, Instagram will even show you what hashtags could be worth using and how many times that hashtag has been used. You want one that is popular, i.e. people are looking for it, but not one that has been used millions of times – otherwise yours will just get lost.
Location, location, location
As well as hashtags, tagging your location is another way to get found by new users. Posts tagged with a location receive 79% higher engagement, but bear in mind that some of the most successful companies on Instagram don’t consistently uses location tags, so don’t feel obliged to. (5)
If you’re out for a business lunch and want the restaurant to get some recognition, or if you’re at a large expo at the NEC and want to engage with the audience interested in the same things as you, consider location tagging.
Instagram Stories were introduced in August 2016, and have become a large part of businesses’ Instagram strategies. It’s a feature which lets you share snapshots and little videos of your day in a slideshow format, which all your followers can then watch. This feature directly takes on Snapchat and, as a result, Snapchat has suffered hugely. This is the power that the Facebok family has.
Instagram is smart enough to not let you upload pictures from your camera’s photo gallery that have a timestamp of longer than 24 hours ago, so it’s really got to be new, immediate content.
The great part about Instagram Stories is they can be totally casual. Again, this won’t suit every business type but you can add text, stickers and drawings to whatever you capture. The more creative, the better. Stories vanish after 24 hours anyway, so it’s not about perfectly crafted content. It’s a way of letting your customers into your world, and giving them a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the business (how much they see is controlled by you, of course).
This means you need to be where the action is (in the office, out on business, networking) and snap-happy to make Instagram Stories work for you. You have to be certain you will be sharing content regularly throughout the day.
If you think you’ll struggle to research and post at least two or three times a week, Instagram might not be the right avenue for you. Alternatively, you could of course bring in the services of a trusted social media manager….😬 To find out more about how your business may benefit from Instagram, please fill in the form below free and without obligation .
Otherwise, using Instagram for your business can be broken down to:
- post original pictures and videos
- use fun captions
- use niche hashtags
- go easy on the sales pitch
Enquire about Instagram management
(1) Most famous social network sites worldwide as of August 2017, ranked by number of active users (in millions) (2017) Statista. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/ [Accessed 19th September 2017]
(2) Hitting 500,000 advertisers (2016) Instagram. Available from: https://business.instagram.com/blog/500000-advertisers/ [Accessed 19th September 2017]
(3) Peterson, T. (2017) Instagram now has more than 1M advertisers, doubling in past 6 months – Marketing Land. Available from: https://marketingland.com/instagrams-1-million-advertisers-209882 [Accessed 19th September 2017]
(4) Mendenhall, N. (2017) 10 Instagram Statistics to Keep in Mind When Planning Your 2018 Strategy – Social Media Today. Available from: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/10-instagram-statistics-keep-mind-when-planning-your-2018-strategy [Accessed 19th September 2017]
(5) Simply Measured Q3 2014 – a Instagram Study. Available from: http://get.simplymeasured.com/rs/simplymeasured2/images/InstagramStudy2014Q3.pdf?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRolua%252FAZKXonjHpfsX57%252BwtX6a2lMI%252F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4CTsViI%252BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFQrDEMal41bgNWRM%253D [Accessed 19th September 2017]