LET’S GET SOCIAL: HOW TO USE INSTAGRAM TO GROW YOUR BIZ
Social Media. These days it’s about so much more than sharing photos with family, tracking down old school mates and long lost cousins or keeping tabs on your favourite celebrities.
It’s now one of the most powerful ways to market your biz by sharing your brand identity, connecting with your consumers and showcasing your products and services.
It harnesses the power of virtual word-of-mouth.
This month, we’re running an article series called ‘Let’s Get Social’, where we’ve picked the brains of some of the most experienced and knowledgeable Social Media and Digital Marketing gurus to offer you, our tribe, some brilliant insights, tips and step-by-step guides to help you leverage and get the most from different social media channels. We’ll also be offering some food for thought around building your list and creating email opt-ins that pack a real punch.
Today, it’s all about how you can harness the power of Instagram to ramp up your biz. Don’t forget to download our Instagram checklist at the end!
INSTAGRAM: WHAT IS IT?
Instagram is a photo-sharing app and social network that, according to the platform itself, is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.
“Snap a photo or video with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”
Unlike, say, Facebook or Twitter where you can post text updates and statuses, Instagram is completely photo and video centric — a functionality that has the power to inspire a lot of creativity.
And while it was built to allow people to experience moments in their friends’ lives through polaroid-type pictures as they happen, businesses and brands have quickly jumped on the Instagram train to use it as an “avenue for rich, visual storytelling.”
You can showcase not only your products, but the process of how they are made and how they can be used in real life.
You can share behind-the-scenes footage and other images that capture and communicate the essence of your brand and its values.
Instagram can speak volumes about your business and in turn, create a stronger, more human connection with your followers.
Regardless of whether you’re hoping to increase awareness, shift perception or reach a new audience, this platform offers a number of key benefits.
Here are just some of the ways you can be strategic with Instagram and make it work wonders for your biz or brand:
THE BEST BITS
Social Media gurus and whiz kids Bec Jerdan, from The Art of Social; and Chloe Waugh, from Social Media Creative, both believe that when it comes to businesses and brands using Instagram as a platform to reach and engage more customers, the following stats speak for themselves:
– Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform, with 300 million active users (surpassing Twitter)
– Each day, more than 70 million photos and videos are shared —receiving more than 2.5 billion ‘Likes’ every 24 hours.
“It is also reported that Instagram users are 58 times more likely to like, comment or share a brand’s post than Facebook users, and 120 times more likely than Twitter users,” Bec says.
What does this mean for business?
“Instagram allows you to reach an incredibly large audience that wants to engage. If you can create content that connects with your ideal target audience, they will engage with you.”
Chloe also believes that through Instagram, businesses can focus on relating to their potential customers and sell a “lifestyle” — rather than a product — using creative and engaging content that will grow not only a following, but generate sales.
“This platform is an exciting and effective way to make those important human connections with followers and customers, plus create brand awareness with subtle and regular promotion,” she says.
Get your ‘hashtag’ on
So, you’ve got an audience that wants to engage and is actively seeking out new posts to like or share. How do you get your content in front of this audience?
As with most social networking platforms, there’s an abundance of opportunities offered by Instagram that can help to grow a business.
According to Bec Jerdan, adding hashtags to your photos and videos on Instagram is perhaps the single best way to get your photos and videos viewed.
“When used correctly, hashtags can help you reach new viewers, followers and potential customers,” she says.
“I’m not talking random, popular hashtags like #love, #fun or #happy — I’m talking about targeted hashtags specific to your industry, business, brand or post.”
Hashtags can help your photos reach a larger audience via Instagram search, as people can find your pictures without even having to follow you.
A simple way to determine which tags might be most relevant for your image is to do a hashtag search of the words you had in mind. This will help you gauge the popularity of a hashtag and how your photo will fit in.
Hashtags can also be useful in generating and organising content in an Instagram marketing or branding campaign, by encouraging your followers to submit photos that are tagged with your biz’s chosen hashtag.
Lorna Jane is a brilliant example of creating a steady stream of user-generated content (in the form of hundreds of thousands of health, wellbeing and fitness-inspired images) via its #movenourishbelieve and #mnb hashtags.
How many hashtags is too many?
This is a debatable topic. Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, however using all of these puts you at risk of clogging up your comments and taking the shine off your carefully-composed caption.
Many experts suggesting sticking to a maximum of five hashtags, as it allows you to cover off your more relevant key words/search terms while keeping your caption clean and readable.
Beyond hashtags, Chloe shares her top four points to keep in mind when it comes to capitalising on the many key business opportunities offered by Instagram:
This means reaching potential and existing customers, readers and clients on a more personal level, which will turn them into ambassadors of your brand. Do this by liking and commenting on your followers’ posts, thanking them for their comments on your posts and responding to their questions in a timely manner.
You can promote your products and services in a friendly and not overly pushy way. Give your audience ideas and inspiration for using your products, or share with them quotes or images that relate to how they might feel after using your services.
There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate with individuals and brands to grow your own brand’s following and align yourself (or your business) with appropriate and inspiring social influencers.
Be sure to have a clickable link in your bio. This is your only opportunity to give your viewers a chance to visit your website or sales page. Also, make sure you are leaving your followers with a simple call to action when you post. Something like, ‘Click the link in our bio for more information.’
Here are some more Instagram opportunities you can leverage for your business:
Link to Facebook
Each time you post on Instagram, you can choose to also share the image on your Facebook profile, which allows you to reach an even wider audience and let people who don’t know you’re on Instagram to find you there.
Hold a photo competition to promote a new product or celebrate a new launch or announcement. Ask users to comment on your photo, share it, tag a certain number of friends or even share their own photo with your chosen brand hashtag. You can again use your brand hashtag to organise competition submissions.
Of course in order to monitor the effectiveness of your Instagram social media strategy and keep tab of your metrics, it’s crucial to have analytics in place. There are a number of services that provide Instagram analytics, however Iconosquare is one of our favourites. Among other things, it allows you to track your follower growth, top followers, photo engagement and post history.
BEFORE YOU START
As tempting as it is to get snap happy or get lost in all of the pretty things, it’s wise to get clear on your social media objectives and the purpose of every single image, before you share anything with your Instagram tribe.
“Like most things, without clarity and purpose it is easy to drift around and not achieve the results you are hoping for,” Chloe says.
“I suggest establishing the reasons behind why you are using the platform and what you hope to achieve:
“Is it all about having a large, active community of followers?
“Is it about driving traffic and increasing sales on your website?
“Or, it could be to make sure you are meeting your customer’s needs by answering questions or providing style advice.”
Chloe also recommends regularly revisiting your Instagram strategy — whether it’s every month, every six months or once a year — to review, analyse and define your objectives and targets.
HOW TO CREATE CONTENT THAT OFFERS VALUE AND DRIVES HIGH ENGAGEMENT
Once you’ve honed in on your vision for Instagram and established some clear goals and objectives, it’s time to have some fun with those powerful little squares and create content that has your tribe in a frenzy of double-tapping and scrolling for more.
“(Instagram) is not just about taking beautiful photos,” Bec says.
“It’s about understanding your ideal target consumer and your brand positioning in order to create content that connects. Before you post, ask yourself the following questions.”
Is it relevant and authentic?
Does this post add to my brand story, or detract from it? Is it authentic to my brand values?
Is it visually appealing?
Quality over quantity —take the time to think about your image composition and editing.
Is it consistent?
Don’t disappear for three weeks then post 10 photos in a row. Instead, choose one or two photos a day that represent the now or near future. Take your followers on the journey with you.
Is it adding value?
As a brand, what do you offer your followers?
Inspiration? Motivation? Aspiration? Information?
Does this post meet your brand promise?
Along with high quality photos, Chloe believes another secret to creating hard-hitting content that turns heads in the direction of your brand is this:
“Do not post to promote and sell a product or service, but rather, post to share an insight into the lifestyle that is possible when your product or service is purchased,” she says.
“I would then suggest ensuring that everything you post aligns well with your brand and that you always consider the overall aesthetic of your profile as a whole.”
This can be achieved by creating a social mood board for your brand and establishing a writing style guide.
“A mood board involves gathering images and quotes that really align with your brand and begin to form the overall ‘look and feel’ of what you want to portray to your audience,” she says.
Similarly, a writing style guide sets the tone for a consistent voice to be used throughout all post captions, comments and responses to follower questions.
Instagram also offers some other simple tips for sharing your brand with the world, here.
In addition to lacking a goal-driven strategy, inconsistent posting, misusing hashtags, overselling, purchasing followers and failing to engage with the very people that follow them; one of the biggest mistakes businesses make when using Instagram is blurring the line between personal and biz photos and sharing images that don’t align with their brand.
Done well, Chloe says there’s a big advantage to mixing your lifestyle and personal brand with your business on Instagram, but the key is ensuring each post is aligned with your overall goals and aesthetic.
“If you are running a business focused on health or wellness, stick to that,” Chloe says.
“I see brands doing this and then posting nights out with friends drinking wine and sharing pixelated, dark photos. This does nothing for the growth of your business.”
We’ve created a simple but helpful checklist to help you make sure you’re making the most of Instagram for your biz. Download it below!
Bec Jerdan is the social media strategist and coach behind The Art of Social. A former marketing manager, Bec now draws on her extensive industry experience to empower people with the knowledge, tools and motivation to expand their brand and business online. Passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses, her blog provides simple tips and how-to steps and she offers 1-on-1 coaching and group workshops.
You can join one of Bec’s upcoming workshops to learn the art of social media and grow your passion, product or profile online. If you’re ready to reach and connect with your tribe, you’ll be able to discover your content, create beautiful images and identify ways to grow your online community. Find Bec on Instagram for more details.
ABOUT CHLOE WAUGH
Chloe’ Waugh is a social media strategist, manager and coach who has gained a reputation as being efficient, creative and easy to work with. Chloe’s passion for social media really blossomed after the birth of her son, and it has naturally developed into her profession over time. She is now founder of Social Media Creative and has developed several different packages and resources to help others boom online.
Chloe’s upcoming Instagram workshop in Melbourne on September 12, which focuses on photography, branding and aesthetics, is suitable for both experienced and beginner Instagram users and will cover the basics of networking and growing a following on Instagram. Find out more about this amazing workshop and purchase tickets here.