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Five Ways Small Business can Use Instagram

Social media has opened a world of opportunity for small business—used correctly, this type of internet marketing is a cost efficient way to reach customers. For all social media has to offer, one channel is not being used to its full potential: Instagram. With 300 million monthly users, using Instagram makes sense.

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Social media has opened a world of opportunity for small business—used correctly, this type of internet marketing is a cost efficient way to reach customers. For all social media has to offer, one channel is not being used to its full potential: Instagram. With 300 million monthly users, using Instagram makes sense.

Instagram is different than all other social media sites because it is not text or driven. Instead, its focus is photographs marked mainly with short hash tags.

Because it’s photo driven, you can’t use it the same way you use Facebook or Twitter. But that shouldn’t stop you!

What’s great is that it is permission based—which means people want you to follow their feed. It may take more time to build your audience, but that audience is high quality. What this means in practice is that you have to work to foster a more organic relationship with your potential followers.

It is the unique nature of Instagram that means some businesses see better results than others. Instagram has a younger demographic—35% of the user base is aged 24 to 34. Because of that, it’s great for social businesses like restaurants, clubs, and concert venues. Since images aren’t linked to a website, they’re more suited to products or places that have a visual or ‘real life’ quality, so businesses that rely on offline conversions could really benefit. Instagram is also great for things that are popular with the lifestyle category, like travel, apparel, outdoor items and anything entertainment related. If you have a venue or a product that can pop with photos, you have a business that will do well on Instagram.

If you think Instagram is right for your business, here are 5 tips for creating and maintaining a strong Instagram presence.

#1 – Create a memorable profile that’s consistent with your brand

People are 60% more likely to buy from a brand they know. That means you need to create and adhere to a consistent identity, so you will become one of the brands they remember. Your Instagram profile should be in line with your brand’s existing style.

Instagram is an informal site, so don’t be too corporate. It’s ok to post more personal or ‘human’ pictures that establish your brand’s personality. Your pictures should not all be about your product or your location; they should show people, places and things that reflect your brand. A clothing company might have one of their staff members testing their new line of jeans, rather than just using a model to advertise them. Or a picture of your Executive Chef creating a new dish. It’s about creating a friendly presence that connects with your customers.

Of course, photos should be in focus and clean looking, but they don’t have to be perfect, publicity shots. They should just portray the brand in a more casual way. Above all, the overall theme should be consistent across multiple social media platforms so your brand is instantly recognizable.

#2 – Be findable

Like Twitter, Instagram is a hashtag driven platform (although Instgram has 20 million more users than Twitter). That’s why it’s important to categorize all posts with relevant hashtags. Think about what potential customers will be searching for when looking for companies like yours. While Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, 5 is a better number. Using too many will make your post appear spammy, which instantly makes you look too commercial. With hashtags, it’s quality over quantity. You can also use a mix of serious and funny hashtags with Instagram, or even define your own ‘branded’ hashtag relevant to an event or campaign. The goal is to display your personality and create relevance. Only use popular hashtags like #instagood or #selfie if you’re interested in targeting quantity over quality with your audience.

Make sure all your other social media channels are connected to your Instagram account. This is another great way for customers to find you and follow your stream. It will also allow you to auto post to Twitter and Facebook, making it easy to update all your three sites at once and grow your followers.

#3 – Create sharable content that builds relationships

Your relationships on Instagram are going to be driven by interaction from the community. Always respond to comments and attempt to do it quickly, ideally within 24 hours. Generic ‘thank you for your comment’ responses sometimes are just as bad as not commenting at all, so be sure to show a personality with your responses.

You also need to understand the psychology behind getting comments and shares on your posts. People will generally spend only 15 seconds on one profile, but there are things you can do to make them stay longer. Quirky and fun images, comical slogans, and good hashtags will get your content shares.

Another handy tip to make your images more engaging is to skew the subject of your picture off center, instead of dead on. By doing this, you make the viewer move their eyes and explore the picture, forcing them to stay on the photo longer. This is called the Rule of Thirds and it’s been used since the Renaissance.

Colors play a large part in how a product and brand is perceived. The color needs to follow the personality the company is trying to maintain. While banks and financial companies might choose blue to show their trustworthiness, an exotic vacation company might go with yellow in order to appear bold and adventurous.

All of this psychology comes into play on Instagram. Using blue generates 24% more likes than using red. Images with one single dominant color gain 15% more engagement than those with multiple dominant colors. Brands should experiment with various colors and photos in order to find ones that generate the most interaction from their target customers.

#4 – Push traffic in the right direction

Like with any marketing, you need to know your goal with Instagram. What you want to do with the traffic you get will determine the success of your overall campaign. If you’re looking for purchases at a physical location, it’s about making your profile and posts as location based as possible, so you can gain exposure with people who are on the go. If you’re primarily online, then increasing your brand’s audience is the key to getting them on your website and buying your products.

Are you a primarily bricks and mortar business, more focused on trying to get in-store visits? Instagram is primarily a mobile app, so people are very likely to be browsing your feed while they’re already on the go. To capitalize on this local traffic, tagging posts to locations with offers and promotions that people can redeem in-store is a great way to engage them. It’s good to put an expiration date on location-based offers to create a sense of urgency.

Are you trying to increase online brand recognition and gain brand followers? If that’s the case, it’s all about getting people to interact on your page. Allow your visitors to add photos of themselves with your product or at one of your locations. You can boost this type of engagement by incentivizing interaction with things like a photo or caption competition.

Video is another great way to interact with followers—they are nearly twice as popular as other media. Instagram allows people to post short clip videos lasting 3 to 15 seconds, and that can be a good way to get endorsements from popular reviewers. Reach out to bloggers in your industry and encourage them to review your business. When they upload a mini review to your stream, you’ll boost user engagement and interaction. And you’ll be exposed to that reviewer’s fan following, further expanding your audience.

#5 – Follow through

It’s important to maintain your followers. Responds to comments, questions, and especially complaints quickly. Always continue to interact with customers and reach out to reviewers—you can’t post a few pictures and call it a day. Creating brand advocates is an ongoing, but ultimately an incredibly rewarding, process. Authenticity is the name of the game, and by creating a consistent and highly engaged online personality you’ll be seen as a brand that really connects with their customers.

Maintaining an Instagram profile is more spontaneous than Facebook or Twitter. Don’t be afraid to make your Instagram feed more informal and ‘of the moment’. But do make sure you limit your posts to a maximum of 3 or 4 a day, and don’t use your feed like a ‘status’ update tool.

Instagram, with its huge pool of users and high potential for conversion, is a great resource for small businesses looking to increase brand awareness and profits. It’s easy to learn, easy to use and an informal channel to connect with your potential customers. Most of all, have fun with Instagram. Your customers will love you for it.