There is little doubt of the incredible tool social media can be for engaging with customers and growing a business. For small businesses targeting the 18-35 demographic, overwhelming evidence makes Instagram a must-use platform. The photo and video sharing, social networking service launched as an app and website in 2010 and has been going gangbusters since, with over 300 million active users as of December 2014. According to Business Insider, over 90% of those users are under the age of 35, with many of them coming from affluent homes. These numbers make it impossible to ignore the power of Instagram when trying to get a product or service in front of this young audience. Here are some easy tips for getting started:
Choose a profile name that best associates your business
Many novice social media users think this is the time to be cute, and strive to pick a name that is snappy and fun. But for business, it’s important to keep it professional. Using your business name is most often the best option. When participating with multiple social networking sites, keep the profile name consistent across all. You don’t want four different names on four different sites; that only makes it harder for consumers to remember you! If your preferred name is unavailable on one site, consider picking a name that is available on all. Even if you won’t be posting to the other sites immediately, it can be worth claiming the name for when you plan to.
Take time to learn what similar businesses are doing
English writer Charles Caleb Colton said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” In the case of Instagram, imitation can be the best form of strategy! If your competitors are on Instagram, take note of how successful they are. Do they have a decent follower count with many interactions? If so, then study their profiles, posts and interactions. Pay close attention to the types of images, the descriptive text and hashtags they are using. Also examine the interactions they are having - are they chatty or just polite, do they use emoji? Then step beyond competitors and do the same exercise with other users related to your field, including potential customers. Learn the lay of the land, by studying it!
Start snapping photographs!
Once you have the above groundwork covered, it’s time to consider your smartphone, the camera in particular, among the most valuable tools in your arsenal. Start snapping images whenever you can! Snap photos of work samples, of staff and customers (while also obtaining their permission to post), of your office or storefront, of the local area, etc. No need to limit to one type of image either. For example, even if your business is focused exclusively on cars, it’s still possible to post mood shots, such as pictures of sunsets, rain on the glass, a person entering a restaurant, etc. as these items build to the overall experience a person has with your product or service. Think of what you do as dynamically connecting to a user’s lifestyle, and bridge those connections with the images you post. Just remember one rule – people like pretty and artistic pictures. They’re not sitting on Instagram to see garbage, unless it’s in a stellar photograph!
There are no hard and fast rules about the number of images to post and what days or times that work best, only guidelines. It’s never recommended to post a flurry of images at once, this risks flooding the feed and being unfollowed. Posting 1-3 images over the course of an entire day can be considered optimum for many. Choose times of day that make the best sense for your user, base this on trial and error, paying close attention to when the greatest engagement is had. By example, I’ve managed Instagram accounts that had great success during nights and weekends, while others saw their best results during normal business hours. The peak will vary based on topic of interest and even geography.
Hashtags are something of a lifeblood on Instagram. They enable users to organize and view images based on specific topics of interest. Popular hashtags can easily be identified via tools like Iconosquare. It’s recommended to build them into your descriptive copy in a highly focused manner, without using too many. As a guide, 5 is a decent number to stop at. Any more risks having your posts look like spam. With time, you’ll notice which hashtags work best for your business.
Grow your audience
Share your Instagram profile with your customers and friends! Spread the word. List your profile on your email signature, business cards and other collateral materials. Also share the profile with your other social media posts. If interested in utilizing a tool to grow with, give Crowdfire a shot. It is an inexpensive option that provides visibility and recommendations.
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