What is Instagram?
Instagram is a social media platform that focuses specifically on visual media. Each post has to be either a picture or a video with a 60 second limit. A text caption can accompany these posts, but no text can be posted without posting a picture or video. This separates Instagram from other forms of social media such as Facebook or Twitter. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, and have developed some similarities in each platform (such as live video capabilities).
Why should I use Instagram?
Instagram is somewhat of an outlier in terms of business social media use due to the visual media focus. The posting strategy becomes mostly focused on what kind of pictures your audience responds to. This can be a positive element. It is beneficial to post exclusive content to all social media platforms, and Instagram’s visual media focus helps to push the user in the direction of posting content that differs from Facebook or Twitter. Small business stand to gain from utilizing Instagram because it provides a different type of content to followers than other social media platforms, providing a unique way to solidify a company brand.
Whereas Facebook and Twitter both offer the ability to use their services from a computer, Instagram is purely mobile-based. A user can login to their account on a computer, but can only post from a mobile phone. Smartphones have been widely popular since their creation, and have only seen increasing usage thus far. This trend is expected to continue over the next five years, with the average growth per year expecting to be 11.44 million users (pulled from https://goo.gl/fO3BI3). Instagram has grown its user base to 500 million monthly active users online worldwide, with 67.2 million users in the United States. By 2020, this number is forecasted to grow to 95.1 million United States Instagram users (pulled from https://goo.gl/LMio08).
Essentially, there is a large audience on Instagram, and it is only going to get larger. Not only is the app growing amongst regular users: it is growing amongst businesses. In 2016, roughly 48.8% of brands used Instagram to promote their business. In 2017, this number is projected to increase to 70.7% (pulled from https://goo.gl/P9KfIz). Top brands post an average of 4.9 times a week, and over half of them consistently use the same filter on their pictures to accomplish a running aesthetic (pulled from https://goo.gl/P9KfIz).
Small businesses should use Instagram because:
- It provides an easy way to diversify social media content.
- It is one of the most popular forms of social media, and is continuing to grow on a yearly basis.
- Visual marketing is a powerful tool, and Instagram provides a simple way to utilize it.
- It is an effective method of solidifying or creating a visual brand for your company.
- Use of Instagram tools such as hashtags allow a way to reach out to users who may not even “follow” your page.
What do I need to understand in order to use Instagram in a business capacity?
One of the primary things to understand about Instagram is the vocabulary used by the service. Below is a list of some of the common terms that are encountered when using Instagram.
- Post: An image or video uploaded to Instagram. May contain a caption and tags of other users.
- Username: Name of the account. Sometimes referred to as a ‘handle’.
- Bio: Area reserved for writing a description about your company. Seen below the username on the profile.
- Like: The ‘currency’ of Instagram. A ‘like’ is a sign that another user enjoyed one of your posts.
- Follower: A user who has subscribed to your account, and will receive your posts on their feed.
- Hashtag: The use of the ‘#’ symbol to turn a word into a searchable tag on your post. It works very similarly to hashtags on Twitter, where a user can search for posts that have a specific hashtag, allowing hashtags to be used to contribute to a common conversation or trend.
- Caption: Text that goes below the picture or video in a post. Usually used for an announcement, description of the content in the picture, or to explain something to the viewer.
- Filter: A photo-editing tool that quickly became one of Instagram flagship features. A filter is a preset created from manipulating several aspects of the post (contrast, color balance, exposure, etc.). A filter can be applied with one click, making it easy to turn mundane pictures into more artistic, aesthetically pleasing images.
- Comments: A text response that users can leave on other users’ posts.
- Gallery: A user’s collection of photos that they have posted over the duration of their time on Instagram. The gallery can be accessed by looking at the user’s profile.
- News Feed: The stream of pictures that shows up on the ‘home’ tab of the app. These pictures are comprised of the posts of the pages that the user has followed.
- Explore: The Explore tab is a feature that allows users to discover new content from users that they currently don’t follow. These suggestions are made by assessing what kind of content that user usually enjoys, so that the content in their Explore tab is personally relevant to them.
- Private Profile: A profile that requires users to ‘request’ to follow the account. Their posts cannot be viewed by anybody that they haven’t given follow permission to.
- Public Profile: A profile that does not require users to ‘request’ to follow the account. Their posts can be viewed by anybody looking at their profile, regardless if they follow the account or not.
- Geotag: A location attached to an image, usually associated with where the picture was taken.
Similarly to other forms of social media, one of the most powerful things a user can understand is the target audience and their habits. What kind of content do they engage with? What time are they most likely to engage with a post? The best way to determine these factors is to try a few different options. Try a few different looks and forms of content to determine what goes over well, as well as trying posting at different times of the day.
In order to grow a follower base, a user needs to be intentional about promotion. Including social media handles/usernames on company promotional material is an effective way to promote. Find ways to ensure that your customers can easily find your social media information so that if they enjoy your product, they can keep up with your company. Another effective method of growing a follower base is to use relevant hashtags. Hashtags allow people to search posts by specific terms. If you are posting about a specific thing, use some simple hashtags. This will allow people who are most likely interested in your content to find your page and engage with your posts. Lastly, having an active profile is one of the best ways to get consistent followers. If posts aren’t posted with appropriate frequency and quality, then even if users can find your profile, they are less likely to follow your page.
We have covered a lot of information thus far. How can all of it be used to run a successful Instagram page for your company? This list shows actionable material to keep in mind when running a business Instagram account.
- Interact with followers
- If somebody comments on your picture with a question, reply with an answer.
- Host an Instagram contest. For more details, see here: https://goo.gl/NKtndk
- Promote your Instagram profile (along with your other social media pages)
- Include your company handle on business cards or any kind of promotional material.
- Like other peoples pictures! This is an effective way of getting other users to notice your page. Don’t spam and like tons of random pictures: look for users who may enjoy your content, and give one of their pictures a like.
- Post quality content
- Experiment with different post types to see what gets the most follower interaction (likes, comments, etc.).
- Consider planning out content in advance. Do a photoshoot of your business, employees, products, or other things related to your company so that you have a wealth of pictures to choose from. Then, sit down and plan out your posts for the week or month so that there isn’t a last minute scramble for content.
- Experiment with posting at different times of the day. Identify what time seems to be the most active for your followers by measuring follower interaction.
- If it is an especially notable post, it is acceptable to post the same content to multiple social media pages. However, do your best to provide each social media platform you utilize with exclusive content.
- Represent your company’s brand
- Use a handle that will allow users to easily identify your company’s page.
- Create a meaningful description for your profile. Use a company mission statement, or just craft a short description that represents your brand.
Other Instagram Resources
- A fairly short, basic overview of Instagram basics.
- A mix of tips and a basic guide.
- 26 helpful tips for maintain a successful page on Instagram.
- Some data based tips for making successful posts.