By Lamin Turay
In order to continue our series on beginner tips and techniques for utilizing some of the more popular social media platforms out there we'd now like to cover Instagram. For those of you who do not know, Instagram is the world's most popular image-based social media platform. By "image-based," we mean that the platform is essentially all user-submitted pictures. Similar to Facebook, Instagram has a "like" function, and also allows users the ability to "follow" others. In addition, Instagram is one of a couple social media platforms where hashtags are wildly powerful. Let's talk about why Instagram can be useful for you.
Back in 2012 Facebook, who we've already stated in a previous article is the largest social media platform on the planet, purchased Instagram for approximately $1 Billion in cash. The social media giant clearly saw something of value. What they saw was that millions of people had turned to Instagram for a chance to interact with a social community that filters out all of the noise, and simply allows for the display of visuals. Instagram is the social media platform for those who love visual communication. Because of this it's a great way to get your business message across with beautiful imagery. It allows you to immerse others in your company's vision by posting pictures, short video clips, and meaningful captions. It has a very streamlined feed that allows users to focus directly on the images/videos, and that's it.
Instagram is a great platform for attracting people to your business by letting them know what your all about. Whether it's a behind the scenes look at your operations, or amazing photos of your products, the sky is the limit to how you can utilize Instagram. One thing is clear though - you'll want to make sure you attract as many genuine followers as possible. We've outlined some techniques you can use whether your just getting started, or already have an Instagram account. With these tips you should be able to increase in followers and deliver a more targeted message to your Instagram audience.
1. Decide On A Theme - All of the most successful Instagram business accounts have a content theme. That is to say, they have a consistency to the types of imagery and videos that are posted on their feeds. When selecting a theme for your own account, be sure that it is in line with your company mission and presents your business in a manner that your target audience will be attracted to . For example, a company like Nasty Gal (with their 2.2 million Instagram followers), who produces vintage-style apparel and accessories for women, has loads of images of their target audience wearing their products in hip or trendy settings. It's about conveying a lifestyle for them. Another good example is AirBnB (with their 1.3 million followers). Their company is all about finding comfortable lodging and traveling the world. Their account is full of gorgeous imagery of unique places around the world, which inspires you to get out and see those places. Whatever theme you choose, be sure that it prompts your audience to take an action that aids your business goals.
2. Play The Hashtag Game - Instagram is similar to a lot of other social media platforms in that it utilizes hashtags (#'s) as a means of allowing simplified search. What this means is that you can add specific hashtags to your Instagram content, and users who search those hashtags will have an easier time finding your feed. If they like what they see they will follow you. The best way to take advantage of this, is to add hashtags that are directly related to who you want to attract. If you have a surf apparel company add hashtags about the ocean, waves , surfboards, and beaches. If you have a business coaching service add hashtags about professionalism, consulting, or business growth. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per comment on a post. We suggest adding your target hashtags to the first comment on your Instagram post instead of the post's caption. That way it won't clutter the image/video caption space. A great tool for finding the most popular hashtags on Instagram can be found here.
3. Don't Make It About Selling - One of the traps that a lot of social media business users fall into is believing that, since their social platform allows them access to a huge audience, they should use it to mass market products and services alone. This couldn't be further from the truth. The true power of social media, and a platform like Instagram, is that it allows other users and potential customers to understand your "Why" for being in business. It gives them a chance to connect with your company mission through captivating visual content. You should never use imagery that pushes a sell on somebody. Instead provide unique opportunities for your followers to see how you run your business, or post stunning images of your products. It's about communicating what makes your company special in the most effective visual manner. A company like Adidas (with their 11.1 million followers) does an excellent job of this. Their account shows athletes across multiple sports performing at the highest levels while wearing their products.
4. Participate In The Conversation - Instagram is no different than any other social media platform in that you get out what you put in. Being a participant in your target audiences community and conversations is vital to growing your following. At the most basic level you should always follow up with users who comment or direct message you on Instagram. This lets them know that you're there, and that you appreciate them spending time to interact with your brand. In addition to following up, you should also be liking and commenting on the Instagram accounts of other companies or individuals who you would like to attract to you brand. This is a great way to build loyalty, and set up potential "Shoutouts".
5. Set Up Shoutouts - Shoutouts are an activity where one Instagram user posts or reposts content from another user's account. It allows that users following to view a post that they may not have otherwise been able to see. It's also great for gaining access to a larger audience. If you have a smaller following, you can request that someone with a big following do a shoutout for you, and post some of your content. You can direct message other users about setting up a shoutout, but be strategic, as most users with huge amounts of followers tend to charge for this service. Use the #S4S hashtag to set up a shoutout. It's commonly known among experienced Instagram users.
Those are just a couple methods that you can use to get going with Instagram or continue to grow your following. What other techniques have you used with success in the past? We'd love to keep this conversation going and share useful tactics with our entire audience. Please share any useful tips in the comments below.