Is your business currently on Instagram? It needs to be…especially if you want to reach the 18 to 34-year-old age bracket.
We are about to give you the top 10 things your small business MUST know when using Instagram so you don’t look out of place, and even worse alienate your products and services from those you want to reach most. You don’t want to end up like McDonald’s in #9 below…
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE OUR PODCAST EPISODE: “4 Ways to Use Instagram for Your Business”
Click here to tweet this interesting stat –> Over 90% of the 150 million people on Instagram are under the age of 35 which is why it is such an attractive platform to so many brands. It is the jackpot of the younger market.
And now it is even rolling out ads across the world. But, if you’re currently leaping with excitement thinking about how your business can leverage a new advertising opportunity – sorry, not so fast!
Instagram ads are not for all businesses…
… at least, not right now. The company has maintained that, in a bid to “put their community first” they are still only working with “a handful of top brands“ in order to ensure that ads are engaging and feel natural in user feeds. Elitist? This could be so – you will only see big-name, big-budget brands such as Levis, Warby Parker and Ben and Jerry’s with a pass to advertise right now, and with CEO Kevin Systrom stating that he still checks every ad for approval himself, we can’t see that changing anytime soon!
Perhaps Instagram is showing reasonable caution given the experiences with advertising of its parent company. Facebook has been plagued with complaints and the decline of the younger user base since it introduced advertising in 2007, then sponsored ads in news feeds in January 2012. Media commentators have wondered whether ads would ruin Instagram, but the platform says it is aiming for a few “enjoyable and creative” ads which fit in well with regular posts.
Kurt Wagner, Associate Editor at Re/Code says: “I think Instagram took the right approach by rolling out ads slowly. In an attempt to keep high-quality content on the platform, Instagram also approves every ad individually. It’s a nice touch, and it definitely keeps the ad content at a high level, but I’ll be interested to see if Instagram can keep that up as it scales its ad business.”
… but is Instagram for your business?
In line with trends towards all things visual, Instagram has a rapidly growing base of engaged users. This means that if Instagram is a place where your target audience hangs out, it could be worth your business getting on board.
Here are a few of their vital stats:
- Instagram has 15 times the engagement and double the engaged user base of Facebook. (L2).
- 58% of Instagram users interact daily vs 23% of Pinterest users (L2).
- 17% of online adults are on Instagram (Pew Research).
Besides these stats, Instagram has slightly older users who have higher incomes than the average Snapchat users.
More than pretty pictures…
Last year Instagram introduced video as part of it’s platform options, and it stacks up favorably when compared to short-video competitor Vine. Instagram allows 15 second videos compared to Vine’s 6 seconds, which gives Instagram the edge when it comes to possible advertising use.
As an example, last year’s Jobs movie released an Instagram-only trailer, something which would be more tricky on Vine.
So, how can small businesses use Instagram for promotion?
If the demographic data ticks your boxes and you know you have a reasonable target market actively using Instagram, it could be time to start ramping up your promotional tactics (or getting an account going if you haven’t already! We can teach you how at Digital Traffic Institute). You don’t need to be one of the chosen few for paid advertising to effectively promote.
Here are some key Instagram tips for small business , taken from those who have done well (or not so well)…
1. Make it about your brand first
That means your pics shouldn’t just be a whole lot of product or service-related photos. Tell a story behind your brand that allows people to make the human connection. What is your team environment like? What do you do every day? What does your brand stand for?
Adoboloco is a Hawaiian maker of hot sauce. Their Instagram feed is full of photos of what goes on behind the scenes, from farming of the chillies, to home cooking, to Hawaiian beaches…
Billabong is another great example of team, culture and branding…
Also check out Collective Hub for creative ways of demonstrating their brand..
2. Put a face to the name…
We love a human connection! Let people get to know the faces of those who are behind the scenes in your business. Take candid shots at work or during team events. The ‘family’ image can serve your business well, particularly during early years when most businesses are dealing with a smaller community of customers.
3. Show them how it’s done
Do you have products that can be used in several different ways? Show people how YOU do it with your Instagram pics. You could take this a step further by featuring customers using your products. Cosmetics company Benefit had fans submit photos using the hashtag #realsies for one of their mascara products. They then linked these submissions through to a microsite where an image mosaic is displayed.
As a small business, of course you might not want to get into building microsites, but getting your customers involved could still work for you. Appealing to vanity often seems to get results of itself, otherwise, what about making special offers or running a prize draw for those who submit photos? One of the best things about getting your followers involved is that it provides social proof for others, hopefully generating more business!
Check out Hello Hair as another great example of “how it’s done” on Instagram. A lot of their pics show beautiful-looking hairstyles, allowing followers to imagine what they could do with their hair after using their product…
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4. Use #hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to get your brand noticed. If you look around at the larger brands on Instagram, 80% of their posts will contain at least one hashtag, while the average post has at least three (thanks L2!).
So how do you as a smaller business owner decide which hashtags to use? Start by finding popular hashtags for your industry so that you are more likely to pop up in people’s searches. As you develop a stronger following on Instagram, you could start to introduce hashtags that relate to your own brand (note that generally it is the most popular brands who are having success with using their own name as a hashtag – think Gucci).
To make your job of finding good hashtags a bit easier, there are some great tools available which will pull up Instagram users and hashtags based on your keyword searches. Try Iconosquare or Websta for example. While you’re at it, check out the metrics available to you through these tools. Iconosquare can help you figure out when your best times for posting are based on your follower activity.
5. Pay for it
Ok, so you might not be able to get your hands on paid advertising from Instagram, but many businesses large and small are getting their brands out there by paying prolific Instagram users (generally those who fit within their niche) to promote them.
Neil Patel wrote an illuminating piece here on what happened when he purchased an Instagram account that already had a strong following and used various tactics such as paying models to promote his account. One of the key comments to come out of this is to remain true to your brand – Neil does not have a ‘flashy’ image and seems to have conducted this as a data-driven experiment. Instagram is after all primarily about personal branding – note he is removing many of the pics post-experiment!
Now, if you are a smaller business who simply doesn’t have the budget to pay models or famous Instagrammers to promote you, there are still plenty of opportunities out there. Perhaps you can find people who have a large Instagram following but are not so well-known for example. The going rate will depend very much on the individual but there is also a thriving trade going to exchange products or experiences for Instagram publicity.
How do you find these prolific ‘Grammers’? You could try searching through Instagram yourself (those who accept email queries or offer contact details are often open to being approached), or you could use a ‘middleman’ company such as Popular Pays who help connect Instagram users with the companies willing to pay/exchange with them.
As another example, you could put the word out to find Grammers willing to collaborate with you on your website. Mura Boutique offers to work with those with high followings, setting out their terms on this page.
6. Create Scarcity
Are you a business who offers a limited supply of certain products? Consumers are drawn to the idea that something is of limited supply. A New York City vintage clothing store is using Instagram well to create demand by posting photos of its clothing. Fox and Fawn posts images of current inventory which, being vintage is usually in scarce supply. Followers need to leave a comment to reserve an item, then call the store to give their credit card details and Instagram user name. According to this New York Times article, 20 – 40% of the store’s daily revenue is now coming from Instagram.
7. Re-post customer photos
You could try reaching out to your customer base by reposting photos they have taken using your hashtags or with your product. It’s a low-cost way to build engagement and can encourage more users to post their photos using your product or service. GoPro is one company who does this well, posting photos and videos from their users…
8. Offer discounts
Brands large and small are successfully gaining business from Instagram by offering discounts. You can use an attractive photo of your product or service or even a coupon. As a side note, the hashtag #discount is well-trafficked on Instagram…
9. Beware Insta-damage!
Getting back to being on brand, it’s important that you not only develop your brand message for Instagram, but that you really ‘get it’ as a platform or you could do more harm than good to your business. McDonald’s is a big business example, but they recently received backlash over paid ads which were appearing in user news feeds. One of the common threads is that they really didn’t seem to ‘get’ Instagram or what its users want to see. The comments in this article are telling with many expressing the view that McDonald’s would have done better to show vintage photos of restaurants or old collectible toys.
Give people what they want! This is a key part of doing well on Instagram (for further evidence, see the screenshot below of what happened when Audi brought in the hipsters instead of the cars – courtesy Ecoconsultancy )
10. Use images across platforms
Did you notice that some of the pics in this post are actually embedded straight from Instagram? We use a plug-in called Simple Instagram Embed which allows you to paste the URL of an Instagram post (on a WordPress site) and it will pull the image through along with the follow button and the number of likes and comments. This means that you could easily use your images in blog posts, capitalizing on viewers interest in visual media and having the added bonus of grabbing more follows while you’re at it. (Hint Hint: click on our follow button below 🙂 )
Secondly, why not share your Instagram posts on Facebook at the same time? Your Facebook account can be connected to Instagram so you are able to kill two birds with one stone. In this article from Joseph Pisani for USA Today, a Las Vegas bakery talks about how they managed to get sales from both Instagram and Facebook by sharing across both. They sold seven of their cakes to people who saw the photo on Instagram. The photo also automatically posted to the company’s Facebook page where they sold six more cakes to Facebook fans…just by adding in some automation!
So why Instragram? Yes, it may seem difficult as a marketer to use because you can’t add links. But perhaps people are tired of hype and are hungrier than ever for story and connection. With more than 200 million active monthly Instagram users who share 60 million photos daily (stat from May 2014), now is the chance for those of us who cringe when we think we have to be slick copywriters or craft fancy messages to be heard. After all #nofilter is one of the most popular hashtags there…maybe because we want more moments of real and raw?
Do you have some Insta-tips or tales? Let us know below (and leave us your Instagram handle!)
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