How should you use Instagram to elevate your business?
Instagram is experiencing an exponential growth in a number of users. From December 2016 to September 2017 it went from 600 million to 800 million and it doesn’t seem to slow down!
But there’s more to Instagram than just a huge audience to tap into. With its focus on the visual content, it’s perfect for design, food or art businesses. It’s also a great tool for any company that wants to create a more tangible and personal brand image.
A picture is worth a thousand words – Instagram is the perfect example of that sentence!
In this article, I will show you the ways and tools you should master if you want to effectively use Instagram to elevate your business!
What should you do before launching your Instagram campaign
Think of what you want to achieve with your Instagram campaign
Why do you launch an Instagram for your business?
Do you want to showcase your products? Drive customer engagement and create a loyal audience? Start a sort of personal visual diary of your business? Maybe you want to construct a stronger brand by tailoring its image and increasing the awareness?
Whatever it might be, it’s useful to decide what you want to get out of Instagram before you start posting. And although it may seem like a time-waster, it will help you plan your campaign in a better and more detailed way. This, in turn, will allow you to fully use Instagram to elevate your business!
What content do you want to share?
Your content needs to fit your goals for Instagram. If you want to increase the awareness of your products you wouldn’t share inspirational quotes, but actual pictures of what you offer with short, engaging descriptions. The people behind Buffer, one of the most popular social media scheduling tool, have called it “content pillars”. They provided some examples of what these might be:
- Behind the scenes content
- User-generated content
- Product demos/showcase
- Educational (e.g. the best social media tips)
- Culture focused (showing the human side of your company)
- Fun / lighthearted
- Customer stories
- Get to know the team
- Team member takeovers
Once you determine what do you want to share and what sort of brand image do you want to express with your content, you can fully start to use Instagram to elevate your business!
Keep in mind that you do not need to focus on everything – two or three content pillars are more than enough for successfully using Instagram to elevate your business. Too many themes will only make your profile look chaotic.
How often do you want to post
According to coschedule, most big brands post two times a day. One is the minimum and three is the maximum. It would be perfect if you followed such a pattern as well.
Daily posting keeps the interest of your audience up and establishes a good overview of your Instagram efforts, making it easier for you to improve or test new solutions.
How many likes, comments and followers do you want to gain per post/day?
It’s good to set the goals for yourself when it comes to social media. Although it might seem like an arbitrary aim, it will encourage you to constantly improve your strategy.
When it comes to Instagram, driving the number of comments, likes and followers is all about choosing the right combination of hashtags that reflect not only your content, but also your target audience. Filling your profile with great content is also a must-do.
You can also experiment with different posting times, cross-promotions on your other social media channels or among influencers as well as various CTAs. competitions or giveaways that would drive engagement.
A quite basic thing like simply asking your followers to tag their friends or “double tap if you agree” could do wonders.
To put it shortly – hitting your comments/likes/followers goal depends on constant improvements, experiments and optimization of your account!
Fill out your profile
It should be a no-brainer for businesses to get all the information about their business out there for their customers, especially on social media, but it’s worth to point out, which areas should you focus on when it comes to using Instagram to elevate your business.
Pick a suitable profile picture
This cannot be some random picture – it will, after all, be inseparably bound with your profile. Be it a photo of your founder, your company logo, a high-resolution photography of your business office/store, or a picture of your most characteristic product – make it fit your profile!
Choose a good bio
Come up with a good, catchy and short phrase that describes your business in the best way. An Instagram bio is a good place to create an initial brand identity – don’t shy away from outlining details on the niche you operate in and what makes your business special.
A bio is a great way to capture the attention of the viewers and define your company right away.
However, do make sure that the content you share reflects your bio. If you put “Traditional Bakery since 1962” as your description, make sure that you share pictures of your products and highlight the tradition (maybe by sharing short clips showcasing the methods and tools you use?).
Put a link in your bio
Contrary to the links you may put in descriptions of your pictures, a link in your bio is clickable. It’s therefore important that you use it right. You can either link to your website, blog or social media channels. If you have a new article or video up on your blog or an exclusive offer in your store, it’s worth it to provide a link on your Instagram.
Another good practice is to refer your followers to the link in your bio. You can do this by simply adding a short “check out our new exclusive offer – link in bio”.
Want engagement? Engage!
“Follow for follow” and “like for like” are not just cringe-y phrases people put under their selfies to get more likes. This is actually how Instagram works.
Don’t just post great content. Go out there and follow similar accounts. Like and comment their pictures. People are much more enticed to engage with your account if you engage with theirs in the first place!
Direct Messages or DMs are also a great way to engage and to establish a more personal contact with your followers. Be sure to check your DM regularly – your followers may ask you questions or want to have a problem solved. Don’t be afraid to message them yourself – for example, send them a link to a new offer or an exciting product they may be interested in. Making time to be there for your followers is the best way to use Instagram to elevate your business (this is, of course, applicable to all social media channels!).
Hashtags are invaluable when it comes to Instagram. They drive exposure along thematic lines. A #motivation tag will contain motivational content like quotes or short clips. #bodybuilding will contain pictures of muscular people, exercise tutorials, etc.
Using certain hashtags will expose you to wider audiences. That’s why it’s important that you pick the right ones. You don’t want to get exposure among audiences who don’t need what you offer.
Picking the right hashtags is a bit like choosing the right keywords. Think of the phrases that describe your business and your Instagram content. Contrary to keywords, you don’t need to limit yourself to just a couple of phrases – the limit is 30 hashtags per post! That gives you a lot of space for testing and experimenting and a great opportunity to use Instagram to elevate your business and to expose it to new audiences.
Broad vs specific hashtags
Let’s come back to our bakery example. They may use the obvious tags like #baking or #bakery – the first one is included in more than 14 million posts and the second in 6 million giving the business some great exposure. That also means the bakery can gain a lot of new followers.
However, they may also consider using more focused hashtags that will reflect their niche. #traditionalbaking had been used less than 2,000 times, yet it reflects the character of the bakery in the best way. The people who use this hashtag will surely stumble upon our bakery. Gaining a loyal follower is easier in a highly specific environment of niche hashtags. They may be lower in numbers, but much more valuable when it comes to engaging with your posts.
Hashtags referring to a specific location or event are also important. Let’s suppose out bakery has its shop in Leicester. Using hashtags like #leicester, #leicestercity or #leicesterfood will give them a very specific edge, which caters to the people who may actually come and visit the bakery – the Leicester locals!
Using event-specific hashtags, for example, #hotcrossbuns during Easter can give the bakery some additional exposure around a specific period.
Instagram has recently added a new function, which allows the users to follow hashtags.
How does that work? If you search for a #baking hashtag, you can click follow and your feed will include top posts containing #baking.
Businesses that take their hashtags and follower engagement seriously can therefore largely benefit from this new function. The more likes you get the bigger the chance that your posts may appear in the top section. It’s yet another reason to try and drive your relationships with your followers, which in turn, will drive the numbers!
Arrange your profile into a pattern
The first thing your followers will see when they enter your profile is the three rows of square posts. By arranging them into patterns you can turn scrolling down your content into a pleasing aesthetic experience.
There are really no boundaries when it comes to the patterns you may come up with. Some of the most common are similarly themed photos. Check out the Symmetry Breakfast Instagram to see what I’m talking about.
You can also arrange your posts by color so that they create a chessboard-type of pattern.
You can reserve the middle row for quotes and the right and left ones for corresponding pictures.
You can devote each horizontal row for a certain color.
Or create a jigsaw puzzle-like pattern where each photo is a part of a bigger picture (but make sure each of them makes sense on its own!).
The possibilities are truly endless and what you come up with is only up to your creativity and imagination.
Another fairly new addition to Instagram, Stories were the platform’s response to the success of Snapchat’s similar feature.
However, contrary to Snapchat, Instagram allows for reaching a much bigger number of people in a much easier way, as each of your followers will be able to access your Stories.
But how to encourage people to go and see your Stories? While a considerable amount of views will probably come from randomly swiping among other Stories suggestions, there is one thing that you can do to make sure people come back to you.
It’s all about posting great and relevant content!
Instagram allows for a huge degree of customizing each Story. You can add text, emojis, Boomerang video edits, filters and much much more. One of the more innovative features is polls – a bit of interactive content that can really be useful when it comes to driving engagement and using Instagram to elevate your business. You can ask your followers what do they think of your products or whether they want your company to go in a certain direction.
So, what exactly can you use Stories for? Again – your imagination is the limit! There are however, several things that Stories are particularly effective at.
A bunch of new, exciting products has just arrived at your shop? Let your followers know by taking a pic of each of them and putting them on your Stories!
You have an entire collection of clothes for sale? Instead of cluttering your profile with pictures, simply put them all in your Stories for a much clearer and convenient viewing experience.
Stories are also a great way to showcase your product “in action”. There is no better advertisement of non-stick frying pans than a video filled with hardcore tests recorded by hand. There’s a sense of genuineness in that, isn’t it?
Day-to-day life of your business
If your office banter is off the charts you might want to give your followers a sneak peek. You could also do a mini-series on staff lunches or take a picture of every employee and have them tell a fun fact about themselves. It can do wonders for your brand image.
Stories might also be great for creating a “reportage” from conferences, fairs and other official events that your business could attend.
Showing a more “human” side of your business on Instagram is a great way to elevate it by gaining the trust of your followers and appearing genuine. Keep in mind that people trust other people, not really companies!
One of the most significant features of Stories is the possibility to do live streams.
Live video is currently one of the most significant new trends in marketing – it’s no surprise that Instagram wanted to jump on the bandwagon.
Streaming on Instagram works in a similar way to Facebook. The only major difference is that on Instagram, live videos can be accessed from the Stories panel at the top of your app.
How can you use live video on Instagram to elevate your business? Think of holding Q&As or streaming company events like product announcements or official galas. Another great application of live streaming is behind-the-scenes content. Showing your followers how things are done in your business can really increase your trustworthiness.
Live streams give you the opportunity to actually show the people that work with you. And believe me, there’s nothing better for your brand image than giving your business a face!
Host giveaways and competitions
Nothing draws people’s attention quite as good as an opportunity to win. Especially when all it takes is sharing a photo, leaving a comment or double tapping!
Instagram competitions usually follow a similar pattern. Participants need to like a photo, repost it with a certain hashtag and follow the organizer. It’s as simple as that! Yet, such a giveaway can give your business a lot of exposure. Encouraging social action by sharing pictures and increasing your following are the main benefits of giveaways. And who knows, maybe a winner will become a loyal customer?
Okay, one more thing about giveaways. It’s quite easy not to like them. After all, you’re giving away your product for free. Seems like you’re not gaining much from it, eh?
One thing you need to understand about giveaways it that they are an investment. Just like with PPC campaigns, you put something in and you can get much more out! Sure, you need to give one product for free, but think about all these people who will become aware of your brand and might be enticed to buy!
Instagram is a powerful tool for elevating your business. Although its focus on graphics, photos and short clips might seem limiting at first, it’s a very flexible platform, which offers a lot of opportunities to personalize your account.
In this article, I covered the practical aspects of making the most out of your Instagram profile – filling it out, deciding what you want to achieve, engaging your followers and arranging your profile. I also talked about the tools provided by Instagram, which you can use to elevate your business. Hashtags, Stories and giveaways are all amazing at driving the engagement of your followers and encouraging them to actually interact with your business!