Go where your audience lives. There are more than 700 million active monthly users on Instagram, and every day 3.5 billion photos are liked and shared.
In April “The Verge” reported: “Instagram appears to be picking up new users faster than ever before: the company just announced that it’s hit the milestone of 700 million monthly active users. It’s the shortest time Instagram has ever taken to add 100 million to its total.
Instagram launched in October 2010 and didn’t reach 100 million monthly users until February 2013. But ever since hitting 200 million in March 2014, the Facebook-owned service steadily added 100 million to its total every nine months until last December, when it announced 600 million monthly active users. That meant it took Instagram six months to gain those 100 new users, and this time it’s taken just four.”
Why images draw attention
Photos and videos are the most engaging way to get and hold your audience, that’s why Instagram has more than twice the users as Twitter and is gaining on YouTube and Facebook in popularity.
Businesses should use Instagram to tell a visual story about their brand. You can instantly engage with your followers and fans wherever they are. Most importantly, you can glean very real user-generated content through hashtag photo contests and other strategies.
Start by creating your business account:
The first step is to create your Instagram for Business account. It’s important to choose a username that clearly represents your brand. Be sure to add a profile photo, a biography and a link to your web site.
Link your account to Facebook, LinkedIn and other third-party sharing sites where you have an account. These will allow you to share photos to those services and let your Facebook friends find you easily.
You should make an Instagram tab on your Facebook page to allow you to instantly share your Instagram photos to your Facebook fans.
When folks begin to follow you follow them back. Comment on their posts and show some interest. The viral effects of this type of basic networking can spawn amazing results both with the followers and the follower’s friends.
Focus on your customers and make your followers famous. Share follower’s photos on your social sites. Show your customers you appreciate them by acknowledging their cool photos and share them with your Facebook fan or Twitter followers. But be sure to ask permission to use their photo first! By liking their photos and commenting on them, you will encourage them to do the same for you.
The Magic of Hashtags:
Once your Business account is set up, use Hashtags (#’s) in your updates. Hashtags are a major part of Instagram. This is a great way for users to find you through their mobile Instagram searches. Instagram is not limited by character count unlike on other sites (such as Twitter) but be careful not to use too many hashtags in your posts or you’ll end up looking desperate. Include your business name in some of your post hashtags. Also, use unique tags for marketing campaigns you run. Don’t forget to use keywords that your target market might use when they search
Show your stuff:
Every picture tells a story and the more creative your photos are, the more attention they will get and are most likely to be shared more often. Use cool angles, lighting and other photography tricks.
Don’t be too serious, sprinkle in a bit of human interest, appropriate personal images. Show your product or service being used by real humans with smiles on their faces. Quote them, let them tell your audience why they love doing business with you.
Videos are also an effective tool to market your products or services. A 15 second video on your Instagram feed is a great way to launch a new product. You can begin with several teaser videos from behind the scenes.
A great way to engage your audience is to ask for feedback. Ask for comments on your photos or videos. Ask questions about your business or product. Questions open up conversations. Use fill-in the blank posts.
Post updates with an open-ended sentence that followers can complete. For example; if you are a nail salon, you can create a post with images of bottles of nail polish. You might include a post such as, “My favorite nail color is ________.” This gets people talking about products that you sell.
Another effective way to get feedback is to conduct surveys. Everybody loves sharing their point of view. Customer love it when you ask their opinion. But that is not where the pay-off ends. Make sure you let followers know what you learned and changes or improvements you are making. Give them updates and remind them that changes down he road are coming because followers spoke up.
Contests are another way to keep followers interested and coming back again and again. Give them a reason the check back, vote or otherwise participate. Most importantly, don’t leave them hanging. Most folks don’t win but they love hearing the human-interest story surrounding a winner. They put themselves in the winner’s shoes and see how wonderful you company is in the aftermath.
Get maximum return on investment:
Now that you know what to do, here’s how you need to do it. Post consistently regardless of your follower account. Monitor your account to determine the frequency of your posts. It could be two or three times a day, or up to three times a week. Monitor your account to determine your post frequency. Once you have determined the ideal amount, make sure you are consistent. Use analytic tools to monitor your results.
Most of all: Have Fun. Your energy and attitude comes through in the photos you post and the words you use. Use employees from different backgrounds to participate in the process. Monitor their posts and comments. Encourage and share posts internally that exemplify the right kind of behavior. Individually council participants that don’t seem to get it. Try partnering the stronger users with ones that need a little mentoring.
Make sure the leadership of the organization participates, celebrates and appreciates the efforts of the team. This project can be great morale builders and creates a large number of brand ambassadors.