How To Use Instagram for Your Business

At the risk of sounding incredibly fickle (I’ll just say it’s a job hazard), my new love is Instagram. I’ve been already Instagramming for a couple of years, now, but recently, I made the effort to really kick it up a notch. I’m following a bunch more people, and posting on at least a daily basis.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Instagram, it is an iPhone app (and now available for Android), which allows you to take photos and then apply “filters” to them that change the look of the photo in an interesting and artistic way. Think of Instagram as this generation’s Polaroid. One interesting thing about Instagram is that, unlike most social networks, which are web-based, Instagram is entirely mobile-based. You can’t go to instagram.com/rebeccacoleman and see my feed, whereas if you went to twitter.com/rebeccacoleman, you’d see all my Tweets. You can only see my photos if you have the Instagram app.

Instagram is very young: the social network will be two years old in October, and currently boasts between 50-80 Million users. They were purchased by Facebook a couple of months back for $1 Billion.

Instagram Basics:

  1. Download the app for your phone.
  2. Create an account. If you already have a personal account, create a second account for your business. Instagram will allow you operate multiple accounts through the app, similar to how Twitter does.
  3. Fill out your biographical information, include a link to your website, and upload a profile pic (likely your business logo).
  4. Next, you’ll need to find people to follow. Do this by tapping on the “profile” icon, which is the one on the right-hand margin. Then tap on the “gear” symbol at the top of the page. The very first option on this page is “find and invite friends.” You can then connect to your FB or Twitter to see who you already know is using Instagram, and follow them. Once you’ve started your network, you can start taking photos and posting them.
  5. You take a photo by tapping the very centre icon, the one that looks like a camera. Take your photo, then add your filters, frames, and tilt-shift (which blurs the edges), a description, and a location, if appropriate.
  6. Finally, publish your photo. You can also hook your Instagram feed up to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr feeds so that every time you post a photo, it pushes automatically to those networks. I do this, but sparingly.
  7. Remember that Instagram is a social network, so you need to check in on it once a day or so and have a look at the photos your network is posting. Trust me, this is not a burden. There are so many beautiful images. You can also “like” photos and comment on them, so make sure you do that to increase the level of engagement. Don’t just post photos and lurk!

Tips for using Instagram for business:

#Hashtag: Like Twitter, but unlike Facebook, Hashtags are your friends on Instagram. Using a hashtag makes you instantly more searchable. For example, a search for #cats leads to nearly 2 million photos, #kitteh to over 31,000, and #catsofinstagram to 1.5 million photos.

Subject Matter: take photos of your products and services in action, take photos of your employees in action, take photos of your clients and customers. Not all of your photos need to even be related to your business. Remember, though, Instagram is an amateur photographer’s medium, so the photos that get the most play are ones that are artistic in nature.

Encourage Fans to Tag You: have a sign somewhere at your business, letting clients or customers know that you are on Instagram, and what your username is. That way, whenever someone takes a photo, they can @mention you in the comment section, and you will automatically see it and can repost it to your stream. This also encourages them to follow you. Instagram has a new “mapping” feature, as well, which allows you to tag your photo with a physical location. Great news for bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Run a Contest: ask people to take photos on a theme that is related to your business, and then come up with a corresponding hashtag. When someone takes a photo and posts it with the hashtag, you can then ask people to search on the hashtag and vote for their favorite by “liking” photos. The photo with the most likes wins the prize. Click here for more info on how to run a contest on Instagram.

How are you using Instagram to market your business? Let us know in the comments section below. Oh–and I’ll have a real-life case study for you on this next week!

Additional resources:

Instagram’s info page for Businesses

Infographic: Instagram Stats

5 Ways to Grow Your Exposure with Instagram

These Brands Are Doing Amazing Things with Instagram

 

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