WHAT IS INSTAGRAM

Wikipedia defines Instagram as a photo and video-sharing social networking service that allows users to upload photos and short videos, follow other users’ feeds, geotag images, connect accounts to other sites, and send private messages.

Instagram was the brainchild of Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, whose app Burbn was too similar to Foursquare and needed a refocus.  The developers chose mobile photography.  “Instant camera” and “telegram” became Instagram, and the first photo posted July 2010.

According to Wikipedia, Instagram was TechCrunch’s Best Mobile App of 2010.  Fast Company placed CEO Kevin System at 66 in its list of “The 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2011.”  Inc. included the co-founders in its 2011 “30 Under 30” list.

WHY INSTAGRAM MATTERS TO MY BUSINESS

There are 800 million consumers looking for content, whether it’s posted as photos or videos, to be entertained or informed. If you can do one or both of those, you’ve now made a possible connection with a potential consumer.

Business.instagram.com explains the benefits of businesses shifting to Instragram’s “Stories” feature.  One-third of the most viewed Instagram stories are posted from businesses.  Half of businesses on Instagram post at least one story monthly, and 96% of them plan to continue to do so.  Stories can bring your brand to life.  Product features and benefits are optimized, and then outcomes can be measured and tracked based on real people.

Instagram has a whole set of tools for businesses, such as business profiles and insights analytics.  In addition, posts can be turned directly into ads from the app.  Requirements include having a Facebook page which allows important information to populate from Facebook to Instagram.  The analytics feature allows a business to study reach, engagement, and demographics.  From February 2016 to March 2017, advertisers increased from 200,000 to one million.

HOW TO SET INSTAGRAM UP FOR SUCCESS

Begin by understanding your key audience’s passion.  What drives them?  What insight can you glean from their behaviors?  Are they searching for inspiration? For a good deal?  Do they want to be part of something bigger than themselves?  First understanding who you’re talking to will help you develop the appropriate content you need to be sharing to them.  That’s where you need to start.

Next, consider that when you create content, it needs to be timely.  It should be rooted in something that’s going on in the present, something that’s in vogue, something that is trending and relevant.  Also, it needs to be contextual.  The context is something that resonates in their lives at the moment.

Instagram’s “Stories” feature provides an experience.  The basis of Instagram is photos and videos; the text then supports what has already been shown.  The most effective stories don’t have to be explained.

Of course, there is the hashtag!  If there’s only one thing most people know about Instagram, it’s the hashtag, right?  Leverage that hashtag to gain new followers.  Hashtags open the door for collaboration opportunities with other brands, personalities, or content creators, to bring even more value to your audience.

HOW TO USE INSTAGRAM

Instagram is social in the same way as Facebook.  Treat it as purely social.  It’s about two-way communication, not just one-way.  It’s not a billboard or a print ad that only initially delivers one way.  The social aspect is that your audience can, and will, respond back to you, and you in turn can continue a dialogue.  In this back-and-forth environment, Instagram is a value-delivery system, in which your goal is to give value to your audience more times than you ask for value from them.  If you give more, you will receive more.

It is one of the truest social media platforms and you are able to really flex your brand muscles.  You can dive deeply into what your brand is all about.  In fact, it actually forces you to do it.  Because of its limitations (short videos, photos, few words), it basically requires that you distill your message. When you invest in these rich connections with your current audience, it gives you incredible opportunities for future growth.

IN CLOSING, COMMON MISTAKES WHEN USING INSTAGRAM

1. Don’t buy followers.  What??  Some people will buy followers, in order to boost their appearance early-on, hoping to organically gain more later.  Don’t do that.
2. Don’t be overly promotional.  This is the opposite of “the more you give, the more you receive.”  Obviously if you are a business, you are in it to make money, but too much will turn people away.
3. Don’t misuse hashtags.  Another way to say it is, “don’t spam with too many irrelevant hashtags.”  This looks desperate.  Instagram posted to Facebook (and later deleted) a recommendation that businesses focus on their objective rather than on hashtags.  According to Wikipedia, “In mid-2017, reports surfaced that Instagram had begun efforts to reduce the prominence of accounts using many irrelevant hashtags to increase their respective reach…”
4. Don’t ignore the Stories feature.  More people view the stories than actual posts.  If you don’t take advantage of Stories, you are missing out.
5. Don’t ignore your Instagram bio.  It’s a huge mistake for a business to avoid this.  The bio includes the links necessary for people to contact your business, or even simply to learn more by checking out your business Facebook page.  If there are no links, you are missing an opportunity for others to get to know you.  Ultimately, you might be missing a new stream of income.

In summary, Instagram is a great tool to grow your company online, but there are a few hoops you need to jump through to use it properly.  If you do, it will become an incredibly effective part of your marketing efforts.

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