Like Visual Marketing? You Should Embrace Instagram

To be honest, I'm not much of a photographer. I'm more likely to enjoy a walk on the beach than document it through multiple photos. But ever since I got on Instagram, just a few weeks ago, I've gotten kind of addicted (mostly to taking pictures of my cat, but not always). 

Visual marketing is really big, and for good reason. As companies and businesses adapt to the new social media order, they'll have to use all its tools: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and yes, Instragram too.

What's Instragram and why should I care?

Instagram has been around for quite a while (since 2010, actually, but 4 years is long in social media land). At first, it was the domain of hipsters and obsessive mobile photographers who especially enjoyed how the filters made their photos look retro or artistic.

When Facebook bought Instragram, in 2012, many predicted the death of the photo and video sharing network because of privacy concerns. However, in 2013, the network grew by 23%, which is way more than Facebook's own 3%.

Instagram is underestimated in the social media marketing world, but it is in fact a giant:

  • 200 million active users a month
  • 60 million photos shared every day
  • 1.6 billion likes daily

The Instagram community is a highly engaged one, with 1 in 3 users visiting their account more than once a day. If you thought that your Twitter feed had become busy, you've never seen a popular Instagram account. However, the advantage of Instagram over text-based Twitter is that photos are registered and analyzed much faster than text, which means that people can better keep up with busy feeds and retain much more information from it than Twitter.

Not convinced yet?

Nike, Starbucks and the NBA are currently the top brands on Instagram. The Ellen Show is the most popular account, with close to 5 million followers at the time of writing. The automotive, fast food, soft drinks and fashion industries have the highest Instagram adoption rate.

But it's not only the big guys getting on Instagram; the little guys are also all over the place, with independent and solo businesses using it to market their wares (my friend from Owls To Athens Vintage, for example) and share great photos of their spaces, products or people with followers.

What are the benefits for my business?

There are a lot of benefits to using Instagram for your business. But before we start with those, there's one thing you should know: Instagram isn't the ideal tool for developing prospects and leads. It's too casual and fun-oriented for that. As an awareness and engagement tool, though, it's really great. If your products have visual appeal, or you have awesome team dance parties in the office in the morning, or love to share quotes with people, Instagram can serve you very well.

Have fun

The trick with Instagram is that it's not serious. It's the place where brands show their beautiful, fun side. Unless you're the most boring place to work in the entire world (we hope not!) you probably have some fun moments happening around the office. Snap a photo, add a filter and post. It's that simple, and your followers get to know you a little better.

On Instagram, it's time to drop the serious, scripted messages. Be spontaneous. Be silly. Show your human side. If you're into numbers, here's a guideline to follow: 80% of your content should be non-product-related, and the remaining 20% can be about your product or business.

Use hashtags

Think hashtags are just a Twitter thing? Think again. Without a character limit, Instagrammers go hashtag-crazy. Example (click "View on Instagram" in the upper-right corner to see the hashtags):

(Fine. I'm a Star Wars fan. Now you know something personal about me. The address to send me geeky gifts is at the bottom of this page. :)) As you can see, this photo uses every possible hashtag related to Star Wars. I think this is a little bit much, personally, but it's not uncommon on Instagram. Because of cross-posting to Twitter, however, make sure that the first one or two you use are the best for identifying your brand.

Be generous with follows, likes and comments

Like Twitter, Instagram is useless if nobody follows you. However, unlike Twitter, people aren't so stingy with their follows. After adding my friends who were already on Instagram, I started following any new user I cam across, either through likes or comments. Using certain hashtags also got me quite a few followers. Because the community is so engaged, Instagram users are eager to discover new interesting accounts and photos. 

Follow as many people as you can, like all the photos you find interesting, and comment profusely. Instagram networks can grow very quickly with just a few minutes a day.

Tag team members, clients

Another thing you can do is tag usernames, both from Instagram and Twitter. Tagging is a great tool to stay in touch with clients, team members and other people who interact with you and your company. You should also ask your employees and clients to tag your brand or company on any Instagram photos they take of your business.

Use videos

Instagram also supports video, so don't be camera-shy

Run promotions and contests

It's easy to use Instagram for promotions and contests. Ask for photos or videos on a theme, request a tag of your brand to keep up with the submissions, and run your contest. This can also be a great way to drive traffic to your website and other social media properties.

Ready, camera, action!

You have an army of employees and fans with cameras at your disposition. Instagram lets you use it to spread the word about how fun, personable and awesome you are.

Although Stikky Media doesn't have an account yet (I know, I know!), we're thinking about it. I actually have a photo of Marcus with a tiny hard hat on his head hiding somewhere on my phone...

 

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