Lately I've started to really embrace what Instagram can do for my clients and their businesses. In fact, and this might be a little controversial, I've decided that I prefer it to Facebook in terms of increasing exposure and sales. For most retailers, travel and tourism countries or creatives I would say it's crucial. Let me explain.
A potted history
Launched in 2010, Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service. Users can upload photographs and short videos, run a colour filter through them (there are several choices) and then share them to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. The photos are square shaped and have a retro feel about them - think Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid of yesteryear.
It rapidly gained popularity, with over 100 million active users as of April 2012 when Facebook bought the company for approximately US$1 billion. In 2013, Instagram grew by 23%, while Facebook, as the mother company, only grew by 3%.
Number of Instagram users: 200 Million Monthly Active Users
Average Daily Instagram Users: 7.3 million
Number of daily Instagram users: more than 75 million
Percentage of Internet Users That Use Instagram: 13%
*taken from Digital Marketing Ramblings, June 2014
Why do I love it?
Instagram is incredible because it's visual. Think Twitter and Facebook, but with only photographs and videos. Which means that posts have instant impact, especially if the material is strong. Not only can you create amazing photos and films using the built-in filters, but you can also use various apps available to really carry your message across in a creative way. Here are just a few:
InstaCollage - Picture Frame, Photo Collage and Caption Editor
ClipStitch - Video Collages
PicFrame - Pictures Frames
Vintagio - Vintage Video App
More opportunities to find your target audience and for them to find you
And for free! Instagram uses a tagging (@) and hashtagging (#) system which allows you to search for people and keywords easily. For example if you sell neon t-shirts and hashtag your images #neon - anyone who's looking for them will find you right away (along with anyone else who's used that hashtag).
If you post a photo of someone who's also on Instagram you can tag them @theirname, or you can do the same if you'd like to draw someone's attention to your post. This can be done via both the image/video itself or via the caption/comments function.
So it's a lot like Twitter in that respect, and if you use the tags and hashtags cleverly, the world is your oyster.
More interactive than Facebook
In my experience every post that goes onto Instagram gets more likes and comments than Facebook, and creates a real online community feel. You can build up page likes quite quickly, particularly if a celebrity or well known person tags you in a post for any reason, but also because of the tags and hashtags facility.
Emoticons are also great for jazzing up your posts and comments - you can find anything from smilies to pizza slices, camels to finger gestures, scissors to flowers and hearts. Check out Emoji for these.
Tracking your presence and popularity
Like Twitter, you can search for your company name on Instagram, using the hashtags function. If you've never even looked at this service before, you might even find that you're actually all over it, via your fans' or customers' uploads and tags. So you can then like and comment on every post that you're tagged on, whether it's positive or negative.
Managing your reputation on social media is essential so never forget to do this. Remember to search for different variations of your business name though. For example if you're looking for Starbucks it could be tagged #starbucks #starbuckscoffee or even #starbuck if there's been a typo.
Take a look at Tagboard - it's a website that allows you enter a hashtag which then aggregates across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vine and App.net and allows you to view all of them in one place. If you need more hashtags and a higher level of functionality you'll need to upgrade to the Pro account for $99 per month.
Tips on using Instagram for your business
Make sure your images and videos are crisp and clear - blurry, out of focus ones will not look professional and won't attract the attention you're looking for.
Mix up your posts. Use your own photographs, and if you're a retailer repost your followers' photographs to keep them interested in tagging you. Flattery gets you everywhere! Make use of the video facility too, and make sure your profile isn't just "sell sell sell". You need to keep things personal.
Interact with your followers and their posts, especially the ones where they've tagged you. Check your hashtags daily to make sure you don't let things slide.
Run contests sometimes and create a hashtag especially for them. There's nothing like a decent prize to create some hype and grab attention. Read this article to find out how to go about it.
So what are the drawbacks?
Despite my love of Instagram, there are some negatives. I personally don't mind this though as it means that Instagram is still, at the heart of things, a genuine photo sharing network and it doesn't just come across as a money making machine in the way Facebook does these days.
- If you add a link to a website or email address it won't be live - only once shared to Facebook and Twitter. Also it doesn't allow you to copy and paste from your phone, so your followers will need to type in the link themselves. If they're looking at your post from a computer they can copy and paste though.
- You can't upload images from your computer. Only your phone.
- Posts can't be scheduled in the way Facebook and Twitter allow you to. Each one has to be done at the actual time you want it to go out.
- Sharing posts isn't that straightforward - you either have to take a screenshot and share that, or use one of the repost apps available, such as Repost For Instagram. You can find more ideas about how to repost here.
A success story
One of our main social media management clients is an online retailer who launched a new Shopify website in September 2013. We manage their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts and they've reported a phenomenal 800% growth in sales due to social media. Interestingly, they attribute most of this increase to Instagram above all the other networks.
If you have any questions about using Instagram for your business or if you'd like us to take it on for you, get in touch. We'd be happy to help.