Marketing Bootcamp

Putting Your Business on Instagram? Here's What You Need to Know.

In his book Success Secrets of the Online Marketing Superstars, Mitch Myerson introduces you to 22 innovators who have redefined the developing landscape of online marketing. Learn how to master proven strategies, avoid costly mistakes and grow your business. In this edited excerpt, contributing author Sue B. Zimmerman offers five easy tips for using Instagram to market your small business.

In 2014, Instagram reached 200 million users with 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies posting an average of 5.5 times per week. And out of the top 100 brands that post on Instagram (like Pepsi, Starbucks, Coach, and Nike), 43 percent post photos and videos daily. Brands are adopting Instagram in a visual way, creating a personality behind the brand that goes beyond just words, product pictures, sales, and offers.

Here are some ideas for making Instagram work for your business, no matter the industry.

1. To engage with other users and brands on Instagram, you must do one of two things:

Start a conversation. It should involve more than just a pretty picture though; use the post or comment area to ask an open-ended question and give a call to action. This will encourage others to respond, which will allow you to continue a dialog to offer your expertise or insight as well as learn from your audience.

When searching through other Instagram users’ posts, use the opportunity to ask a question, share a thought or tip, or bring others in on the conversation (by tagging them to alert them to the dialogue). The more engaging you are, the more other users are attracted to you and will pay more attention to your posts. When you're actively engaged on others’ posts, you'll attract new followers.

Join a conversation. When you're scrolling through Instagram and find a dialogue you feel you can contribute to, jump right on in! Users will appreciate your insight, wit, or tips, and you'll most likely gain new followers.

Be sure to follow other brands and businesses that you support or want to learn from, or ones for which you can provide value. When you're following other brands that are relevant to your brand’s unique goals and objectives, users who are thought leaders in your industry, or businesses who share like-minded views and values, you'll find plenty of opportunity for joining a conversation.

2. Follow these simple rules when creating a content strategy for Instagram:

  • Ensure your photos and images are sharp, professional, and clean.
  • Don't post irrelevant images that will lose the follower’s interest. Every post should bring value to the follower.
  • Make sure your posts share a tip, tell a story, give an idea, empower a thought, or highlight a company milestone.  
  • Don't be afraid to be real or raw. Your makeup and hair team doesn’t always need to be on standby; people relate more to your true self or your brand’s behind-the-scenes raw footage.
  • Vary your posts so you don't bore your followers. If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, create branded promotion days like: #throwbackthursday or #teamtuesday or #mondaymantra. See what other Instagram users are doing to leverage the promotion.

3. Use hashtags to find and converse with followers, prospective clients, and others in your industry.

A hashtag is a symbol (#) you put in front of a word or group of words to designate a search term or discussion topic. Consider creating 30 hashtags for your business that are either branded, product- or service-related, location- or community-based, and keyword driven. Consider the words that potential clients will use in their searches to find you.

Instagram users welcome 20 to 30 hashtags per post. This offers brands the chance to touch more followers, prospects, and fans by broadening the reach.

4. Implement a call to action in every post.

Posting on social media is about engaging and building authentic relationships online so others build you up and help you create social relevancy. When there's no engagement, your content is essentially doing nothing for you or your brand. The goal is to attract engagement so you can build your loyal following, amplify your message through social sharing, and get people to react.

Creating a call to action on each post will cause your followers to engage in a variety of ways. And just about any way is a good way. A call to action is a statement or question that asks your followers to do something, which can range from (in a very generic sense):

  • Answer this question
  • Take this poll
  • Share this post
  • Tag a friend

For instance, if you're attending a conference in San Diego that has a lot of social buzz, one way to engage with followers and other attendees or speakers at the conference is to post: “I'm so excited about attending this @nameofconference! Who else is going, and who are you most excited to meet? #conferencename.” The following people will see this post: Your followers and anyone following #conferencename and @nameofconference.

How does this affect your engagement? First, the more engagement you receive (e.g., a comment), the more people will engage and the more people will see your posts. Second, the commenter will probably tag people in their comment which means those people are likely to respond and also tag other people. Those other people will tag and comment, and your message has been amplified exponentially.

5. Be sure to tag other Instagram users to help amplify your message by using the "@" symbol before their Instagram name.  

The person you tag will be notified, and on Instagram, they don’t have to follow you and you don’t have to follow them to be tagged and alerted (unlike other social media platforms like Facebook).

Other users love to know their message is being shared and broadcast through loyal followers, so it will often elicit a reaction from the person tagged. Also, if they're famous or have a very large following, you may consider not only tagging them but hashtagging them as well. This way, no matter how they are alerted, they won’t miss one or the other.

Tagging someone encourages them to engage as well. And when they engage, you receive more attention to your posts.

Instagram is a powerful platform that can be used as a branding tool for your business. Sharing visual content about your brand allows followers to learn more about you in a more personal and relatable way. When you use Instagram with purpose and strategy, you can build your brand and your following in a really fun and profitable way.