Instagram is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience; by harnessing the power of visual content, you can increase engagement and get really creative with your marketing activities.
There is so much you can do with Instagram if you're willing to spend time growing your following - and that's not as challenging as you might think.
With talk of upcoming algorithm changes, here are a few simple hacks to help you expand your reach on one of the fastest growing social platforms there is.
Uploading high-quality, on-brand graphics is a must on a visual platform like Instagram but that's not the only way to curate a beautiful and engaging feed.
Share useful content from other users to build stronger connections and provide extra value for your followers. This will encourage those users to engage with you, bringing their audiences to your profile.
A really quick and easy way to start sharing external content is with the free Repost for Instagram app. To use, simply start viewing your main feed through the app and then just tap on any image you'd like to "regram". And don't forget to tag the creator.
Take advantage of any opportunities to interact with others. This is good advice for any social platform, but it can be particularly effective on Instagram, because it has a more informal, less salesy interface.
There are a number of ways to encourage engagement, such as:
You could also take part in @instagram community projects, such as #WHP (weekend hashtag project). This offers you the chance to get your graphics in front of thousands of new eyes - even more if your image gets featured.
Use your existing audience to help you build your following. The "tag a friend" strategy can be really effective if you're hosting a giveaway, launching a new product or running an event. Ask your followers to tag a friend that might be interested in your offer and before you know it you'll have a list of prospects to target.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of using social media for your brand in an ad-hoc way, especially when you are starting out. But setting standards for tone and branding on social media sites can be a crucial make or break decision for a fledging business.
When you're looking at social media for your business, there are several things you need to consider - from where your audience is, to making sure your social media pages have a consistent look.
It can be daunting to get your social accounts properly up and running, especially with each platform having their own nuances and tricks to learn, but if you do it right, it can be one of the best moves your business makes.
Here are some key tips for best practice if you're starting to use social media as a new business:
There is no point setting yourself up on social media if your target audience isn't using it too. Your audience's demographic will determine how much you use each social media site. For example, if your target market is young people, you'd be best off focusing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - with about 53% of 18-to-29 year olds on Instagram, 37% on Twitter and even more on Facebook.
Of course, you will have identified your target market when you establish your business. It's also worth browsing on social media platforms to see if your competitors' audiences are there and how much they are using it. You can also track the habits of your target market - if they are using Twitter between 5pm and 10pm, you need to be active during those hours.
Branding is huge for any business, especially a fledging one. If your marketing doesn't match your website, people will not necessarily recognise your brand wherever they find it. The aim of good branding is being able to recognise it at a glance - from your logo to your colour scheme. Social media is a great place to implement your signature look as you can ensure your profile picture, tone and font usage remains the same throughout.
We've all seen businesses who try a little too hard to get noticed. Tagging random people in pictures and posts can generate likes but it doesn't always make for good marketing. And refrain from spamming other people's posts with comments - it may seem like a great way to spread brand awareness but you'll just look like you don't know what you're doing.
Social media can be the best starting point for new businesses, if used properly. It introduces your brand to new customers you normally wouldn't find and provides free advertising. (Or paid if you wish!)
Remember our three magic rules of social media; be where your audience is; make your social media pages consistent with tone and feel; and don't try too hard. If you stick to these best practices, you should get real results from social media.
Sponsored post: copyright © 2016 Elena Lockett, digital communications expert, FM Outsource.
With over 300 million users (70% outside the US), Instagram is fast becoming a top social media platform that small businesses cannot afford to ignore. Here are my top tips to boost your following and increase engagement on Instagram.
Recent research has found that images with faces attract 35% more likes than those without on Instagram. So focusing on people shots is a good way to introduce the people behind your business and get extra exposure for your brand and business.
Like other social media platforms, Instagram is a great way to present your brand less formally than your website or through more traditional communication channels. Share photographs of what goes on behind the scenes - including all the members of your team and even the office dog!
If you can tell a story through your images, that's even better; these images show the personality behind your brand and encourage an emotional connection, an important element in creating brand fans.
Posting original content regularly is important, but you can increase your Instagram activity by paying attention to what your followers are posting. Like and share images posted by your followers, especially any that mention your products or services.
This "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach will encourage your followers to share similar photos with you. And it also helps to present your business from a new angle. Always credit the person that posted the image by tagging them in your caption.
Hashtags and the text you use with your Instagram image are as important as the image itself. Hashtags help people connect with people and to find topics and brands that they're interested in. Researching relevant and popular hashtags that will appeal to your target audience is essential. Tools such as Iconosquare or FindGram are useful and they also offer access to key metrics to help you track what works and what doesn't.
Creating a branded hashtag is a sensible strategy. Encourage your followers to use it; it will increase engagement and improve your visibility on Instagram in one fell swoop. Generic hashtags, such as #shoes or #design, don't work because there are simply too many other images with the same hashtag. Instead, try to find something unique that relates specifically to your business.
Don't be tempted to use too many hashtags; it gets messy and smacks of desperation. It's best to concentrate on two or three hashtags that are absolutely relevant.
Calls to action work as well on Instagram as they do in the rest of your marketing. Try asking your followers what they think about an image; it's a great way to start a two-way conversation.
If you've done your hashtag homework, you will have discovered users that have a large Instagram following; they may well be key influencers that are relevant to your business and worth connecting with. Engage with them and start to build a relationship.
Consistency is everything. A flurry of activity followed by weeks of nothing posted will not foster a loyal following. Decide how many posts you can commit to per week and stick to it. It will also encourage you to be more discerning about what you post - quality is always preferable to quantity - and your followers will appreciate it.
You may or may not know (or even care) that the average YouTube video is 4 minutes and 12 seconds long. Taken in isolation, this figure is pretty meaningless and perhaps not that surprising.
But what if we take that average YouTube video length and compare it to two of the newest video platforms on the block — Instagram and Vine? With their compulsory video lengths of just 15 and 6 seconds respectively, the average YouTube video looks like a feature-length film in comparison.
Let’s put this into perspective. Placed alongside Vine’s 6-second limit, the average YouTube’s video is a whopping 42 times longer. Think about it this way — Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings film, at 178 minutes, is 42 times longer than the average YouTube clip. So the difference between a Vine video and a YouTube video is epic.
The death of the linear brand narrative and the rise of omni-screening (watching TV whilst browsing content on a tablet or smartphone) is redefining how advertisers and marketers are interacting with their target audiences.
So what is driving this trend towards ever-shorter pieces of visual content? And how can these different marketing platforms work together?
Jon Mowat, managing director at Hurricane Media, spoke about this at his recent presentation at the SES conference: “If YouTube marketing is all about creating minutes, then Vine and Instagram marketing must be about creating moments.”
Just as the narrative in a film or television series follows a series of beats in which character and plot develop towards a conclusion, now marketing narratives have beats that are usually in the form of a question and answer or an emotional connection.
If the linear brand narrative is dead, then the key challenge to marketers in the new multi-platform age is developing strategies that respond to the beats of different narrative drums. In other words, you must get your moments to compliment your minutes.
This means engaging with consumers and the wider online communities at a level never seen before. It involves knocking down barriers that have traditionally existed between corporates and the consumers, with new kinds of video content produced on-the-fly.
Understanding what’s funny and what’s not, what’s on-topic and what’s yesterday’s news, has become more important than ever before on Vine and Instagram.
There’s no doubt that keeping it short and sweet is key to video marketing on Vine and Instagram, as is injecting brand personality. Involving your community is also essential, as well as planning and reacting. In fact, marketing on Vine and Instagram can be condensed into three stages:
Effective marketing on Vine is about reacting and responding. The ability to plan your video marketing around key events or opportunities in your sector is one thing; using quick thinking to create potentially viral content that plays off the unpredictable at these events is quite another.
You have to understand the condensed nature of the micro-movie format. Content needs to get to the point and be uncluttered. Comic content, using techniques such as animation and montage, call for precision and timing.
Many firms make the mistake of producing detached and irrelevant content that doesn’t engage their targeted viewers at all. Vine and Instagram isn’t just about content marketing but communication. Use video to open up a dialogue with your community or to respond or offer up commentary on something trending within your target communities.
There’s a completely different raft of considerations that go into creating content that is 6 or 15 seconds in length. Vine and Instagram movie-making demands marketers adapt to short narrative beats and rise to the challenges of building brand awareness on these platforms.
Joe Cox is head of content at Bespoke Digital.