Instagram is a social network that allows you to share photos and videos. It has a lot in common with Twitter, in that people can 'follow' you and the photos and videos posted are available publicly by default
Instagram launched in October 2010 and more than 400 million people use it regularly. Many brands and businesses have a presence on this social network, often using it to share product and company photos and to build relationships with potential customers.
Visual content is incredibly popular across social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. And Instagram focuses on the power of visuals, by allowing people to share and comment on images and videos.
This means it can slot in alongside other social networks to provide you with a specific channel to attract people who like to view and browse images.
It's also easy to connect Instagram to Twitter and Facebook, so you can cross-post images to all these social networks at once. (Instagram is owned by Facebook, so it's no surprise these social networks work well together.)
To have a real impact on Instagram, you need to do more than just post images and videos. You should engage with other Instagram users, commenting on their contributions and replying to people who comment on yours.
Instagram is informal, so it's a good way to add personality to your business, show your staff in action and what goes on behind the scenes. If you subscribe to the idea that a 'picture is worth a thousand words', then you could communicate frequently through Instagram.
For instance, you could use it to:
Although Instagram can be accessed from your computer, you need to use the Instagram mobile app to upload, edit and share images. If you don't own a smart phone or tablet, you won't be able to use Instagram effectively.
This may help you fit Instagram into your schedule, because you can take your smart phone out whenever you have a minute or two to spare. A good strategy is to use Instagram in short, sharp bursts – a few minutes each, perhaps three or four times a day.
Your can create an Instagram account for your business in just a few minutes.
Once you've installed the app, run it and select the sign up option. You'll need to enter your email address and create a username and password. You'll also have to confirm your email address via a message you'll be sent.
As with Twitter, your username is important. It's a good idea to incorporate your company name — and to use the same username as on other social networks, if you're already signed up to them.
It's important to make connections on Instagram – people will follow you, but you should follow other accounts you're interested in, too.
Instagram will help you discover people and businesses you know who are also using it. During sign up, it'll ask for access to your Facebook friends and the contact list from your mobile device, in order to see which of those people are on Instagram.
You can always perform these searches later (just tap Suggestions for You in the app), so you might prefer to finish creating your profile first.
As you use Instagram, it will suggest other accounts you could follow. This can help you find other relevant people and businesses on the service.
You should establish a strong profile for your business on Instagram. People will view this when deciding whether to follow you, so try to provide helpful information.
To edit your profile, tap the cog icon at the top of your screen, then choose Edit Profile.
You might notice an option to switch to a private account. Don't choose this if you want to be found by potential contacts and customers. It prevents your photos and videos being seen publicly, making it hard for people to find you.
This is the most important step of the lot. As you start posting photos and videos on Instagram, your profile will increase and it'll become easier for other people to find you.
Remember, any photos and videos that you post to Instagram will be visible publicly.
Once you've set up your account, try and sign in to Instagram at least once a day. To begin with, aim to start following and interacting with people, and try to post a few interesting photos or videos.
As time goes on, you'll get a feeling for how to make Instagram work for your business.
You can't expect many people to follow you on Instagram unless you follow others too. Spend some time searching for people who you think might have something in common with your business.
For instance, if you run a café, you might start following people who use Instagram to document their love of coffee.
You can also like and comment on photos from people in your niche. This will help you get noticed and build your own following.
If you already have an established presence on Facebook, Twitter, or another social network, use the Linked Accounts option to connect them to your Instagram account.
This will allow you to post Instagram photos and videos to your other accounts too – hopefully attracting people to follow you on Instagram.
You can create a vast number of effects by combining Instagram's photo and video filters and editing tools. Don't be afraid to experiment. Attractive, unusual and quirky images may attract more interest than straightforward photos — and the vast range of filters is one of the things that has made Instagram so popular.
Don't neglect your captions, either. You can encourage people to respond to you by posing a question. As with Twitter, you can use hashtags (like #trainers) to help people who are searching for posts about particular subjects.
Adding a location to posts may also help attract followers in your local area.
Keeping these things in mind will help you use Instagram effectively:
As with many social networks, Instagram can seem confusing when you first start using it. But if you get stuck in – and search online for advice – you'll soon feel more comfortable.
To get to grips with things, you can also try signing up as a personal user first.
In addition to the official Instagram app, there are a number of apps and tools that can help you use this social network more effectively.
There are thousands of other apps that work with your Instagram account. Try searching online to start exploring what you can do. Instagram also runs its own business blog for inspiration and ideas.
Make sure your profile is easy for users to find for and that you're posting at least once or twice a week. This will tell readers what you can offer them — precisely and concisely.
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