Every business wants to find more customers, increase sales, develop their brand – and in the digital world that includes having an effective social media presence. An effective social media presence does not simply mean posting to various social networks every once in a while – no matter how good your posts or images you need a focused strategy based on solid data to promote your business and gain more loyal customers.
Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, now boasts more than 800 million users each month (that’s twice as many as in 2015) so it deserves a place in your social media plans because it influences buyers and the purchases they make.
But Instagram is not the place for the hard sell but a vehicle to more subtly get your marketing message across and build brand reputation and awareness.
It is also the social media platform where visuals are essential to your success; attention-grabbing images that cut through the clutter of online content. Once you have the right visuals, Instagram is relatively simple to use from a business perspective.
So here is our step-by-step guide to getting started on Instagram for your business…
Use a Business Account Not a Personal One
Fairly obvious really but you do need to use a dedicated business account – not your personal account – to build your business reputation on Instagram. And remember that the account should be entirely focused on the business – so no personal snaps.
So just what should you be posting for your business?
Use Images That Tell Your Story
Images are an extremely powerful medium to influence potential customers and statistics from text-based social media networks (like Facebook and Twitter) indicate that posts with images are far more likely to engage customers. (Hence the growing popularity of image-based tweets).
But, as we’ve already said, Instagram is not the place for a sales pitch. Instead use it to influence customers and earn their trust so that when they are ready to buy they will know your business and what it stands for.
Clearly, then, this means the type and professionalism of your images are critical to success for a business on Instagram.
Use Professional Images
While consumers may want to see detail in some of your images they don’t want product images or close-ups – instead use aspirational lifestyle images that grab their attention.
Some of the most successful brands (such as Nike) use almost entirely inspirational images. Importantly, try to use totally unique images that consumers are unlikely to see anywhere else for greatest impact and aesthetic appeal.
If detail or close-ups are important for your brand message then use 2 or 3 photos in each post so people see the lifestyle image first and then more detail as they swipe left through more photos.
Remember Your Link
There is only one place in Instagram where you can place a link to your website and that’s in your business bio so don’t forget it. Place it as part of a direct or indirect Call To Action (CTA) such as:
See more about ….. on our website Your Domain.com
Use Text Effectively
Instagram is all about photo sharing but that doesn’t mean you can’t use some text to reinforce the message of your images.
Take a look at many Instagram posts and the caption under the photo is truncated with a link for “More…”. The majority of these captions don’t get their message across fully because of the truncation. To use the caption effectively you need to carefully choose your words so the message is clear in the first 70 – 125 characters and only include additional information after that for anyone who clicks “More…”.
You can add up to 2,200 characters in total so use the rest of your space for a CTA to increase engagement (try – See link in our Bio for more information” and hash tags so your posts can be found.
Remember – statistically there will be plenty of people who never click “More..”
Your Instagram Handle has a limit of 30 characters so use something memorable and preferably the same as on other social networks.
Your IG Name is again 30 characters and will be displayed above your Bio on your feed and underneath your handle in search listings.
This is an additional 30 characters that can be used to give more information about your brand that isn’t provided in your Bio or Handle. So make good use of it…
A good Bio should accurately and succinctly describe your business. Include what you do, where you are based, a call-to-action, the link to your website and relevant hashtags. You don’t need to repeat your business name if you are squeezed for space – you have 150 characters available
The right hashtags will help your business get found on Instagram so it’s worth doing some research on the popular and relevant ones in your niche.
You can, and should, add as many hashtags as possible when growing your IG following like @thecybersecurityhub. Add them to your captions, comments and stories. But to keep things neat you can hide them in your stories. And on your captions try separating them from the main message with some blank space (or empty bullet points).
Tags / Mentions
Tags and mentions will notify others about your new content so, again, make good use of them in captions, comments and posts. When you tag or mention accounts on your image posts IG will add your post to the “tagged photos” section of those accounts. This will be seen by all of their followers and help expand your reach on IG. Just remember not to over-do it – it’s brand recognition not the hard sell we’re after here.
There are plenty of easy-to-use and free apps like Adobe Spark or Canva that enable you to overlay a text message onto your image; and they even have templates that are the perfect proportions for Instagram. But to avoid any perception of a hard sell only use text overlaid images sparingly.
There are some accounts whose images are almost entirely text-based but make sure you know your market if this is your planned route and try out a variety of images before committing to just one style.
Maybe use multi-image posts, and then only on the final image use text to encourage people to follow you or to announce promotions, deals or special offers once they have looked at 2 or 3 of your beautiful, attention grabbing images.
We’ll be writing more about optimising you IG account in our next post…