In the wise words of Bob Dylan, Times They Are a Changin'. You've heard it a million times before: Your business needs Social Media. By this time, as a business owner, you've either grabbed the bull by the horns, are a struggling social media hopeful, or you're completely ignoring it all together, hoping the "fad" goes away. For you two latter crowds, this one's for you.
Let's start from scratch. Instagram, sometimes referred to as IG or Insta, is a photo and video sharing network owned by Facebook. Launched in 2010, Instagram's focus is on visual elements, rather than words alone. This eye-catching, creative form of social media became instantly appealing to younger generations. Since the demographic didn't fit many target audiences, it was often ignored as a form of marketing for many businesses.
It's now been nine years since its launch. Which means the initial young demographic that was once ignored has now aged to fit perfectly into your buyer personas. The 18-year-old that was once posting their nights out and road trips in 2010 are now 27-year-old homeowners, married with children, and browsing Instagram for the quietest vacuum that won't wake the baby.
What does this mean for you, the business owner? Well, it means you need to be on Instagram.
The Basics of Instagram
The best way to set up your Instagram is to download the app directly to your phone and set up a business account (it's free!). You'll want to include a bio with a link to your web site, and fill out everything you can about your business. The more information you provide, the easier it is for a potential customer to contact you.
Utilize your circle of influence and your customer base to encourage followers. Similar to a person "liking your page" on Facebook, followers essentially subscribe to what you post.
Ready for your first post? Here are a few things to keep in mind when posting:
- Be descriptive in your captions. Some of the most followed accounts tell a story. Don't be afraid to use emojis and let your business have a personality.
- Keep in mind, links on your post captions will not be clickable. Instagram is focused on your photo or video and the user experience within itself. They aren't there to help you re-route people to another web site or social media platform.
- Use hashtags, but don't go crazy (don't worry, we'll go over what hashtags are next.) Just like its parent, Instagram uses algorithms that decide how relevant your posted content is to your followers, and therefore where (and if) you show up in their feed. Overusing hashtags, or using hashtags that are irrelevant to your content are a red flag, and Instagram will consider your content less worthy.
- Just like you do with your branding, try to keep everything fluid and similar. Pick a theme and stick to it. This isn't solely for visual appeal, it is also something Instagram picks up on when determining your relevancy.
- Post at the optimal, high-traffic times.
- Don't over-post. One or two posts a day is the ideal amount. If your posts are all someone sees in their newsfeed because you're posting too much, they are likely to unfollow you. Not to mention, again, Instagram will kick you back a notch.
How to use Hashtags... correctly
Hashtags can be a fantastic thing for your business. When using a hashtag, you're letting everyone know that your content is relevant to them - an inbound marketer's dream!
Let's say you own a bakery, and you post a beautiful wedding cake you just created. You might use some of the following hashtags: #Wedding #Bakery #WeddingCakes #Cakes (Remember: Hashtags can never include spaces or symbols). Using these allows people to find you from other places. They may have searched for #WeddingCakes, or clicked on someone else's hashtag of the same name. Once they do this, they get a display of recent posts that included that hashtag - and see yours.
You should always be careful not to "overstep" when it comes to hashtags. If the bakery owner started using tags like #DogsOfInstagram simply due to its popularity, Instagram would begin finding them less relevant.
These are the very basics of getting started on Instagram. There's so much more to it - like stories, highlights and direct messaging - but we will save that for another day. Happy 'gramming!