With so many social media networks to keep up with these days, why would a busy small business owner want to sign up for one more?
Nashville Wraps hasn’t been using Instagram for long, but we’ve noticed some real advantages to investing a little time in yet another network. Here are 5 reasons to check out Instagram, if you haven’t already (or, reasons to make it work for your business):
1. User engagement is much higher than it is on Facebook – currently as much 15x more, according to Social Media Examiner. Have you noticed that customers are no longer seeing and interacting with your Facebook posts? There’s a reason for that: Facebook wants you to pay to “boost” your posts. For now, Instagram doesn’t restrict which posts its users see; if you’ve shared a photo (or video) recently, your followers will see it in their feed. So post new photos regularly, but try to avoid sharing several photos at once – that can be overkill.
2. It’s EASY to share photos (and videos). Remember what a challenge it once was to get decent pictures of your products? And then what a hassle it was to get the photos from your camera onto your website? With its easy photo-editing capabilities, Instagram puts the creative power into your hands via your smartphone and allows you to share photos instantly. (Don’t want to take the time to figure out how to use it? Just ask a teen to show you – this social network is a big hit with them.) Once a photo is shared, it has a distinct URL which you can use to share elsewhere, or you can embed the photo into a web page (just click on the photo and then click on the “…” button next to the comment field to copy and paste the embed code). If you’re using WordPress to run your website, there are plugins available to display a gallery of your Instagrams on your website. And of course, since Facebook owns Instagram, sharing there is a piece of cake as well.
3. You can get creative with product photos or quick how-to videos. Just got some new products in for your online shop, but can’t wait until your photographer is available to start showing them off? Instagram is the perfect way to give a “sneak preview” of coming attractions, allowing you to experiment with different props and real-life settings. It’s easy to let your brand’s personality shine through. It’s also a great way to get the word out about current promotions or items with limited availability, or demonstrate how to use a featured item – and you’ll get instant feedback from your followers.
4. A picture or video is, as they say, worth a thousand words. A peek at Toms’ Instagram account, for example, shows a company whose mission is about much more than just shoes and glasses. Among the first to put the “buy one, give one” model into practice, Toms includes photos of their philanthropic activities thrown in with cool product shots, giving an overall picture of a fun-loving, hard-working company that enjoys giving back. Your Instagram account should show off the things you’re passionate about – but I want to mention one caveat: your followers might start to lose interest and “unfollow” you if you’re only sharing photos of your adorable dog or the amazing meals you’ve had (might want to save those shots for a separate, personal account). Keep your posts focused on and related to your brand so you’re adding value to your followers’ experience, and your audience will grow. Got styling tips for that new accessory, or a serving suggestion for an amazing new gourmet product? Show how excited you are about the product, and your enthusiasm will catch on.
5. Your customers can show off your products for you. Speaking of photos of amazing meals: Many diners will Instagram their plates before digging in, including the name of the restaurant when they share the photo. This taps into the concept of “social proof”: if our friends and family recommend a product, we are more likely to choose that product as well. Encouraging the use of a particular #hashtag for your shop will make it easy to find those customer photos, because who knows? You might even want to feature them on your own website. Anthropologie encourages customers to share photos of their clothing, accessories and home goods in action. The resulting collection of pictures is more creative and appealing than the company’s own Instagram feed, with minimal effort or expense.
We’re still learning as we go, but there are some excellent resources out there for using Instagram for business, such as this great blog about how to use hashtags to grow your audience, how to attract your competitors’ followers and the best times to post. There are also plenty of photography tips out there for creating beautiful photos. Above all, keep in mind that it’s meant to be fun. You’ll enjoy seeing the “likes” and comments start rolling in when you’re sharing photos that you love.