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How Your Business Can Rock on Instagram

We have certainly become a picture-taking obsessed culture haven’t we? It’s all thanks to social media where Instagram is king of image sharing.

Every day I can go online and see hundreds of photos from friends and family.  And with each snapshot, I get a tiny look at life through their eyes.

For example, yesterday, I know my friend Nikki had a delicious salad for lunch. I saw my cousin Lindsey went hiking in Colorado, and my friend Joe’s two-year old went potty like a big boy for the very first time. (As a parent, I know how exciting this moment can be. But hey Joe, I think this one qualifies as a social media overshare!)

Smartphones bring out the photographer in all of us. Photography and social media just go together, like peanut butter and jelly.

Instagram is a social media platform rooted in smartphone photography. Hardly the new kid on the block, Instagram launched in 2010 as a trendy app for iOS and it wasn’t long before everyone wanted it.

When Instagram first became available to Android users in 2012, it was downloaded more than one-million times in a single day! That same year, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion.

To date, people have shared more than 40 billion photos on Instagram. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

Here are more recent Instagram statistics:

  • 400 million monthly users
  • 90% of users are under the age of 35
  • 20% of all Internet users are on Instagram
  • 7th most-used social media site in the world

It’s obvious Instagram has become part of the daily digital landscape. But do you know how to use it for your business? Do you know how to capture the attention of this enormous social community, make them aware of your brand, and keep them engaged with your content?

Maybe not. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Let’s start by reviewing a few of the basics. 

Who is Your Instagram Audience?

Begin by asking the question “Who am I talking to on Instagram?”

And perhaps more importantly, “Who am I trying to reach?”

Remember, Instagram is great for companies and organizations targeting Millennials (aka Generation Y). That’s basically the 35-and-under crowd.

A recent Facebook study shows 69% of Millenials check Instagram at home, 39% check it when they go to bed, and 33% check it first thing in the morning. So Millenials are using it all day long.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying Millenials are the only ones on Instagram. There are plenty of other users outside that demographic who love the platform (including yours truly). But if your core audience is older than 35, this platform may not be the best place to focus your company’s social media efforts. 

Create Compelling Visual Content

Visually stimulating images that elicit an emotional response are essential to driving good content on Instagram. Eye-catching photos will perform better than boring photos. So stand out. That should be a no-brainer.

Here are five quick tips to make your Instagram content better:

  1. Go Behind the Scenes

Audiences love seeing what happens behind closed doors at your company. You don’t have to give away trade secrets. But showing how things work, showing who actually does the work, and snapping pictures at company events creates fun and unique content.

Pulling back the curtain makes your company look real and human.

  1. Reference Pop Culture

Celebrities have huge followings on Instagram. It’s a place where stars often connect with their fans.

You can be part of that conversation too. If you can connect entertainment news to your business, perfect. If not, it’s fine to simply have a little fun now and then too. That shows authenticity.

  1. Use Meme-based Storytelling
memes on instagram
Courtesy: friendemic.com

Who doesn’t love a good meme?

They’re one of the easiest kinds of viral content to create. You just need to have a good sense of humor.

If you’re really funny, you may be able to turn your own company or employees into a viral meme. That’s a meme dream come true.

Try using Meme Generator to make your own memes to post on Instagram.

  1. Share Inspirational & Motivational Quotations

If being hilarious isn’t your thing, then try being inspirational. Photos with popular sayings or famous quotations tend to get a lot of Instagram engagement. This is an effective way to portray your business as positive and encouraging.

Your followers will appreciate a little motivation and affirmation.

  1. Post Instagram Videos

Videos are a newer feature to Instagram. They may not get as much engagement as typical photos right now, however, your company could be a pioneer in this area. Becoming an early adopter of Instagram videos could definitely pay off.

Just like with photos, you upload videos directly from your device. The you can add filters, captions, and locations. Keep in mind, your Instagram videos need to be short and snappy. 15 seconds is the limit.

Have an Engagement Strategy

Nobody likes a one-sided conversation. The key to building a fan base on Instagram is to put just as much focus on your audience engagement as you put towards your content development.

Here are four tips to help improve Instagram engagement.

  1. Respond and Comment

Make sure someone in your organization is available to respond to people who interact with your Instagram account. There’s nothing worse on social media than a company that ignores its fans.

You can also improve engagement by regramming and commenting on content from other people and businesses. Keep it positive and helpful. Avoid getting in arguments with followers.

It may be a smart idea to give some customer service reps access to Instagram and other social media accounts. They’re often the best at handling those sticky situations.

  1. Use Hashtags

Leveraging popular hashtags such as #MovationMonday and #TBT are effective ways to join the conversation and get your content discovered. Don’t forget about your industry specific hashtags.

You can research and track popular hashtags for Instagram and other social media platforms using online tools like Hashtags.org and Hashtagify.me.

  1. User-Generated Content and Contests

Take a page right out of the Instagram playbook. In the early days, they held a lot of photo contests that got people posting even more images.

Today, it’s one of the most popular ways to use Instagram for branding – especially if you encourage fans to post photos of them with your products.

Comments are user-generated content too. Element recently partnered with popular Mommy-blogger, MommyShorts. She used her sizable Instagram audience to run a contest that helped us build a buzz around Oh Snap! Pickling Co.

  1. Tag Other People

With a business page, you are unable to tag individuals without a specific reason. They don’t want you tagging tons of people just to gain attention and advertise. That’s the same as spamming.

However, you are able to tag individuals when responding to a comment they leave. That ensures the person doesn’t miss your response realizes you got back to them quickly.

You can also encourage fans to tag their own friends and followers. For example, during the contest for Oh Snap!, MommyShorts asked her followers to tag other pickle lovers in their comments.

Advertising on Instagram

Social media is not free. Sure, it’s free to join, free to post, and free to communicate with others. But if you’re thinking of social media as free advertising, you’re going to be disappointed.

While sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do not charge brands to register an account and publish content, they do hold all of the cards when it comes to your content showing up in your follower’s feeds.

The reality is, if you want more than a small percentage of your followers to see your content, in most case you’ll need to pay. The good news is, social media advertising is versatile and relatively inexpensive.

One of the drawbacks of Instagram is that you are unable to post active hyperlinks in your updates. That means if you paste your company’s URL into a caption, it will show up, but it won’t be clickable. Users can only click through to your website from your profile page (so make sure that’s set up).

Instagram ads are different. Users can click through to your site directly from a paid post, which makes it much easier to drive traffic to your website.

Instagram allows you to post video ads, photo ads, and carousel ads. Carousel posts are a collection of photos people can swipe through. When you place a video ad on Instagram, it can be as long as 30 seconds instead of the standard 15-second videos.

Find out more about advertising on Instagram.

Perhaps most helpful of all is the fact that Facebook owns Instagram and you can place promoted posts on both platforms at the same time.

That means you can take advantage of Facebook’s advanced targeting options. Using Facebook’s Power Editor, you can get very specific about the kind of people you want to reach. It goes far beyond targeting by age, gender, and location. You can pinpoint specific interests, online activity, and even purchasing habits. Then Power Editor helps you optimize, track, and manage multiple campaigns.

All you need to do to get your ads on Instagram is link your accounts and click a checkbox in Facebook’s Power Editor. Watch the video at the end of his post for more on advertising with Instagram.

Final Thoughts on Instagram

The most important thing you can do on Instagram, and any other social media platform, is to share things that are actually worth talking about…or in the case of Instagram, worth looking at.

There are plenty of best practices, tips and tricks. But at the end of the day, real people want to interact with a company that shares their beliefs, their sense of humor, and understands their way of life.

So be relatable. Be authentic. Be valuable. And have fun!


Be the most enlightened person around the water cooler.