It has been barely five years since its conception, but Instagram has already flourished into a visual behemoth. With over 16 billion photos shared on the social network at time of writing, and a staggering 50 million photos believed to be uploaded on a daily basis, Instagram isn’t a social trend you can simply cast aside and ignore. Yes, it could be said that not every business can benefit from having an active presence on the social platform, and that is in part true. However, even if you believe your business isn’t quite right for Instagram, the network can at least teach us all about the monumental growth of online visual consumption.
It could be said that Instagram was always set to be a success. With over 1 million users signed up just 2 months after launch, Instagram knew exactly how to cater to their audience and keep them returning to the service with a flurry of new features and photo effects that encouraged engagement between these newly-established amateur photographers. When Facebook stepped in and bought the network for an impressive $1 billion in 2012, many saw the move coming, declaring the purchase to be a mere “formality”, with Instagram’s early success proving too alluring for a major player to resist. As 2014 reaches its climax, the network now has 150 million active daily users and the impressive success story continues.
For those of you that are ready to dive into the visual social sea head first, then there are a few important things to consider beforehand. Firstly, you must approach Instagram with a similar attitude to every other social media platforms. Be honest and ask yourself: Do you really have the time and resources to do the platform justice? Do you have a strategy in place that will allow you to measure your successes and shortcomings? Do you have a future-proof content map in place that you can use as a base guide for regular publishing?
If you find fault with any of the above, then perhaps Instagram isn’t the social platform for you right now, or perhaps you simply cannot add another social network to your bustling strategy – and if that’s the case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You should continue to hone what is currently working for you, and if the opportunity to expand arises again, consider Instagram then, but for now focus on what is working for you right now.
After all, concocting an ingenious idea for an Instagram post or campaign is all well and good in the short term, but if you can only commit 50% of your time to fleshing the idea out, then you are almost certainly going to come unstuck very quickly. A concrete strategy should be at the heart of any social campaign, so don’t assume that just because Instagram is perhaps a little more relaxed and light-hearted that your social approach and dedication to the platform can be too.
There are a number of other important things to look out for and to be aware of if this is your first time using Instagram for business:
- Pinpoint your target audience: This step will almost certainly live and die by the strength of your ongoing social strategy. Ideally, you’ll be using data sourced from Google Analytics to help shape your content, but if you’re not, then consistency is absolutely vital here. If you’re publishing content that is on-brand, then don’t mix this up with content that would be better suited to a personal account. You need to publish regular consistent content that reflects your brand’s values and beliefs – no compromises.
- Consistency is crucial: As we mentioned earlier on, your Instagram page needs to reflect your brand effectively. Perhaps the most important way to convey your message is by ensuring your branding matches your other online output and is optimised for the platform. Keep your logos, meta-descriptions and contact details consistent and up to date, so that if a potential customer does wish to get in touch with you, they have all of the necessary tools and details to do so.
- Think outside of the box: As each social network has unique features and best practices, we must tailor content in order to communicate effectively with the contrasting audiences. Instagram is no different in this respect, so don’t assume that you can simply regurgitate content from Twitter or Facebook. By all means, feel free to cross-promote a blog post, but ensure you mix up the content in order to add fresh value and keep your audience engaged and wanting to hear and see more from you.
- Master the art of storytelling: We’re emotional beasts by nature, so don’t rely on bland or cold content to help convey your story to new and existing followers. You need to be publishing content that has feeling, context and power in order to engage your audience and aid the social process. Remember, you shouldn’t be afraid to examine the competition to check out what they’re doing. We’ve all been in the situation of finding our feet, so providing you don’t copy content wholesale, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with adopting some of the better features you see elsewhere.
- Don’t rest on your laurels: Yes, posting photos and videos on Instagram is perhaps the main feature of the network, but your creativity shouldn’t just start and end with imagery. If you’re looking to really turn your social venture into a worthy success, then you need to get creative in a number of different ways; craft unique visual descriptions, master the hashtag and network with other influencers in order to get your name out there. Hashtags aren’t easy to conquer, so pay particular attention to which ones you use and how you’re using them. If the hashtags you’re using don’t seem to be working, look around you and see what is. If you unconsciously focus on something that isn’t working, you’ll find your follower count dwindling fast as your audience looks elsewhere.
- Don’t forget to engage: If a follower comments or likes something that you have posted on Instagram, you need to make sure that you’re ready to respond and spark up a conversation as soon as possible. Instagram relies heavily upon dialogue just like the majority of other online social networks, so let the conversation flow naturally and try to keep your audience engaged at every step of the process.
Instagram is ultimately unlike any other social platform. Instagram will allow you to focus on creating, publishing and sharing rich, captivating imagery, it will allow you to expand your digital footprint and raise awareness for your brand, and it will also allow you to carve the stories you wish to tell on a platform that is made for doing just that. If you have the time, resources and confidence to start building your brand on Instagram, then go for it. If you have doubts, then bide your time on this social phenomenon and wait until your doubts pass, or until the next big social thing is unveiled to the world.