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Should my business be on Instagram?

I keep seeing this question popping up in lots of Facebook groups I’m part of. 

‘I feel like I should be on Instagram, but would it make sense for my business?’

There are all sorts of businesses on Instagram.  Why wouldn’t there be? It’s basically another social media platform like twitter and Facebook but with glorious pictures. And that’s where a lot of people stumble, it can be hard to see what kind of pictures you would share on Instagram if you are a solicitor, rather than a baker or a … and this is where I stumble, the only businesses that I can see where it would be hard to come up with interesting images are those bound up in finance or law, but even then I can think of lots of ways to make this appealing.

Maybe the question should be, how can you tell your brand story through the medium of pictures?  All businesses have a story (come and work with me if you haven’t worked out what yours is!), so really Instagram is a way to tell your business story through images, rather than words.  And as both Facebook, twitter and linkedin is beginning to rely even more heavily on the sharing of images, hopefully you will have played around with storytelling and images a bit by now.

Maybe the question is more ‘is my audience on Instagram?’ and ‘do I have time to devote to another social media channel’ and then ‘if I spend time on Instagram, will I see a return on my investment?’.

Is my audience on Instagram?

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media channels, and since being acquired by Facebook is growing and changing every day.  More and more people are signing up to see and share in a visual way. The audience does tend to be younger, but I know lots of people of all ages with an Instagram account.

Do I have time to devote to another social media channel?

Social media can surely be a time suck. We go ‘just to look at something’ and pop back into the land of the living 30 minutes to an hour later not really sure what we’ve seen, but with a warm glow that we’ve connected with a few people while sitting alone in our living rooms.

The best thing about Instagram is that is can be a time saver for small businesses.  I generally post to Instagram once a day, this also give me one twitter post and one Facebook post as I (generally) share the post to both platforms as well. For one action I’m generating content for 3 social media profiles.  3 for the price of one.  So photos and videos you create on Instagram create content for other social media sites as well.

Now before Instagram became such a hit, it was very much (and still is frowned upon) to share one piece of content with several social media sites.  So never cross post between twitter and Facebook, no, no, no (ask me why if you’re not sure, but believe me it looks terrible and like you don’t love you audience).  But Instagram changed all that, and most people cross post and everyone loves it.

If I spend time on Instagram, will I see a return on my investment?

Of course, there are analytics on Instagram, and you will be checking your analytics on your website to measure where your traffic comes from (if you aren’t doing this, you must, otherwise how do you know if any of your efforts on social media are returning any investment – if you’re unsure this is something I can teach you!).  So, you’ll have some idea of whether people are going to look at your products or services. 

You will need to decide what a good return on investment will look like.  Now it might be instant sales, but generally that’s not what social media is really good at anyway.  What it is good at is building relationships and trust with your current and potential clients and telling your brand story.  And Instagram is good at this.  I have lots of people who find me on Instagram, or who know me in other places, but seeing me on Instagram adds to the know, like, trust factor – which we all know is vital for making those eventual sales.

My only gripe with Instagram is that you currently can’t add a weblink onto an image comment.  For someone to go to your website they would need to go and follow the link in your bio. So, the path for web traffic is not an easy one, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the ladies and gentlemen at Facebook correct this pretty soon. 

What should I share on Instagram?

Firstly, it is all about adding to your brand story and showing some personality.  So how can you do this in pictures?  If you’re thinking about dipping your toe into Instagram, go and find some similar brands and see how they’re doing it.  If you don’t like how their using it, you will know that straight away, so at least you’ll know what not to do!

You can share your latest blog posts on Instagram and like Facebook you can be a lot more verbose than on twitter.  People do read a long Instagram post.  Share images of your day, share images of you at work, share images of things that inspire you.  Remember; inspire, educate, entertain – the social media mantra!

But with all social media and marketing, remember ultimately that it is about your ideal customers, not about you.  It’s not about you at all really, it’s about them. So, what kinds of things would they want to see, what interests them?  How can you engage with your target market?

Use the filters and colour and style of photography to develop your brand.  You’ll see the best brands on Instagram will use similar filters, styles of photography & fonts. This will help you to develop your brand.

And use hashtags.  That’s a must.  That’s how your images will get seen outside of your social circle.  Investigate and find out what hashtags are used for your industry and your area and use them in the first comment after you’ve published your image.  You can use up to 30, so why not use them all?  Create and keep lists of hashtags on your phone somewhere, so you don’t need to think them up every time you post a picture.

To conclude!

Watch how other brands use Instagram, develop your brand story, think about how you can educate, inspire and entertain current and potential customers, cross post, use filters, use hashtags and measure, measure, measure!

If you’re going to ‘have a go’ at Instagram create a strategy and stick with it for 3 months.  At the end of the 3 months, measure the effects, see if you enjoy it and you’ll know if it’s the right place for your business.  But you will need to commit to being present to see any effect, so any half hearted attempt may just leave you feeling frustrated.

If you wanted to find out in more detail how to create your unique brand or learn how to use analytics to measure your return on investment, or how to develop your Instagram profile take a look at ways we could work together on your developing your business.