Hand's up if your completely over everyone telling you the next social media platform you've got to be on to be successful online. Instagram has been growing in the ranks of social platforms being used by business to interact with their audience - but is it for you?
With the start of advertising on Instagram on 30 September (they’ve been trialing it for some months with large brands) read on to see whether you should be putting Instagram in your digital business mix.
The essence of Instagram
Instagram is a mobile app that allows users to create digital visual scrap books. People follow people and the images of those you follow will appear in your stream. You can like, comment and message within the app, as well as share. Hashtags are used by about 46% of the users on Instagram to connect up similar ‘visuals’ with others eg. by location or events or ‘things’ like #adorablecats.
At the heart of it , it's all about how interesting your image is to your followers!
Statistics released by Instagram indicate for users in Australia:
60% are female
70% are between 18 and 34
70% of total users are active every day
46% use hashtags.
4 million active users per month
Globally there’s 300 million users. A stand out fact is that the engagement rate for Instagram is far higher than it’s sister company Facebook, at 3.1% (Socialbakers research) versus Facebook/Twitter which is 0.7% or lower.
Instagram is mobile only. Yes there’s a desktop version but it’s sparse on functionality.
This means that for those of you that have a business where there’s strong lead and conversion happening on mobiles, then Instagram could be in your wheelhouse.
How it’s used by business
Instagram best suits those businesses with a strong visual story to tell. Those most successful are creative with the use of their images and products or services using eye catching images - as well as the engagement techniques they use on the platform to get people to share, click through to your site or contribute.
Great examples of strong Instagram business account are:
1. Shagmelbourne, a Melbourne vintage store that uses their customers to model the merchandise as well as hashtags to include their posts in relevant conversations with other Instagrammers to get their merchandise in their stream.
2. Frank_bod have body care products and create great visuals and stories around using their products. They then extend the impact and reach of these great visuals with the use of hashtags. They’re very effective with call to actions and follower engagement and often run special offers and user content as part of their brand presence with the hashtag #thefrankeffect.
3. Abrowntable is a food photographer who showcases his talents with the most stunning photos. He uses hashtags effectively to put he’s images in front of new eyes.
4. vintageteacupandmore is a full on sales machine on Instagram. Based in Thailand every post has a strong call to action to contact, order, price etc. Like the above, this Instagrammer is also using hashtags to get in front of interested people in what is a very niche market.
How to see if your customers are on Instagram
To find out whether there are any potential customers in your niche on Instagram you need to do a little research around hashtags. First up, you need to work out what you think might be the relevant hashtags for your business. You do this by thinking about the common words your customers use to find or search for your product or service.
If you’re a local business then you’d include your location to see what kind of pictures are being posted under that hashtag.
If you’re not sure where to start here’s a few tips:
- Get ideas of hashtags from your own keywords in your website statistics to see what search terms brought people to your website. You can learn more about hashtags in the quick low down for beginners.
- Use the search in Instagram with a bunch of words to see what comes up. The search indexes both hashtags and profiles.
- Look at your competitors to see what kind of hashtags they are using on Instagram.
- If you’re a locally based business try Pixifly to look at what is being posted in your area.
- Use http://iconosquare.com/ to see key stats on any public Instagram account ie your competitors. You can see what kind of hashtags are being used within the posts and the kind of shares and likes that they get to help you gauge popularity.
- With your list of keywords search tagboard.com to see if any are performing as hashtags. This tool covers multiple social channels, so just filter to Instagram to get a feel for the Instagrammers activity. This is a great tool to not only see who’s using related hashtags to your business, but also a way to discover other related or even better hashtags with big followings attached to them.
Why is it a great platform for your business?
If you’ve determined that your customers are likely hanging out on Instagram, there’s a few extra reasons you should consider Instagram as a place to put your business forward.
It’s not a cluttered environment (for now at least). Unlike Facebook, Instagram doesn’t have a million things on the page going on to distract the user. Your visual is all there is - and if it’s strong and relevant to your audience it can be a strong promotion tool for you.
The prominent use of hashtags to connect up related conversations is what makes it a great tool for your business as you can use these to target your audience.
The feed on your Instagram can also be showcased on your website providing a little of that social recommendation that social media is so great at.
You can also post video in Instagram - up to 15 seconds worth.
It’s a great platform to encourage your customers to post images with a common hashtag that brings together all of those is a very effective way to get customer endorsement for your products.
Instagram are now just opening advertising up (as of 30 September) and it will be interesting to watch the impact of this. If you think you’ve got a good potential customer base already on Instagram, then it’s worth exploring how you might use this to expand your reach.
Stay tuned, for the second in this Instagram series where I’ll cover the Instagram basics for business.
For some key stats on Australian Instagram users: