I am completely geeking out about our trip to San Francisco. San Francisco and Silicon Valley are tech hubs and I love the energy of the area – though I’ve never visited before! Over the past weekend, I watched The Social Network about Facebook and The Internship about Google. I am enamored with all the amazing tech start-ups and successful businesses. I’m even learning HTML5 through Udemy (another San Fran tech company) as I try to learn how to add on custom features to this blog!
In honor of our trip, I wanted to write a marketing post about one of my favorite social networks located just outside San Francisco, Instagram. You’ve heard of Instagram, right? If you haven’t used it before, it’s a social network that encourages its users to share their stories through images. Owned by Facebook (purchased for $1 Billion), this is one social network with a huge amount of potential for the future, especially for businesses with younger audiences. In the beginning of 2015, Instagram boasted 300 million users and 60% of those users were 35 or younger. There is a discrepancy on total active users listed in the Instagram and AdWeek links in the previous sentence; however there is no doubt that Instagram is an important online channel for your business to tell its story and engage its audience. You could read articles on Instagram for your business for hours upon hours, but I’ve drilled down the top pieces of advice I’ve found into these three tips:
1. Use Instagram Hashtags. Strategically.
A hashtag is defined as a “word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Hashtags are used to categorize, highlight themes and connect users with related content. Hashtags allow users to find your carefully curated content organically, while connecting with your brand and others in that specific area.
I’ll admit, I didn’t love Instagram when it launched because I was hashtag averse. On Twitter, partially because of the small text area, using more than 2 hashtags always made me feel as if the post was spammy. When I went on Instagram and saw tons of hashtags, I didn’t want to jump on the hashtag train. While Instagram allows you to tag up to 30 hashtags, they recommend you use up to 3 within your Image Caption.
My favorite way to combat the feeling of hashtag overload is to place up to 3 main hashtags within the Image Caption. These hashtags will be visible to your audience and may be included if they share your post. You want these prominent hashtags to complement your Instagram strategy, either linking to your Instagram Portfolio of your carefully curated content or to any major trends you follow. For my company account, we use #ashevilleeventco for all of our posts and our event community and clients often share images with our hashtag, as well!
To create a larger potential audience without providing immediate hashtag fatigue, I recommend placing approximately 8-12 additional tags in the first comment below the Image Caption. By using additional hashtags, your image will reach a larger audience through users who are visiting those hashtag streams. When others comment on your image, your hashtag-filled comment will become hidden and your Instagram feed will maintain a clean and polished appearance! You can use iPhone shortcuts if you often find yourself tagging your posts in a similar style. You can edit the Image Caption as many times as you’d like, but comments are set in stone.
Hashtags are a tool used to categorize your content, but have the power to elicit emotions, establish your brand presence and reach new audiences. Use your hashtags strategically and you’ll be surprised at how well your audience connects with you. Check out the new Search and Explore features to find relevant and inspirational hashtags.
2. Curate Instagram Stories.
Anything you share online from your brand (or personal page) creates your story. When you take the time to craft a clear message or shoot from just the right angle, your audience will notice and appreciate the beauty in this small square image. Instagram is a beautiful tool that lets images guide your messaging. The words are second to the image. Images have the ability to let your audience into those behind the scenes moments and the big accomplishments in your journey. You can craft your messages to complement your brand as a whole. I particularly love GoPro’s Instagram as they are able to share moments from their users from all sorts of perspectives on all kinds of adventures. They are not only beautiful images, but they make me excited and filled with wanderlust!
Right now on my phone, I not only have Instagram, I have Layout, Repost, PhotoGrid, InstaSize, Pic Stitch, PicTapGo, and Be Funky. While I only regularly use a few of these, it’s important to find the right tools to present your message. Layout for Instagram is my new favorite photo editing app as many of the other layout apps are bogged down with pop-up advertisements and ugly watermarks. Layout has a clear appearance and provides layout options to flip or invert your image. This can create powerful symmetrical images or a flip book type storyline. You can use up to 9 images and create an entirely custom design to show off your images. I’m excited to see how businesses take advantage of the new design offerings.
3. Advertise Your Business on Instagram.
Advertisements on Instagram are developing into something I believe will benefit businesses, while still maintaining the clean, visual experience Instagram users love. While I’ve never advertised on this platform, social advertising has the ability to not only act as a catalyst for brand recognition, but also bring new audiences to you as customers and clients. Instagram had previously set up ads as mainly a branding experience integrated organically into your feed. Especially if you tend to follow a lot of businesses, you might not have even known you were receiving an ad! I liked the way the Old Navy ads I received offered scrolling features to see a few different images that related into one lovely curated story.
There are several case studies available on the Instagram website from a select group of advertisers. All record a boost in brand and ad recognition, while some saw an increase in sales and website visits. Levis worked to expand the #LifeinLevis campaign and saw an increase in ad recall, along with reaching over 7 million users between the ages of 18-34. From reviewing the case studies it seems like age and location were the main targeting demographics that have been tested so far.
The key to all of Instagram’s advertising is to capitalize on the Facebook connection and as announced last month, that’s the plan! Many users have linked their Instagram with their Facebook page which is a HUGE resource into knowing these users inside out. Since Instagram and Facebook are besties [this is a technical term ;)], I think we’ll see some powerful ad options in the future! I’ve managed Facebook ads for many companies and Facebook knows almost everything about you..!! With Instagram ads eventually managed through the streamlined Facebook ads interface with options for valuable Call to Actions, like Shop Now or Install Now to encourage users to action there is no doubt of the extreme potential for small and large businesses alike.
Instagram is a powerful visual storytelling platform that can do wonders for your business if you use it correctly. Check out the Instagram Business Blog to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and changes to make the most impact for your business. Do you have any great Instagram success stories to share or any tips that worked for you? I’d love to hear them, please share in the comments below!