Instagram is a photo sharing mobile application which enables users to upload images, edit them using a variety of photo filters and share them to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr and other Instagram users. Before you start thinking that this is just a fad for teens, foodies and cat lovers, top brands have also been quick to jump on the Instagram bandwagon to effectively target mobile users and increase the engagement levels of their social media campaigns. Is your business taking advantage of Instagram? If you’re not sure where to start, download the application on your phone, create an account for your business and use some of these tips and tricks whilst to get your Instagram started!
Edit your profile
After you sign up for an account you’ll be able to add a profile picture and edit your public profile. In your ‘bio’ section add a quick description about your business as well as a link to your website and other social pages. This profile should be publicly available so make sure its attention grabbing and enticing to follow.
In your ‘Sharing Settings’ you’ll be given the option to link your Instagram account to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare. If you have any of these accounts link them to your Instagram account so that you’re given the option to directly share your uploads to your other pages. This will save you posting time as well as drive traffic to your Instagram account from your other social network pages.
Edit your uploads
When you’re uploading an image to Instagram you are able to choose from a number of photo filters that can change the look and feel of your images. Play around with their photo editing features and make sure you add a caption to your image before it’s uploaded. In your caption you can write a short description about your image as well as include any relevant hashtags to help others find your picture. If you’ve already uploaded your image without adding hashtags, you’re still able to do so by commenting on the image with the hashtag.
For those that are asking ‘What is a hashtag?’, they’re codes that enable other users to categorise their image searches depending on what they’d like to find. For example, if you’re uploading an image of your trip to Fiji you may want to use the hashtag ‘#Fiji” and any user in the world that is looking for the keyword “Fiji” will be able to find your picture. To use this in your image description, your caption could be “Relaxing by the #beach in #Fiji”, your image will now be searchable under the keywords “beach” and “Fiji”.
Optimise your hashtags
Now that you know about hashtags, how else can you use them? Keep in mind that you would like to optimise your tag usage instead of hashtagging every word in your sentence that will just make your caption difficult to read and your image will show up for irrelevant terms.
- Tag your brand: In your image description you should include your brand’s hashtag so that it starts appearing in searches and it is easier for your fans to find
- Add a comment: If you’ve already uploaded an image and you’ve forgotten to use hashtags or you would like to add some that you may have missed, you can still do so by commenting on your picture.
- Create a hashtag for your event: If you’re hosting an event, create a unique event hashtag such as #ewebseminar and encourage your attendees to do the same when using Instagram or Facebook. When you upload your image with this hashtag and share it to your other pages, any page fans, Instagram followers and event guests will be able to search for the event photos by typing in your hashtag.
- Create a hashtag for your contests: Start an Instagram contest by asking those wanting to compete to upload their image and use your unique contest hashtag. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue invited their shoppers to come into the store with their smart phones to Instagram pictures of items that they couldn’t live without and upload it with the hashtag #SeeUAtSaks to win $1,000. Not only was every upload an instant advertisement for the store and their products, the Saks hashtag is now showing up in the feeds of these Instagrammers for their friends to see.
Use the ‘@’ to communicate with users
The ‘@’ signs are different to the hashtags. It is used to tag, reply or communicate with Instagrammers by their Instagram username. For example, if I want to announce the winner of the #ewebcompetition2012, I could upload an image with the caption “Congratulations to @friendlyguy for being our #ewebcompetition2012 winner!”. This will send a notification to ‘friendlyguy’ in Instagram that he has been mentioned in your post as well as send the image to the collection of images filed under “#ewebcompetition2012″
Geo-tagging allows Instagram followers to find the location of where your photos are being uploaded. Enable this feature so that you’re able to utilise it during an event you would like your followers to participate in or attend.
Add the widget to your site
Sites such as SnapWidget and Embedagram allow you to generate a code for an Instagram widget so that you can insert this into your website. Your website visitors will be able to catch a glance of your most recent Instagram images or be prompted to click through to your Instagram page to see what you have recently uploaded. Alternatively you can create your own Instagram icon or find one on Iconfinder to suit your website theme and place it next to your other social network buttons.
Engage other users
Respond to comments using the ‘@’ sign as well as ‘like’ other photos just by browsing and double-tapping images that you like so that you increase the engagement levels of your Instagram account. If you like interesting images, your fans will enjoy following you on Instagram when your likes show up on their feed. It will also help you better build your brand.
Tell your story
They say a picture is worth 1000 words and memorable brands are able to tell stories. These stories can be about your company values, how your business started or snippets from an event that was recently held. An easy way to do this through Instagram is by creating a collage. You can download collage applications on your phone such as InstaCollage, Photo Collage Creator, Photo Grid or PicFrame.
If you let your followers in on what goes on behind the scenes by uploading interesting images of what happens in your business day-to-day such as fashion photoshoots for your fashion website or upcoming events, you’ll better engage with your fans as well as entice them to follow you to see more. If you’re over-saturating your Instagram followers with branding images or constantly reposting things that you’ve already used in your other social pages, you’re being lazy and not adding value to your fans. This will give them less of an incentive to follow you online.
Get your employees involved
Encourage your employees to participate and follow each other on Instagram. If you upload any pictures containing your employees make sure you tag them by using the ‘@’ and encourage them to also upload images using your business hashtag.
Time your posts
The highest Instagram engagement times are between 5-6pm on weekdays. A great tool to use to measure your Instagram’s engagement level is SimplyMeasured, you can generate your free Instagram User report here.
Instagram is just one of the many niche social sites that your brand should be taking advantage of. Although there are no set protocols for using your Instagram account, remember to be frequent, interesting, engaging and try to be persistent with the theme of images to upload so that you can uphold your brand.
I hope you’ve found this helpful – and if you’re already using Instagram, drop your username in the comments below!