Originally published on June 27, 2013. Updated on January 23, 2020.
Believe it or not, Instagram isn’t just for posting pictures of your most recent meal.
Instagram offers a visual way for businesses to create a strong brand, promote their products and include their business in social media conversations. About 25 million businesses actively use it as part of their digital marketing strategies.
The old saying, “a picture tells a thousand words” is true.
Pictures offer a dynamic way to engage viewers, not just for major brands, but for every type of business down to mom-and-pop stores. They evoke an emotional response; the more interesting and creative your pictures are, the larger an audience you will draw in.
Want to skip ahead and get expert help? Schedule a free consultation.
Instagram for business 2020 updates
Instagram frequently updates it software and strategies. In December 2019, it rolled out a fresh batch of features to make it easier for businesses to connect with and grow their audiences.
This helpful statistics tool is a great way to get a snapshot of which posts and stories are generating the most followers. This is incredibly valuable because it opens the doors to the types of conversations that get people excited about what you do… and ultimately generate new leads.
This tool can give you an aggregated view into follower changes by day or by week, which lets you know what’s working and what’s not at a glance so you can refine your strategy. This is key to maximizing effectiveness and making sure you work smarter, not harder.
Stories about you
Instagram features is an incredibly cool feature that rolled out in August 2016, which allows you to have conversations with your audience and show them what you’re up to in real time. This feature lets you know as soon as someone mentions your account in one of their stories.
It has a similar effect to publishing testimonials on your company website, in that it shows real people endorsing and connecting with your business in real time, which builds trust and confidence in your brand, because you can re-share their stories on your own story. Very cool.
The key to digital marketing is honing in on your specific target audience, which means it’s really important to make sure your messaging is reaching people in the right age bracket.
If you are promoting a craft brewing company, for example, you need to make sure you’re appealing to people aged 21+. It’s the same if you’re promoting an educational product, because you’ll want to make sure your efforts go towards targeting parents and not students.
The age gating tool allows you to control who can see your Instagram profile by setting up a minimum age limit for your account. It’s really simple and will maximize the effectiveness of each post.
Flexible profile displays
Previous versions of Instagram have had a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to profiles. The new version is much more customizable, allowing you to share the profile information that works best for your business.
If you operate an online store, for example, a street address is essentially a waste of space; however, if you operate a local dental clinic, it’s very valuable. All you have to do to access this update is go to your profile page, click “Edit Profile” and update your details.
Once your Instagram account grows to a point where your audience starts interacting with you frequently, you’ll find that you start getting a lot of direct messages. It can be hard to keep on top of them all, but this feature allows you to organize your inbox with primary and general tabs. You can move messages between the two with a simple swipe, which will make it much easier to stay on top of your messages – and most importantly, follow up on every single new lead that hits your inbox.
Not quite sure what this all means for your business? Reach out to us with your questions.
How to use Instagram for business
If you are new to Instagram, a good place to start is to upload pictures that show your product in a unique and fun way. If you’re a clothing company, post pictures of people wearing your gear in cool locations. If you’re a brewing company, show people enjoying your beverages in a variety of situations. If you’re a service-based company, keep people updated with your latest projects to show off the versatility of your business. If you’re a manufacturer, show your products in action.
Polish is nice, but it’s not essential. You don’t have to be the brightest, shiniest, wittiest content creator. All you have to do is tell a story about your brand and highlight the things that make you unique. Behind-the-scenes photos can also be a powerful way to engage viewers – the audience feels as though they are getting a special look at something they will not normally see.
Define your target audience
Different types of content appeal to different types of people. This is why it’s really important to define your target audience right from the start, because it will help you develop a consistent strategy specifically designed to appeal to their tastes and solve their problems.
That’s what you’re here to do, after all: solve problems.
The best way to do this is to determine who already buys from you and who is already following you on social media. That way, you can find out exactly what type of people are interested in your business and figure out who is most likely to buy your products or enlist your services in future.
You should also do some thorough competitor research. Look up similar local businesses operating in your area and follow their pages. You’ll be able to get a good overview of their strategies by looking at the types of content they post and the types of engagement they get from their followers.
This will point you in the right direction so you can develop a winning strategy of your own.
Use hashtags strategically
The use of hashtags also offers a way to take your business into everyday conversation.
For example, if someone was looking for a car they could search for key words such as #wheels #auto #car. If you are using these hashtags with your photos, the user conducting the search will see them.
Using your own creative hashtag can often catch on and be used by other viewers, creating more traffic to your Instagram photos, which leads to more awareness of your business, more traffic to your website, and potentially more leads and sales.
View this post on Instagram
We had a blast doing a photo/video shoot for The Play Yard yesterday! ???? Have you heard of The Play Yard? They are an Alaska-owned start-up looking to bring a sensory-rich indoor playground to the community. It's exciting seeing SO much growth happening in our local community! #digitalmarketing #alaska #digital #agencylife #marketing #story #storytelling #TeamBeacon #photoshoot #videoshoot #startup #entrepreneur #playyard
Create interactive content
Don’t be afraid to have a little bit of fun with you Instagram account and your followers. Be as interactive as you like and include them in the story you’re creating with your account.
You might find that competitions are a great way to build an audience and engage followers, so you can offer a prize or a benefit for uploading a picture featuring your product in use.
You can also ask them questions and ask them to vote on things such as new product designs, special offers and even things like events, because it will help boost your engagement.
Make sure you also interact with the content your prospective customers are creating – follow them back, like their content and leave thoughtful comments on their posts. Remember that social media is always about the people behind the posts. It’s not just about the number of likes or comments, it’s about creating real human connections with other people in your community.
We can help! Our social media experts would love to help you develop a killer new Instagram strategy for your business. Schedule a free consultation.