With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter standing the test of time, and new social media sites coming out every year, choosing the right platform to build your small business community can be tough. Not only does each network foster a different atmosphere and provide a different user experience, it serves a different demographic. As one of the top social media sites in 2015, and with the highest small business user engagement, Instagram is no exception. Here’s the 4-1-1 on this popular app to help you decide if it’s the right space for your small business success.
What Is Instagram?
Released in 2010 and purchased by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is a photo and video sharing site that can stand on its own as well as interact with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
One aspect that sets Instagram apart from other social media sites is its mobility. Unlike traditional social media sites that were primarily developed to use on computers and then later made mobile-friendly, the very heart of Instagram was designed for phones and tablets. As musical artists share photos from backstage, and actors upload from behind the scenes, users feel that they’re given a more intimate and honest experience than they would with a status update or a tweet that anyone could have written.
Instagram also includes integrated photo editing options as well as dozens of photo filters so users aren’t just sharing moments – they’re creating works of art. Users can then like or comment on one another’s photos.
Who Is On Instagram?
While Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest have an average user age that lands somewhere in the 30s or 40s, Instagram caters to a significantly younger crowd.
Around 90% of Instragram users are under age 35, and about 50% of those are teens. In fact, while Instagram is only the 7th most popular social media site overall, it is the most popular social media site for teens. More than half of Instagram users are female; however, the ratio between male and female users has been balancing out over the past few years. Most Instagram users live in the city as opposed to a suburb or rural area. Adult users tend to have at least some college education.
Businesses that tend to have the most success using this social media platform are in the entertainment, apparel, and media industries. Brands that top the charts include Starbucks, Burberry, Free People, and Adidas, while the slots for most popular personal accounts are held by Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, and Ariana Grande.
How Do I Use Instagram?
Before you start posting to Instagram, it may help to learn some of this social media site’s etiquette. For example, nobody on Facebook would question you posting all 150 pictures from your company event. You could do the same on Pinterest and dedicate a whole board to it. But on Instragram, that would be a big no-no. It’s generally recommended that you only post one photo each day. Choosing just one particular photo to represent a product, an event, a meeting, or your workplace, makes your users feel as if you truly value them, and that they’re getting something really special.
You should also add captions to your photos. Your followers will appreciate having some context. While including hashtags can increase traffic and the chances of your post being commented on or liked, they should be used efficiently and sparingly.
Like all other social media sites, it’s never in good taste to ask for likes and followers. Instead, try to attract them organically.
Lastly, while users are more likely to interact with brands on Instagram than many other social media sites, it’s not the reason they’re there. In fact, it’s why so many young people are on Instagram as opposed to Facebook and Twitter, which have become more commercialized over the years. You’ll attract more followers to your small business account by generating content your users want to see as opposed to simply marketing your business.
Signing up for Instagram is as easy as downloading the free app, creating a user name, and linking your account to your other social media sites.
How Do I Grow My Business with Instagram?
To develop a community of followers on Instagram, you may want to begin by aligning your social media behaviors in a way that will most likely bring you success. In addition to posting one photo each day, it would help to post at peak times. For Instagram, those are hours that students are home from school and young adults are home from work – so late afternoon, evenings and weekends. You should also post in the format users most want to see: While Instagram users in general enjoy a few short videos, they prefer photos. While filters can make a cool work of art, photos without any filters tend to get the most engagement.
Just like on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, you’ll get far more user engagement if you engage with your customers as well. Respond to the comments people make on your photos, and make comments on other user’s photos as well. Follow your customers back and consider reaching out to them on other social media sites. Hold a contest where users can submit pictures or reward the first five or ten users who comment on a particular post.
When creating posts, don’t leave your small business brand in the dust. Make sure your user name and profile match your user name and profile across other social media platforms so users recognize who you are. In addition, Instagram gives you the opportunity to show your company’s professionalism, knowledge, wit, edge, charm, attitude and whimsicalness through your photos. You have the potential to send what could be an even more powerful message than you could through graphics on your website or words on your Facebook page. Use those photo editing options, filters, or lack thereof, as a way to represent the core values for which your company stands, and embody the personality your brand takes on.