I know, I know, the internet is filling up with social media platforms your business MUST be on faster than Usain Bolt can sprint through a 100m. There’s Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest…and now Instagram?
It may be surprising to many business owners to discover that Instagram has been around since 2010 (making it practically middle-aged in social networking years). This photo and video sharing site is now owned by Facebook, giving it plenty of muscle to continue growing. And growing it’s done. Instagram currently has 300 million monthly active users who have shared a collective 30 billion photos. It boosts a large foreign audience (70% of users are outside the United States) and is in rabid use by millennials. Research also indicates Instagram enjoys greater overall engagement than some of its bigger competitors, including Twitter and Facebook. According to Social Sprout, a study by Forrester found that brand posts on Facebook and Twitter averaged less than 0.1 percent engagement, while Instagram produced a 4.21 percent engagement rate.
So, is it time for your business to be on Instagram? Let’s look at a brief overview of Instagram and then explore some reasons why you should and shouldn’t take the plunge.
Lightening Quick Overview of Instagram
Pictures. Instagram is all about pictures…and a little bit of video. The network is based off of a hugely popular phone app that allows users to snap pics, add cool filters, and upload them to their stream where all of their followers can view, comment, and share. You can also upload images from your computer, allowing you to edit. Instagram also allows users to post 15-second, filter-enabled, and editable video, making it a direct competitor to Twitter’s Vine. Users can caption their pictures, giving businesses the opportunity to include links and employ hashtags and mentions (those @ and # signs).
Businesses use Instagram to create a visual story for their brand and to engage fans in a fun, stimulating, and low-intensity way. When done right, Instagram can be a big winner for brands, but Instagram requires nuance and commitment.
Do You Have a Story to Tell?
When making the decision about whether or not to give Instagram a go, the first thing to ask yourself is whether your business lends itself to a visual medium. For some types of businesses and professionals, this is a natural. If you are a caterer, a photographer, an interior decorator, a store that sells eclectic fashions, or a rock band, you will not want for cool, interesting pics to take and post. However, what about business consultants, a company that provides IT support, or a laundromat? It is possible for these businesses to have an active presence on Instagram, but they will have to work a lot harder and may need to take a unique tact with their Instagram stream. For instance, the business consultant may post infographs or share images from well-regarded companies. If you are struggling to find a way to visually share the story of your company, then Instagram may not be for you.
Is Your Audience on Instagram?
There’s no point in being on Instagram if your customer base isn’t there. Instagram tends to appeal to the millennial generation, so if your ideal customers are between the ages of 15 and 35, then Instagram can be a gold mine to you. Even if your target audience is between 30 and 40, you can still probably drum up a following on Instagram. However, attorneys who focus on estate planning, long-term care insurance companies, and nursing homes should probably focus their marketing resources elsewhere.
Do You Have the Time to Learn, Build, and Engage?
Just because Instagram may be a good social media platform for your company doesn’t mean you should jump in if you don’t have the time to truly cultivate it as part of your overall marketing strategy. Like any social media network, Instagram requires your time, focus, and understanding in order to make it work for you. That means educating yourself on how to use the platform effectively (every social media channel has its own personality). You’ll also have to actively build a following and then reward your followers with consistent, high quality postings. If Instagram is to be part of your social media strategy, then you must book time for it every week, commit to a certain numbers of posting, and spend time on the channel following your followers, commenting, and responding. Social media is all about building relationships, and you have to be ready to put in the time necessary to build deep rather than shallow relationships.
A great place to start educating yourself on Instagram is on Instagram Business, a hub Instagram made specifically to support businesses as they join the platform. This informational hub includes excellent real-life case studies and lots of great advice.
If you need help creating and managing an Instagram page for your business, or – better yet – sitting down and putting together a dynamic social media strategy, contact iLUKA MEDIA.