Should you be growing your business on Instagram?

Each year more people seem to be flocking to Instagram, and businesses have increasingly been close behind. Companies both big and small have started to carve out their own space on the platform with many of them finding surprising success. If your business isn’t one of them, or you simply don’t see the benefit of establishing your business on Instagram at all, maybe it’s time to take a closer look.

Why Instagram

The defining characteristic of Instagram is the use of images. From posting selfies to saving inspiration, Instagram users like, save, share, comment and otherwise interact with images. This defining characteristic makes Instagram highly visual and is subsequently the reason it is one of the most active and interesting platforms for businesses.

You’ve probably heard the saying a picture is worth a thousand words, but possibly not the saying visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. While it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same way, it does highlight just how important images are when communicating anything. In fact, 93% of all human communication is nonverbal with visuals making up 90% of the information transmitted to the brain.

It’s not just about what our brain is used to processing either. Most people generally respond better to visuals and remember 80% of what they see compared to just 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear. This makes visuals a vital component to any social media strategy and means visual channels like Pinterest and Instagram often inspire a community of more active and more engaged users for businesses to tap into.

When put into practice these stats mean Instagram can have some impressive results. Out of a total 600 million Instagrammers, 400 million are active on the platform every day. Each day there are over 4 billion likes and nearly 100 million photo or video posts. Plus, with the social channel designed almost exclusively for mobile use, these figures only look set to rise with the mobile trend.

Unsurprisingly, businesses have started to take notice. Over 80% of the Interbrand 100 companies are now active on Instagram on a weekly basis, and the launch of Instagram advertising to all marketers in 2015 has increased this further. There are now over a million active advertisers compared to just 200,000 in March 2016.

And it’s not a one-sided conversation as the community is responding in kind. In March of this year, over 120 million Instagrammers visited a website, got directions, called, emailed or direct messaged to learn about a business from an Instagram ad. In total, 50% of Instagram users follow at least one business and 60% of users say that they have learned about a product or service on the platform.

The right fit

While the stats certainly look impressive, like any other social channel Instagram still has its niche in the world. The style of the platform and the audience it attracts isn’t appropriate for every business. Although most businesses could establish themselves on Instagram with some success, some may simply find that their time and efforts are better spent on other social networks.

So how do you know if you should even be considering Instagram?

You should first evaluate whether you even have the right content for the platform. As an image heavy channel, you’ll need to decide whether you already have or can realistically create enough visual content to establish your business. You’ll be looking at posting at least weekly, and you’ll want your images to be of a quality that reflects your brand. You shouldn’t commit unless you can answer the ‘what’ and the ‘how often’ parts of your strategy.

If your business is providing a service or you don’t think images are relevant for your offering, don’t write off Instagram just yet. Images are important for all communications and plenty of less visual intensive businesses have established themselves on the platform. If you don’t sell physical products or have other relevant images, think about what else Instagram could help you communicate to your customers. Maybe it can help you define and communicate your brand identity, or give people a look into the day to day world of your business and employees.

IBM has fostered a niche engaged community on Instagram despite being a B2B business with less visual focus.

IBM probably isn't the first business that springs to mind when you think of trendy visuals yet they are well established on Instagram. They use the platform to drive followers to informative content on their website, and while their posts may not gain the sky-high numbers of retailers and celebrities, they benefit from a more niche yet engaged community.

It's also important to note the audience Instagram tends to attract. Most users are between 18 and 29 with over 50% of all millennials now active on the platform. With such a clear age demographic, there are certainly some businesses that should be looking at Instagram as the main channel for communicating with customers like theirs.

Again, if you’re already thinking Instagram isn’t for you, take a closer look at your own audience before dismissing it completely. If millennials aren’t your best converters, why is this? Maybe you’re simply not targeting this demographic as successfully as you do others, either with the right channels or the right content. Instagram could be a great way to widen your net and tap into a completely new audience.

Instagram strategy

Of course, you may have already been convinced that Instagram was the right fit for you. If it's the lack of success that has you questioning whether your business belongs on Instagram, maybe it's time to rethink your strategy. This means going back to basics and building from the ground up.

Set your goals

All the best plans start with some clearly defined goals. This is true for both your overall Instagram strategy and any campaigns you launch on the platform. You’ll need to decide exactly what you want to communicate with the channel, such as showing the personal side of your business to build brand identity or showcasing products to build your customer base. Even if you’re looking to achieve a combination of goals with the platform, you should still have an idea about the overall objective, whether it’s raising brand awareness or driving more website traffic.

The goals for your strategy and each campaign will define the set up for your Instagram profile and the CTA’s on your posts. Your CTA’s will need to inspire your followers to complete the actions that will ultimately meet your goal or goals. They will need careful consideration as you can only put links within your profile bio, not in post captions. For example, if you’re looking to drive website traffic you might want to use product post captions to direct followers to the product link in your bio. Alternatively, many retailers are now listing product SKU’s in captions and directing people to search on their website with their main website in their bio.

Lorna Jane is a fitness brand with a clear goal on Instagram to communicate their brand identity and relate to their target audience but uses a mix of content and campaigns.

Fitness brand Lorna Jane uses a combination of competitions, user-generated content, employee profiles, product posts and inspirational quotes. While each post type has its own goal, they all work together to communicate the brand's identity and relate to their target audience.

Here are some goals and the types of content you could look at using to achieve each one.

  • Drive brand awareness – focus on brand identity content, using images and captions that reflect your personality.
  • Drive engagement – look at doing competitions and poles to encourage users to like, comment and share.
  • Drive website traffic – post your most interesting website content with a clear CTA to links in your bio, from products to blog posts.
  • Drive conversions – post eye-catching lifestyle images of your products or service and list the product link in your bio or the SKU in the caption.

Build your story

Storytelling has become somewhat of a buzzword in digital marketing, but the fact is it works. Conveying your message as a story is a more authentic, and often more successful, way to communicate. Visual content is especially good for storytelling, with people able to easily and clearly relate to the emotions that can be instantly expressed with a simple image. This means selling the lifestyle, not just your products or service. You need to identify the benefits your offering can provide your customers and focus on using images to reflect this rather than going for the hard sell every time.

The goals you set will, of course, help to guide the story you tell, but how you tell it should be unique to your business. The key to storytelling, particularly on Instagram, is creativity. Promotional content can be a lot less invasive and annoying than it is on other social channels but only if it’s done correctly. To do this you will need to identify what type of content your audience likes and engages with, both promotional content from other bands and everyday content from family and friends, and use this to inspire your own content.

Urban Outfitters to a clear story through their Instagram images, the story of the lifestyle their target audience hopes to achieve, yet uses each post to promote a product.

Urban Outfitters has a clearly defined style to all their images which come together to promote a specific lifestyle to their audience. Without the captions, their account could belong to any of their fashion forward customers, yet each of these posts has a SKU code and clear CTA to purchase the featured product.

Easily the best and most authentic way to tell your story is with user-generated content. The fact is the only story that really matters is the one about you and your customers. Plus, content is more trustworthy, and therefore more engaging, when it comes from other users. You can do this by encouraging customers to send in their own content, whether it’s related to your offering or simply asking them to share their thoughts. Your customers reflect your business, so sharing their content is a fantastic way of communicating your brand identity and reaching out to similar users.

Alternatively, once you have built your Instagram community you can simply listen out for Instagrammers using your hashtags or tagging your business name. Reposting this type of content is an effective way of showing off your product or service in a real-life situation, and also lets your customers know you’re paying attention and actually care. Fashion retailers are starting to do this regularly by posting the selfies and pictures that their customers have posted wearing their clothes.

Wayfair features user generate content that is more authentic, more engaging and costs them nothing in time and money.

Wayfair features user-generated content under the hashtag #wayfairathome. Customers can use the hashtag when posting their interior design projects and Wayfair reposts some of the best. This creates some great looking content for Wayfair, features their products in a more appealing natural setting, engages their customers and gives them an opportunity to convert customers in an authentic way.

When it comes to delivering authentic and unique content, here are a few things to remember.

  • The quality of your images reflects your brand, so ensure they’re sized correctly and at a good resolution. Avoid blurry or pixelated pictures.
  • Think about the overall style of your Instagram and make sure it reflects your brand. Many brands use the same style of image or even the same colours, and 60% of the top brands use the same filter on every post. This creates consistency and helps to differentiate your brand.
  • Don’t forget to look at the overall image of your feed, not just each individual image. You can even split one image into three, six or nine to create a series that makes up one image. This is both eye-catching and keeps followers engaged.
  • Promotional content is fine, but balance it out by creating some posts just for the fun of it, remembering to keep it relevant to your brand image and story.

Grow your followers

Simply producing great looking images won’t be enough to grow your followers, even with a clear and consistent story. To do this you’ll need to do make your content as visible as possible and look at some proactive outreach. Growing your followers is about building a community, so avoid falling into the trap of buying followers. This will just drag down your engagement and detract from your goals.

The most basic step in building your community is simply to make your content as visible as possible. You can do this by using hashtags, which are essentially labels used to categorise your posts to make them more visible for certain searches. This allows you to target people looking for particular things, like interior design inspiration or recipes. As well as helping the right audience find your content, Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than those without.

When you do start to garner engagement, don’t let it go to waste. Reply to comments when you can, especially if they’re asking direct questions about your business or products, and post frequently to keep engaged followers coming back. Don’t forget about your other engaged customers; tell your mailing list and current customers how to find you on Instagram.

John Lewis is a well known business on Instagram for their collaborations which is great for boosting reach and engagement.

John Lewis is a big fan of collaborations and feature projects with both up and coming designers as well as other big name brands. This is a creative and authentic strategy that results in both parties reaching more of their target audience.

Finally, you can always reach out to influencers as a more direct way of growing your followers. Not only is this a good way of finding new customers, it’s also a stepping stone to other Instagram communities with even more followers and potential customers. Some good old-fashioned research should reveal some of the key bloggers and influencers in your industry. Once you have your list of targets, you can reach out by asking them to trial and review your product, offer to co-promote each other’s content or even produce some content in collaboration with each other. Be creative with your offer and honest with your approach, making sure to highlight the benefits to both parties.

Instagram for your business

While advertising on Instagram is now more accessible and easier to set up, growing your business organically on this platform by far reaps the most long-term rewards. With high levels of engagement, Instagram can help your business reach out to current and potential customers and build a loyal community. Fashion, food and fitness have all seen impressive results from the platform, but plenty of other industries have also found new and creative ways to express their brand and engage with followers. With the right strategy and commitment, both big and small brands can start to grow their business on Instagram.

Just one of our many digital marketing services, social media can open new communication channels and expand your reach, but can often be a time-consuming chore for small and medium size business owners. If you want to find out more about using social media to grow your business online, contact one of our team today.

Katy Smith

Katy Smith

Digital Marketing Executive

Katy is a Digital Marketing Executive at Netmatter with a degree in Marketing. She has so far gained experience in various areas of marketing including email, copywriting, social media and SEO.

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