Social Media Marketing 101: Part 4 - Instagram

If you have a visual brand, Instagram should be a priority for you. No other platform gives you the same opportunity to highlight the intricate details of your product's high-quality stitching or the atmosphere in your physical location. Even if you have a service brand, Instagram can be a powerful tool to interact directly with your audience. You can use short videos to capture the customer experience or quotes and inspirational phrases to motivate your audience to action.

Like most social media platforms, Instagram works best when you know how your audience uses it and create consistent images and messages that speak directly to them. If you own a design firm and you are trying to inspire small business owners with creative businesses to action, you might use graphics and inspirational images that fit with your branding (maybe it's nature, maybe it's organization, maybe it's athletes). You might microblog about the experience of being a small business owner. You'll use hashtags that small business owners use and search for when they're looking for inspiration and interact with your audience.

On Instagram, consistency and branding are incredibly important. If you post a lot of pictures of your beagle (I do!), you will get people who follow you to see pictures of beagles. If you suddenly switch gears and start posting pictures of flowers, the people who came to you for beagles will unfollow you very quickly. Choose a few key themes or subjects for your photos and graphics. If you are a newborn photographer, your images should be primarily of newborns with a few 'behind-the-scenes' shots once in a while. If you cannot keep your amazing beagle photos to yourself, then separate your business and personal accounts. Finally, it's just as important to be consistent with the words as the images. If you brand is funny or witty, your posts should be funny or witty. If you brand is serious and soft, your posts should be serious and soft. Give your audience what they expect. They don't really like surprises.

Hashtags are also very important on Instagram. There is no 'right' number of hashtags for your posts. Use as many as you need to capture the right audience, but don't go so crazy that your audience gets annoyed. As a test... If it would annoy you, don't do it. You can find the right hashtags for your business by searching for hashtags that your competitors use and what similar non-competing businesses use to reach a shared audience. You can also find out what your customers search for within Instagram's new analytics. If she searches #girlboss to find other female entrepreneurs and businesses that speak to female entrepreneurs, you should probably use it to reach her (regardless of your personal feelings about it).

You've posted an image with written a branded message using the right hashtags. Now what? Instagram is a social app and you need to interact with your audience. Find people within your target market whose feed you like and follow them. Sometimes they will follow you back. Pay attention to the hashtags they use and search for them to find other people to follow. Respond to the people who comment on your posts and comment on the posts of others. If you want to grow your following, you should be fairly active on Instagram and take the time to acknowledge that others are posting photos, too, not just looking at yours.

TB

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