How to use Instagram: A Small Business GuideWe’re all quite comfortable now with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – the rather ‘old hat’ social media platforms! – but there is a constant stream of newer platforms out there, and some of them are well worth taking a look at and considering how they might be used to your business’s advantage in your marketing. One I have been discussing a lot with my clients recently is Instagram.

Launched in 2010, Instagram is all about sharing photos and videos, and it’s enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity. Within its first year, there were a million registered users. Less than a year later there were 10 million. In the last six months of 2013, users grew by 26% and by January 2014 there were 180 million active users. Is it any wonder that it was snapped up by Facebook in 2012?!

What is Instagram?

As the name suggests, Instagram is all about ‘instant’ sharing. Take a picture (or video!), get creative with Instagram’s range of filters, share it with your community of followers. And Instagram seems to command high user engagement and loyalty – over half of Instagram users access their accounts daily, while 35% do so multiple times a day.

So many businesses are working hard to leverage their presence on Facebook, yet those two Instagram statistics are within a few percentage points of Facebook’s – proof positive that Instagram is potentially a very good place for your business to be! Just as Facebook has evolved from an online social network for friends to an environment where business can connect with people on a more friendly basis, so Instagram is now capturing the interest of more and more businesses.

So what should you post?

It’s all about having the right material to suit the platform – posting images that will help convey your brand in an engaging way. Humour works a treat, a witty caption to go with a photo helps get the message across. Inviting comments and suggestions is a good way to encourage users to start ‘talking’ to you – what do they think of a particular product, what would they cook in your new range of casserole dishes?

You can link photos on Instagram to your website as a means of driving traffic and encouraging a purchase. You can link to your Facebook page to encourage more dialogue.

Instagram is a fun and more engaging way to market your business – to show the human side of what you’re about, to create an impression of your brand that makes people curious and interested to discover more – and to resonate with them so that they embrace your brand as part of their lifestyle.

Go take some pictures, film a 15-second video (yes, that is as long as you have on Instagram), see what happens! If you’re feeling unsure of how Instagram can work for your business, set up a personal account and explore the platform first – it’s a useful exercise anyway and one I regularly recommend to clients, you’re essentially putting yourself in the shoes of potential customers so it’s a good perspective to have and helps you see how competitors and other brands use that particular platform.

Are you already using Instagram? Do you have any success stories or useful tips to share?