by Zara Mohammed, Money Columnist
Published in Money on 31st July, 2018
There has never been a better time for taking marketing into your own hands. You can gain more visibility for your business, and convert more people into sales when you know what you are doing on social media. With so many online social platforms to choose from, you can take your pick. To get you started, we are exploring 3 simple but effective ways to use Instagram for your business.
Before we dive into exploring the ways you can use Instagram for your business, let's just take a moment to reflect on what this platform is best at doing.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Instagram is a seriously visual tool, which can help you to connect with your customers. Other social networking platforms, like Twitter, have become more visual too, but when people use Instagram, they know exactly what to expect - visually rich content! So it goes without saying that this is a great platform to show people what your business is all about, with beautiful, provocative imagery, and simple captions that help people to engage with your content.
Instagram is perfect for businesses that have something to sell. You can create a beautiful portfolio of your products that continually grows, allowing you to show what you are selling in new and exciting ways. It is also the perfect platform to sell your services from. So whether you are a dog walker, run a domestic cleaning service, or provide relationship advice, as long as you can produce high quality photographic content that relates to your services, with eye-catching graphics that get people to think about what you do in different ways, you can grow an audience for your business. There are plenty of free and cheap apps to help you create content easily, so you don't even have to be a professional photographer or designer.
One of the best ways to promote your business, whether you sell products or services, is to use Instagram to tell a story. People love to see what happens behind the scenes, and you can create a narrative using Instagram that helps people to grow a relationship with your business, and want to keep up with your latest news. With the new "Stories" and "Insta TV" features popping up in the app, creating your own mini photo-streams and short documentary style videos to tell stories about the latest things happening in your business is easier and more effective than ever.
So let's have a look at these 3 effective ways for you to use Instagram for your business...
Every good business knows that in order to give your customers what they want, first you have to find out what it actually is that they want - and it's not always what you might think it is. This is why it is important to do your research and make sure that you are on the right track, thinking in the same way that your potential customers and clients do.
Forget about boring emails with requests to fill out questionnaires. Use Instagram to find out instantly what your customers love about your business. There are a few ways that you can do this.
Firstly, check out your analytics and observe which of your posts are getting the most likes and engagement. This can tell you a lot about what your audience's tastes are. Do they respond to simplicity, humour, cute-factor, sexy vibes, or fun facts? When you know what your audience is responding to, you know which direction to take your business in terms of your style, content, message etc.
Secondly, use your captions wisely to encourage your audience to communicate back to you! Ask a specific question that relates to something you need to know. Make your caption short, funny or meaningful to grab their attention, and tell your followers exactly what you want them to do - for example, comment below with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, or you can ask them to give more detailed feedback. People like to feel included and like they are able to have an impact in the way their favourite business develops, so give them that opportunity! People also respond better when they aren't required to think too much, which is why it's important to keep it simple and guide your followers. With Instagram Stories, you can now even add a "Questions" button to your disappearing posts.
And finally, spend some time browsing through your followers' accounts. This can give you an idea of who is interested in what you are doing, and what else they are into. You may find that rival businesses follow you, in which case you can take a look at their Instagram feeds to see what they are doing that you're not. You can gain a lot of insight into how Instagram is working for lots of different business simply by taking the time to look at other people's accounts.
The great thing about promoting your business online is that it is cheap and often free. You can pay Instagram to promote your posts by setting your budget and specifying your preferred audience. Or you can do what most savvy Instagrammers are doing - run contests!
The main idea with contests is that in order for your followers to be entered into your contest, they usually have to follow a set of instructions set by you, so you must have a clear idea of what you aim to gain from running your contest. A good one is to get people to tag their friends in a comment, meaning that the friends of the people who are already following you will be drawn to your feed to have a look at why they have been tagged. You can specify one tag per comment and unlimited comments, with each tag standing for an additional entry into your prize draw. You get the added bonus of increasing activity on your feed, which makes your business look popular.
The prize doesn't have to be amazing, people will always respond to getting something for nothing, or for less than they would normally have to pay, because everybody loves a bargain or a freebie. It's fun and exciting.
Ideas for prizes:
Another great way to extend your business's reach is to use LOTS of hash tags! Do some research to find out what the popular ones are, and don't be afraid to use fun, new or interesting ones too, as they will help to put your business in front of the eyes of a potential new audience. You can even make up your own to grab people's attention.
Social media develops so fast that it is sometimes difficult to keep up. There are millions of creative, entrepreneurial individuals using platforms like Instagram to promote their businesses. This means that there are new ideas cropping up all of the time.
In order to take advantage of this, just be observant, and constantly think about how you can put a spin on new ideas that you come across to make them work for your business. The ideas are all out there for the taking. So use them to inspire you.
Look out for images that you are attracted to and think about why they caught your attention. Was it the typography, the colours, the image itself? How did it make you feel? Read comments left on popular Instagram feeds. Is the owner of the feed getting involved in conversation? If so, what are they saying?
Remember that successful people don't waste their time doing things for no reason, so if somebody has a successful Instagram feed, observe how they are interacting with their audience, and ask yourself what results they might be getting from their approach. For example, are they building trust? Are they answering questions? Are they providing entertainment and engaging people more in their content so that they feel more connected to what they are seeing? If so, how are they doing all of this?
Instagram is a fun and creative way to shout out about and share what you do for a living. You don't have to be salesy to promote your business, you can be genuine, be human, and make friends. Instagram is a great place to discover other people and make connections, so don't forget to take time outside of designing your own content and managing your feed, and get involved in other people's Instagram feeds. When you comment on other people's feeds you are not only connecting with people and making friends, you are also representing your business, so make sure that your profile picture is your business's logo.
These 3 simple but effective ways to use Instagram for your business are just the start of your journey. Instagram may appear simple of the surface, but it is deeply complex, because people are complex. It is a social platform, so part of figuring out how to use it in a way that is useful to you, is figuring out the ways in which other people use and enjoy it. It's not - how does Instagram work, it's how do people work? The most important thing of course is to have fun, experiment, and manage your time so that you can get the most out of Instagram for your business.