Instagram marketingImagine landing in Costa Rica for a stop-over. You thought you’d be there for an hour or two – time enough for a drink and a mindless trawl through the shops. But the planes disappeared. The walls fell away and, suddenly, you’re wandering amongst the locals, unable to read the signposts, speak the language or know what the local customs are.

Welcome to the brave new world of social media.

Social media marketing: why pay attention to Instagram?

Instagram has over 75 million daily users – 1,600,000 active Australian users as of April 2014, according to Frank Media. Not only are people joining in great numbers, but engagement and enthusiasm with the channel is far, far higher. Instagram posts have 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter according to a study by Forrester.

Instagram’s rising popularity caught the attention of Facebook back in 2012, which acquired the Silicon Valley company for one billion US dollars in April of that year.

Cult of cool

Many young people are skipping Facebook and going straight to Instagram (as well as Snap Chat and Tumblr). Why join Facebook when all your extended family, as well as granny, are there? That’s hardly rebellious.

Before you jump in with “my ideal clients are older!”, slow down a sec. Your clients won’t stay ageless. Younger people become older. The generations don’t exist in a vacuum, crowded together. Intergenerational influences happen every day in households all over the world.

Finally, you’re in business, yes? You need to know what’s going on. You need to at least be familiar with what “the kids nowadays” are doing. The cool kids are on Instagram, pro or against selfies, getting creative with their mobiles.

Think visual; be creative

As Instagram is an image-based social media network, you’ll need to think visual if you’re going to dive in. Photos that work best are creative, aspirational and candid ‘behind the scenes’ shots of your life and business.

Instagram is primarily mobile-based – although there is a desktop computer version, its functionality is far more limited that the mobile app. This encourages informal ‘on the go’ photos, snapped and uploaded, framed by a caption, in real time.

Don’t forget to frame

If you want to share information with your friends and followers through social media, then go ahead. But if you want to use social media to market your business, then please, for the love of fast wi-fi, make sure to always frame your updates. That means, include a comment with images and links – always – and caption your photos uploaded to Instagram.

#Hashtags widen the conversation

Many of giant Instagram following, larger than a Pacific Island, has been grown, in part, through judicious use of hashtags. Unlike Twitter, Instagram posts are limited by characters, so you may max out all possible hashtag iterations to widen the reach of a post.

Start with the more obvious hashtag topics and go from there. You can find other related hashtags by using the search function within Instagram or looking to see what other Instagram users, similar to you, are using.

Using hashtags gives your posts more exposure by people following and searching for those topics. List your hashtags at the end of your caption text.

Be consistent

Like all effective marketing, you need to be consistent. You want to post at least once every day or two, or more frequently if you’re hoping to grow a big following.

You simply cannot develop familiarity, engagement, rapport and relationships if you’re sporadic.

Be familiar

If you’re overly concerned with presenting a professional front, you like things to be perfect or you’re wanting to keep your brand pure, then go for Pinterest instead.

Instagram’s appeal is its off-the-cuff, behind-the-scenes, a-little-gritty realness. You need to reveal some parts of your personal life if you’re to truly participate.

Hashtags like #whateyesee simply document the everyday goings on of people all over the globe, and make for a most interesting view of the world.

Insta-challenges

Instagram is filled with collaborative competitions, challenges, cross-promotions, giveaways, and special discounts. Reach out to someone and suggest a challenge or competition whereby people upload challenge photos with particular hashtags, tagging the challenge hosts, for the chance to win a prize.

Marketing challenges

The biggest challenge as a business owners using Instagram for marketing, is that it doesn’t support links. You can type out your link under your photo, but it won’t be active. Users will need to copy and paste, memorise, or type out on character at a time. Not easy. Not much fun for us. On the flip side of this, Instagram has been peaceful, and virtually devoid of cheap ugg boats, Viagra and ‘get rich working from home’ spammers.

The only active links in Instagram are in users’ profiles, so be savvy with this. Do you really want to send people to your homepage? Could you send them to a web page created specially for your Insta-curious? Or would it be better to send people to your About page? Or a sales page?

Don’t forget to be savvy with your profile information – now more than ever, location is important. Always include a location, the what and why of your business, as well as a few choice personal details.

Instagram have not opened their API to enable third-party technologists to extend its functionality, but a clever Australian startup, Schedugram, have developed a work-around with a program that allows you to schedule your Instagram posts from your desktop, so you can be more planned and strategic with it.

Returning to community

Instagram is really a giant online community. And while marketers pay a lot of lipservice to “community” in relation to social media, the nature of intimate, personal photography coupled with the lack of links and creativity needed to use it effectively as a business tool means that, for now, Instagram is sleek, simple, friendly, open-hearted and fun.

Comments and conversations are kept up with through your ‘notifications’ screen and people tag each other if they want to be seen, or share something with a friend.

Instagram is hot right now (edit: this is April 2016. Yes, still hot). But like all social media channels, it will evolve so the best time to get on it is now. See you there.

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