If you're not from the generation that uses the Instagram application fervently, the appeal might be a little confusing. Sure, it's a terrific photo-sharing app that integrates well with Twitter and Facebook, but the concept of putting a contemporary photo (for instance, a "selfie") through a sepia lens might not sound like it can change your marketing strategy for small business. Think again - Instagram is one of the leading social media platforms in the world that can be used by companies to promote their products or services at no charge. Here are a few ways to tap into this marketing gold mine, and how existing companies have made the service work for their bottom line.
Know the app before diving in
Of course, it's impossible for a small business to succeed on any cloud services without a full understanding of how individual social media outlets operate. Instagram is designed and best used in a mobile capacity - an iPhone or Android phone's camera is perfectly suitable and the app allows users to crop and apply different filters before captioning and posting to their feed. Like Facebook or Twitter, the tool's homepage serves as an infinite scroll of posts for those your account is from accounts you are following, and keywords and hashtags are searchable for those tracking a certain promotion or industry. Many companies will opt to run photo contests through Instagram instead of building an entry form on their website.
Popular blog SmallBizTrends published a piece on making the Instagram experience your own, and reminded new users that at its core, using the app is a visual experience.
"As a general rule, the pictures that perform best on Instagram are stunningly beautiful scenery shots," writer Sujan Patel explained. "While not every photo you share will be this caliber, try to make it a priority to share gorgeous images once a week."
Harness the power of video sharing
Instagram was originally a photo-sharing service exclusively and later took cues from other popular services to incorporate additional features like cross-platform sharing, hashtags inspired by Twitter and video capacity lifted from the sensational Vine app. Vine allowed users to film six-second videos with as many cuts and location changes as they could fit, and produced a number of popular users.
In the interest of improving business efficiency, a number of smaller organizations adopted the service to produce micro-commercials for themselves, and Instagram caught the wind of the video production trend. The app now offers all users an option to film up to 15 seconds of original content along with their signature filters, and the clips appear in a feed or other platform just as a photo would. Social Media Examiner's Debbie Hemley recommended integrating this and photo content onto a small business's main website to make the best use of all generated content.
"Since you never know who will see your shares on a social networking platform, embed your Instagram video in your blog or website to extend the reach of your content," she reminded readers.
Curating content and promoting events
Creating an online marketing plan for small business when working with Instagram is not dissimilar to strategizing how to best use a Twitter account. Like the popular micro-blogging service, Instagram encourages the use of hashtags to keep common topics in one place, and it can behoove a business to live-blog a pertinent event or promotion using both photo and video to keep consumers up to date. The visual component makes Instagram a viable option to debut products, as well - many enterprises have shown off new packaging, production processes and other company innovations in real time to tease upcoming releases.
Let the service work for you
The higher-ups at the heart of this cloud hosting major power are well aware that businesses on Instagram are the life blood of their revenue stream, and make themselves available to provide interested small businesses with tips and tricks to optimize their experience. Instagram for Business is a frequently updated blog aimed to sell organizations large and small on making a monetary investment in working with the service - this may be a viable option for some, but free users can also benefit from the tips and tricks the professionals offer.
All in all, online marketing for small business doesn't get much more accessible and affordable than a well-operated Instagram account. Instagram is a terrific way to make the most of a business phone service and keep a company in touch with its users on the go - unlike most social media applications, Instagram functions as the everyman of photo-sharing, and can simultaneously post to up to six different plugins to get one piece of content as widespread as possible with the least work on a user's part.
Get your filters ready and your staff smiling, and say cheese... with a hashtag, of course.