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How Instagram can be a powerful brand-building tool

Instagram is a powerful tool that lets brands interact with their followers. These four tips can help entrepreneurs build their brand on social media.

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One of the most powerful marketing tools marketers have today is social media. From Facebook posts to tweets on Twitter, sharing your products or services on social media platforms is a great way to increase brand awareness, engagement, sales and leads.

However, many people are left scratching their heads when it comes to marketing with Instagram.

Many of us use Instagram as a personal account to post photos of our family, friends, vacations and food—but how can it tie into business? And should it?

With the speed of which Instagram is growing, don’t underestimate its value to boost your brand and marketing efforts.

It has grown into an incredibly valuable marketing platform and even though the 18-29-year-olds are still prevalent users, the higher age groups are catching on and catching up fast.

Some 2018 Instagram stats from Sprout Social are telling:

  • 7 out of 10 hashtags on Instagram are branded
  • 80 percent of users follow a business on Instagram
  • 65 percent of top-performing Instagram posts feature products

If you feel the tug to explore Instagram as part of your social media marketing strategy, check out these initial pointers to help you get started:

1. Use hashtags wisely

You don’t need to cram every hashtag you can think of in one post, but you do need at least a few.

A hashtag is the # sign followed by descriptive words about your image as in this example, I used #marketing and #ctaconf, which was the conference I was attending at the time.

instagram

© Susan Friesen

When a user clicks/taps on a hashtag or types a hashtag into the search box, it brings up all images that use that hashtag. The user can even subscribe to continue to follow that hashtag.  

The hope is the user will see your photo, head to your profile and best-case scenario, follow you and get engaged with more of your posts!

However, when hashtags are extremely popular, the competition to show up in the results is fierce. Similar to SEO keywords, the more popular a term is, the harder it is to stay at the top of the search results. Thus, my example of using #marketing really was futile if I wanted to get any traction from that post.

You want to make your hashtags relevant to your business and location, but also engaging enough that a user would type them into Instagram’s search box.

For instance:

  • Say you have a pizza joint in Vancouver. You post a pic of your Pepperoni pizza with the hashtags #VancouversBestPizza #NicolosRestaurant #DeliciousDeepDish
  • Or you’re a Toronto wedding planner. You post an image of a bride and groom’s first dance with the hashtags #TorontoWeddingPlanner #LoveWins #WinterWedding

Holidays and special events are an excellent time to promote your business and gain Instagram followers. Whether it’s a sale on Black Friday, a Thanksgiving-related use for your product or a product shout-out on National Dog Day, they are all ideal opportunities to showcase your business brand in a non-salesy way.

2. Thank your audience for showing up

You don’t just post a bunch of photos and hashtags and wait for the likes to roll in.

To gain Instagram followers, engage with your audience and grow sales or leads, you need to put in the time.

See an example here from video expert Michele Moreno where she responds back to each of the comments left on her video post.

instagram

© Susan Friesen

So if someone leaves a comment or question on one of your posts, take the time to reply and thank them/answer their question.

Take a look at their profile, and if you like what you see, follow them.

Businesses often follow commenters first, in the hopes that they might return the favor.

You can also look for people who might be interested in your product, then comment on their photos and/or follow them, but don’t spam them with an ask to follow you right away.

3. Interact with the right influencers

Influencers are Instagram users who can influence your target audience because of their popularity and/or social media following.

Danielle Bernstein is a good example of an influencer who worked with a brand. You may not recognize her name, but the 1.8 million followers of her Instagram account WeWoreWhat do.

instagram

© Susan Friesen

Bernstein and FIJI Water worked together to create BodyWoreWhat, a marketing campaign offering 8-minute workout videos with her and her personal trainer.

That may be an extreme example, and unless you have deep pockets you probably won’t be able to attract an influencer with almost two million followers.

But don’t despair. From mommy bloggers to local foodies, you can always find someone who your target audience follows, likes or admires. Maybe they’d be willing to review your product or take a photo using it—use your imagination!

4. Don’t just shill your products

Instagram is not the place to simply share product shots all the time. Think of the experience people have using what you’re offering or the benefits it gives people.

Even better, show real-examples. Asking for user-generated content from your audience is one way to do this. That means that users share their photos using a hashtag you provide.

The online furniture store Wayfair.com does user-generated content very well. They have a user-generated campaign that lets customers share photos of their stylish Wayfair-filled homes using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome.

Be sure to let people know that their images might be featured on your page and you can increase your Instagram content big time – for free!

No matter how you use Instagram for your business, be authentic and true to your brand. It’s what the platform is all about, and it’s going to help you grow your business, gain Instagram followers and attract sales or leads.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence. As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.

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