Notifications with Likes (© litvinovaelena86 / Fotolia.com)
Notifications with Likes (© litvinovaelena86 / Fotolia.com)

Instagram is actually the second most populous social network on the web, unbeknownst to many. Not only that, but it is also unique in terms of its demographic and its features. This is one of the most important tools for marketers, as well as those trying to promote their personal brand. But only if you use it correctly.

Instagram is a social network that is built around the concept of sharing images. Unlike Facebook however, users do not create albums filled with pictures but will instead upload individual images in order to add to their profile. These will be chosen to represent the best few snaps from an activity or day and that way the user’s profile will look like a ‘greatest hits’.

To further this, Instagram also allows users to add filters which are essentially special effects that can enhance the appearance of the photo. They might make a picture look retro, or perhaps they will increase the saturation and give it a vivid and surreal look. Many people will use this in order to make their lives seem like works of art – and indeed Instagram has been accused of creating unrealistic expectations and even leading to Narcissism! Others praise the platform for helping users to see the ‘beauty in the everyday’.

Whatever your view, Instagram is undoubtedly a powerful platform for internet marketing when used correctly.

How Businesses Use Instagram

The great thing about Instagram from a business perspective is that it is visual. This firstly ensures that it has a highly emotive impact. In other words, people are more motivated by images and it is possible to convey more emotion and meaning through an image.

For instance, if you want to get someone to buy a piece of fitness equipment, then an image showing someone in great shape running on the beach looking happy is a great way to do it. This is called the value proposition – understanding the emotional ‘hook’ that motivates people to buy.

In the same way, Instagram can be used in order to build your brand’s image and your mission statement – to show your users what your business is all about and that way to make it into more than just a corporate logo. Ideally, you want to turn your brand into something that people believe in and want to get behind because they believe in the same values that you do.

Companies can create Instagram accounts then (there is the option to open a specifically a business account) and then they can build a following. Likewise, they can create adverts that will appear in users’ feeds.

OpenPR tip: It’s important to build value by providing tips and inspiration for followers but on occasion, a company can then use the platform to directly promote products or services. This has been likened to a shop window – as users can literally see what it is they want to buy and click the link!

Instagram for Personal Branding

Building a personal brand is also very effective on Instagram. That means turning yourself into the brand – embodying the image of your business and what it stands for. This way, you can live the lifestyle that you’re promoting and demonstrate that your concepts and your products work. This is something we see more and more of on Instagram.

And of course for some people, Instagram is the business model. This is true of Instagram influencers. These are people who build their prominence on the platform to the point where they have access to a huge audience, as well as having the respect and trust of that audience. Brands will then want to work with them in order to benefit from their testimony, as well as their reach. And by working with those brands, influencers can make a lot of money.

How to Grow Your Instagram Account

If you want to be successful on Instagram, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Try to create a consistent look for your images. You want to make it clear what your brand is about and what people can expect if they follow your profile. That might mean taking similar photos but it might also mean being more consistent with your choices of filter.
  • Likewise, think about your niche/industry when choosing which other brands and people you are going to follow. This way, you can communicate to Instagram what your brand is all about and that way it will be more likely to suggest you to the right people.
  • Tag wisely – using hashtags is the number one way to promote your images. Tags work because people search for tags related to what they’re interested. The best tags are trending, or generally popular – but avoid choosing words that are too popular or your content will be drowned out by the competition. It is generally a good idea to look for tags that have been used around 300,000 times.
  • Tag often – You can add up to 30 tags on your Instagram. Use them all. If you are given 30 free attempts to enter the lottery, why only use one?
  • Work with other influencers – Commenting on other photos and doing cross promotions/shout outs is a great way to get your brand out to a larger audience. Do what you can to be part of the community.
  • Answer comments – Instagram likes to see signs that interactions are happening on your content – so make sure that you respond to comments and encourage visitors to talk on your images in future. This is also another good way to increase their loyalty to your brand or personal brand.
OpenPR tip: Finally, make sure that you are using all the other features of Instagram where possible. There are lots of these, which include things like your ‘Story’ which lets you post a temporary image and things like Instagram live which lets you communicate directly with your audience.

These strategies can increase engagement and help people feel as though they know you. That of course builds trust and authority, increasing your promoter power!

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