How to grow your business with Instagram

April 27, 2018 Cisco IMC

Did you know the photo-sharing app Instagram now has 800 million active monthly users? That’s a huge number of users that small and medium businesses could actively be engaging with.

The elusive 18-34-year-old audience makes up the bulk of Instagram’s users, and many of them are not deterred by businesses on social media. In fact, 80% of the 800 million users are following at least one business, which suggests they want to hear about the brands and companies that they have an allegiance to.

How social media is different from a traditional business-user relationship

Social media is more powerful than a direct relationship between a user and a business. It enables ‘open engagement’, where users can see who their friends and favourite celebrities are following. With Instagram specifically, users can see if someone they’re following likes, endorses or comments on a business. So, through peer recommendation, a brand’s reach and perceived value can be enhanced.

As the bulk of Instagram’s users are considered millennials – the first generation to have grown up in a digital world - simply having a presence on social media gives you a reputation for being accessible, digital and relevant. This is important as traditional advertising is quickly becoming irrelevant to this generation.

“Millennials communicate with each other far more than any advertising campaign can. When trying to figure out whether something is worth buying, millennials will go to their friends and social networks to see what people think. They use this collective filter to sort out research and other word-of-mouth style information when making decisions,” says Daniel Newman, Principal analyst of Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group.

While it may not be you who sets up the Instagram profile, there are certain aspects of the social media app that could be handy for you as well as benefit your business, so it’s worth taking note of these tips to ensure whoever does look after the page is making the most of the account. 

Instagram for business: setting up the right account type and actioning analytics

First and foremost, your business needs an Instagram Business account.  You can either convert an existing account to a business account under Settings, or set up a new account and then do the conversion. 

With a business account you can add important information for their customers such as opening hours, location and contact details.

In addition, you can get insights and metrics on how your posts are performing through Instagram Insights – which is not available with a personal account. This can help your SMB ensure it only posts content that is getting positive traction.  

Instagram Insights gives users the number of impressions a post has had, the number of unique accounts that have seen any of your posts, the number of accounts that have tapped on the website link on your profile bio and the average times your followers are on Instagram on a typical day.

As well as these insights, apps like Whatagraph can provide visual reports to show you a breakdown of who’s engaging with what posts and when to help you streamline and perfect your posts.

  • If something isn’t working, changing one thing, maybe a hashtag, or how often and when you’re posting can make a difference. Keep doing this until you have your Instagram recipe perfected.
  • Make sure you ask the person handling the account to provide you with regular reports with statistics showing what has worked and what hasn’t.
  • Try to make time to be involved in creative brainstorms to make sure it accurately reflects your business’ personality and vision.

It’s important to remember that building your Instagram community and converting these into actual real-life customers isn’t something that will happen overnight.  But by trying out new things and discovering what works best for your community you’ll soon be on the right track to grow your business with Instagram. 

Get someone with a creative mind to take the images

Instagram is a visual platform. After all, it’s made up entirely of images. Remember, your posts are going to be competing for attention with scroll-stopping holiday photos and beautiful brunches, so make sure you have someone in place that can share high-quality images but in a creative and thoughtful way. This may mean thinking outside of the box, but it’s better to pass on this duty to someone who has the skill set in this area and put full faith in their expertise.

Using hashtags on Instagram is essential – but don't overload

Posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than those with none. Instagram recently added a feature which enables users to follow hashtags. They can follow any topic or area they’re interested in, which could be anything from #fashion to #luxury to #swimming.

Hashtags are a great way of engaging with potential customers. Let’s say you run a chain of vegan restaurants. By searching for posts featuring hashtags like #eatclean and #veganuary, you’ll discover a whole community of people who support your message and are potential customers. The approach works if you’re in the B2B space too. Imagine you run a video production company that gets a lot business from marketing agencies, you could get on the radar of more agencies by using hashtags like #creativeagency or #agencylife to identify yourself to potential customers.

But before you start overloading your posts with hashtags, do your research.

  • Take a look at some of your existing customer profiles and see what hashtags they’re following.
  • Think about the kind of hashtags potential customers are likely to search for, then start including these in your posts (assuming they’re relevant to your business of course).
  • Work with a social media expert to better understand what works and what doesn’t.

There’s no getting away from it. If you’re going to grow your business, your technology needs to come along for the ride. Check out how Cisco can help you develop your mobile technology and increase data security to improve your customer engagement.

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