Originally created by Kevin Synstrom and Mike Krieger in late 2010, Instagram is a free online photo sharing application that allows users to upload photos (and most recently video) to share with friends, family and complete strangers across the globe. Users can take pictures with their smartphones, apply digital filters to their photos and share their photos over social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Instagram had humble beginnings, but it quickly gained traction after being launched in 2010. In January of 2011, Instagram added a hashtags (#) feature, which enabled users to search and discover photos. Later that same year, an updated version of Instagram began to sell in the iOS App Store, and the newer version came with additional features, including more filters, optional borders and tilt shift, to name a few.
In April of 2012, Instagram for Android was released, and its largest deal to date was made when Facebook successfully made an offer to purchase Instagram. The deal was eventually settled by August of that same year, just as Facebook was about to go public. As of February 2013, there are more than 100 million active Instagrammers.
Setting Up an Instagram Account
Setting up an Instagram account is fairly straightforward. Keep your profile description short and to the point, and include a relevant link back to the site URL that you want people to visit. You also have the option to sync your social accounts. After you’ve gotten through all of that (which should take around 5-10 minutes), you’ll really want to focus on the fundamentals: Mastering the #Hashtag.
As a small business, the key to your Instagram success is going to be learning how to harness the power of #hashtags.
Hashtags are nothing more than that little “#” symbol or “pound” symbol on your phone. However, on Instagram, it is MUCH more. By putting these little hashtags in front of words or phrases, you are helping people find your photos, and potentially – your brand. Just be careful to make sure that there are no spaces in words or phrases that you are trying to get searched for. Take the following examples:
What You Want: –For people to be able to search for “rum raisin ice cream”
What You Should Write: #rumraisinicecream
What You Shouldn’t Write: #rum raisin ice cream
How You Should Increase Your Searchability for this term: #rumraisinicecream #icecream #sugaraddiction #dessert #summer #raisin #raisins
About 98 percent of the time, direct sales for small businesses (and other, larger brands) will come from the correct use of hashtags.
Using the New Instagram Video Feature
Recently, Instagram added a ‘video’ feature to its platform, which allows users the option to create a short video ranging from 3 – 15 seconds long (similar to Vine). As Mashable’s Charlie White explained:
When you’re ready to start recording video, press the red movie camera button — as long as you keep pressing, the video will continue recording, up to 15 seconds. You can create videos shorter than 15 seconds, down to a minimum of 3 seconds.
When you take your finger off the movie camera icon, the recording stops. Each shot is represented as a blue segment on the timeline. If you’re not happy with the shot you just took, tap the X icon to the left of the movie camera, and that segment will turn red.
Tap again on the trash can, and it’s gone. Using this routine, you can only delete the last segment you shot.
Just like the photo section of Instagram, you can choose one of 13 new filters. Regardless of filter, Instagram’s Cinema feature is enabled by default, deftly reducing shake and processing in the background (you can turn it off by tapping the shaking camera icon). [source]
7 Tips for Better Instagram Etiquette
- Include no more than 5 hashtags, on average.
Don’t neglect to put in anywhere from 3 – 5 hashtags to help improve the chances that someone will stumble across your photos or videos. However, avoid putting in more than 10 hashtags because it will have a SPAM like quality. It also can distract others from looking at your photo or video if all they notice are a ton of hashtags.
- Follow, follow, follow.
If someone follows you, follow back. However, you should also exercise a little discretion here. Obviously, you’ll want to at least click on their profile first to make sure that you’re not following someone who is posting inappropriate photos/videos as it may reflect poorly on your company, not to mention display poor judgment.
- Respond immediately.
When you sign up for Instagram, make sure that you have your ‘push notifications’ turned ON so that you’ll receive updates whenever someone has liked or commented on a new photo/video. When this happens, make sure you respond right away (or within a reasonable amount of time). Don’t wait days to respond to people; it may cause you to lose potential customers/followers.
- Leave comments, and ‘like’ other people’s photos.
No one likes a photo snob. If people are leaving comments on your photos, or if they are clicking that they ‘like’ your photos, check out their profile and find something to comment on or like. Also, keep in mind that when you comment on someone else’s profile, it allows you more exposure – especially if the other person has a huge number of followers.
- Link to your profile by creating a badge to add to your website.
We already mentioned creating a Facebook tab to sync your Instagram to your Facebook page, but don’t forget to create a button to link your website as well.
- Keep it simple.
Because of the similarities with #hashtagging on both Twitter and Instagram, you may want to consider keeping your Instagram name synonymous with whatever your business Twitter handle name is. For example, if your Twitter handle is @johndoe, you may want to make your Instagram name “johndoe”.
- Post RELEVANT photos.
It’s ok to post an image of yourself every now and then. But if you’re using Instagram for business, make sure that you incorporate things that are actually related to your business. For instance, if you have employees, encourage them to come up with some ‘creative’ poses for shots, or snap some candid photos of employees (with their permission of course).
Encourage employees to use Instagram to #hashtag your company and build a following. Going out to a meeting? Snap a photo of something unique that you can then tie back into your brand. Think outside of the box, and let your creativity run wild, realizing that it’s not all about you; it’s about your brand and building brand awareness.
4 Quick Benefits of Instagram for Small Businesses
- It’s EASY.
- Using Instagram doesn’t require much effort.
- It’s easily shared across social networking channels.
- The Instagram app allow you to post your images and video to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare and email.
A picture is worth 1,000 words.
It’s so true! What better way to market your small business than with a compelling, funny or thoughtful image/video?
Encourage a following by adding an Instagram button on your Facebook page. Start a #hashtag war where you tell your social followers to upload their favorite images with a specific hashtag. Involve them in Instagram-related contests for prizes or recognition. Have a physical location or a meeting where customers could potentially show up? Have them snap a picture and #hashtag themselves with your business name to let them know they’re around.
Interesting/Creative Uses of Instagram
Take a leaf from these guys below. They really know how to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing a brand. What sorts of creative ideas can you come up with?
On August 9, 2012, English musician Ellie Goulding came out with a new music video for her song “Anything Could Happen”. The video only contained fan submitted Instagram photographs that used various Instagram filters to represent words or lyrics from the song and over 1200 different photographs were submitted.
Rich Kids of Instagram | Tumblr: http://richkidsofinstagram.tumblr.com
This Tumblr account documents the lifestyles of the young and endowed. From Givenchy shopping sprees to diamonds and private jets, the Tumblr account has created quite a buzz.
Using Instagram to Gain and Retain Additional Business
Learning how to effectively use Instagram to connect with customers and attract new prospects is important, particularly as we delve into an increasingly mobile-driven era. This is particularly important if you want to attract a younger audience that is fully integrated into the mobile world.
With 100 million active users, 40 million Photos Per Day, 8500 Likes Per Second, and roughly 1000 comments per second, there is no doubt that Instagram is a growing platform that is drawing the attention of what could be countless customers of your brand.
However, don’t expect Instagram to stay static. It’s important to be in the now and keep up with the latest trends to see what’s next. By staying ahead of the game, you’ll also be staying one step ahead of your competition and two steps closer to earning that next customer.
Connect to Martin Brossman’s personal Instagram at: http://Instragram.com/martinbrossman
See my latest class on the topic: Using Instagram to Gain and Retain More Business
by Martin Brossman – (919) 847-4757 and Research by Janelle Vadnais http://www.linkedin.com/in/janellevadnais