5 reasons your small business should be using Instagram

In a word: yes.

Used properly, Instagram gives you an easy way to enhance your reach and expose your business to new people.

Here’s a quick introduction to how you can use the photo-based social network to get in front of a new audience and nurture your following – one snap at a time.

What is Instagram?

For the uninitiated, it’s a social network for sharing photos and 15-second videos. Visual content from users that you follow is displayed in a timeline-style format – and anything you publish is displayed to the people following you. The simplicity is part of the reason Instagram is surging in popularity.

As of August 2015 there were 300 million active monthly users, with 75 million people opening the app on a daily basis. It’s estimated that 90 percent of the user base is below the age of 35, with the 16-24 age bracket making up 41 percent of the user base.

It’s a whole new way to engage with a whole lot of people.

What should you post?

Publishing content on Instagram gives your followers a visceral sense of kinship with your business. That helps to expand your reach, build loyalty, and inspire future sales. But what sort of photos should you share?

That depends on what type of business you are. Instagram provides a unique opportunity to bring users into your world with snippets of what goes on behind the scenes. Or to show your products in an unusual, creative way.

Sell the lifestyle and benefits behind your product, rather than the product itself. Here are three golden rules:

  • Be imaginative – approach your photos from a novel angle
  • Stay relevant – puppy photos might be popular, but if they’re not related to your business, stay away
  • Restrain yourself – don’t bombard your followers with a new photo every hour, one a day (or one a week) is fine

Expand your reach with hashtags

Share a photo or video and Instagram prompts you to write a short description. This is your chance to reach for a couple of well-chosen hashtags. It allows you to curate content around a specific theme. And it exposes your photos to anyone searching for that particular hashtag, expanding your reach beyond your regular followers.

Instagram is a mobile-first platform, designed for smartphones and tablets. But recently the social network made it possible to browse photos by hashtag and geotag from desktops through instagram.com – making it even more important to label your photos accordingly.

Before you begin posting content, you should draw up a rough strategy for the type of photos and videos you will share. Just leave a little wiggle room to be spontaneous. Responding to the big news stories, industry developments and trending hashtags can be a great way to engage your followers and show the world that you have your fingers on the pulse.

Build an engaged community

Like all social media, Instagram is a two-way thing. Follow like-minded businesses or pioneers in related industries. Comment on other users’ photos. Contribute to the conversation and be part of the community.

Reward your followers

Nothing whips up excitement like a flash sale or limited offer. Sporadically offering Instagram-only discount codes will ensure your followers pay razor-sharp attention to your feed. Just don’t overdo it. Instagram is a place for creativity, not cloying sales efforts.

Use Instagram as a competition platform

Good photography has a unique ability to capture the imagination. And today all you need to take a pro-standard photo is a half-decent smartphone and an eye for detail. It makes Instagram the perfect platform for hosting a photography competition. Base your competition around a theme that’s related to your business and watch the entries trickle in. The photos you receive could be used as future content for blog posts or email marketing.

Ready to get started?

Instagram is a great way to bring people closer to your business by expressing your personality and creativity. And it needn’t be a time-sap. You can set up an account in seconds and draw up an imaginative strategy on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Then it’s just a case papping and snapping your way towards a list of engaged followers.