Instagram 101 for the Business World

Instagram, a rapidly expanding and powerful social networking site, allows small and large businesses to capitalize on the free opportunity to display their brand and to tell their story. US Internet users spend 12 billion minutes per month on Instagram making it an ideal platform for companies to showcase their products. On a daily basis, the Instagram community posts over 70 million photos and videos. If you don’t already have an Instagram account for your business, drop what you’re doing and create one today! Instagram can be a perfect marketing tool; however, the challenge companies face is discovering ways to attract potential new customers and ways to stand out among other competitors.

Here is an instruction manual for companies trying to showcase their brand in a visual manner while avoiding the pitfalls of using dull, generic Instagram photos and wordiness. With the right lighting, background, captions, and human engagement, potential customers will be drawn to your company’s image, its suggested lifestyle, and hopefully, its product lines.

Avoid Drowning on Instagram

You know the old saying “moderation is key”? Well that saying can definitely be applied to a company’s Instagram account. Over saturating with too many photos and hashtags can negatively impact your user engagement and worst case scenario, the user may hit the unfollow button! Everyone needs a sense of balance, especially when it comes to Instagram. #enoughsaid

About the balance – companies should construct a flexible posting schedule in order to keep their profile up-to-date and interactive for their followers. 70% of US users check their Instagram accounts at least once a day, so consistent posts are important to maintain user engagement. Although Facebook is another popular social media marketing platform for businesses, Instagram’s engagement is actually 15 times greater than Facebook’s.

Pictures: Worth More Than a 1000 Words

When companies choose a picture to post on Instagram, they should immediately think quality over quantity. Followers are less likely to engage with photos that are of poor picture quality. Images are the holy grail when it comes to telling a company’s story, especially on a platform that is solely visual and image-centric. Since 90 percent of information that is processed in our brains is visual, photo quality has never been more imperative.

In order to direct Instagram traffic that turns into sales for your business, photos must meet certain key requirements: unique, attention-grabbing, and a bursting with personality.  Followers are naturally inclined to develop a relationship with your brand if they resonate with the aesthetics of your pictures.

screenshot of s'well bottle isntagram post featuring woman laying on beach

It’s important to post professional looking pictures in an aesthetically pleasing backdrop. Using close-up, plain product pictures come off as too salesy and are less appealing to followers. Blurred pictures or low resolution are an absolute NO-NO! One of the beautiful aspects of Instagram is that it automatically resizes your picture to be a 612 X 612 square pixel photo so avoid any type of weird crop to your picture.

Studies have shown that pictures generate 24% more likes when they are lighter and brighter. Instagram offers editing tools to capture that light and bright look, but when snapping a picture, make sure the background lighting is somewhat sufficient.

Selling a Lifestyle

Lifestyle photos sell! When posting on Instagram, remember that you are trying to sell your brand without directly hard selling to your followers. Choose an appropriate lifestyle that goes hand-in-hand with your brand. These lifestyle photos add a sense of value and appeal to followers that will entice them to come back for more.

Nike is a perfect example of selling a lifestyle through its Instagram account. Nike designs its account to show an active, healthy lifestyle by displaying their products featuring athletes jumping, running, scoring. Also they allow their audience to participate in this lifestyle through their hashtag: #justdoit. Research shows that 60% of Nike’s posts include lifestyle content; as a result, Nike had 8 times more interaction on their social media in 2014 than its competitor Adidas, which generated only 32 percent of lifestyle content in its posts.

screenshot of Nike instagram pic of woman doing push-ups on a bench

Displaying your products linked with a culture and lifestyle help to build and strengthen your brand equity. In other words, you want your followers to establish feelings associated with your brand create a scenario where followers can picture themselves using the product in a similar way, such as warm winter jacket in the windy city of Chicago or the perfect water bottle that stays cold even in the dead heat of summer on the beach.

Show Off That Money Maker

Pictures that feature human faces generate more followers and likes than plain product shots. Followers can easily identify with the brand when human life is present in the picture. Research indicates that Instagram photos with human faces generate 38 percent more likes and 32 percent more comments. Companies that feature behind the scenes shots of employees in work environments help to humanize their brand and strengthen relationships with followers. It also helps followers to appreciate the people behind the product.

screenshot of starbucks instagram post featuring an employee

Instagram is a great free platform to enhance your marketing efforts. In the right hands, it is a cutting edge marketing tool for businesses wanting to capitalize on their brand image and attract potential customers.

Kate Mancosh – Content Creator

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