Of the many social networks out there, Instagram often comes up as among the more difficult ones for businesses to use. With its emphasis on sharing photos and an inability to include links, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to obvious business uses.
But Instagram isn’t some scary beast that only a few can tame. In fact, every business can benefit from it.
We’ve created a beginner’s guide on how to use Instagram to enhance your business’s image and develop your brand.
What is Instagram?
Instagram started life as a mobile app back in 2010. It allows users to share images from their phones that others can like and comment on. You can view photos from users you follow in your home feed or search for specific hashtags. Recently, Instagram added the ability to upload 15-second videos.
The most important thing to remember when using Instagram is that your primary goal should be to build your brand and engage the community – driving traffic should be secondary. Instagram is a place to show off who you are and what you do in a visual way.
You want the images you post to tell a story. Take pictures of employees showing off unique skills or hard at work. Or post pictures of sites or properties. The story can range from “This is the project we’re working on” to “We’re a surveying firm that likes to have fun”. Stick to your theme and people will respond.
Whatever you post, try to make it engaging for your audience. You want to encourage discussions and debates. Ask people what they think about your image, invite them to tag friends who would like the post, or simply choose a striking image that will get people talking.
Anatomy of an Instagram post
Every Instagram post comes in two parts, the first of which is the most obvious – the image. Currently, you can upload images of any size ratio, but going for Instagram’s signature square format is still recommended. You can crop pictures in the app and also add filters.
The second part of the post is the caption, where you can write a brief message relating to the picture. It should be short and snappy. If your caption is too long, it may be cut off in the feed.
Filters are ways of adjusting the colours on your image, making them more or less vibrant or adjusting the tones. Have a look through the filters and choose one or two that fit your brand’s style. Once you’ve settled on a filter you like, stick with it; this will give your feed a consistent look and feel. You can also hashtag the filter you’re using to show up in more searches.
Hashtags are a word or phrase preceded by the ‘#’ symbol and are used to make it easier to search for specific topics on social media. For instance, if you wanted to search Instagram for pictures of construction sites, you could search ‘#construction’.
On Instagram, you want to use at least three to five hashtags per post, and these should always go at the end of your caption. Put the most specific hashtag first, followed by the more general ones. For instance, if you were posting a picture of Big Ben, you could include the hashtags in this order: #BigBen #London #UK.
Less is more
When Twitter first launched, people were livid about the fact that their messages would be limited to 140 characters. However, we have since adapted, learning that these kinds of restrictions can actually feed creativity. The same goes for Instagram.
While Instagram posts are restricted to images and videos, there’s nothing stopping you from adding text on them – Phonto is one of many handy apps for this. Similarly, while links aren’t clickable in captions, people can copy and paste them into a browser, or you can direct users to the link in your profile.
Image: Jason Howie (original image has been modified)