Instagram is a powerful branding tool and highly effective for user engagement. So, use its strengths to your benefit! Establish a strong brand presence and build a community around it. Focus on who you'd like to engage with rather than sell to and you'll be on your way to building a strong tribe!
Small Businesses and Instagram
As of April 2017 Instagram had 700 million users (Source: Instagram) so it is clearly beneficial for small businesses to have an active and engaged Instagram account. There are differences to Instagram that can be confusing and some small businesses create an account and quickly get discouraged. For example, it is a mobile-first app (built for use on a mobile device), relies on visual content and it doesn't have a built-in repost feature, so there are some best practices to consider when using Instagram to build your brand community:
- Connect Your Social Media Accounts: After creating an Instagram account you should connect it to your other social media accounts, like Facebook, so content is shared simultaneously over several platforms. This way existing followers of your other accounts will see you are on Instagram and follow you there, too!
- Tell A Story: Be creative with the content you share. Think about the multiple aspects of your brand - not just your product or service - and use images and videos to tell the whole story! You can post about employees, locations (perhaps a video tour!), your local community, promotions and, of course, product images. Be creative and have fun with it! Client images (user-generated content) is another fantastic way to build a community around your brand. For example: restaurants shouldn't just post pictures of food, but encourage clients to post pictures of their dining experience as well!
- Use Hashtags: Hashtags can take some getting used to, but they allow users to search for content across a variety of platforms. Some basic hashtags to use include location (city/region/state), niche type (specific to your industry - for example if you are in #fashion the niche may be #shoes), and industry (#Marketing, #Travel, #Technology). HINT: be sure to research hashtags before using them to see what others who use this hashtag are posting and how they are engaging to ensure relevance and appropriate content.
- Engage Locally and Globally: Start by following users in your local community (and not just the influencers). Pay attention to your followers and follow back when appropriate! Like and comment within your community, ask questions and run contests. On a larger scale, follow Instagram users who are influencing your industry, like and comment on their posts as well, and share their content on your page. Pay attention not just to the numbers of followers an influencer has, but make sure their community is active and engaged. NOTE: Instagram doesn't have a built-in repost function, but apps like Repost for Instagram will allow you to do this.
- Post Frequently and Track Engagement: Like most social media platforms, the more you post and engage the more you will build a community around your brand. Respond to comments and likes, and track what types of posts get the best responses. It's not enough to simply have a lot of followers, how engaged your audience is will determine how influential Instagram will be for your brand.
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