Business development · 25 May 2017

Using Instagram as a marketing tool – because a picture tells a thousand words

Using instagram
There are 14 million people using Instagram every month in Britain

Like every social media platform, Instagram demands a unique approach. Here, we cover the fundamentals of using Instagram as well as some of the more intricate details of the app’s marketing tools.

Official Instagram figures suggested over 500,000 companies invest in its adverts each month, while Instagram has been found to generate a higher average order value than sales through Facebook or Pinterest.

Instagram has acknowledged the growing legion of small business owners using the app to reach new audiences. Since the £1bn Facebook buyout in 2012, it has steadily rolled-out new tools to aid users’ sales and marketing efforts.

Getting the essentials right

It’s easy to overlook the basics when drawing up any social media strategy. With that in mind, make sure your profile is optimised.

The bio section is the first thing visitors will see, so getting it right is vital. Explain what you do and what makes your brand unique, but keep it interesting and fun.

Keeping your profile as close as possible to other social media accounts will help strengthen recognition of your brand. The bio is also the one place on your main profile a link to your website can be included.

Special business tools

The connection between Facebook and Instagram has increased significantly in recent years, following a £1bm acquisition 2012. Business owners can link Facebook pages to Instagram and take full advantage of the photo app’s advertising tools.

Business account holders can invest in photo, video and carousel adverts to promote onto user feeds, and the app recently rolled-out full-screen advertising stories. The latest capabilities meant “a new layer of intimacy that is raw and unfiltered”, according to James Quarles, Instagram’s vice president of business.

Like Facebook’s “promote” tool, a business owner can turn a well-performing post into an advert and reach hand-picked demographics.

Other tools released at the start of 2017 gave businesses additional contact links, as well as an ads manager to see what kind of posts received the most engagement. Instagram has marked further ecommerce tools for release later this year. 

To find out more about how small companies can get the most out of using Instagram, we spoke to a startup founder and a creative freelancer to learn from their experiences.

Telling the story behind the brand

For The White Rabbit Pizza Co., an Oxford-based organic, gluten-free pizza startup, Instagram has been a vital point of communication with customers.

“Instagram is our main social media channel,” co-founder Josh Ogle told Business Advice. But in a world of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn, what makes the photo-sharing app such a suitable option for a small food producer?

“It’s a cliché, but a picture really can tell a thousand words,” Ogle explained. “Whereas on Twitter I can post 140 characters, on Instagram I can post a picture of a pizza, our logo, text and hashtags, then I can link in the product, the branding, even the ingredients. The platform lends itself really well for all those things at once.”

Ogle said using Instagram enabled The White Rabbit Pizza Co. to reach further and tell the story behind the brand.

“Don’t focus your strategy purely on maximising likes and profits – post about you. People care about people. On Instagram, if there’s a story behind the product, then people are more likely to follow your cause. Rather than a regular lazy post every six hours, the hope for us is that in taking our time, we’re making quality content people can relate to every time.

“For example, I would try and include our brand passions, music tastes and other things that people can relate to. By getting creative, using the Boomerang app for example, you can highlight the individual characters in the business, and show what activities the business taking part in or show peoples reactions to your product in an effortless small clip of video,” he said.

Since the dawn of social media, brands have tried padding out their profile by buying followers. Investing in this cynical approach, Ogle pointed out, could lead to a follower base uninterested in your business.

“We feel it’s best to grow organically on social media, reaching people who actually care about what you are doing rather than people with completely irrelevant interests who have been pushed onto your page,” he said.

 

  The startup recently won listings in London branches of Whole Foods and Planet Organic, and Ogle explained he has focused promoted posts in the same areas. Targeted advertising can complement existing local interest, while more cost-effective than national campaigns. The company has also found success in tying up Facebook and Instagram marketing. By promoting a Facebook post shared from Instagram, you’ll experience better coverage on the original post.

Freelance portfolios

For Britain’s community of creative freelancers, Instagram can act as a showcase of work for potential clients to see. This has been the case for food stylist and recipe writer Liberty Fennell, who told Business Advice her Instagram page had become an increasingly strong source of business, having recently picked up work with premium vodka brand Ketel One through her profile. “It’s like a portfolio for me, almost a CV,” she said. “Most creative people use Instagram now as a way of showing their work.” Keeping every social media channel up to date is a tall order for busy business owners, but the potential value in Instagram is growing. It has even started to hold itself next to a dedicated website. “A website is still important, but in today’s world people will find your Instagram first and then find your company website. It has to look just as good,” Fennell explained. “For example, I can post more day-to-day things like food I’ve made, whereas on my website will be the professionally taken photos.” Having lost followers through posting photos of friends, one thing the freelancer learned from using Instagram was to keep her creative profile as strictly business. She advised having a separate personal account. As seen with The White Rabbit Pizza Co., striking a balance of posts relevant to your brand but also communicating a human element behind it is crucial. Fennell agreed expressing the brand’s personality was important. “I might write the recipe for the food underneath, sharing knowledge in that way.”

Explaining how Instagram can suit almost any industry, Fennell said she was currently setting up an account for her father, a freelance hairdresser. We asked her what pointers she could offer other small business owners yet to harness the benefits of the app.

“A healthy following ratio is good – try not to follow too many other accounts if you are growing your profile. Careful of people scrolling through your posts waiting for you to follow back. They usually have no interest in your brand,” she warned.

Fennell also suggested taking advantage of Instagram’s geo-tagging capabilities. Checking in at a location, such as a trade show or business event, is a useful way of engaging with clients or customers with a direct interest in your business.

Another important consideration is the layout of a profile, in terms of continuity and presentation.

“Think about what your previous photos are. Make sure a range of colours are showing – what does the whole page look like? Customers and clients might find your profile before a particular post and it could make the difference,” she explained.

In terms of hashtags, it would seem the more specific approach could be best. Both Ogle and Fennell advised swerving the most searched for and obvious hashtags, and focusing on the niche to avoid getting swamped by Instagram’s mass of posts.

Over five million businesses worldwide are using Instagram, with many small firms finding success reaching the UK’s 14 million monthly users. The stats certainly suggest Instagram is worth investing in.

Find out how these three businesses made a killing through using Instagram

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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