How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Business

Instagram has gone from a novelty to social media giant in just a few short years. Currently, the photo-sharing app boasts over 600 million monthly users all over the world. Like Facebook before it, businesses and marketers have been quick to adopt the social media platform to increase brand awareness and drive sales.

Instagram allows you to say goodbye to the “hard sell” and introduces you to a new way to interact with consumers. By posting the right images and using the right hashtags, Instagram users interact with your business in an organic way that doesn’t seem pushy.

Everyone from the local boutique that sells vintage dresses to big box retailers use Instagram to promote their business. But where one business succeeds, another may flounder. Consumers are relying on social media more than ever to help them make purchasing decisions, but simply creating an account for your business won’t guarantee success.

Instead of jumping in blindly and hoping to hit it big, there are strategies that will help you gain more exposure which will (hopefully) turn into sales. Human beings are visual creatures, so it only makes sense that Instagram is considered one of the best ways to develop your brand and promote your product. So how can you turn likes into sales?

Instagram is a photo-sharing app. Whether you want to promote your business, blog, charity or event, you should never use your existing personal Instagram account. Potential consumers do not want to be inundated with pictures of your lunch or your pet Corgi (no matter how cute). Your followers shouldn’t have to wade through personal posts before they see something relevant to your business.

Instead of using your existing account, you’ll want to create a brand new one for your business. With your new account you’ll want to use your business’ logo as your profile picture. If you don’t have one yet, consider enlisting the services of one of the many graphic designers on Fiverr.

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In the Bio section of your account feel free to rattle on about your business, but don’t forget to add a link! The bio section is the only place within your Instagram account where you can place a live link. Use it to direct users to your business website, blog, store, etc.

Instagram is synonymous with pictures, so it goes without saying that the pictures you post should feature whatever it is you are selling. That being said, you’ll want to do some research. See what other brands who sell similar products are posting and take note of how many likes and comments they receive.

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Given the popularity of Instagram, there have been numerous studies conducted resulting in lots of analytical data that can help businesses. Services like WEBSTAand Iconosquare provide in-depth analysis on your account and the general Instagram community. These services aren’t usually free, but they do give you valuable insight into the behavioral patterns of Instagram users. Consider the following stats:

  • Although there are more than forty filters to choose from, Mayfair seems to be the most popular. It attracts the most interactions (likes, reposts) per 1,000 followers.
  • Images composed with good lighting (i.e. bright and easy-to-see detail) tend to generate 24% more likes than darker compositions.
  • Posts with blue as the dominate color see 24% more likes than red- or orange-tinted ones.
  • Images that have a theme of a single, predominate color (i.e. grouping products of the same color in a post) see approximately 17% more likes.

Instagram allows you to pair your image with a caption. The absolute worst thing you can do here is attempt to take a “hard sell” strategy. Consumers (especially tech-savvy ones) can see through a pushy sales technique almost immediately. When they do they will unfollow you and ultimately forget you. Instagram isn’t a platform for you to sell; instead it is a way to increase awareness of your business. Using Instagram won’t turn into direct sales but rather direct consumers to your brand over other competitors.

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Within captions, you will see hashtags (#). For the uninitiated, hashtags allow Instagram users to easily discover posts related to the things that interest them. For businesses, hashtags are a crucial tool that will expose users to your brand or product by enabling users to find your posts.

So what hashtags should you use? First, brainstorm keywords and phrases relevant to your brand our business. Second, you’ll want to get a better idea of which hashtags are trending and popular. To do this, consult services like the ones mentioned above.

Hashtags require some thought. Be wary of using hashtags that are too vague. A general hashtag (e.g. football) might be really popular, but it will drown in a sea of other posts. Get more specific to help potential customers find you (e.g. dallascowboys).

Studies have shown that posts with more than five hashtags result in user engagement taking a nosedive. Instagram users equate an overabundance of hashtags with a pushy salesman, so be economical with your hashtags. If you absolutely must have more than five, consider using them in a comment to the original post. This will make the caption of your post seem less cluttered.

Instagram is a crowded place. If you fail to post on a regular basis, your posts will be buried by new ones, making it difficult for potential customers to find you. While the Internet has increased potential sales, it also means that staying relevant and memorable is difficult.

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Studies show that Instagram accounts with the most user interaction post six images per week on average. Analysts suggest that Instagram follows the “Burrito principle.” That is people can easily check their Instagram feed at any time (even when eating a burrito). Ultimately, posting consistently is probably more important than a specific time of day. Although you might want to consult the analytic services above to get a better idea of when your core demographic uses Instagram.

Since you probably can’t hire a social media manager to handle all of this for you, consider scheduling your posts. Apps like Later and Schedugram allow you to compose your posts and schedule publishing at a later time.

Do you use Instagram to promote and market your business or product? Do you have any tips for people interested in social media marketing? Let us know in the comments!

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