Social Media: How to rock Instagram in your business

Social Media: How to rock Instagram in your business

Today it's part 5 of my social media series. And I want to chat about Instagram and how you can promote your business on it, no matter what your industry!

Why is Instagram so popular?

Instagram has about 500 million active users who share on average 95 million photos and images per day! That’s pretty phenomenal.  

It probably won’t surprise you to know that a good chunk of Instagrammers are millennials (young un’s) - they’re tech savvy and very visually-oriented. And in 2017, Instagram is expected to see a jump of 70% of US companies using Instagram (up from its current 50%).

Instagram recently surpassed Snapchat at its own game - 24 hour video Stories. Instagram is owned by Facebook so it's got the backing and resources of a giant but it's designed for a younger crowd. 

RELATED POST: How to make the most of your Facebook business page

So Instagram is obviously onto something. But what exactly?

Instagram is all about visuals, inspiration and aspiration.

Which is pretty much what all advertising is about at its core too.

In theory, Instagram is about the moment - the idea that you can snap a “I did this” photo on your phone and post it to your followers. Instant and candid.

Err, yeah. I think in reality we all know that Instagram doesn’t quite work that way.

People rarely post off the cuff these days, unless they’re celebrities and every time they sneeze it’s Instaworthy. Or perhaps if their career is something fluid and fast changing like a travel blogger or a sportsperson.

Even then, you can bet your daily latte that every post has been carefully planned, filtered, edited and stylised first. In fact, Instagram's introduction of filters a few years back is what rocketed the platform from ordinary to galactic, and there’s a whole host of “sucker-fish” apps (that’s what I call them anyway!) that aid Instagram’s pretty, packaged look.

So, there’s not much that’s actually candid and raw about Instagram.

Not that people seem to mind - this is the age of aspiration after all.

How Instagram works

Instagram is an image and video app-based program which means that you can only post from your phone or tablet. I so wish they had a desktop option! It would make my life, at least, a bit easier. 

Instagram posts are all about the image; the text is secondary. Descriptions don’t allow for links but you can regularly change your URL in your profile page (many bloggers change it with each new blog post). And you can also add a heap of hashtags - 15-20 is standard. 

How I use Instagram in my work

To be honest, it took me quite a while to come around to the idea of Instagram. There’s just something so voyeuristic about it which makes my introverted self a little uncomfortable.

But I couldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of my audience are on Instagram. It’s not the biggest social platform for me (Facebook is still miles ahead) but it’s significant.

Significant enough for me to give it a go.

I decided to suss out the business value and appeal of Instagram with my Eat Drink Laos blog. It was an interesting social media experiment that started with zero followers and within 12 months I've gained over 300. This is also organic growth - I haven't delved into Instagram ads, a whole other ballgame.  

My following is on the small side but it grows steadily through daily posts and some of the other tips below.

As a food and travel blogger, Instagram is a pretty easy undertaking. There's no shortage of good material and I have a very broad audience. My posts revolve mostly around food - restaurants, home cooking, street food, etc, as well as general images of Vientiane and Laos. I also add a personal touch with photos of my gorgeous adopted Lao street cats.  

eatdrinklaos-instagram-profile-posts-2017

Following the growing video trend, I've experimented with video posts. They receive on average twice the views and comments so they're well worth it. 

I post every day and I also share my posts (minus the 20 hashtags) with my Eat Drink Laos Facebook page. I've found that as my audiences are different between these two platforms, some posts that do really well on Instagram aren't as popular on Facebook, and vice versa. 

I'm now almost ready to take the plunge with my own business IG account (argh, another bloody social media platform to maintain!). In the past year, I've seen several of my freelance friends come aboard Instagram with their own business accounts, evidently catching onto the trend. 

Instagram is particularly well suited to...

  • Restaurants, cafes, bars, chefs, food writers and well, anything food-related;
  • Any outdoor business including farms, vineyards, marine industries, 
  • Product-based businesses;
  • Photographers and graphic designers;
  • Interior designers, architects and decor consultants;
  • Travel writers, bloggers and any travel-related biz;
  • Fashion, beauty and retail;
  • and anything to do with small, fluffy animals!

How do service-based businesses work on Instagram?

While it seems easier to feed the Insta content beast with products, delectable meals or fluffy lambs on rolling hills, service-based businesses are still in the game. You even have an advantage because you can employ all of those fields and more.

It's a much more creative and personal perspective but the sky's the limit, as long as you can tie it back to your brand and your services. 

  • Use your branded colours as backdrops or just image posts
  • Snap your office or working space 
  • Post on your working style and habits - pyjamas and morning coffee
  • Post images of your actual work - logo drafts, published articles, drafting plans 
  • Quotes and snappy one liners are always popular
  • Be inspirational with a branded colour background 

RELATED POST: How To: 6 Easy Ways To Brand Your Business

Top tips for Instagram business users:

  • Use hashtags - it helps when people are searching for particular content and it’s proven to have greater engagement

  • Tag other users or brands and your location - so your post is seen by more people

  • Try to incorporate national events (check out a global calendar) or what’s trending and include those hashtags in your posts

  • Find followers - do a search in your industry or niche and find accounts to follow. There’s a good chance they’ll follow you back, or their followers will

  • Check out the accounts of influencers in your niche - how they word their posts, hashtags they use, etc

  • Comment and like other people’s posts

  • Check out your competition - for post inspiration, engagement, demographics etc

  • Tell people you’re on Instagram - on Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts

  • Link your account to your website and put it in your email signature

  • Post regularly - whether it’s daily or weekly, just be consistent

  • Figure out the best time to post for your audience - there’s lots of free tools to help you do this

  • Offer a contest or campaign - this is especially good for businesses that sell a product or service

  • Consider sponsored ads to increase your exposure

  • Check your stats regularly to see what works and what doesn’t - check out free options online

Now, go rock your business on Instagram! 

Already have an IG biz account? How's that working out for you?

About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, Squarespace web designer and blogger currently based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves helping freelancers and small businesses get online with web design and contentblogging and her awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, content, SEO, web design and "all that online stuff". She also writes food and travel articles for businesses and magazines, and blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos