Should My Business be on Instagram?

With visual platforms continuing to rise in 2014, is it time for your business to hop on to Instagram?

Although Facebook is currently the world’s most popular social network, other platforms have been gaining more steam the past few years, especially visual platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram. According to Instagram, there are over 150 million active users.

Research published by the GlobalWebIndex show that Instagram is growing the fastest of all social media sites worldwide, increasing its active user base by 23% in the last six months. The mobile photo-sharing platform saw a 23% jump in active users over 2013 while its parent company, Facebook, saw a 3% drop.

The question of course is, should my business be on Instragram? Technically speaking, any business or non- profit can use an Instagram account for their marketing. However, will it be effective to market on the platform?

Before jumping on the Instagram bandwagon for your business, here are some things you need to consider:

#1 Is Your Target Audience Using Instagram?

The tendency for businesses new to social media is to jump on any popular platform. This approach is not an efficient use of your time and money in the long run.

One of the first steps you need to take before signing up for any social media platform is to find out if your target audience is on Instagram. If you’re not sure who your audience is, you can conduct a survey or check your Facebook Insights to see the demographics of your fans or follower base.

Facebook Insights

Example of Facebook Insights

Survey Results

Example of Survey Results Showing Age Groups

The two demographics you want to take into consideration age groups and gender. Of course, having more information like ethnicity, education and income levels will allow you to make a more informed decision. However a lot of times, smaller businesses don’t have this information on hand so age groups and gender should suffice. Once you know who your audience is, see if your demographic is using Instagram:

Instagram User Demographics in October 2013


Link Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/instagram-demographics-2013-12

As you can see, over 90% of the 150 million people on Instagram are under the age of 35. This makes Instagram more ideal for reaching the younger age groups, specifically 18 – 29 year old cell phone owners. If you business is associated with the younger crowds, like college students and new graduates, Instagram is more likely where you want to focus.

On the other hand, if your target audience is predominately older, you may want to focus on Pinterest instead. This is especially true if your demographic is mostly women. Of course, you can also do both. But just remember, time is money. You want to invest your time on the platforms that will yield the best results. This leads to the next questions.

#2: Are You On Too Many Social Media Platforms?

There are hundreds of different social media platforms out there. However, this doesn’t mean you need to be on every single one. Ideally, you want to focus on a few social media platforms first and slowly branch out once you’ve set a strong foundation. If you are guilty of being on too many platforms, now would be a good time to reevaluate which ones you really should be spending your time on before adding another one to the list.

#3: Are Your Competitors On There?

Just because a competitor is on Instagram, does not automatically mean you should be there as well. Something that works for one business may not work for another even if the products or services are similar. However, if a competitor of yours does have a presence on Instagram and appears to be doing well, it should be something to consider.

How do you know if a competitor is doing well on Instagram?

  • Do they have a solid following? It’s not all about the number of followers a brand has but a larger follower base could be a sign that they are doing something right.
  • Are they getting engagement? Are people liking or commenting on their photos? This is also a good way to help with your own plan and strategies. See what’s getting engagement and learn from their mistakes.

#4: What Kind of Pictures Would You Post?

The answer may seem simple enough, but it takes a bit more thought and planning to have a strong presence on Instagram. It starts with making sure you have a strategy.

The best approach is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask, “What kind of pictures would I like to see from this brand?” This will vary by industry but generally you want to make sure pictures are either creative, useful, entertaining or interesting. Just like with any social media, you want to use Instagram to tell your brand’s story.

Here are some examples of what to post:

  • Sneak peak of new products
  • Behind the scenes look of the business
  • Things associated with the lifestyle of your product or services
  • Social, business or community service events
  • Creative take on a holiday

Although your business may not be in a visual based industry, it doesn’t mean you can’t manage a way to use Instagram. It can be challenging but don’t let it discourage you.

The 4 questions above should be asked before considering joining any social media platform for marketing. If you do find Instagram is where your brand needs to be, below are some tips to help you get started:

10 Tips for Marketing on Instagram

1) Create a Personal Account – If you have never used Instagram before, experience it first using a personal account. While you are there, explore hashtags associated with your brand or business to see what’s already being posted about you.

2) Hashtags are Key – This is how you will grow and connect with your followers. Be sure to mix it up by using hashtags that are general, trending, brand specific and industry specific. Don’t over use them. Although the limit is 30 hashtags a post, you want to keep it around 5 or 6 that are relevant to what you are posting.

3) Engage with your Audience – Respond to comments you get on your photos. Follow others who are passionate about your brand or lifestyle. Like and comment on their photos.

4) Use Captions – Keep text at a minimum after all, it is a visual platform. Just make sure you have some kind of caption for every post to give it context and not leave it blank.

5) Take Advantage of Video – Instagram also has the capability to record 15 second videos. For example, you can use video to give followers a sneak peak of a new product. Or maybe you have a fun company event that you want to let your followers in on. You can record the video directly from the app itself or use footage you have on your phone.

6) Don’t Only Use for Self-Promotion – Social media is about humanizing your brand and engaging with your audience on a more personal level. Like with any other social media, it should not be an advertising tool to push people to buy your products or services!

7) Quality Over Quantity – Aim for one post a day. Unlike Facebook, there’s no algorithm that penalizes you for being inconsistent with how frequently you post. However, don’t post anything just to post. Still be consistent, but don’t force it. Also, be creative and don’t be afraid experiment.

8) Contests / Giveaways – It’s a good way to build engagement and grow your follower base. In addition, it’s a great way to generate content from your followers for future posts.

Just remember: The easier it is to enter, the more participants you will get. If the prize is valuable enough to your followers, then it is okay to ask them to do a little more to enter. Lastly, make sure the prize is relevant to your brand.

9) Don’t Purchase Followers or Use Bots – Aside from it being against Terms of Services, it’s not worth it. You want real followers that will engage and not just make you look popular.

10) Don’t Spam Likes to Get Followers – Basically, don’t scroll through every single photo in a hashtag and “like” the photo. For me, this is more of a pet peeve of mine because I feel it’s not being very sincere or genuine. And yes, people can find out if you are just spamming them if they backtrack through the hashtags they used.

At the very least, make sure the hashtag is relevant and you’re not just “liking” every photo you come across with the hopes they will follow you. My rule of thumb is: “Like” photos that you or your brand would genuinely like.

If you need another guide, here’s one created by Instagram: http://help.instagram.com/454502981253053/

– David Nguyen
Digital Strategist