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While Instagram is still a relative newcomer, it is quickly staking its claim alongside Facebook and Twitter as a crucial social media tool. Here’s how to get started… When building your brand online, it’s best to be on a number of platforms to ensure you reach your target audience wherever they are. New kid on the block Instagram allows for a more personal engagement than many of the other social channels and guarantees some level of interaction; if someone follows your brand they clearly want to see what you put out there.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating an Instagram profile for your business to help you achieve the best possible reaction and reach:


Creating content

Your images need to convey a message that is relevant to your audience. People that follow your business identify with your brand in some way and want to know the story behind it. Your photo descriptions should be professional and chatty, whilst still portraying your brand’s personality. Content should be appropriate to those viewing it, and should never include profanities.


There are a number of apps out there that can be used to create great images. Over and Photogrid are two of our favourites; the former allows you to overlay text on your image, while the latter can be used to create photo collages and resize your images to Instagram dimensions. Apps that create grid collages from your images are also popular, and Instagrid is one example. It allows you to break one large image into several smaller images.


TIP Post ‘real’ photos of products, people and services for authenticity, rather than just professional shots. Avoid stock images whenever possible. 


Filters

This is the fun part of Instagram, whether it’s Slumber or Ludwig, Instagram allows you to overlay a filter to each of your photos, giving them a ‘photoshopped’ look. Take a minute or two to select the filter that makes the image most appealing.


Hashtags

Similar to Twitter hashtags, these keywords help people to find you or associate you with an event, action or place. Don’t include punctuation and make sure you check your spelling before posting. A great tool to research relevant and popular hashtags is IconoSquare (www.iconosquare.com).


Timing

Timing is everything, as with most things in life. Create a schedule, which maps out the best times to post images. Research what time of day your followers are most likely to be on their phones. Popular times to post are lunchtime or in the evening when people are able to access their phones after work or studies. Latergram (www.latergram.me) is a handy free mobile app, which allows you to schedule posts for one account at a time.


How to gain more followers

Organic growth is always best, so spend time each day following people that are likely to be interested in your content. You can also do this by tagging some of your current followers in a post, which means they are guaranteed to see it and may even repost it to their followers.


Integrating Instagram with your website

Your website should showcase all your social media channels and you can take this one step further by including your Instagram feed. Widgets such as Snapwidget (www.snapwidget.com) allow you to display your beautiful Instagram feed in the footer or side bar of your website.

Instagram has recently jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon, making the platform more business focused by offering advertising to larger corporations such as Nike. This functionality has only just been launched to the public, but obviously at a hefty price tag.


How it benefits businesses

Instagram is far more personal than most other social media platforms and because of this it ensure an interactive relationship with their customers. Businesses can use Instagram to develop a dialogue with the consumer, often music brands use this as a way to find out where the best places are to perform next by posing questions to their audiences. Retail brands like H&M use Instagram as a way to create hype around the launch of new stores by encouraging their fan base to share selfies with their signage. Brands benefit from Instagram through ensuring engagement and in turn building loyalty. On average an Instagram user only follows between 300 – 500 profiles which means if they follow you, you are guaranteed a post view.


Most importantly, remember that Instagram is a fun platform with space to be creative, so enjoy it. The more you post, the easier it will be to see what people respond to and what encourages interaction. Keep it engaging and relevant to your business and you’ll grow your following in no time.


Originally published in Your Business Magazine


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