Learn more during Sue Zimmerman’s Instagram Marketing for Small Businesses.
With a robust community boasting more than 200 million users, Instagram is definitely one of the most interesting arenas for social branding and marketing. What started as a space where people could share their lunch plans with friends across the globe, evolved into an active network in which businesses and services of all types and sizes could communicate their branding messaging in a hyper-creative and effective way.
Instagram poses a unique challenge for small businesses and service-based operations. The strictly visual nature of this platform often intimidates brands who think that they don’t have anything interesting to say with images, or don’t have the ability to produce quality visual content. The truth is, the path to Instagram success is much more accessible than you’d think.
The clear advantages that Instagram can offer business users cannot be overlooked. With its vast engagement potential, the high visibility it gets on other platforms (especially on big sister, Facebook), and with its powerful mobile presence, Instagram is a network that has a lot to offer for brands that are serious about their social media activities.
Regardless of if up until now you didn’t trust yourself to give Instagram a try, or if you already have an account but can’t seem to get the following you’re after, this post will offer actionable and valuable tips to gain real resonance on Instagram based on the type of business you run.
Product-Based = Your Goods + Filters
If your company focuses on producing and marketing tangible products, Instagram may very well become your best social media friend. With Instagram’s emphasis on photos, your products can really get the full spotlight, however simply posting pics of your stock and adding a filter is not going to cut it. Here are some ways to approach Instagram creatively:
By situating your product in its “natural habitat”, you make it more real and more relevant to people’s daily lives. See, for instance, how skating brand Campus Mercante uses the urban landscape of New York as part of their Instagram strategy:
Put It In Action: Your products are more than just objects. If Sharpie would have focused primarily on posting images of their markers alone, they probably wouldn’t be able to get much attention on Instagram; so they decided to focus on what their products can do, and they are doing it brilliantly.
Storytelling in Snapshots: Think of how your product is being used by your clients and how you can turn these situations into unique stories told through photographs. Backpack company Herschel, for instance, gets clients to send photos of themselves carrying their Herschels when traveling to magnificent destinations, thus making their product part of an amazing experience.
Check Your Calendar: Any interesting date coming up that might provide the opportunity for a cute photo idea? Major events you should take into account are, of course, holidays, but also big sports games, anniversaries of famous birthdays, or cultural landmarks, like in this fine example by the Bow Tie Store in Moscow.
Service-Based: Spark a Conversation with an Image
When you’re not selling a physical object, using images to promote your brand or yourself becomes more challenging, but it’s definitely not impossible. Keep an open mind and try to think creatively on how your service can be translated into a visually striking moment. Here are some great ideas to start with:
Show the Experience
What attracts people to a certain service is the experience they will acquire through it. Through Instagram, you can show your followers what it means to interact with you. DJ Anna Lunoe, for instance, is in a unique position to take pics from her side of the turntables, capturing the amazing atmosphere that she’s responsible for creating night after night. With photos like this, she can show her audience exactly how she can make them feel:
The Unusual Moment
Often enough, the way your service operates seems pretty straightforward from the outside – you provide clients with advice, training, technology, and so forth, but sometimes the way to capture your audience’s attention is by exposing them to “behind-the-scenes” photos, or so to say, the unexpected Kodak moments. You wouldn’t expect an academic institute like The New School in New York to promote themselves by showing students slacking around, would you? But doing so adds that extra edge to the public image that the New School is trying to cultivate.
If you believe that your service can bring a change to people’s lives, your Instagram account is the spot where you can best demonstrate just that. Create images that will make viewers think: “I want to do this! I want to be like that”, and make them understand that you can help them achieve their goals. Trainer and yoga guru Kathryn Budig is a fine example of how an Instagram account can inspire viewers to take action with the help of her inspiring work.
Visualize the Unvisualizable
Not every product or service has the luxury of photographing particularly well, so how do you capture something that isn’t typically photogenic? Instagram’s image-centric layout sometimes forces businesses to come up with creative ways to make mundane things look awesome. When Wix wanted to set up an Instagram contest for our users, we struggled to find an idea that can put our service – DIY websites – into a captivating image. The result of many brainstorming sessions proved to be a great success, eventually resulting in the #MyWixSite challenge in which users were asked to submit photos of their website’s URL written in creative ways. This is just one example of how a non-visual concept can be translated into a variety of amazing visuals:
Quick Tips for All Business Types Using Instagram:
Cross-Promote: If you are active on other social platforms, be sure to refer viewers from those networks to your Instagram account every once in a while.
Think Instagram: If you really want your Instagram efforts to bear fruit, you need to incorporate Instagram into your day-to-day business activity. In everything that you do for your biz, try to think of if you can get an interesting Instagram pic out of it.
Be Diverse: There’s nothing more boring than an Instagram feed that includes piles and piles of photos of the exact same thing. Make sure your Instagram account depicts your business as a space that is filled with surprises!