With millions of active monthly users, Instagram is a prolific, lively social media community. Businesses want to get in on the Instagram game in order to boost marketing and enhance customer relations.
It might not be immediately obvious to some businesses, however, just how they can get involved with Instagram and make it work for them.
“While many businesses believe Facebook and Twitter are old news, some are still just getting started with newer social media sites like Instagram,” social media consultant Jennifer Baker told CRM Buyer. “As a result, sites like Instagram remain left out of the marketing strategy equation, while focus is directed to older social media communities.”
Behind the Scenes
One of the most effective ways for businesses to use this photo- and video-sharing site, according to experts, is to give customers a look at what goes on behind the scenes.
“While it all depends on an organization’s strategy for use, many businesses have flocked to Instagram to provide followers with an up-close-and-personal, behind-the-scenes look at their operations — be it employees, the office work environment, or trade shows,” said Baker. “These candid images and videos allow users to connect with the business on a personal level, thus building relationships.”
Service businesses, in particular, can use Instagram to make a personal connection with clients.
“Service-based businesses are often more limited with Instagram, but [they can] work it to their advantage,” small business consultant Bobbi Dust told CRM Buyer.
“For instance, these businesses often post photos of blogs being written, marketing campaigns being created, or photos of their staff, so that their customers or clients can get to know the business better,” she said. “It’s all about the personal touch with service-based businesses. They want to create a personal relationship with their customers or clients, and Instagram allows them to do that.”
Instagram is all about interactivity, and companies that thrive in the Instagram world look for creative and unique ways to encourage interaction with their brands.
“I love the way brands like Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger or General Electric use Instagram,” social media consultant Marion aan ‘t Goor told CRM Buyer. “They make an effort to involve Instagrammers with their activities, by inviting them to come to a fashion show, or to their factories in the case of GE, and to take a look around behind the scenes and take photos. The greatest thing a brand on Instagram can do is involve their followers.”
Businesses just getting started with Instagram must devise a strategy and make sure that the strategy is in line with the rest of the organization’s social media plans.
“Develop a strategy and stick to it,” said Baker. “As new social media sites are launched, many businesses jump feet first into the platform without first consulting their social media strategy or considering their target audience. While it is important to embrace advancements in social media, businesses need to develop a strategy for ongoing growth and development. There are many Instagram accounts that are left dormant because they did not follow a plan, nor think of the future of the account.”
As Instagram evolves, businesses can take advantage of new business-friendly marketing, advertising and customer relations tools offered by the site.
“There is great marketing potential with Instagram,” said Baker. “In the last 12 months, Instagram has launched advertising opportunities for select businesses. These advertisements are flagged with ‘sponsored’ in the top right-hand corner. This opportunity will allow businesses to reach an increased number of users. Advertisers must be cautious, however, about their messaging, as users enjoy Instagram for the organic nature of the social media site.”
Because of its visual nature, experts say that Instagram works particularly well for businesses that want to market visually appealing products.
“Product-based businesses can also use photos of new products to generate buzz, create contests to market new or existing products, or to announce the launch of something new and exciting to consumers,” said Dust.
In addition to being used as a marketing tool, Instagram can be used to gather valuable information from customers and to communicate directly with them.
“When a company deals in tangible products, Instagram is a great way to collect feedback and reviews from consumers,” said Dust. “The 15-second video capability also allows for companies — service- and product-based — to collect testimonials that can be used elsewhere.”
Some businesses use Instagram simply to share relevant and interesting content with their customers — thus keeping the lines of communication open.
Social media marketing consultant Amanda Brazel, for instance, regularly posts social media-related content, as well as photos of herself and her family, in an effort to keep her clients engaged with her daily life.
“While there is no tangible product to be marketed, Amanda does a great job at keeping her content relevant to her industry,” said Dust. “She posts photos of blogs she’s writing, photos with questions so that she can engage with her followers, and photos of her and her family so that her clients can get to know her on a more personal level.”
As with all social media sites, the instant interaction afforded by Instagram requires brands to be aware of what consumers are posting, and to be prepared to respond as necessary.
“Since we’re a social and visual society, the benefits of Instagram are only going to increase,” said Dust.
“Consumers want to spread the word about good products and services, and [they] often take to social media to reach a broader audience. This can either help or hurt a business, depending on the satisfaction level of the consumer,” she pointed out.
“Because Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing site, consumers can share photos or videos of their experiences, good or bad,” Dust cautioned. “This means that businesses need to be on top of customer satisfaction at all times — which, in my opinion, should be the case anyway.”