Guide to Instagram for Businesses: Creative Social Media Branding

If you’re a social media-minded business, you’re probably already on Twitter and Facebook. But what about more niche channels like Pinterest, Foursquare — or Instagram?

Instagram’s recent acquisition by Facebook may have something to say about this photo-sharing application’s value potential — in April of this year, Mark Zuckerburg’s social media empire bought Instagram for a grand total of $1 billion. Although much of the online sphere was shocked to see the apparent price tag on such a simple app, there is certainly something to be said for Instagram’s huge (and growing) following.

What Makes Instagram a Beneficial Branding Tool?

According to a recent article from Ad Age, 10% of all photos shot by humankind were taken in the past 12 months. Ten percent. That’s an astonishing figure, and one that certainly makes a statement about the dominance of picture taking in today’s smartphone-saturated society.

In other words, photo sharing is becoming an integral part of the way your customers interact with the world around them. By integrating Instagram into your company’s current social media marketing strategy, your company has the potential to reach customers like never before.

How to Use Instagram to Build Your Brand

Instagram may be a more intuitive social media choice for some companies than others, but almost any brand can use Instagram, if they use it well — and use it in a way that their customers can relate to.

Instagram certainly has huge potential for inherently creative brands and companies, such as fashion designers, boutiques and art galleries; however, hundreds of other businesses and organizations are beginning to take advantage of this new social media outlet as well, including:

  • Retail stores
  • Outdoor companies
  • Nonprofits
  • Restaurants
  • News organizations
  • And so many more

1. Do Your Research.

What many businesses don’t fully realize about social media is that their brand is probably already being talked about — even before they decide to join the conversation themselves. This rule absolutely applies to Instagram as much as it does for Facebook or Twitter.

One of the simplest ways you can engage with customers who are already talking about your company on Instagram is by searching through images tagged with your company’s name or other relevant hashtags — and liking any photos you believe capture your brand well. Most customers will be flattered that you liked their photo and will happily follow you back.

If you have a solid following on Twitter or Facebook, it’s even easier to convert your customers to Instagram. Not only does Instagram’s integration with these established applications make it simple for users who are already following you on other social media outlets to quickly find your Instagram profile — it also facilitates cross-posting on online platforms where customers are already engaging with your brand.

2.  Be Creative.

In many ways, Instagram makes it easy for businesses to display their creativity — even a picture of an office desk can be interesting with Instagram’s filters, frames, and crop and blur tools.

However, if your business is looking for ways to step outside the box, these simple suggestions will help you get started:

  • Document a company-wide community service project or other note-worthy event. Customers love seeing the “human side” of businesses, and this is a great, non-obtrusive way to do that.
  • Capture your product in its natural environment. If you own a boutique, don’t just post pictures of your clothes hanging on a mannequin — instead, try improvising a mini catalogue photoshoot in a creative outdoor or indoor setting.
  • Take mobile screenshots of your company’s website, a current iTunes track your staff is loving — whatever!
  • Encourage users to tag specific images with a hashtag determined by you. Make it simple — like tagging a picture of a favorite meal from your restaurant — and pick one (or several) winners.
  • Don’t be afraid to deviate from posts related strictly to your business or products. Take a photo of an inspiring quote from a classic book or an artistic snapshot of a famous landmark in your company’s city or town. These types of images tend to be surprisingly popular with customers — and they can still say a lot about your business!

3. Understand Instagram’s Limitations.

As is the case with most social media tools, there are some limitations with Instagram.

Currently, Instagram is a mobile-only application, and only iPhone and Android users have the ability to download the application to their phones. However, with the company’s recent API release, more and more third-party applications have popped up that allow users to view their Instagram feeds from a laptop or desktop computer.

And of course, only time will tell how Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram will affect the app’s usability and functionality in the future.

A Few Takeaways…

  1. Do a little digging to learn how your customers are already talking about and engaging with your brand on Instagram.
  2. Show off more than just your product — make your customers feel like they’re getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your organization’s day-to-day and company culture.
  3. Have a strategy, but don’t overthink it. Let your photos speak for themselves. You may be surprised to see which of your posts or contests generate the most buzz!

If you’re interested in updating your company’s social media strategy, don’t hesitate to call the social media experts at COCG! Our Raleigh, NC Internet marketing team is familiar with a wide range of social media outlets, and we’d be glad to help you choose the right tools for your business.

Please call us today at 919-301-8406 or fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation.