Instagram, the free picture-sharing social site is a hipster/photographer wannabe’s paradise, right? Just like Pinterest is for DIY-crazed women and wedding planners. Stereotypes aside, taking advantage of a “niche” social site like Instagram could result in some serious business and an entirely new and engaged audience you weren’t aware of.

Since the birth of Instagram in 2010, the mobile app has reached 30 million users (gaining a new user every second) and made breaking headlines in April when Facebook acquired it for $1 billion in cash and stock. Other impressive Instagram stats: There are 1 billion photos currently uploaded on Instagram and 5 million are added every day. The beloved app is clearly going strong, but why does it matter to us in a business sense?

With the rapid and rising success of picture-centric sites like Instagram and Pinterest, it’s clear that compelling imagery is crucial to our social and content marketing success. Telling a story with a picture can be just as effective as a blog post, tweet, status update, or email. Having a presence on Instagram and following these tips for your biz could build your engagement faster than you can say “cheese.”

1) Get snappy
Nic Adler, owner of the The Roxy – legendary music venue in West Hollywood, is no stranger to social media. With more than 25,396 followers on Instagram, the Roxy’s engagement is picture perfect. According to the Instagram Blog, Adler states: “We started only using Instagram to post show photos and pictures from inside the building, but the thing we learned right away is that the photos don’t have to be only music related,” Adler says. “The Roxy posts all kinds of photos now including art, scenery, and funny things we come across, while sprinkling in pieces to promote our shows. The best thing you can do for your business on Instagram is show people why they should get to know you.”

2) Use #hashtags
Posting a photo on Instagram is great, but want people to actually find it? Use a hashtag. Tagging your photos with related words in the form of a hashtag allows your photos and your business to be searchable on the site. I conducted an experiment of my own in which I tagged a couple of photos (i.e. #SanFrancisco #sunset), which were previously hashtag free. Within 2 minutes of adding hashtags, I wracked up 100 likes from complete strangers across the globe. Use hashtags (but don’t go overboard) and it’ll put your picture out there.

According to the Instagram blog, “CNN iReport is finding innovative ways to highlight photos on Instagram that show newsworthy events. @cnnireport encourages Instagrammers to tag their photos #cnnireport, and then iReport staff sifts through those photos and shares a select few with their 27,000+ followers.”

Interested to know what the hottest hashtags are? ReadWriteWeb compiled the top 10:

10. #summer
9. #igers (instagrammers)
8. #cute
7. #me
6. #instamood
5. #iphonesia
4. #photooftheday
3. #tweegram
2. #instagood
1. #love

3) Enable/tag your location

Each photo on Instagram can be tagged with a corresponding location. Enabling your location will give your photos more context, your business more exposure, and allows others to find you or your pictures more easily. Search for your own business and check out who’s posting pics. If your location isn’t currently available, just add it! All locations that appear in search are provided by Foursquare.

4) Share on other social sites
What happens on Instagram doesn’t have to stay on Instagram. Instagram allows you to seamlessly share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and Foursquare. Not only do you cross-promote your photos on other social platforms, but your other social media audiences will then be aware of your Instagram presence.


5) Post regularly
Nothing’s worse than going to a blog, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest account simply to see it hasn’t been updated in weeks. The same goes for your Instagram account. Posting on a regular basis means you’ll show up in your followers’ picture streams and thus minds more often.

6) Participate
Instagram isn’t just about posting pics – it’s also interactive. Much like other social sites, participating and engaging with others will also get you noticed and build rapport. Comment on pictures, reply to questions, like others’ photos, and follow fellow Instagrammers. With any luck, you may become a “suggested user” based on your engagement.

Want to track your Instagram engagement? Use a free site like Statigram, and receive stats about your likes, follows, most popular pics, engagement levels, etc.

7) Create an Instagram promo
Instagram promotions are an excellent and unique way to engage with an audience and/or attract new potential fans. Ask people to post pictures using a particular hashtag related to your promotion, or get creative with it:

  • Modcloth created a promo titled Office Geek Off in which fans took “nerdy” Instagram photos of their workspaces and posted them on Instagram. All entries were then displayed on Facebook, and the image with the most “likes” won.
  • Bergdorf Goodman created an interactive map on their website titled “Shoes About Town,” in which fans enabled their location and used a hashtag on Instagram to display photos of themselves/their shoes around Manhattan.

8) Develop a Street Team
Chances are, several people at your business may already have an Instagram account, and they’re most likely avid posters/photographers. Create a “street team” of Instagrammers to capture your businesses’ finest moments. This gives your fans the ins and outs of your business, a steady stream of content, and I’m sure employees won’t mind the chance to Instagram at work.

Want even more knowledge for your business? Instagram has created an educational website specifically for businesses depicting how brands (including non-profits!) are successfully using Instagram as a marketing tool. Find everything from:

Already an Instagram pro? Doing anything fun or unusual with your Instagram account? Let us know!

© 2012 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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