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Instagram. The SmartPhone app that has taken the world by storm, and lets you create gorgeous, quirky, vintage-looking, or simply very cool photos just by editing them with whichever filter suits your mood.
Instagram had originally started out quite modestly, as a photo sharing application, but soon enough it became a craze. At any given moment, Instagram photos are being shared on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, Foursquare, Tumblr – and this is just a partial list. No matter what social network you’re on, your feed is probably flooded with Instagram photos. People everywhere are using Intagram’s soft, vintage-looking filters to shoot everything, from their sweet dog, to their awesome new hairdo and the delicious-looking ice cream they’re about to eat.
The popularity of Instagram has not escaped the social networks on which the photos are so often shared. Facebook has recently acquired Instagram for the amazing sum of 1 billion dollars, and one can only imagine what will come out of this merge.
The high number of users Instagram has (over 50 million, according to recent counts) means the app is here to stay.
The question is – could you somehow use this vastly popular app to promote your business?
If you are already using social networks like Facebook or Twitter for your online campaigns, the main contribution of Instagram photos is to leverage your presence on the available platforms. For example, Instagram photos that are shared on Twitter can be retweeted. When photos are shared on Facebook, users can like them or comment on them. It also possible to share a link that leads directly to an Instagram photo stream. Therefore, embellishing your presence on social networks with Instagram can indirectly improve your rankings on Google, too.
So how can you make the most of Instagram? That is, besides getting overly excited about that gorgeous photo you took of your pasta dish?
Level 1: Instagram for Rookies
Take Awesome Photos!
Obvious, right? Well, not really. Of course, if you’ve got a nice, photogenic product like a cupcake business or a flower shop then you don’t have to ponder much what kind of photos to take. But what if your business is something intangible, like an e-teaching service, or your product is not that interesting, like office supplies? Well, you can try taking interesting photos of paper clips, but you can also tackle things from a different angle. Think outside the box – take ‘behind the scenes’ photos of employees doing funny things, satisfied clients using your product, or your new branch and the preparations for its opening. With these kinds of photos, you’ll make your clients will feel more involved – and higher involvement is the pathway for business growth.
Instagram photos by clothing company American Apparel, as featured on WeWitItLA.com.
But…Don’t Post the Same Photos Over and Over Again
So, you’ve taken photos of your restaurant’s mouth-watering chocolate soufflé and posted them online. However, the 10th time you post photos of your soufflé – your clients may get a little, well, bored. Keep your photo streams alive and engaging by posting different photos every time – photos of different products, different situations and so on. Think of the photos you would like to see from a business whose products or services you’re using. Try to surprise and enthrall your clients as much as you can.
Use Keywords and Hashtags so Users Can Find Your Photos Online
When posting your photos online, make sure you provide captions for the photos that will make them easier to find – for people who are searching specifically for your business and for those who are searching for terms related to what you do. When you write captions for photos, make sure to include keywords related to your business.
In addition, and this is very important for searching purposes, Instagram provides the option of placing tags in the captions of your photos that are denoted by the symbol #, or hashtags. If your account on Instagram is public, tags on your photos will make them visible on public tag pages and will also make them easier to find on social networks and search engines. This is because every hashtag is associated with an RSS feed, so people can subscribe to photos that have that hashtag. Placing popular hashtags in your captions (besides the hashtags related to your business) is another great strategy to make them easy to find.
Top 10 hashtags of the moment. FromWebstagram.com
For more details and tips on creating and using hashtags for your photos, check out Instagram’s article on hashtags from the Instagram Help Center, as well as their blog post Instagram Tips: Using Hashtags.
Let People Know Where Your Photos were Taken
Among its many cool features, Instagram gives you the option of geo-tagging your photos. Geo-tagging means adding geographical data to your photo, such as the location you’re in, whether it’s the city you’re in or a more specific place like a restaurant. To enhance the visibility of your Instagram photos online, use geo-tagging that includes the name and location of your business. This will increase the chance of people finding your brand wherever they are.
Not only that, but by using geo-tags you will also be able to find photos from your location that other people posted and use this to find potential followers.
Geotagging on Instagram. From the Instagram Help Center
Get More Followers
Instagram is more than a photo-sharing app – it has already grown into a social network of sorts, and much like Twitter, a user on Instagram can ‘follow’ other users as well as ‘be followed’.
Here are some more tips that will help you in finding followers:
- Make sure your account is public;
- Find friends from your various contact lists on social networks, your e-mail, etc.;
- Share your photos on every social network you’re on.
Find People to Follow – and Interact with Them
It’s great that you’ve got people following you – now is the time to start following some people yourself. Why? Because you want your brand or business to interact with any potential clients, and even if not all the people you follow become your clients, they can still help spread the word about you. Being interactive means liking the photos, commenting on them, etc. However, take care not to promote yourself blatantly on their personal space. Keep your comments authentic, positive and humourous.
To find users to follow, try searching by Instagram tags – the tags you’re using for your business (this way you may find people that are already talking about your brand), or any other relevant tags. You can also search your location and see who’s nearby.
Level 2: Instagram for Pros
All right, now that you’ve the basics down, it’s time to take it to the next level.
Spread the Word by Finding Influential Users
Finding followers and people to follow is great, but if you really want your product or brand to be out there, you have to go the extra mile. Some Instagram users are highly visible and influential – and they have come to achieve this status by having a large number of followers and/or taking amazing photos. A way to increase your brand’s popularity is to ask these users to take photos of your business and post them (and pay them for that, of course). This kind of approach can save your business from anonymity and gain it instant fame.
Ask People to Take Photos at Your Events
If your business is holding a special event (like a gallery opening, a book reading, or a celebration of your newest branch), encourage the people attending to take photos – and tag them accordingly. This is another way to interact with your clients and enlarge the circle of potential clients. They will have fun with Instagram and feel involved, and you will get the word out about your event and your business with hardly any effort.
Organize a Contest to Get People Talking about Your Brand
Instead of just asking clients to take photos of your brand, make it more worthwhile for them by organizing a photo contest. Decide on a theme, and create a custom hashtag for it, like #FunnyUsesOf(Brand Name). You can choose the winning photo yourself, or, you can the contest more engaging to the users by letting them vote for their favorite photo. Another idea is to post a photo you took of your brand, and ask users to suggest a caption for it.
As people tend to brag about contests they’re a part of, and it’s likely that they will share photos with friends to get their votes, this offers a huge potential for enlarging your client base. Also, contests start a conversation, and help your brand spread like fire on the various social networks.
Last February, singer-sogwriter Jason Mraz announced such a contest to promote his new single ‘I won’t Give Up’. Fans were asked to submit photos with the hashtag #IWON’TGIVEUP. The 25 chosen winners had their photos printed on canvases and displayed in a gallery in New York with a special appearance by Mraz himself to top it off.
For more information about Instagram photo contests, read this article about hosting photo campaigns on Instagram.
Level 3: Instagram for Veterans
So you know your way about Instagram and you’re already doing all the things suggested above. What’s the next step?
Use More Platforms for Sharing – and Increase Your Indexing Power
So you’ve got numerous Instgram images of your business, not only photos you have taken yourself but photos taken by your clients as well. You can now tie it altogether by creating and sharing galleries and slideshows of your photos via various social networks. This will aid in indexing them on search engines and driving traffic back to your website.
Here are some websites that can help you in promoting your Instagram photos online:
- Flickr – all your Instagram photos can be uploaded directly to Flickr. Photos on Flickr are automatically indexed by search engines, so whoever searches for a certain keyword can find photos tagged with that keyword.
- Webstagram – an extremely useful website for all Instagram fanatics. Features on Webstagram include RSS updates, as well as searching tools for hashtags, photos and other Instagram users. Not only can you find people talking (and photographing) your business, they can find you more easily.
- Pinterest – Remember our post about effectively marketing your local business with Pinterest? Well, here is another way you can do so. By having a Pinterest account and sharing your Instagram photos there, you can reach the Pinterest crowd more easily and drive traffic back to your website or company’s blog.
- Pinstagram – Essentially, Pinstagram is a relatively new mashup of Pinterest and Instagram. It enables users to view photos on the Web instead of just their mobile phones, and photos are displayed in an ultra-convenient Pinterest-like layout. This works for your business as well the people you want to attract: You can ‘like’ and ‘share’ photos from Pinstagram on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest photos can be pinned on Pinstagram and vice versa, and you can browse for nearby Instagram photos.
- Gramfeed – much like Pinstagram, Gramfeed also allows you to view and share Instagram images from your computer. However, Gramfeed also adds a location layer to all photos, thus enabling users to see where photos were posted from. Other than searching for photos or users, you can also conduct a map search on Gramfeed and find photos that were posted from a certain location, which is specified on a map by Google Maps. Adding a hashtag with your location to your Instagram photos ensures users will find you on Gramfeed. Look what we found when we searched for Barcelona:
Get More Followers – the Sophisticated Way
The new platforms based on Instagram provide ingenious ways to collect more followers. Here are two great examples:
- Followgram – this web application has one unique feature: it provides a follow button for your blog or website. Anyone visiting your website can click on this button and immediately become a follower of your Instagram feed. With this clever tool you can also get web analytics for your Instagram posts. Like other Instagram-based platforms, Followgram also enables searching, provides RSS feeds and is integrated with Facebook and Twitter for easy sharing.
- Gramfeed – Yes, once again. Gramfeed offers a way in which you can get more followers and likes for your Instagram photos – by becoming a featured user. If you are already using Gramfeed, you can fill in a form and Gramfeed will decide whether to make you a featured user or not. Photos of featured users can be viewed by thousands of people who visit Gramfeed every day.
Embed Instagram Photo Galleries on Your Website or Blog
Another clever way of sharing Instagram photos is by making them available directly on your blog or website. SnapWidget is a widget with which you can embed Instagram photo galleries on your website. Attracative photos on your website can gain you more visitors, who may eventually become clients. Also, you can display galleries of photos taken by your clients and fans. Having their photos on your site will encourage them to post more such photos and also direct their friends to your website to see their photos.
So Take Out Your SmartPhone – and Start Shooting Away!
As you have seen, you can promote your business using Instagram photos in many awesome ways. Beautiful, interesting, eye-catching photos are always a great way to attract internet users, and by embellishing your website and your general online presence with Instagram photos, you could easily become the next hot thing.
Have you got more ideas on how Instagram photos can help your online marketing efforts? Do you want us to see your awesome Instagram photos? Have you got any comments or suggestions? Well, we can’t wait to hear from you! Please let us know what you think.