Let’s amend that. Take a picture…select a filter…type out a few hundred hashtags…and share it with the world. People are naturally drawn to photos. They give us a flickering semblance of power over the unbeatable enemy that is time. A picture can capture a moment – and these days – may be worth 1,000 re-tweets.
Also, a word to the wise: When social media is involved, that “longer” might as well mean “forever.”
Instagram is the most popular photo-sharing platform around. As of March 2014 there are over 200 million active monthly users on Instagram, and brands have taken notice. Because it is a visually-driven network, those able to properly display their products and services stand to gain both increased social presence and revenue.
Similar to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any of the other major social networks however, there are more than a few ways to maximize your brand’s potential following. Below, I’ll detail 3 basic tips to keep in mind when attempting to organically grow your Instagram fan base:
1. Use Other Apps
When Instagram first appeared, the convenience of being able to take, edit, and post a photo all from one app was a prime selling point. The various filters that could be added helped to customize content, and you could even share your photo across other social accounts.
However, there were limitations. If a picture was snapped in landscape mode, it didn’t fit properly, and was accompanied by an unsightly black border. For those of us who aren’t wide-screen movie aficionados, this was an aesthetic issue. Additionally, you were chained to the filters and effects provided by Instagram.
Fortunately, a wide-range of auxiliary apps have since arisen to solve both of these headaches. Brands should always ensure their content stands out, and is of the highest quality. Squaready allows for proper cropping of images, and provides a pure white border, matching Instagram’s own background. This gives off a unique “floating” feel to a photo as followers scroll down their feeds. I also personally use Camera+, which provides a plethora of editing capabilities and filters allowing for much higher quality images. Using these two apps in conjunction with Instagram will instantly lead to a more involved, dare I say #Fun process, as well as deliver far more engaging images.
2. Don’t Abuse Hashtags
Spend more than 5 minutes browsing Instagram, and you’ll undoubtedly encounter a post crammed with enough hashtags to to overload a phone book. This is annoying, sloppy, and actually counterproductive. Hashtags are used to organize content, and should be treated with the same reverence as keywords.
Non-specific hashtags, or those unrelated to a product may help a photo appear under a popular search, but are you really targeting a potential consumer when your brand’s post appears amid a gaggle of Justin Bieber photos? Most likely not.
Use hashtags sparingly, and only when they’re directly related to your content. Potential customers are searching for images that catch their interest. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and get specific. If you sell exhaust components for classic Mustangs, don’t use #Ford…you’ll be lost in the clutter. Use #67Mustang, #GlasspackMuffler, and/or #CandyAppleRed. You’re more likely to land in front of a potential buyer that perfectly fits your target demographic.
3. Use The Search Feature
Expanding a bit on the previous point, a surefire way to discover target consumers is to search through various hashtag terms. Being proactive is one of the most under appreciated, yet necessary aspects to growing an organic following on any social network. I’m not just talking about following other accounts. I’m talking about seeking out individual users and liking and commenting upon their photos.
People appreciate recognition. Loyal customers may even suffer a minor freak-out if a brand acknowledges their post (I’ve seen it happen)! They can’t believe you took the time to find their photo, and initiate a dialogue. This is exactly how brand loyalty is built via social marketing; interaction with the “little guy.”
With a little bit of practice, you’ll come to learn what some of the more popular hashtags are. You’ll then begin to incorporate them into your own posts. You may even find some that open up entire communities. Using the example from earlier, popular discussion forums dealing with classic muscle cars may have their own unique hashtags. Search these on a weekly or even daily basis to find new photos and opportunities to interact with your new potential followers.
Instagram isn’t only for celebrities, preteens, and aspiring fitness models any more. Many brands both large and small are incorporating daily uploads into their social media management tactics. With a little bit of time and patience, you too can take advantage of what the potential of over 400 million eyeballs (and counting) might bring to your business!
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