How to market your business on Instagram

Social media, marketing and business experts share their tips on how brands can get the most out of the photo- and video-sharing site.

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“Highlight photos of real customers incorporating your products and services into their everyday lives,” suggests Lux Narayan, CEO, Unmetric, a social media intelligence platform. “Instagram users can become evangelists for brands when they tell their own visual stories that engage other users.” You can even “design campaigns around user-generated photos. Encouraging and engaging consumers who submit photos results in genuine brand stories that spread to other users and boost sales.”

“Major fashion and beauty brands have reaped many benefits from user-generated content,” notes Dahan. “REVOLVE Clothing, for example, gained more than 35,000 followers with its #REVOLVEme campaign, in which fans [were] incentivized to post pictures of themselves wearing REVOLVE clothes for a chance to win $1,000. Another common incentive is to feature fan-created content on brand's Instagram pages. Other sweepstakes gimmicks like ‘follow us and leave a comment to win XX’ are also highly effective for brands to gain followers and drive engagement in a short amount of time.”

10. Turn customer testimonials into images. “Use a free online tool such as PicMonkey to transform some of your clients' testimonials into attractive images to share on Instagram,” says Cristina Castro Moral, owner/designer, Sombras Blancas Art and Design. And “don't forget to include your [company’s] URL.”

11. Don’t be afraid of video. “Instagram understands how much their audience loves video, as evidenced by the recent focus on video in the Instagram Ads platform,” says Sarah Matista, marketing communications manager at Vistaprint Digital. “You don’t have to be George Lucas to succeed here. [You can] use Instagram’s integrated Boomerang and Hyperlapse video apps to make easy, creative videos your audience will love.”

[ Related: How to get and leverage user-generated content ]

12. Engage with your followers. “Social media is built on relationships, so [my] top advice for Instagram is to engage,” says Nikki Fica, founder & CEO, Social Media Facelift. “Do not just do a ‘post and run.’ Interact with others by liking and commenting on posts and by searching relevant hashtags, as well as responding to every single comment on your photos. This will help you grow a following, find your audience and create relationships.”

13. Cross-promote. “Cross-promote with other brands that serve your target audience,” suggests Josh Winzelberg, founder & president, Vodka Mariette. “For example, we may take a picture of a Vodka Mariette cocktail in an establishment [i.e., a bar or restaurant] that serves our consumer base and then have that image posted on our [Instagram account] and [that] of the bar. That way we gain exposure to each other's audience of similar buyers, show that we are part of the 'cocktail community,’ explain how to use the product and subtly communicate where product is sold.”

14. Work with influencers. “Identify key influencers [who] align with your brand and have a large and active following,” says Jonathan Long, founder & CEO, Market Domination Media. “Negotiate a price (or a product/service exchange) for them to introduce your Instagram account to their audience and you can exponentially grow your account.”

“Working with Instagram influencers is a highly effective way to promote your brand and build your Instagram community,” says Dahan. “Especially for businesses that are just starting out on Instagram, product endorsements from Instagrammers who have huge social followings can help you raise brand awareness and bring substantial traffic to your own Instagram account.”

15. Use Instagram as a recruiting tool. “Instagram is a great way to help recruit top talent,” says Leeyen Rogers, vice president of Marketing, JotForm, an online form builder. “Showcase your company's culture and employees in a way that accurately reflects what it's like to work there. Images of employees having fun while at work [or playing on the company’s softball team or at a company outing or happy hour] is much more appealing than a constant flow of self-promotional Instagram posts.”

16. Measure interaction. “It doesn't matter how many followers you have if no one is interacting with your content,” says Gatbonton. “Gauge what types of posts are getting the most likes and comments. Use that to refine your content strategy. Also use the feedback from the interactions to give your followers what they want.”

Iconosquare and Simply Measured are both free for limited usage and can help you determine the following for your business, analyzing distribution and density, calculating popular filters and most engaged hashtags and evaluating the best time to post based on your audience and community,” says Meyer.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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