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We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, it’s true. Whether the photo in question is in the old family scrapbook or posted to Facebook and Twitter. Think about your own behavior on social media websites. Which updates really capture your attention? If you’re like most people, it’s the pictures. Users interact with image-based content more than any other type of content on social media sites, which leads me to the topic of this post – Instagram.
What is Instagram and does it have any place in your company’s online marketing strategy? You do have an online marketing strategy, don’t you? The advertising and marketing world is in the midst of a paradigm shift. Big change means big opportunity, but you’ve got to be smart about it. Most of your competitors are absolutely clueless when it comes to the web. Take advantage of their naïveté and use social media and Instagram to take your business to the next level!
A Quick Run-Down of Instagram
Founded in 2010 and recently acquired by Facebook (as of September 2012), Instagram is a photo-sharing mobile application that has more than a million users. On Instagram, people take a photo, edit it using filters to make it look professional, and upload it to the (Instagram) platform. Through the share settings, you also have the ability to post images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare.
If all platforms are enabled in your Instagram settings, your six social media sites would be updated at the same time, which is pretty cool. People can comment on, like your pictures, and follow you on Instagram—and (if all the platforms are enabled in your settings) they can share your photos on Facebook, re-tweet them, etc. You can kind of think of Instagram as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest rolled into one.
Fun Fact: By May of 2012, a user was signing up and 58 photos were being uploaded every second.
For businesses with products that are marketed and sold visually (custom homes, kitchens and bathrooms, remodeling, etc.), this is huge! Think of all the users and potential for driving more traffic to your website! A lot of our posts here at Blue Corona focus on lead generation, and there’s the potential for that with Instagram, but the bigger potential is for branding.
Some small business owners scoff at “branding,” but if you want to rank well on Google in the future, you’re going to have to build a recognizable and trusted brand. You can’t focus all your advertising and marketing efforts on lead gen and expect to compete in the next generation of Google (psst…if you haven’t heard, brandscaping is emerging as a significant marketing strategy).
How Instagram Fits in Your Online Marketing Strategy
So, how do you use Instagram to boost your online marketing performance?
Here are a few tips and benefits:
- Creating a larger social media presence helps give your company more credibility.
- …Which, in turn, builds up your brand, which is now more important for ranking well.
- My bet is that Facebook likes help SEO (and if they don’t now, they almost certainly will in the future).
- After Instagram photos are on Flickr, they can show up in search engines for keywords.
I’m not exaggerating when I say anyone can use Instagram. While a plumbing company probably won’t be as successful as a remodeling company, retail store, restaurant, etc. (like Pinterest, Instagram is particularly beneficial for companies who are photo-centric), it doesn’t mean plumbers and other types of companies can’t use Instagram to their advantage. For example, Red Bull, and General Electric are both using Instagram for marketing and gaining a huge brand following (read more here).
How to Use
No matter what industry you’re in or how small your company is, Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool. The secret? Good branding, connection, and originality are what it’s about. Show your brand in a positive, unique light (without being overly self-promoting). Humanize it. Be engaging and connect with people.
Remodelers, home improvement companies, kitchen designers, landscaping companies, etc.—share photos of recently completed projects and products you frequently use. Those in the food industry—share pictures and recipes that are relevant to the time of year (fall food, tasty holiday treats, patriotic themed food for the Fourth of July, and more).
But Instagram has much more (and better) potential than this.
Encourage your followers and other users to share pictures. It is more engaging and is more likely to increase your followers. User interaction is always a popular tactic. Starbucks did just this!
Play to people’s emotions and senses, and upload something beautiful, happy, or funny (even if it’s not completely related to your business). This is what I mean by humanizing your brand. See a beautiful sunset on your way home from work? Snap a picture and upload it. Employees having fun on a Friday afternoon and started a dance party at the office? Upload it! Wait…are we the only ones who have Friday afternoon dance parties? Just kidding.
Comment, share, and re-tweet. As mentioned, being too self-promoting in the social media arena won’t get you very far. Share other photos on Facebook, or re-tweet ones you think your clients might find helpful or amusing. The company whose photo you commented on or shared is more likely to comment back or share one of your photos.
PCWorld says it pretty well: “When it’s hard to communicate in words, sometimes photos make the task easier, especially when you’re bumping up against Twitter character limitations or struggling with self-consciousness as you attempt to express yourself fully on Facebook, where everyone and your distant aunt is on your friends list.”
Wrapping it Up
Don’t share just work-related pictures (cute kittens, puppies, and kids are universally engaging). Combine good branding and marketing with funny and/or personal (perfect example right here). If a company had a Lord of the Rings or Johnny Depp related picture, I’d share it on Facebook, join Twitter just to re-tweet it, and join Instagram to follow them. But I digress.
People have been going crazy over Instagram, and you’d be crazy not to at least TEST IT! Okay, crazy is a little strong, but it’s definitely something worth considering as a way to boost your online marketing efforts. Social media can also help with your online reputation management). There’s nothing you can do to stop this fast-moving social media train, so you may as well hop on board—Instagram is taking the social media world by a storm!
Even if Instagram seems a little too new and strange, it’s time to stop dismissing social media marketing. Websites like Facebook and Twitter are essential to SEO and branding, and using visual social media (Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) to drive traffic to your website ain’t such a bad idea. If you’re interested in reading more social media blog posts in the meantime, check out this one.
About The Author: Alanna is the Quality Assurance Manager in Blue Corona's Maryland office. When she's not triple-checking websites and content for errors and consistency, you can find her at the gym with her twin sister or urban exploring with her husband.
View more blogs by Alanna Hernandez