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Instagram is starting to pull up trees in the social media world and you can’t ignore it as a business anymore. Here’s our snappy introduction to Instagram.
Instagram was launched on October 6th, 2010. By the end of that year it had just over 1 million users. In June 2011 it reported 5 million users, and then in September 2011 the ranks had swelled to 10 million. When Facebook offered to buy it in April 2012 there were around 30 million users.
February 2013 saw it break the milestone of 100 million user accounts and just over a year later in March 2014 that number had doubled. By the end of 2014 another 100 million had been added, and 9 months after that another 100 million.
June 2016 saw the volume of users break through the 500 million mark.
90% of users are under 35 years of age and 50% of all users follow brands which is the highest percentage of any social network. Engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.
All just high level data and statistics, but they are indicators that you really MUST start using Instagram for your business if you haven’t already. If you have dipped a toe in so far then it’s time to get the rest of you wet and if you are already well underway then it’s fist-bump time.
Instagram is primarily an app that you access through your mobile phone or tablet. You can look at accounts and edit your profile on a computer, but content can only be shared to your account through a mobile device.
This follows the original spirit of Instagram which was for people to share photos they had taken on their mobiles. It was never intended to be a desktop tool and so far they seem to be sticking to that strategy. It is free to download and use and you can set up an account as a person or a business.
When you take a photo on your mobile (or save a photo to it from an email, for example) you can share it on Instagram. The main feature of this app is that you can choose from a number of ‘filters’ to make your image look far more fantastic than the original. Each of the filters adds different effect and soften or sharpen colours, shadows, contrast, brightness and more. They all have different names and X-Pro II, Mayfair and Rise are my personal favourites but it’s best to choose the one that makes your photo look best. Some are better for indoor pictures, some are better for well-lit product photos, some are better for outdoors.
Ignore any ‘research’ that suggests some filters are more likely to get ‘likes’ than others as a great looking photo is always the one that will give you the best chance of success, and you should be the judge of what looks great for your business.
You can add paragraphs of text to your photos and this is where you need to be descriptive or try to tell a story. You can do this in a sentence or you can write a whole chunk of text, just make sure it is compelling. You can add links to your website but they do not show up as clickable links in Instagram posts so there is no easy tap for people to land on the page you want them too.
Hashtags are critical with Instagram for getting people to find your content and like and follow you. They are more important on this social media platform than on any other as they are the main searchable things that exist here. Adding keywords to your photo text will not get you found in Instagram searches, but adding hashtags will.
As an example, let’s pretend you are sharing a photograph of a brand new shiny sun parasol that you have just taken stock of in your store. In your photo description, if you want people to find your post when they search for ‘parasol’ then writing “Love this new parasol by Acme” will not work.
Changing this to “Love this new #parasol by Acme” will hugely increase your chances of getting found. In the early days of your Instagram account, posting pictures without the use of hashtags is as useful as just emailing yourself the picture – no-one will see it and you need to do everything you can to start to build a following from day one and hashtags are your best vehicle for this.
It is common and accepted practice for users to list a number of hashtags at the bottom of a post also, after the description text. So use hashtags as a part of the text you write, but add extra ones underneath too.
You can use a maximum of 30 hashtags on Instagram. If you try to use more than 30 then your post will appear without any hashtags showing at all. There are some tricks you can find online that people claim are ways of cheating Instagram to get more hashtags in there, but don’t bother as they either don’t work anymore or will get deleted as Instagram catches up with them. 30 is more than enough for any photo for any business and it always works best in the long term if you stick to the rules of each social media platform.
As you type a hashtag into your post a list of similar tags will appear and you can see how many posts have that particular tag attached to them across Instagram as a whole. This is a good way of gauging the popularity of a word across Instagram. It is also a good way of avoiding hashtags that are saturated with content as some of them are just too competitive.
For example, if you want your parasol to be found by relevant people then avoid using #sunshine in your list of tags. At the time of writing it has been tagged to over 32 million posts and is too much of a general phrase. #sunparasol has been used just under 400 times. That might be a bit low, but if you also add in #babysun (3,000 posts) and #babysunshine (4,300 posts) and a few others in that vein then you have a much wider chance of being found by your parasol-seeking target customer or follower.
If you need help in thinking of suitable hashtags then I recommend a free app called Tag O’Matic which helps you to find popular hashtags based on your trigger words.
Video can also be uploaded to Instagram and shared as a post. As of a few months ago you can now upload a maximum of 1 minute of video, which is a huge increase on the 15 second limit that used to be in place.
Videos get great attention on Instagram, but keep them snappy. 15 seconds used to focus the mind at getting a message across by video quickly, but a minute is more luxurious and you can lose viewers if it goes on too long and the temptation is there to fill the minute rather than do the job perfectly well in 30 seconds.
Finally, as with all social media platforms, make sure that you share a wide variety of content to get the maximum engagement. Just knocking out product photos and prices will not grow a decent following. Mix it up with lifestyle images, humour, products, people and bring your business to life through every image you post.
Hope you found our introduction to Instagram useful. The main thing is to have fun with it as that approach will produce the best content and it is a joy to use. Thank you for reading through this article and please follow us on Instagram at @secretpieuk.
If you have any questions about Instagram and how you are or could be using it then please get in touch and we will be happy to chat about it with you.