It’s 2016 and if you don’t know what Instagram is then it may be time to quickly educate yourself on what is currently the fastest growing mobile social network. Launched in October 2010 the mobile-first image based social network has boomed, gaining its first million users within 2 months of its launch. Now currently 400M+ users strong it is one of the largest social media networks, overtaking its rival twitter which has been suffering a slow decline in growth and users. So with established networks like Twitter declining is it time to embrace a new social media channel for your business?
So what can Instagram offer businesses?
For a start it can offer its user community of 400M+ monthly users, this is predicted to become even greater in 2017, so there’s no worries about a lack of users or a decline. Furthermore according to eMarketer’s Internet Usage Forecast, Instagram’s user base is growing far faster than social network usage in general. With the forecast suggesting a user growth by Instagram of 15.1% this year in comparison to the just a 3.1% growth for the social network sector as a whole.
Are these users active though?
Well currently to date Instagram users have shared over 40 billion photos, put in perspective that’s over 5 times more photos that there are human beings on earth. With users now sharing an average of 80 million photos per day according to Instagram and this number is sure to increase in the future. Arguably it also boasts one of the most active and engaged communities, especially amongst younger demographics where it hold a large audience.
What makes it different?
At its heart Instagram is purely an image based social network. Although photos do have captions and you can add links within these descriptions below your image, the key focus are strong visual images and text is left to the side. Now you may think your business or service won’t translate well to this form or it may be difficult to show in a single photo but really the main strength of Instagram is it allows you to communicate on a personal level and give you a chance to demonstrate the key values of your company and build a personality for your brand and show off aspects of your business that perhaps weren’t suited to other social networks. The chance to communicate on this level and forge strong links with your audience should not be overlooked.
So what can I do starting on Instagram?
One of the most important rules when putting together Instagram content is to ensure that all your content keeps to your brand, that it is relevant to your audience and in line with your brand values and voice. But most of all you need to keep your content interesting, otherwise your audience won’t engage with your content. You could do this by either by sharing work in progress, team member activities or interesting everyday parts of your business, use it as an opportunity to highlight the personality of your brand/company. All in all the more relevant your content is to your followers, the more likely you are to get better responses and engagement.
Secondly make sure you use all the tools available for your images. This doesn’t mean use as many filters as you can (in fact sometimes it better with a high quality shot to go without), instead tag other users that are relevant within the caption, this has shown to result in 56% more engagement so a win for everyone. Also don’t feel limited to square aspect ratio images, there has been a relaxation on the square ratio fixation since August 2015 and although there are still some limitations such as fixed ratios for landscape and portrait images and narrow banners and panoramas still won’t work, look to use this flexibility and even indulge in Instagram’s new layout tools for even greater range of content. These new tools such as Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse open up new content options such as gif videos, time lapses, loops and image collages whilst still preserving the Instagram aesthetic. Use these to mix up your content and create greater engagement through using these interesting alternative forms.
Geotagging your location and adding in relevant hashtags also makes it easier for users to find your posts and join in with conversations. Also join in with these and other conversations, liking and commenting on relevant posts and followers can help gain some attention and really engage with audiences and build your community. Posts tagged with a location are also shown to receive 79% higher engagement; so you’d be foolish not to include a Geotag for your post.
Additionally several new features can help you, the brand new addition of linked accounts adds increased functionality for users with multiple accounts to manage and allows for company accounts to be more responsive to comments and questions through including push notifications for all linked accounts.
Instagram’s move into paid advertising means companies can look to take advantage of Instagram’s huge audience and the additional options available over a standard post. These include static photos, videos or carousal adverts with ads also supporting links to websites and app downloads. Research by Nielsen also found that ad recall for Instagram ads exceeded the norms for online advertising by almost three times. This is great if you want to maximise your ad spend or help you grow your engagement.
Instagram still has a load of different restrictions to most other social media networks but it counters these by providing new opportunities for brands to interact with audiences. Furthermore the predicted increase in users mean that businesses shouldn’t discount it anymore; providing enough real value for brands and companies to start investigating and assigning brand resources regardless of their size.