What is Instagram Marketing and Why Should You Care?
When devising your internet marketing strategy, it can be all too easy to forget about Instagram in the mix. Compared with Facebook, Instagram has relatively few users and it’s not as clear how it can be monetized. There’s no content in an image and people don’t want pictures in their Instagram feed telling them to ‘buy now’ or sign up to their mailing list…
So with all that in mind, why would you invest a lot of time or money into the platform?
Well, actually there are a lot of good reasons. When used correctly, Instagram is a fantastic way to promote products and services, to increase your brand’s visibility and to position yourself as a hip and artistic organization. We’ll get into the details and the statistics later on but the bottom line is that you’ll probably be surprised. Instagram is bigger than Twitter and its users are far more engaged and far happier to buy products – even when compared with Facebook itself!
Let’s take a look then at what Instagram actually is and why it matters in a big way for your business…
What is Instagram?
There’s a good chance you already know the gist of what Instagram is about but let’s just recap on the nuts and bolts.
Essentially then, Instagram is a social network that revolves around pictures. At its most basic, Instagram is an image sharing suit but unlike something like Imgur the pictures tend to be a little more personal. This is not where you would upload an image to share with a client for instance – the image quality wouldn’t even be high enough for most uses.
Instead, Instagram is about telling your story or finding beautiful moments every day.
It’s about being personal and it’s about keeping people up-to-date with your activities.
So if you were to go on holiday, you might take hundreds of photos for Facebook but Instagram would be where you’d upload the select few highlights or the beautiful picture of that sunset/that empty pint on the beach. This is about expression.
The relatively low image quality and square dimensions are in service of this artistic bent, as are the ‘filters’ that Instagram lets you apply. Once you have cropped your photo into a square, you then have the option to apply filters that will alter the brightness, contrast, structure, saturation, warmth etc. to create a number of effects. Photos can be made to look vintage, colors can be brought out or subdued and generally you can alter the mood and impact of your image in a variety of ways.
Once you’ve done this, you then have the option to add tags to your images.
These work in the same way as tags on Twitter – they describe what is in the image and then allow other people to find your image by searching. These tags will be added using the ‘hashtag’ symbol ‘#’ and can be placed right inside your description.
If you took a photo of yourself working out then, you might write ‘Getting some pump on #legsday! #workout #fitness’.
This way, anyone who searched for #fitness shortly after would see your picture come up – until it was buried by other pictures with the same hashtag (which wouldn’t take very long!). Later in this book, we’ll examine how to pick the best hashtags for optimal visibility.
Also in your description, you can tag other users using the ‘@’ symbol. You can also tag users in the pictures themselves, much like on Facebook.
Instagram also has the ability to ‘message’ photos with Instagram direct.
And as with Twitter, it’s possible for users to ‘follow’ accounts that they like and then to be updated regularly with new content as it gets uploaded by said account. Simply tap on the name of the person who uploaded the photo and then clicks ‘follow’. As a business on Instagram, getting lots of follows is going to be your main objective.
What you might have noticed about all this is that it isn’t immediately conducive to marketing. That is to say, that people on Instagram are largely there to see updates from their friends and family and to see beautiful pictures uploaded by the likes of the National Geographic. This is where people come to see the ‘beauty in everyday life’. This, in turn, means you need to be very strategic about the way you market here – but it can be done.
Instagram is Actually Pretty Big
Here are a few compelling reasons that you should be on Instagram…
Remember when I said that Instagram wasn’t as big as Facebook? You should do, it was only about 10 minutes ago… Well, it’s important to remember that this is all relative. Sure, it’s not as big as Facebook but then nothing is. That doesn’t mean it’s not objectively pretty large though – in fact, Instagram is still huge. Specifically, Instagram announced in December 2014 that it had surpassed 300 million users. That’s a pretty large number and especially when you consider that it had only 200 million users nine months before that… In other words, Instagram is growing and fast.
And while you might think of Instagram as one of the ‘smaller’ social networks, this is in fact not true at all. Because in fact, Instagram has more users now than Twitter! This is likely owing to its broader appeal.
Things get even crazier when you consider how effective Instagram can be when used synergistically with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. You can instantly share Instagram images on Facebook and Twitter via built-in controls and the connection is actually very close indeed. The format of Instagram is very similar to Twitter as it uses hashtags and tags and this means that you can upload content to Instagram and it will act as though you were uploading content to Twitter. There’s even a section on Facebook for your Instagram photos. Why? Because Instagram is actually now owned by Facebook.
This provides the perfect way for you to tie all your social media accounts together, to save a lot of time uploading to multiple different channels and to increase your brand visibility. It even plays nicely with Pinterest, which just so happens to be another sorely under-utilized social network for marketers.
On top of all that, Instagram is actually a great place to sell.
According to recent studies, a lot of users actually use Instagram to shop – and some users even use Instagram primarily for shopping!
To put this in numbers, 70% of those surveyed by Iconosquare in 2015 stated that they have at some point sought out a brand on Instagram. 62% have followed brands that they love, while 41% said they would be happy to hear about giveaways and discounts through Instagram. 65% said that rather than being intrusive, they actually find it flattering when a brand likes their post.
Meanwhile, according to studies based on research firm L2, Instagram users are far more engaged than users on Facebook or Twitter – 18 times more in fact! That means that if a brand posts something, it’s much more likely to see actual interaction with users.
As though that wasn’t enough reason to start investing in Instagram big time, it’s also worth remembering that Instagram is drastically under-estimated by a lot of businesses and internet marketers. In other words, your competition most likely isn’t making the most of Instagram right now and this will make it much easier for you to stand out and get noticed! Get there now and you’ll be able to build a big following before every other company in your industry jumps on the bandwagon.
Finally, there’s the amazing ROI that Instagram offers.
Brands love Twitter because it’s so incredibly easy for them to upload content. The same can be said of Instagram – if you know how to take great photos, upload them and add tags, you can keep a very active account with just a few minutes a day or even a few minutes a week!