Instagram’s user base is growing at speed passing the 600 million follower mark back in December 2016. Since it was first introduced five years ago, it has overtaken Twitter to become the social media’s rising star for businesses. So how can you use this platform to your advantage as a small business? Contrary to popular belief, Instagram can work just as well for smaller brands as it does for big brands. Read on to discover how to raise brand awareness and grow your customer base simultaneously.
Have a Target Audience for your Content
So once you have an account set up, it is time to decide what type of content you are going to create in order to engage your audience. Knowing who to target when updating the social media feed with content is crucial. Start with your current customer base and from here you can define your target audience in terms of age, gender and location. From this point, your business will not only be able to tailor the content to that audience, but also know the existing channels and hashtags that can be leveraged, putting the company in front of potential and existing customers.
Keep your eye on hashtags and trending topics that may be relevant to content that you’re looking to post. Utilizing these can widen your audience significantly. There are top hashtags that are used specifically for gaining followers on Instagram and you can use these to put your content in front of the audience open for new material.
Above all, keep it relevant and have a theme to your content related to your business. Sons of Sawdust—a woodworking business based in Athens, Ga—operate in a studio space to rework reclaimed wood to create new products. Simply by taking pictures of their work process and posting on Instagram, the company have a natural place for showcasing behind the scenes DIY and woodwork.
Engage and be Active
It is no use creating engaging visual images if no one knows you have an Instagram account. The first step to utilizing Instagram is to let your customers know that you have a social presence. Put a link to your Instagram account on your website and advertise it on any other social accounts you have and include it in email signatures.
The key to a successful Instagram account is consistency and if you are going to post images, you should do so regularly. The more active the company is on the platform the more you’ll get in return. Try and post at the optimum times each week and stick to this routine. Tools such as Social Insights and Iconosquare both have features showing best times to post for maximum engagement and interaction, as well as a host of other analytical tools that can feed into your Instagram activities.
Consider teaming up with a local figure or organization with an already established audience on Instagram as collaborations of this kind can open you up to their existing audience and help you to grow your following.
Utilize Existing Material from the Company – What’s Your USP?
In order to create an engaging Instagram account, it is essential to stand out from the crowd. So where do you start in terms of generating unique content? Your business likely offers a product, service, or experience that is sold to customers through having a unique selling point and you can use this to attract followers.
The London Helicopter has unique access to bird’s eye views of the London skyline every day. The company’s USP lies in offering an experience that people want to see something that very few people have. As a visually led platform, Instagram is the perfect place for the company to showcase these unique views of London and share them with their followers.
Keep the Content Consistent
Over time your followers will form certain expectations of the content you provide and it is advisable to be consistent in order to keep them coming back and engaging with posts. Knowing your target audience and who you want to put your brand in front of will influence the theme to focus on with content.
One simple way to build and develop a theme is to concentrate on one key color when posting content. As you can see here, Oreo have kept consistency across their posts with a continuous color scheme and a house style that has been applied to each post.
Social Media Doesn’t Have to be About Customer Generation
Social media channels are not simply a quick way to present your latest products to your customer base and boost sales, it is also a great way to excel at customer service and improve customer loyalty.
In the very beginning it was platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that dominated when it came to social media for small businesses but Instagram is making ground on these platforms due to its visual nature. Instagram has introduced a number of features that makes it easier then ever for customers to communicate with the brands that they follow on Instagram and users can now contact a company directly from the Instagram profile page. For this reason, more and more customers are choosing social media for service requests and according to recent research by J.D Power, 67% of customers turn to social media for enquires and complaints. Here are a few ways brands can benefit from this:
To Boost Profits—Businesses that provide excellent customer service via their social media accounts will see higher profits than brands that neglect this area. Recent research by Aberdeen Group states that brands who excel at customer service benefit from an annual financial gain of 7.5 percent while brands that don’t provide good customer service only see a 2.9 percent rise.
Brand Advocacy—A social media presence has the power to turn potential customers into shoppers and shoppers into brand advocates. Customers who have a good experience with a brand on social media are three times as likely to recommend them to a friend and word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. With over 50 percent of shoppers reporting that they would stop purchasing from a brand in the event of poor customer service on social media, it is clear that running a social media account is all about nurturing relationships with existing customers and making them feel valued.
Build a Positive Brand Image—Social media channels are a great opportunity to show your customer base that you care. Many brands create separate accounts that are dedicated to customer service and with 74 percent of shoppers naming social communities as their main influence when making a purchase, it is not surprising more and more brands are focusing on customer care.
Social media gives your customers a voice, though that voice won’t always be saying positive things about your brand but how you deal with negative comments on social media can put your brand in the spotlight for all of the right reasons and how you acknowledge complaints quickly and efficiently can speak volumes. Responding to complaints in a timely manor can boost customer advocacy by up to 25 percent.
Author: Matt Foster is Content Strategist at UK based digital marketing agency Distinctly, and works for several local and national business. He regularly writes about digital marketing, PR, SEO, and digital strategies for business.