Welcome back to our social media blog series, where in this post we take a look at Instagram.

Timely’s Social Series: Instagram

Instagram is another completely visual social network (like Pinterest), and despite being the (relatively) new kid on the block has massive marketing potential for small businesses.

Instagram has hundreds of millions of users posting and browsing millions of photos every day. That’s a lot of people consuming content, and for visual businesses (pretty much all of you), it’s a new and exciting place to spread your name.

Frustrated with the tumbleweed rolling through your other social networks due to lack of engagement from your followers? A recent study showed that Instagram users were 58 times more likely to engage with a brand’s post than Facebook users, and 120 times more likely than Twitter users.

Compelling? Oh yes.

Getting started

As with any social network, setting up a profile that represents your business well is the most important first step. Instagram is something you use entirely from your mobile device, so search the App Store/Google Play, download it, and sign up for an account.

Choose a name that accurately identifies your business, pop a great profile image in there, and add a description and link to your website.

Starbucks Instagram Profile

Post your first image

You can either take a photo directly from Instagram or select an image you’ve already taken with your phone. Hit the blue button and snap a shot, or tap the gallery thumbnail on that screen to select one. You’ll then get a chance to re-size and position the image the way you want to before hitting ‘NEXT’ and getting to the fun bit – filters and enhancements! Have a play with all the options – the variations on any given image are effectively endless, so keep playing until you find the combinations that fit your vibe.

Or, make it quick and just select a basic filter. How much you enhance each photo is up to you.

Regardless of how detailed you get with your editing, always make sure your images look good. It’s important to start with a nice photo (it’s hard to make an average shot look good, even with filters!), and if you don’t love the finished image I suggest not posting it. Instagram users are there for the visuals, and if you don’t love your image then others probably won’t either. They don’t have to be works of art, but just like any post on any social network the quality of it will reflect your brand.

Keep them consistent

Consistency is important on Instagram. When people view your profile and are considering whether or not to follow you they’ll see a page of image tiles – will they see similar colour tones, edits and filter use? Or a jumble of images that don’t feel coherent? You definitely don’t need to stick to the same filter for every image, but cultivating a general vibe is important.

Starbucks Instagram Feed

Remember your social media etiquette

All the usual basics apply on Instagram – if someone follows you, check them out and follow back if you like what you see. If someone comments on your photo, reply. Imagine you’re physically standing in your business with that person, holding a photo album open – if they said something nice about one of your images you’d thank them, right?

Build a following

With a few images under your belt, promote the fact you’re in Instagram on your other networks. Share a link to your profile on Facebook and Twitter, and ask your social community if they’re on Instagram too. If they are, follow them.

Browse industry-related hashtags (by using the search option) and follow interesting people. Like and comment, engage.

Use those same industry-related hashtags on your own photos to make yourself discoverable to others, and then check back on that hashtag’s search. Look – you’re famous!

Relax about post frequency

Don’t like Twitter because the content you post gets lost in a busy tweet stream within seconds? Not so on Instagram, where the feed is much more laid back. Images are easily digestible, and people regularly scroll back through hours and hours of posts.

There’s no pressure with Instagram. Whether you post every day or once a week, your images will still be seen and appreciated by people looking for the very content you’re posting.

Have some fun and get inspired

Share photos of your team, social outings as a crew, products you love, before-and-after-shots of customers (with their permission)…present your business as a fun, vibrant, energetic place and people will want to be part of it.

Personally, one of the things I love the most about Instagram is that it’s inspirational. Scrolling through your feed means looking at beautiful image after beautiful image, with no heavy text posts or other people’s personal drama sagas interrupting you the way they tend to on other networks (I’m looking at you, Facebook). If an image speaks a thousand words then a quick scroll through an Instagram feed is like reading a book. You get so much, so quickly.