• 7 Ways to Use Instagram for Marketing

  • Instagram, the photo-sharing application that debuted in 2010 and that Facebook acquired in 2012, currently boasts over 400 million users. Its popularity has caught the attention of businesses, which are now using the application for marketing.

    Here are seven ways that you can use Instagram to gain new followers and market your business to this ever-growing, image-sharing network.

    1. Optimize Photos

    Take Good Photos. Your photos should be interesting, clear, and attention grabbing. While Instagram provides an array of filters to adjust your photos, other photo-editing applications, such as Afterlight and the VSCO Cam, can improve your pictures even more. Available on iTunes and Google Play, each offers better alternatives to the default Instagram filters.

    Photo ColorThe color of your photos plays a large role in garnering attention. Aditya Khosla, a doctoral candidate from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, conducted a study on what captures attention when it comes to online photos. According to his research, photos that used reddish tones were more popular than photos with a greenish tone, which came in second, or photos with a blueish tone, which came in last.

    Additionally, Khosla wrote an experimental algorithm that can predict how popular your image may be on social networks.

    Algorithm predicts image popularity on social networks.

    Algorithm predicts image popularity on social networks.

    2. Maintain Posting Frequency

    Post Often. The consensus to publishing on Instagram is that you should post at least two times a day, or more. (Posting more frequently does not appear to show a drop-off in follower engagement.)

    To get the most engagement, choose the times when your posts will see the greatest amount of activity. Simply Measured, a social analytics platform, offers a free Instagram tool that will provide you with a report identifying the best time and days to post, based on your account activity.

    Schedule PostsInstagram does not allow third parties to schedule posts directly to the platform, which means that you have to remember to post manually. However,Latergramme, an Instagram scheduling and management application, will remind you to post on Instagram at the times you specify.

    3. Use Hashtags

    Using hashtags when you post can help increase the number of followers. (Hashtags appear to others who search Instagram using the word.) For example, if you post a photo of sugar cookies and tag it using #sugarcookies, your image will appear to anyone who has clicked on or searched for the sugar cookies hashtag.

    Follow these tips for effective hashtag use.

    Keep Hashtags Relevant. Only use tags that are relevant to the image you are posting. If you are unsure as to what hashtags to employ, look at what other businesses similar to yours are using.

    You can also utilize the Tags for Likes application that helps you find popular hashtags for various industries. Tags for Like also allows you to save custom lists, which means that you can copy and paste hashtags to use in an Instagram post. You can create one custom list for free but must upgrade to save additional lists.

    Tag Your Location. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, tag images with your location. Instagram users can click the location and see photos that others have posted from your business.

    Consider Popular Hashtags. Websta, an Instagram web viewer, will show you the top 100 popular hashtags, which you can use in your posts.

    4. Include Post Captions

    Use Simple Captions. Use captions to let your followers know what is taking place in the picture, but keep them short and to the point. If you want your followers to do something, such as visit your website or your store, tell them in the caption.

    As an example, Gary Vaynerchuk, owner of VaynerMedia and host of The #AskGaryVee show, posted this photo letting his followers know about a new episode.

    Example of a good Instagram caption.

    Example of a good Instagram caption.

    The caption lets you know that the image pertains to his most recent video and includes a link. Since Instagram does not allow hyperlinks within captions, Gary points out that the link is clickable in his profile.

    Request User Action. Additionally, you can ask your followers to tag their friends, which can help you get more followers.

    5. Run Contests

    Encourage your followers to enter a contest by using a special hashtag specifically associated with it. For instance, you could run a contest asking users to post a picture of themselves wearing their ugliest scarf and use the hashtag #uglyscarfcontest for a chance to win a prize. You can also ask Instagram users to “like” a photo to win. Those who do will be entered into a drawing to win the item pictured.

    Various companies exist that can help you run your Instagram contest. These include:

    • Vortigo – pricing begins at $29 per month;
    • Wishpond – offers a free version; premium prices start at $44 per month;
    • Iconosquare – pricing starts at $39 per month.

    Iconosquare also lets its users view currently open Instagram contests, which may give you some ideas for running your own.

    In the example below, Thermador, a kitchen appliances company, is running a contest where Instagram followers can enter to win a “Great American Spice Gift Basket.”

    Example of an Instagram contest.

    Example of an Instagram contest.

    6. Generate New Followers

    Find and follow other Instagram users, and then like, share, and comment on their photos. Many will follow you in kind.

    7. Advertise

    Instagram recently opened up advertising to all businesses, large and small, and is gradually rolling out this option to everyone.

    You will need to use Facebook’s ad platform to advertise on Instagram. The platform presents you with three options: “Clicks to Website,” “App Installs,” or “Video Views.”

    Advertise on Instagram using Facebook.

    Advertise on Instagram using Facebook.

    Facebook requires you to use Power Editor, a browser plugin, to place an ad on Instagram and offers a walk-through on how to use the tool to create ads.