If you're tackling the social media arena as a part of your business strategy, you've probably set out on Facebook and Twitter, and possibly either Google+ or Pinterest. Sound familiar? It's just the way it's been done across the board thus far.
I'm going to cut right to the chase, and make some hefty claims. Instagram has surpassed Twitter, and the way it's growing, it looks to have its eye on global social media domination. It's getting to the point where you almost have to feel foolish if you aren't using it for your business.
Hashtags are social megaphones, great for extending exposure. But everyone knows that spamming them on Twitter just leads to less engagement, which is what you should really be after. I'm going to show you how Instagram allows for more exposure without having to sacrifice engagement.
This will be important for all marketers, but if your niche values a younger audience in any way, this is especially important for you!
Part One: WHY Should I Use Instagram for Business?
I'm going to run you through some of the top reasons for why you'd want to Instagram for business. Then, in part two of this post, I'll cover the how of tackling this social arena.
1. Instagram Surpasses Twitter in User Count
Instagram claims 300 million users while Twitter sits on 288 million. The extreme growth rate of Instagram can't be ignored!
First things first: The basic user numbers. If you look at the stats that the social networks themselves put out, Instagram has reached 300 million users, while Twitter claims 288 million.
Monthly users is one thing, but social media moves so much faster than that. So what about users who are active daily? Gregory Ferenstein of VentureBeat has shown in a recent study that Instagram has indeed surpassed Twitter with the percentage of American users that are active daily.
In fact, only Facebook beats out Instagram for daily users:
I know that 10 percent of Americans using Instagram daily might not seem like a high percentage, and Twitter's 7 percent might not seem like much of a difference, but when you consider how many hundreds of millions of people live in America, these are some weighty numbers to consider! And that's just America, think of all the other Instagram users worldwide.
In a nutshell? There's a lot of people on Instagram, just waiting for you. Every. Single. Day.
2. It's Not Just User Count: Engagement is Higher Too
On Twitter, any more than 1-2 hashtags per tweet means a drop in engagement. On Instagram, more hashtags usually mean more engagement.
Hashtags are more than just a (somewhat silly sounding) trending phrase, "Hashtag OMG!" They're a way of reaching a much larger audience with a topical post. You don't have to be friends with thousands of people in order for them to see your updates. You just have to add a popular hashtag.
Here's the thought process I went through when considering hashtags...
- Hashtags show all the people interested in that topic what you've posted.
- What a great way to spread reach for my posts! I'll use ALL THE HASHTAGS ON TWITTER!
- People on Twitter don't respond to posts that are spammed with hashtags. I can only use 1-2 per Tweet.
- My reach feels so limited. If only there was a way I could use lots of hashtags AND increase engagement.
- Instagram comes along, and is all: "You can do that here, you know..."
Want some proof? A graph in a post on Buffer by Kevan Lee really shows that "the more the merrier" attitude towards hashtags on Instagram will indeed get you further.
1-2 hashtags? Try 30.
Kevan Lee: "His finding is quite interesting: The more hashtags you use, the more likes your photo will get."
3. Instagram is the Best Network for Reaching a Younger Audience
If any part of your target market is within the 18-29 age group, then Instagram is the best social media choice for you. An interesting post by 19-year-old Andrew Watts, "A Teenager’s View on Social Media, Written by an actual teen" really depicts the social climate for a younger audience:
This point is reinforced by a study done by Business Insider. In this chart, you can see the incredible downward slope of Facebook with US teens, the half-hearted rise and fall of Twitter, and the epic popularity growth of Instagram.
Going forward into the future of social media marketing, this is your audience. The up-and-coming generation is set on Instagram.
I'd just like to say, this doesn't mean that there aren't people older than 29 on Instagram. It's just that you're most likely to find a solid audience in that age group.
Part Two: HOW to Use Instagram for Business
As with any content or social media guide, your audience is the focus at all times. If you can't give them what they're looking for, they won't look for you.
1. Assess Whether Instagram is Best for Your Brand
When you think about the target market for your brand and the general audience of Instagram, is there any crossover?
You need to think about the compatibility between your website and the user base of Instagram. It could be helpful to ask yourself these questions...
- What do I know about my average site visitor?
- Are they generally older than 30? Or do I have at least some success with people in their 20's or even teens?
- What products do I promote? Are there many images on Instagram based on that type of topic?
- Do my competitors use Instagram? (More on this in the next section!)
If your audience is distinctively over 30, then Instagram might not be worth targeting. You can save time and effort with that tidbit alone. Go to another social network instead.
If, however, you have any audience in their 20s or even teens, then this social environment could very well be important to your brand. Age isn't everything, though! As this is a home of visual media (as opposed to text updates) there are certain niches that thrive more than others.
A good example of this can be seen in the statistics on Brandwatch. It seems that Instagram is great for fitness sites with a male-majority audience, and also for cosmetics with a female-majority audience.
Once again, that's not to say that these are the only niches that it's good for. You'll have to think about your website audience specifically to figure out whether Instagram is the best for you.
2. Study What Your Competitors are Doing
If your competitors are on Instagram, what do their posts look like? This could be a good place to start planning your own social content.
Studying your competitors on Instagram will give you a fairly good indication of the type of content that's trending in your niche. When I asked freelance writer and social media expert Kristi Hines about the most important element for anyone wanting to use Instagram for business, this point was the focus.
"The best thing to do when starting out on an Instagram marketing campaign is to see what your competitors are doing first.
After visiting a few of your competitors' profiles, you'll get a good sense for the types of images and videos that get the best response from your target audience.
You'll also see if they use branded hashtags, contests, and other strategies to engage their audience.
I'd also highly recommend a tool called Rival IQ.
It will allow you to quickly research the best your competitors have to offer on Instagram (and other social platforms)."
So that's definitely worth looking into. See what your competitors are posting, figure out how effective that reach would be for you, and think about how difficult it would be to create similar media. If it seems worth it, why not give it a go?
3. Try Posting. Measure Success. Adjust Tactics. Rinse and Repeat.
Yep, trial and error. Once you've got an idea of what you're competitors are doing, it's the only way to set out with your own content.
Start small, and try one or two things. Build a list of trending hashtags in your niche (ones your competitors commonly use or similar that have a large following), and then create a couple of images or an easy-to-make short video that target those hashtags. Put them out there, see how it goes.
There are a lot of tools you can use to track the success of your Instagram campaign, such as Iconosquare.
Try one that appeals to you, and use it to figure out what works well, and what you could ditch without loss.
I'd love to know: Do you use Instagram for business? Have you found it useful in your niche? Comment below if you do, or if you would like to know if anyone else in your niche has found it to be successful.