While you are searching for the right social media strategy for your small business, you will undoubtedly consider Facebook and Twitter—the world's most popular networks. But did you know there is a social network that can give you better organic (i.e., free) reach than Facebook and more eyeballs than Twitter? It is Instagram, now running with more than 300 million active monthly users. Here are the dos and don'ts of using this powerful tool for your small business.
Dos:Post beautiful pictures. If you are not planning to take the time to post beautiful pictures, then there is no reason to explore this form of social media marketing. As the primary photo outlet for Facebook users, Instagram is picture first, all else second. There is so much competition from professional photographers and social media experts that this "do" is challenging; however, the reward for your effort will be more followers—and more business.
Provide value in every post. Why would someone follow your profile or engage with your posts? Unless you are offering useful information, posting gorgeous pictures, or otherwise creating value for your audience, there is no point submitting something to a social media site. Take the time to edit photos and deliver interesting copy. By fascinating and intriguing your followers, you encourage engagement, which is more useful than racking up likes and fans.
Be smart about hashtags. Hashtags, like the article tags on any blog post or Tweet, become less powerful in search engines when you use too many. When adding hashtags on Instagram or Twitter, cap the number at two: One general hashtag and one highly specific hashtag should get you the right mix of exposure. Say you are posting pictures of a dog wearing your company's new sweater. The hashtag #cutestpets would bring in general followers and potential customers, while a second hashtag including your brand name would ensure customers looking for your products will find you.
Engage throughout the network. People who follow your account and comment on your posts may become your business's most valuable allies online. Be sure to engage these users so they know their contributions are valued. Meanwhile, be active throughout the rest of the network. The point is being social. Just as you would not go to a networking event to stand by yourself, you should not stay quiet on a social media platform.
Don'ts:Don't rush your posts. A social media post lasts forever, even when you delete it. Avoid rushing posts to your Instagram account to maintain a high level of quality throughout. Typos, poorly edited pictures, and otherwise dull content will not win you any new fans. Take time to get it right before sending out a post for public consumption.
Don't post too often. Even the best social media users cannot create a winner every time they post. To avoid annoying followers and appearing to post for posting's sake, keep your volume low. Furthermore, site administrators might flag accounts that post too frequently, perceiving the activity to be spam.
Don't be timid. While you always want to stay civil, do not be shy about telling the truth as you see it. Instagram users survey an endless feed of pictures and comments throughout the day. Generic photos and commentary are unlikely to draw any interest in this crowded field. Stay within your comfort zone, but let your company's personality shine through.
Don't forget to differentiate your brand. Social media marketing can feel overwhelming at first. Consider your company's unique selling point—the difference between you and the competition—in every post you make. Your goal is to leave visitors to the site with more favorable impressions of your brand than when they started. Deliver something that sets you apart with every post.