Thinking about using Instagram for your business?

by Rachel Cook

Thank you
First off I’d like to thank the people behind the terrible Instagram talk I went to on Friday for inspiring me to write a blog post about Instagram. At least some good came of those wasted hours. It was supposed to be a discussion around the ‘benefits and values of Instagram, as well as tips and tricks, and how to be inspiring and creative’. It wasn’t any of those things.*

I won’t dwell on the details of what ticked me off, but will instead cut to the really annoying bit for me: people clearly came really keen to learn the basics, and asked some great questions which, frustratingly, went largely unanswered. And not being able to throw in my two cents when I either disagreed or thought I could give a more helpful answer without seeming like a megalomaniac really boiled my blood… So now I’m taking the opportunity to answer the three key questions that came up, with the hope that someone might find it helpful. It’s basic stuff for people who are thinking about using Instagram, and based only on my knowledge, but if you’re just starting out I hope you’ll find it useful.

  • 3 simple questions on using Instagram for your business:

    1. “Is Instagram right for every business? I get how it’s good for design agencies and stuff like that, but what about accountants and businesses like that?”
    A blanket ‘yes’ is not appropriate here. Grr. Instead, you must start with a social media strategy that is led by insight and market research, and use this to help you to decide if Instagram is the place to be. It will also help you to prioritise your percentage split of time/energy across the platforms, because you don’t need to be everywhere, for everyone, all the time. The stats exist online so have a good Google.

    As an example, the stats tell us that Instagram pulls in a primarily young female audience, roughly a 70/30 female/male split. Therefore if your target consumers are primarily young women, it could be worth spending more time on Instagram (and Pinterest too, now I come to mention it). But if your customers predominantly have a Y chromosome, you could find other platforms more useful. Basically, do the research and let it tell you where to spend your time.

    So, back to the chap from Friday and his question about whether Instagram is right for accountants. Well, every business is different, but if I were advising a firm who was dipping its toes in the water of social media for the first time with a view to reaching new customers, I would suggest going for platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook first. They could work up to Instagram as a secondary platform later on if they’d like to, once established on the other three. If they did decide to use Instagram, they might expect to get more value from showing the personality that lies behind their suits to interested potential clients or employees, rather than going for a hard sell.

    2. “Is it ok to duplicate a post from Instagram onto all social media platforms?”
    Nope, not really. First off, because what’s good content for one platform isn’t so great on another. For example, you can’t include links in your Instagram posts but may well want to in your tweets and Facebook posts. Hashtags are irrelevant on Facebook but great on Twitter and Instagram. Let’s not forget that pesky 140 character limit on Twitter too; you don’t want to have to limit your description/haghtags on Instagram just because you’ll be sharing it straight onto Twitter.

    Also, as we’ve discussed above, your audience will differ hugely across the platforms. Cat memes are eminently less relevant to many users on LinkedIn for example, who still primarily use it as a business and/or recruitment tool.

    Some posts will work though, so just be careful to think things through and find a way of sharing content that is sensible and right for the platform. So the message here is know your platform, know your audience, and target your content accordingly.

    Just as an aside on this point, there are tools like Buffer and HootSuite that will help you to schedule posts across multiple platforms if that’s your bag. Just do it with care.

    3. “Should I hashtag on Instagram?”
    A great man called Chris Skelton once said about hashtags that, “It’s all about relevance”, and he was totally right. Hashtags are great for helping interested people to find your content, so if you are looking to build up your followers and extend your reach, then yes, do use some well-chosen hashtags.

    However, expect your real Instagram friends to start getting annoyed if they have to scroll past your description, tags AND 30 hashtags to get away from your #foodporn shot. Oh and #follow4follow, #like4like and other tags to that effect may gain you more likes/follows but these aren’t going to be real customers or brand ambassadors who are searching for really good, relevant content. #wasteoftime

  • And that’s it. I feel better already. Stand by for Part 2 sometime, which’ll cover more advanced use of Instagram and include more unnecessary hashtags. #excitedmuch?

    *Disclaimer
    I do feel a bit guilty about airing my negative views online, so I’ll caveat this negativity by not naming any names/details of the dreadful talk I went to, and by reminding you that this is all just my opinion. I’m sure the guy who ran it was a nice person etc… I’d also like to point out before anyone else that my own Instagram is full of food/beer pictures, selfies and poorly used hashtags but that I advocate doing exactly as you please on your personal account. You can check it out here: @rachelecook13

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