Instagram has a billion users worldwide and plenty of opportunities to grow a business, but can it do everything for you and let your brand, product or service survive over time?
Instagram for business
Instagram, owned by Facebook is a social media platform that has gained worldwide attention. Thousands of influencers, brands, and creators use the channel to connect with followers. Unlike Facebook, Instagram skews heavily towards an audience that loves to engage. The network has a favourite feature known as a like, represented with the heart symbol. Many users engage with posts by liking a post.
However, over time Instagram has established itself as a successful way to connect with more people and earn money. A simple look at this channel and you’ll see plenty of celebrity endorsements, creative product snapshots, and selfies. Research tells us that Instagram is a channel where people will showcase their best moments or selves. That’s they will deliberately set up their profile or share images to reflect a personality they want people to believe reflects them. So in this scenario, for brands – there is a key opportunity for people to belong to a channel that they want others to know they like or feel good about. Hence, why with some brands Instagram isn’t the answer – think for instance an old school telecommunications firm over a fashion retailer. It’s more than likely the retailer will enjoy greater engagement unless the other firm can be relevant and relatable to its audience.
Why businesses use Instagram?
Instagram like most social media channels is primarily used to raise awareness of a brand, product or service for businesses. The key role is to get your brand and its purpose in front of many people as possible. Notably, many businesses do this the wrong way – by thinking they can join the network and sell their stuff straight away. That’s not a smart way to approach the love (sales) funnel which has proven over time people don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to feel something – as emotions are more accepted over transactional decisions. The reality is humans are not rational beings.
A brand or organisation can use Instagram to post about what their brand stands for and believes in. This should be done in a relatable way. Of course, Instagram Stories also allows you to share your brand and its values through video or creative tools on the platform. A business can also add a hyperlink if they have at least 10,000 followers.
And newly, Instagram via Facebook has introduced a way you can add shopping tags to your posts. This means when showcasing a product in between your other brand posts, you have the chance to link directly to a sales page. This is an effective feature to boost add to carts or purchases for your product or service. To do this you’ll need to sign up for Facebook business manager at business.facebook.com then upload or sync your products. This is easier with WordPress or Shopify websites as there are plugins you can use to automatically link your products to your page.
Can I just use Instagram for my business?
Any business that relies solely on one channel or distribution method is unlikely to survive long term. The reason? You never know what changes the platform can make. Take Facebook for example. The greatest swindle they ever made was convincing businesses that getting likes (followers) was key to success. After a few years, these followers mean a lot less as likes have become less valuable. So much so, in order to reach your fans – you need to pay for more people to see your content.
Instagram isn’t far from change too. In 2017 the platform launched an algorithm update. This meant that not all your followers could see your posts in their feed in chronological order. And to add to this, the platform enabled ads in 2015. This means brands or other organisations can disrupt a user with an advert not only in Stories, but also in the busy feed environment. These disruptions can hurt your business. And are not the only ones expected to come in the future.
Now we are not trying to be all doom and gloom here, as Instagram is great for many brands and organisations, but it’s important to note that relying on one social media network as the be all and end all for your business, may not be a wise decision. If a change was to come and negatively impact your ability to reach people for free, then you need to ask yourself, what options would I have to survive?
How do I grow my business outside Instagram?
If you’re on Instagram, you may want to consider other social media networks like Facebook or Pinterest. But before you commit to posting to another network, you may want to consider what owned assets you can have to bring more business.
Think for example a website, which can be optimised for Google searches people use to find what they are interested in. Or a place where you can set up automated emails or processes to encourage previous customers to return and shop with you. Thinking beyond Instagram isn’t only about how you market to people, it’s another method you can use to increase revenue from your existing customers too.
You can tie your Instagram efforts into email marketing, paid search activity like Google Ads or consider offline methods such as events or partnerships with likeminded products and services.
And further to this, you’ll learn a lot too. Instagram for businesses has analytics so you can understand how your content efforts are performing. However, what you might not know is when you have a website – you can learn a heap more about your audience. You can see what content they like, how long they spend on it, what channels people come from, when people add to a cart, when they drop out and at what stage do they make the final sale. Using something like Google Analytics can add another layer of complexity to your business but with it more insights and opportunity.
Whether you decide to open a website, explore other social media or marketing channels – remember to stay true to you and your business. And best of all, have fun while doing it.
This is a guest post from Ray Pastoors, founder of LYF Solutions – a digital marketing firm for small business owners. Ray believes big things can happen for the small end of town too and has experience in working with a range of clients on their digital marketing and strategies.