Now that many of us have finally figured out how to spell Pinterest along comes Instagram. Instagram is a mobile application that is the brain child of Kevin Systrom, a college friend of Mark Zuckerberg’s. In fact, Zuckerberg invited Systrom to join him at Facebook when the social media site was still just an idea in Zuckerberg’s head, but Systrom opted to stay in school. That decision has resulted in Systrom becoming Silicon Valley’s, and Stanford University’s, latest internet billionaire.
Instagram is a free photo sharing social media site launched on October 6, 2010. It allows users to download photos, process them through a digital filter, and share them with other users they are connected to. Instagram has been wildly successful from the start. By December 2010 they already had over 1 million users. By April 2012, 30 million users were downloading over 150 million photos on Instagram. Also in April, Instagram became available to android users. Seeing a threat to its social media dominance, Facebook acted fast to neutralize its latest competitor. Again in April, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion.
How can local small businesses utilize Instagram? First, you have to register. To register a business you must have a location page. In order to create location page for your business, you must create an account in Foursquare. Foursquare is a location based social media site for mobile users. Instagram uses Foursquare’s location database to tag a photo to that location. If your location is not already listed on Foursquare’s database, you can add it by following these steps as recommended on Instagram’s webpage:
Go to the Check-in tab and search for the name of the place you want to add
Tap the “Add this place” option.
Once you’ve added the place to the Foursquare database, you should be able to search for it on the Location screen in Instagram and select it to tag your photo with the place you’ve created.
Upload your photo, then tap on the place name (in blue text) that appears above your photo to see the location page you’ve created, where your photo and all photos tagged with this location in the future will appear.
Once you’re set with Foursquare, go ahead and set up your Instagram account:
1. Sing up using your brand name as the user name.
2. Add a profile picture, information about the business and a link to your website
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Link to our other social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Now that you have your account set up, you can begin to build a presence on Instagram. Among the strategies that you can use are:
1. Share compelling content. Where have you heard that before? Anyone who has followed inbound marketing, seo, and building an online presence knows that it all starts with content. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your photos. Ask for feedback from your followers. What do they like the most? How about the least?
2. Use hashtags to find more followers and share your photos. When using hashtags, be specific. This will help you find like-minded people who will be more likely to be interested in your product or service. So instead of simply saying #car, say #bmw. Try to engage the people who are most directly interested in your product. Look at what other businesses are doing within your industry. They probably have used ideas that have not occurred to you.
3. Share the photo on other social media sites. Instagram allows you to easily share photos on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. Once these users see your photo they will go to your site, or begin to follow you on Instagram.
4. Make sure your photos tell the story you want to tell. Posting a photo of that great steak dinner you’re about to eat won’t do you much good if you own a tire shop. Be authentic. Your users will be able to tell if the photos you are posting are actual or not
5. Be consistent. Don’t over-saturate your posts, but post often enough to keep our followers engaged.
One of the criticisms of Instagram is that its filters destroy good photographs. This complaint has come mainly from professional photographers who may be feeling the heat of competition. Their standards of what is acceptable are generally higher than the public at large as well. For most business purposes, the photo reproduction in Instagram is “good enough”.
The other criticism is that Instagram has no business model and little or no income. But that is Facebook’s problem, not yours. As more and more online searchers conduct business on mobile devices, it is the prudent online marketer who will benefit the most. Leveraging apps like Instagram will pay dividends down the road.