The social media platform that focuses on images rather than text has developed quite a cult following among social media-savvy business owners.
According to Instagram itself, 70 per cent of its users follow at least one business, and 60 per cent admit they use Instagram to learn about products and services.
As such, it is no wonder that the average Australian checks Instagram feed as much as 11 times a day, six days a week.
My Business previously spoke with Lucy Given, founder of the LUC. Design homewares store in Hobart, about how she uses Instagram to attract people from all over the world to visit her in person.
Another business relying heavily on the pulling power of Instagram is Little Woollie Makes Yarn Store, based in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
“Because my business is mainly online and I run it from home, I do most of my marketing through social media. Customers find me through my social media platforms with the most traffic coming from Instagram,” explains founder Julie Harrison (pictured).
“I would estimate 60 to 70 per cent of my customers have found me through social media.”
According to Julie, the visual nature of Instagram allows her to overcome one of the main drawbacks of not having a physical store – that customers can see and visualise products, as well as the ability to demonstrate that there is a “real person” behind the business.
“I have also found it be very helpful in making contacts within my industry. I have found some great suppliers on Instagram, and made contacts who I wouldn't have even known about had I not been on Instagram,” Julie says.
A common complaint from business owners though is the time it takes to post content to a range of different social platforms. However, Julie says it is less time-consuming than you may think, and the trick is to develop a strategy that works for you.
“I don't have a fixed schedule for posting; I've tried it before and that's just not how I work. I think it is better to post when I have something interesting to show or say, that way people don't get sick of you and I don't feel like I am spamming everyone with a hard sell,” she explains.
“It's quality over quantity for me. Sometimes I have more to show than at other times. This usually works out that I post two to four times a week on Instagram. [Also], it is easy to share to Facebook now when you post on Instagram, so I am doing that now too.”
Julie has some tips for other business owners about harnessing the power of Instagram to engage with new and existing customers on the web:
• Use the edit function to make your photos look great.
• Always use your own photos wherever possible. “It helps with building your own 'brand' and helps your account keep your own voice.”
• Be patient. “It takes time to build community and gain credibility on social media. Keep posting things you think your customers will find interesting/inspiring/relevant.”
• Be yourself. “Let your own voice come through your feed. There is no point trying to be the same as everyone else. Accounts/people, who are genuine, will gain a more genuine/committed/invested community. People don't like fakery. It is also a lot easier to maintain an account that is naturally part of you – you don't have to second guess yourself.”
• Don't let social media become a chore. “You don't have to be on every platform. Choose the platform/s that you want to connect with your customers/community on, and focus on doing that well. If you find it taking lots of your time, pull back and just do what you can manage; maybe give half an hour for Instagram interactions at the end of the day, or before you go to bed. It is all done from your phone, so you can fit it in around other things in your life.”
• Acknowledge responses you generate. “Try and respond to questions, and acknowledge comments if you can. It is easy to 'heart' comments so people know you have seen them and appreciated their interaction. Interact with other accounts that you like, as it helps build community.”
• Tag your images. “Use tags on your photos to help get them seen by people interested in your area/field/products. Look for popular tags in your field and use them to help people find your account.”
• Don’t forget your website. “Make sure your account links to your website so you can direct customers to the places where they can buy your products.”
• Quality first and foremost. “Don't feel you have to post all the time. Remember, it's better to post quality over quantity.