Instagram saved my orchid: How to use Instagram to connect with your customers
This is the first in a series of blog posts that I am planning that will focus on making the most of images in your content strategy. This post focuses on how to use Instagram to connect with your customers. Let me know if there is another particular topic you would like me to cover in the comments below. Thanks!
Instagram: how can I count the ways? I have to admit I think it’s my favourite social network. It’s so frictionless, so easy. It can be used with no interaction beyond “swipe up, swipe up, pause, tap, swipe up.” I’m a divil for posting images on my personal account too and I love much of the interaction that results. My orchid was saved by advice given to me on Instagram by former Mr. FlowersMadeEasy, Eamonn Grant .
So apart from all the pictures of food and babies and sunsets what can Instagram do for a brand? What can it do for your organisation?
Instagram currently has 300m active users, over 70% of whom are based outside the US. According to Ipsos MRBI’s most recent quarterly report on Social Networking 18% of Irish people have an Instagram account. This places Instagram in fifth place in Ireland after Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Google+. You might be tempted to think, “Ah here! Behind even Google+!” However it’s a different story if you look at the proportion of those users who use it daily. Instagram rockets into second place behind Facebook with 47%, 10 full points ahead of its nearest rival Twitter and double Google+. So in terms of engagement Instagram is a better bet for you if it suits your company’s products or services. (And that’s a big IF!)
I’ve been following a few small to medium companies that I think are doing a great job of connecting with their customers through their use of Instagram. I’ll highlight some of the best practices that they are using. Think about how you could apply some of those approaches to your work. Please feel free to call me if you would like me to work with you on an individualised plan for your business, no matter how big or small.
Appassionata Flowers: Instagram loves flowers so it’s no surprise to find Dublin-based Appassionata Flowers giving it socks on this social network. But mixed in with those arresting flower photographs are a few of the practices that make an Instgram feed interesting. For example, we occasionally see their process: candid shots showing them creating their product or how they do their business. So my first tip is show your process.
Polkadots and Petticoats: Love or hate the products that this company is selling, they are certainly savvy when it comes to Instagram. Maintaining the brand appeal of homeliness and cosiness there are lots of interior shots of products being used in real environments. However it’s the MD, Jackie’s, engagement with her community on Instagram and her understanding of that community that underpins her presence on Instagram. Frequent discount offers mixed with insight into her life create loyalty and trust with her community. The cynic in me finds it hard to believe that the business is run solely by one woman but the optimist says “more power to her!” So tip number two is remember it’s a SOCIAL network: engage with your users and get involved. Take time to follow interesting accounts and like and/ or comment as appropriate. Use hashtags to find users who are interested in similar areas to you.
Sugru: Irish company Sugru make great use of Instagram’s 15 second video to fulfil my next tip. Show your customers how to use your product.
[New #Sugru Project] Could this be the best place to store your toothbrush? (It certainly puts a smile on our face) Why can’t all practical solutions be this cute? Most of us just use an old glass or cup to store our toothbrushes, it’s the obvious solution, right? Hmmm… we didn’t really want to bring this up, but have you looked inside the bottom of yours recently? (we wouldn’t advise it!) This project lets you lose the grubby glass, free up some space and replace it with a row of smiley faces for everyone’s toothbrushes! :D #springclean #DIY Who knew? The average toothbrush has over 2,500 bristles! (no we didn’t count them!)
A video posted by Sugru (@sugru) on
Instagram introduced video in June 2013 and, as far as brands are concerned, wiped the floor with Vine, the existing short-format video platform. This was partly due to brands’ existing presence on the platform but also due to a user base 10 times the size of Vine and to Instagram’s integration with Facebook (attractive to marketers looking for an easy life). Simply Measured crunched the numbers and Instagram videos tend to get double the engagement of photographs posted on the social network. The example from Sugru above is very slickly produced but with a little creativity and forethought it is possible for any company to use video to show your products in action, just like Sugru.
Iterate.ie: The companies mentioned above have physical products that are visually appealing. But what if your company offers a service, what if there is nothing to photograph or because of the nature of your work you cannot photograph it? Yes you will have to be a little bit more creativein how you use this but you still have a story to tell, you still have a personality and you can still use Instagram to share these with your users. Take for example, Irish web design agency, Iterate.ie. Being creators of websites, they can’t exactly Instagram their product. (They could but it might prove very boring!) So they use Instagram to showcase their team, their interests and their influences. Potential customers can get a sense of the company culture which can help them in their decision process. It allows Iterate.ie to communicate with existing customers without the formality of a business meeting. I have noticed, among their on-brand messaging, the occasional slide into more personal type photographs. While it’s key to show personality, I would advise saving the wedding photos for your personal Facebook. By all means show us pics of the team spruced up for an awards event but even a team member’s wedding, even two team members’ is for Facebook.
While Instagram integrates well with Facebook Profiles and well enough with Facebook pages, its acquisition by Facebook caused a rift with Twitter. This was a pity for early adopters like myself who enjoyed using it to share visual snippets from our lives across our networks. A long (Internet) time ago I read that posting native pictures on Twitter increases engagement over tweets including Instagram links. So my final tip, which is borne out by my own experience, is use other tools to benefit your Instagram feed.
- Use a digital camera and desktop photo editing software. You are showing your products in their best light. Do you think the video above was shot and edited on an iPhone? Professionals use tools for their craft and take pride in knowing how to use them.
- Think about composition and colour. I’m not a photographer but a few tips I’ve picked up over the years are:
- Watch those edges. Thankfully Instagram allows you to crop out anything extraneous that sneaks in but if you shoot your pics with this in mind it can really help your composition.
- Use the golden ratio: Breaking your composition into thirds can really help focus viewers’ attention. Place the focus of your post in the left most two thirds of the composition.
- Try and include your brand colours in the frame where possible.
- Be bold about using graphical elements and use your brand font to include text snippets. Consider short hashtags or product names.
- Use IFTTT’s recipe to post your Instagram photos as native Twitter photos.
- Remember Instagram is not great for links so make sure that any products you DO showcase are easy to find from your homepage.
Do you have any other Instagram practices that you have found particularly successful? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments below. Let me know if you use any of these tips and how they are working out for you. Obviously, I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments below. However expect to see lots of pictures of the Amalfi coast on my Instagram feed over the next few days as I take a break from work and family life to hang out with friends.