Is Instagram the next big social network for business?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

With established networks like Twitter on the decline, is 2016 the moment to embrace a new social channel for your business?

Léonie Sidgwick is projects manager at ifour design agency.

At the end of 2014, Citi stated that Igers (Instagram users) were up to 1.8 times more engaged than Twitter users. At the same time Instagram’s user levels rivaled the once great Twitter’s at 300million and rose to 400million active monthly users by September 2015 according to CNBC. In comparison, the Harvard Business Review states that Twitter and its analysts appear to believe that the slump is due to competition — and so it’s adding new features, buttons and functions as fast as it can. In the last quarter there has been zero growth in Twitter users at 320million and a drop in share prices, according to Tech Crunch.

So, is Instagram the next big thing? According to eMarketer’s latest internet usage forecast, this year, 89.4 million Americans will log on to Instagram at least once a month, representing 34 per cent of mobile phone users. And by 2017, 51.8 per cent of social network users will use Instagram—surpassing the 50 per cent mark for the first time.

Like any social media, it takes time to build up a following and work out what works for your business, however there are some handy tips for measuring your success on Instagram. Having only a single link in the standard posts that you can click through (link in the bio!) makes it harder to trace which post has been the most popular if you want to drive traffic to your website. While you can change your link to specific pages (and many users do) on a regular basis, Instagram‘s real strength lies in building a community and, in turn, giving your brand some personality.

We really like the infographic style of Iconosquare for quick, bite size metrics. We also found the followers and overview page simple to use. Having a larger screen makes it easier to scroll through your walls posts to see what’s happening, like and comment when you follow larger numbers of Igers. There are several other options that are worth checking out too, such as SimplyMeasured, InstaFollow and CrowdFire. The levels of metrics vary but the limited nature of the platform means it’s pretty different to other social networks.

On a business level, you may be trying to sell something you feel is un-visual or a service that can be hard to show in a single photo. But if you look at cultivating your Instagram followers and communicating with them on an honest, personal level, you have the opportunity to forge some strong links and really demonstrate the core values of your company, leading to a good awareness and a stronger emotional engagement when the time comes to buy. This gives you an opportunity to share images you maybe wouldn’t on other social channels, but, as was demonstrated by our experiment, the more relevant your content is to your followers, the more likely you are to get a better response.

Here’s are five tips for content creation:

Keep it on brand – Make sure content speaks to your audience by keeping it relevant, honest and in line with your brand values;

Make it interesting – Keep the content truthful and engaging, it could be you share work in progress, team members or quirks that make your business special;

Filters aren’t compulsory – if you have a great, high quality shot, don’t feel obliged to add a filter for the sake of it;

Tag and geotag – Tagging people pictured and geotagging your location makes it easier for other users to find you and join in the conversation;

Join in the community – Search for relevant hastags and like and comment on relevant posts and followers to really engage and build your community.

What else can you do?

Multiple accounts: Instagram has recently added the additional functionality of linked accounts. While somewhat behind the curve on this, being able to switch between up to 5 accounts should remove one of the major annoyances for anyone with multiple accounts to manage. This update also includes push notifications for all linked accounts if enabled, meaning company accounts can be more responsive to comments and questions.

Advertise: Many companies are also looking to Instagram paid advertising to take advantage of the additional options available over a standard post. With three options, static photos, videos or carousel adverts, the adverts support links to websites, app downloads and video views.

Don’t be square: Once limited to square aspect ratio images, August last year saw a relaxation in the square obsession, meaning portrait and landscape images are now just as welcome. There are still limitations (landscape 1.91:1 and portrait 4:5) and narrow banners and panoramas still don’t work but the flexibility of ratios allows you to share even more!

Think outside the box: There are a range of image tools such as Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse that work with Instagram and open up different options, such as a mini gif videos of time lapse or loops or creating an image collage, whilst still maintaining the Instagram feel. Mixing up your content can create greater engagement due to the additional interest.

Instagram has still has different restrictions to most other popular social networks. However, the opportunities to show an honest and real side to your company, demonstrate brand values and the growth in users mean this platform should not be discounted and is well worth investigating, regardless of your company size.

Léonie Sidgwick is projects manager at ifour design agency.


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