In recent years Instagram has become a leading platform for businesses to promote themselves, ranking perhaps third only to Facebook and Twitter in popularity. Using its suggested user list, Instagram has created a number of “power” users, each with hundreds of thousands of followers, who are frequently hired by businesses to deliver photos to huge numbers of people. They can certainly put photos in front of many people’s eyes, but many have questioned if they are effective at promoting the businesses that hire them. An alternative to this mass-distribution form of marketing is to set up an Instagram account for the business and develop its own follower base. Although initially the account will not be able to reach as many people as hiring a power user, they can develop a lasting and perhaps more effective relationship with followers. Here are a few tips for those running an Instagram account for a business.
1) You don’t have to use a mobile device. Instagram is synonymous with mobile photography. But users can very easily post non-mobile photos to the platform if they transfer their DSLR photos to their mobiles. If you want to post photos via your mobile during an event but want the benefits of using an advanced DSLR, you can use a wifi SD card such as Eyefi, allowing you to instantly beam your photos to your mobile direct from your DSLR camera. Or if your photos are already on a cloud-based server like Dropbox, it’s very easy to upload specific photos to your mobile for posting.
2) Use scheduling tools. Instagram has traditionally been a platform for in-the-moment pictures posted during or soon after an event. But if you have photos that are not time-sensitive, you are now able to use scheduling tools, such as postso.com, to spread out your posts. This will also allow you to target specific time zones and schedule posts to cover when you are on holiday or unable to post.
3) Remember it’s a tiny screen. Some images work better than others on Instagram. Bear in mind that your image will probably be viewed on a very small screen. So sweeping landscapes with subtle details won’t always be properly appreciated. Better to post simple images that tell uncomplicated stories. Your viewer’s attention has to be grabbed in a split second, before they swipe on, so better make it high impact.
4) Post interesting things. This may sound obvious but only post things that will interest your followers. We talk about being deluged by images these days, but finding a good one, appropriate to your needs, is not always easy. A good image may be “good” for a number of different reasons: it may be stunningly composed image in itself but not necessarily of a major event, on the other hand it may be of a major event but not technically perfect. Or it may simply communicate some useful information or show an unusual juxtaposition.
5) Get the right permissions. If you use pictures that belong to someone else, you have to make sure you’re OK to use them, which means tracking down the owner and asking their permission. This applies equally to re-posting, or re-gramming, other people’s pictures. Just because a picture appears on Instagram, it doesn’t mean you can use it without getting permission. Once you have the right permissions, make sure you also give correct credits.
6) Be authentic. To set your Instagram apart from your brand’s traditional advertising, give your audience something authentic. Go behind the scenes, show people what’s under the bonnet, give them something human. Again, being authentic doesn’t mean being amateur, so you still need something interesting and well-composed. For your picture to be worth a 1,000 words, it should tell an interesting story.
7) Get value from your photos. If your business also runs Twitter and Facebook accounts, it’s very easy to dual-post your Instagram photos on these feeds too. This can be done either in app or using a website like IFTTT.com. For Twitter, bear in mind though that the photo captions will be cut off after 100 characters or so. You should be careful of not flooding your feeds with duplicate imagery but it’s also a good way of getting good value from your content.
About the author: Richard Gray is @rugfoot on social media. He runs Instagram accounts for Islington Assembly Hall @islington_ah, where he is also the house photographer, and the Terry O’Neill Award @oneillaward