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by Jessica Bowers December 17, 2015
Why the photo-sharing social media platform is a great option

It’s no secret that an increasing number of brands are jumping on social media as a way to reach their customer base – and with good reason. Facebook alone has over 1.5 billion monthly users, followed by LinkedIn with almost 400 million users, and Twitter with roughly 314 million.

Some companies are only just now beginning to consider adding Instagram to their social media repertoire, but with it being one of the fastest growing social platforms (with over 400 million users in under 5 years), can your business afford not to be on it?

Why Instagram is crucial for your company’s growth

Instagram may at first glance seem like a daunting way to get in front of customers and potential customers, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Instagram is the perfect easy-to-use platform for giving users an inside look at your company’s culture and values, and displaying products and services, without the pressure of high production value.

Many businesses are struggling to keep up with the changing times, and if you want your business to grow, adapting to current trends and customer needs is crucial. Two of the biggest demands from customers in 2015 are:

Instagram lends itself to business transparency in a couple different ways. First, you can use pictures and video to display how you are really carrying out brand values and your company mission.

If you are a food company who claims to use local resources and growers, show pictures of your company representatives at the places where you source your ingredients. If one of your core values is giving back the community, take pictures at a charity event that your employees attend, and share them on Instagram. If your company strives to emphasize an environment of collaboration, take pictures at your brainstorming sessions or team-building exercises.

Showcasing transparency

For a lot of consumers, seeing is believing, so an obvious way to truly display those values that you claim to have, is by showing them in action. There is no need to even utilize high-tech photography equipment or editing software, first because Instagram has built-in editing tools, but also because most customers value realness over perfection, and realness is a crucial element to transparency. Transparency creates trust, and customers in 2015 don’t buy from brands that they don’t trust.

Another way to show transparency is by using the platform to address crisis when they happen, and to personally share triumphs and successes. Customers appreciate when companies don’t see them as being stupid, or easy to fool. The old gimmicks of traditional advertising no longer work on a customer base that is growing in savviness and pickiness.

We’ve all seen the Tweets that go viral when a company responds poorly to a customer or situation. To avoid a negative situation from potentially getting out of your control, use your platforms to speak directly to those people who your decisions will affect.

Reaching out to followers on Instagram is one way to literally face up to a problem or mistake, and respond on the same level in which those customers operate. Utilizing Instagram to announce awards, triumphs in growth, or reaching goals is also a great way for followers to feel valued, because you are choosing to share with them directly as contributors to your accomplishments.

Often times customers don’t even mind mistakes as long as companies are being honest, and forthcoming, showing that they aren’t just large faceless corporations, but do have a human interest side.

Achieving growth

Which is the second best reason your company should be using Instagram to grow.

Instagram allows for an unprecedented opportunity to show the human element of your brand. No company is greater than the people it employs, which is especially true for small companies that are entering a growth phase. Instagram can be utilized to show your company from the inside. Post pictures and videos from inside your offices, at conferences you attend, or at employee outings. Not only do consumers want good products and services, but they want to know that they are supporting a company that is caring, fair, and a happy environment to be a part of.

Part of this is putting a face to a name. Companies who show real employees, from all levels, create a better brand identity than those who hide behind their corporate logo. Try utilizing ‘employee takeover’ campaigns, in which one employee controls the Instagram account for a day, to show a day in their life at your company.

Behind-the-scenes content from your business works because it is compelling to consumers. It gives them something to relate to that doesn’t feel fake or cheap. If you don’t see your employees as numbers, there is a likely chance you don’t just see your customers as numbers.

Buying isn’t just about the actual product anymore. It’s about being connected, and being included in a larger brand community. Customers will feel that they are a part of your community, if you are willing to open it up to them.

Show ‘em what you got

Instagram is also a great platform for displaying your products, or making announcements about  those products. Since it’s natural that those who follow you are interested in what you make or sell, it only makes sense to use the platform as a way to easily display what you offer. Many companies now are even using customer photos to show their products.

Clothing companies find pictures of customers wearing their clothes that the customers themselves have shared, and re-post those pictures on the brand’s own account. SaaS businesses display images from other companies or websites who have benefitted from their products.

Not only is Instagram an easy way to show customer testimonials for your brand, but it also connects those users to your company more deeply. When you share users’ pictures, the engagement increases, the customer appreciation is shown, and therefore brand loyalty is strengthened.

You can also use Instagram to easily show sales announcements or promotions. Share photos or a video slide show of products that are on sale, or use text images to describe a promotion. If your company has a store-front, have a promotion that invites customers to share pictures of their purchases, and re-post your favorite ones. This helps drive awareness of the sale or promotion, and also increases that customer engagement that in turn leads to brand loyalty.

A great brand awareness ally

Using social media to create brand awareness is a no brainer, but Instagram is actually fantastic for growing your customer base and creating a way for others to find you. Utilize branded hashtags or trending hashtags to appear to others who are searching for new accounts to follow, or people who are browsing for interesting content. By using hashtags that are trending, or using ones that are within your industry or general interest area, people who are looking for images within those topics can find you.

As we mentioned in our post about great blog format ideas, jumping on trending topics, such as #TBT (or Throw Back Thursday) is a great way to engage with users where they already are, and be more up-to-date with what is going on in customers’ lives.

Use geo-location tags to target customers in specific areas. Create a tag for the address of your office, and encourage visitors to share photos of your space with your location tag. Tag a picture at your nearby cafe when an employee makes a coffee run for everybody, or at a restaurant you go to to celebrate a colleague’s promotion. Tag the location of your company outings, or where your office kick-ball team practices. These are easy ways for other people in your area to learn about you.

Finding your target personas

Of course not everyone who comes across your account will be your ideal customer persona. But Instagram allows you to cast a wide net, without a risk for wasted resources or effort, because your current followers and customers will still benefit from seeing what you’re up to.

In the age of digital natives and savvy buyers, there’s really no reason why your company shouldn’t be on Instagram. Optimize your account to create transparency with your brand, connect to customers, and create a presence for others to find you. When you begin to operate where your customers are, and create and share content that is compelling, meaningful, and relatable, you encourage a better relationship to form with those that already know you.

When you establish your company as transparent, human, and real, and utilize the platform to promote your products, and champion your current customers, you then strengthen your ability to increase your customer base, and in turn, grow your company.