The concept of using Instagram for businesses initially struck me as odd. In fact I am still struggling with how my own business could make the most of it, but in a recent talk by John Kapos, I realised how it can be a powerful tool for many businesses.

Instagram For BusinessIs Instagram for business?

Let’s be very clear from the start – Instagram is not intended to do business on like Google or Facebook. They have a clear social and business aspect (though businesses will too often blur them).

Instagram is about brand awareness, sharing, and generating an interest.

It’s not about pushing, selling or conversions.

What is Instagram?

At it’s simplest, it is just a fun and quirky way to share a photo. It’s a place where you can find anything. With 300 million active users (and that will date this blog), 70 million photos posted a day, and 30 billion photos already shared, it is one huge photo album.

Instagram for Business Tips

1. Interact

First get in there and comment, like and share other people’s posts. Show that you are a part of the community and not just a billboard.

2. Never post without a comment

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a couple extra words are always needed. It allows you to add a story, or an insight, or a twist. It also gives you a reason to drop in the hash tags.

3. Hashtags

Hashtags are critical for helping people find your photos, for you to categorise images, and to have group conversations. Hashtags are what make Instagram an interactive and dynamic place and not just another photo album.

When using hashtags you need to have a blend of popular ones and very specific ones. This allows you to latch into other conversations as well as direct them towards your focused ones.

You need to be guessing what hashtags your ideal followers will be looking for.

If you aren’t sure, look at what your competitors are using. Keep in mind, however, that this is a great way to get started but you don’t want to then be feeding your competitors with your success.

And in theory you can have up to 30 hashtags but no more than 10 is advisable.

Finally, hashtags should go in the caption, not in the comments.

4. Be regular

It is better to have a continual stream than a flood and then nothing. Its about gaining interest and sustaining interest.

5. Engage

You need to be engaging with your followers. If they comment then reply. It’s a chance to show appreciation, concern, or interest. It shows that you are a real person and that you treat them like one as well.

6. Post great photos

Take the time to take a couple of different photos and make sure you post the best one. If you see something interesting, take a photo of it. If you see something different, take a photo of it.

7. Combine it with your other social channels

With so many integration services available now, it is easy to share photos between Instagram, Facebook, your blog, LinkedIn and Twitter. Get the maximum use out of your best photos.

8. Promote Instagram

Why not place a sticker on your product advertising your Instagram account?

Personally I don’t think this is going far enough. Ideally you want your customers to be posting images for you and using a good hashtag. If they can do this freely then that’s fantastic. Sometimes they need a bit more encouragement.

The reality of Instagram for business

I think Instagram is ideal for B2C (business to consumer) businesses. It gives you a chance to show your product, your users, or the product in action.

A bit more of a challenge is B2B (business to business) where the product or service may not be perceived as interesting.

The reality is that it doesn’t matter what the photo is, people are interested if it’s about them or can help them.

So for example I was talking to someone who did office refurbishments. What an awesome opportunity. You can take before photos, during photos and after photos. You can take photos with unhappy staff before and happy staff after. You can take photos of the unexpected disasters. You can build anticipation as the project is happening.

I have the challenge that my business is predominantly an online business. I don’t have the luxury of going to site, or having customers visit me. I sell a product that assists with compliance and won’t make my customer rich.

But I have plans. Just wait. I will let you know how my experiment works.

And my competitors haven’t succeeded in Instagram so I will hopefully have the lead.