With more than 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram is rapidly becoming a go-to marketing tool for businesses, big and small. The social platform has begun rolling out a Checkout feature with select brands like Zara, H&M and Nike in an effort to become a one-stop shop for, well, shopping. The folks at Instagram and Facebook HQ believe in the power of their mobile experience for businesses and brands – and you should, too. Here are five simple Dos and Don’ts to be aware of when launching your business on Instagram.
Don’t: Pay for Likes/Followers
There are a variety of ways to get instantaneous “engagement” and a high follower count on Instagram; we won’t link to them because they are simply not worth it. All this does is inflate your account with spam accounts and bots that leave incoherent comments on your posts. Instagram regularly cracks down on accounts like these by performing sweeps that eliminate spam accounts. If you go this route, you may wake up one day to learn your follower count dropped dramatically overnight. If your entire Instagram experience is predicated on fake information, you’ll never be able generate authentic engagement with your true target audience.
Do: Settle on a Visual Theme
Your brand and visual identity are important. The phrase “you eat with our eyes” first comes to mind, but there’s actually an updated version born out of the Instagram age: “camera eats first.” It represents the phenomena of photographing your food before ever even taking a bite, so that it can be shared with your followers. Whether we believe we’re being marketed to or not, Instagram is the first touchpoint in a lot of marketing. When you see someone wearing, eating or experiencing something you haven’t had the chance to try, the FOMO sets in. A striking visual identity – and a consistent one – helps followers decide if your content is for them because they know what they’re signing up for when they hit that follow button. Just take it from Sweet Jesus.
Don’t: Share to Twitter from the Instagram App
This one is more of a pet peeve than anything else, but hear us out. When posting a photo or video to your Instagram feed, the app also lets you post that content to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Instagram communicates with Facebook relatively well – as they should being owned by the same parent company and all – by displaying the photo, related text and hashtags in a similar manner to how it’s seen on Instagram. When the same content is pushed to Twitter, it generates a link. That link does not show a preview of the content like a traditional hyperlink on Twitter would. It also does not direct you to the Instagram app with your login credentials. Instead, it pulls up a web browser within the Twitter app. This browser is not logged into a user’s Instagram account so they can’t interact or engage with the content. It suggests that the best Instagram experience is in the app and urges the user to switch to the app instead.
There are a lot of barriers to getting a user to a point where they can actually engage with your content. At that point, it’s better to craft a separate post within Twitter that puts your content on display for your Twitter-specific audience because chances are they don’t want to leave the app they are in.
Do: Develop a Post Cadence
Instagram users appreciate consistency, both in visual format and in delivery. They may have followed you for any number of reasons, but it’s your responsibility to keep them. It’s important to understand what people enjoy most about your content strategy. Are they watching your Story? Engaging in discussion? Tagging friends in the comments? Do they appreciate that you only post once a day and keep your Story short and concise? Whatever your content strategy is, if users are responding to it, it’s important to maintain consistency. Don’t deviate too much from a strategy that’s working once you figure out what it is. If you post about architecture and design and all of a sudden switch gears to talk politics, be prepared to confuse your followers and likely lose them, too. Instagram is not a “newsfeed,” and attempts to make it so generally don’t take off.
Don’t: Worry Too Much About What Others are Doing
If you do, you’ll never get around to posting anything because Instagram is full of endlessly inventive creators and it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough when you see what others have managed. Your vision may change over time, especially as you experience how users react to your content and see how others use the platform in interesting ways. The most important – and sometimes hardest – thing to do is start. Instagram is a free marketing tool with the potential to reach a massive audience. Take advantage of what it offers, use it to show off a different side of your business and – most crucially – have fun with it.