April 24, 2017 / Leave a Comment
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 1.8 billion monthly users, with LinkedIn coming in at almost 500 million users, and Twitter with roughly 319 million. Some companies are still only now adding Instagram to their social media repertoire, but with it being one of the fastest growing social platforms (with over 600 million users in under 6 years), can your business afford not to be on it?
Instagram is crucial for your company’s values
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 on 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 needs of customers in 2017 are seeing brand transparency, and experiencing the human element behind that brand in real time.
Instagram lends itself to business transparency in a couple different ways. First, is that 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 of your brainstorming sessions or team building exercises.
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 of transparency.
From the negative….
Another way to show transparency is by using the platform to address crises 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 and posts that go viral when a company responds poorly to a customer or situation (looking at you Pepsi and United). 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 Stories to release a personalized statement in real-time can get you ahead of the problem early on. Oftentimes customers can get over a mistake or a human error, as long as companies are being honest, and forthcoming. This shows that they aren’t just large faceless corporations, but do have a human interest side.
…To the positive
You can also use Instagram to announce awards, triumphs in growth, or goal accomplishments. It’s great way for followers to feel valued, because you are choosing to share with them directly as contributors to your accomplishments. Take a tip from some of the most successful influencer Instagram accounts, and give thanks when you reach a follower milestone.
Show ‘em who you are
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 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 storefront, have a promotion that invites customers to share pictures of their purchases (usually called ‘hauls’), 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. Find the 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.
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, 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.
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