Tasha Cunningham: 5 ways to build your brand with Instagram


Small business owners are always looking for cheap, effective ways to promote their products or services. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter fit the bill, but what if you had the chance to showcase your business using a free app that connects you to more than 100 million consumers instantly? You can do it on Instagram, a photo-sharing app that has grown steadily in popularity since its launch in 2010. If your brand doesn’t have a presence on Instagram, you’re in luck. It’s quick, easy and should be a part of your marketing mix.

What is Instagram?

Instagram, a smartphone application that allows users to shoot, edit and publish photos online, set the tech world abuzz last spring when it was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion. Since its debut in October 2010, Instagram has grown to over 100 million monthly active users, according to the app’s creators. Roughly 40 million photos are uploaded to the application each day. While you can follow people on Instagram like you can on Facebook and Twitter, it’s not a place to post minute by minute status updates. Instead, users take photographs of what they’re doing, add a hashtag and share the photo with their friends.

Instagram also has a search feature that allows you to find posts related to your industry or brand through the hashtags that are assigned. You can search for topics (including your brand) through these hashtags. The best way to search for topics on Instagram is to use the app’s tool. But there are other resources. You can go to the site Statigr.am, which is useful for tracking the stats on your Instagram photos.

Why use it?

One of Instagram’s advantages is how easy it is to use. It’s also free and available in the iTunes App Store or through Google Play. You can download it to any smartphone with a camera. Once you’ve downloaded it, simply log into your Instagram account, point, shoot and let the app do rest. While Instagram is a fun way to share photos with friends for the average person, major brands have also embraced it to market their goods and services. In February 2013, Simply Measured, a Seattle-based research company, released a comprehensive study of Instagram adoption among major brands. The study found that roughly 60 percent of the top 100 brands have a presence on Instagram. Brands like Nike, MTV and Starbucks boast over 1 million followers on Instagram.

Getting Started

You can get started on Instagram in five easy steps!

1. Do a hashtag search for your brand. You will most likely find that people are taking photos of your product and discussing it with others on Instagram.

2. Take part in the discussion. When you see pictures of your product on Instagram, engage with the person who posted. Follow that person and post comments. If what consumers are sharing on Instagram isn’t positive, that’s okay. Participate in the negative discussions, too. Try to resolve the problem, offer to replace the product or give a discount on the next purchase.

3. Don’t just post photos of your products. Instead, post images of people using your product. Remember, Instagram isn’t a billboard for your brand, so don’t post generic product shots. Get creative and post images that are unexpected and engaging to get people interested enough to talk about it and share the photo with friends.

4. Show what happens behind-the-scenes. Pictures that give a consumer an exclusive look at how a product is developed or spotlights the people who actually create it, work well on Instagram.

5. Comment and share the photos of other users. A good way to grow your followers on Instagram is to comment on other people’s photos. When you find a photo that interests you, let the person who posted it know by sharing a positive comment.

For five more tips to make the most of Instagram to promote your brand, check out the Starting Gate blog!

Tasha Cunningham is a principal in the Cunningham Group, an award-winning communications firm with offices in Miami and Orlando. She writes about how small business owners can leverage social media and other online tools to grow their companies.

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