instagram-logoDoes your business do anything with social media? Some are using Facebook. Some are using LinkedIn. Most aren’t doing either.

That’s a shame because you’re missing out on some great marketing and branding opportunities. Plus the cost of these services is zero!

One of the least considered social media opportunities for small businesses is Instagram and I’m going to try and convince you to give it a try.

Instagram is visual. It’s made up of photos and images, not lots of text. The saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s easy to set up and as I mentioned before, it is free. With Instagram, companies can shoot, edit and share photos that activate and engage users. It may be part of a long-term branding or short term, as part of a campaign. As the fastest growing social network with over 200 million users, more and more companies are using it. In addition Instagram has 15 times the engagement and double the engaged user base of Facebook.

For starters, take a look at some big and small businesses that have Instagram pages:

General Electric
Coca Cola
Starbucks
Nike
Sweet Pure Honey

Here are some suggestions of what to put in your Instagram page, specific to small businesses:

Show off your products or services. Is your brand a retail business? Take pictures of cool new products as you get them in, or share pictures of your most popular products. Or, if you run a service business like a hair salon or a restaurant, take the time to take photos of your work. Sharing photos of cool haircuts (even before-and-after shots are great!) or your latest dessert specials is a great way to get people interested.

Go behind the scenes. Take pictures and videos to show how your products or goods are made, especially if the process is unique or interesting, or something your customers ask about often. This will not only provide interesting content for your Instagram account, but will also show your customers and followers exactly what goes on in the background. Plus, putting your office on display, especially if it’s decked out in cool decor, will show your followers how interesting your company really is.

Include your employees. Make your brand’s Instagram page more personal by including your employees in your posts. Share pictures of your team members hard at work or having fun at company outings. Doing so will show your customers and followers that you care about and appreciate your employees, and it will make them feel like they can really get to know your brand and relate to it.

Ask your customers to show off their photos. Own a restaurant? Put your Instagram handle and custom hashtags on the menu so that when your customers inevitably take a picture of their new favorite dish, they tag you in it. This way, other users who want to know where it came from can easily find you. This works with any type of product or service – let your customers know you’re on Instagram and which hashtags they can use to show off their photos.Just make sure you’re checking them out, liking them and commenting on them, so they continue to do so.

Post exclusive deals on your Instagram. Give back to your Instagram followers by offering them discounts for following you. Share an image with instructions on how to use the deal – for example, you can create a coupon code for use at your business online, or ask users to show they follow you at the register when they’re paying for a product or service. This will make your followers feel special, and likely get them telling their friends about your business, too.

To get started download the Instagram app on your smart phone or tablet. Then you can create the account and confirm your email address. After that go to http://instagram.com, login, and start customizing it.