By MIKE GINGERICH
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Social Media has created a new focus on visual storytelling via photos. Users share images on social media sites that allows their friends and network to share and connect with their experiences. With this trend for image and photo based communication on social networks becoming mainstream, businesses using social media to market have seen the opportunities and have adapted their marketing to be more image based as well. Businesses know that a “picture is worth 1,000 words” and that visually communicating a concept, product, or service with a photo can more easily grab the attention of viewers than a large block of text.
One of the newer social networks that has grown rapidly and offers a purely image driven social interaction is Instagram. This “mobile first” social network has more than 100 million active users and is very popular with young adults, sports and clothing brands and active Facebook users. Instagram is a free web-based photo sharing service available as a mobile app download for any Android or Apple iOS powered device. It is a tool for posting and sharing images. Users can crop and add overlay filters to customize images and then post to the service. Images can also be simultaneously posted to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr when posting to Instagram making it a diverse tool.
Instagram users can follow other users and in their own feed they will see images posts by those they have followed. One of the key characteristics for categorizing images is by adding hashtags to an image (see image). Instagram allows users to search by hashtag and then displays all images for that hashtag.
Businesses can join the growing throng of other companies establishing a presence and reaching out to current and would-be customers via images on Instagram. If general sales assumptions are correct that it takes about seven interactions with a company on average before a person becomes a customer, then Instagram is another method for businesses to reach and cultivate interactions. Here are some ideas for how businesses can use Instagram:
Showcase products: One simple way to get started is simply to regularly add new photos of your products or completed projects. This can highlight new offerings, new styles, or simply reinforce the variety of what you have to offer.
Use hashtags: Companies can add hashtags to each image they upload. A good idea would be to search for relevant and popular hashtags for your industry and then add that hashtag to your related uploads as well as create and add a second unique hashtag that is specific to your business or a line you offer. (Example: Adidas uses #thereturn for items connected to the NBA Player Derrick Rose line of clothing and to celebrate his coming return from injury.)
Extend brand identity: The opportunity exists for a company to showcase their uniqueness from others and differentiate themselves through images that demonstrate their company culture, style, and flair. Images of the team at work, the company offices, the team at a tradeshow or products being designed offer a more personalized view that can help individuals connect with a company.
Instagram contests: Another method to engage users would be to get customers and followers to participate in a contest offer. This flips the scale and invites users to load images, such as photos of them creatively using your product, to a hashtag that the company has specified. Instagram contests can be setup and hosted on Facebook fan pages using tools that make this easy to run like TabSite. This offers customer participation and involvement with a company for the chance to win a prize. The value is the that company gets exposure by those uploading and by those entrants seeking to get family and friends to come and vote. It’s a way to extend awareness of a company and get an initial connection to a larger audience.
As a fast growing social network that is still gaining steam rapidly, this could be a good time for businesses to jump in and get established before extreme competition rises. It’s as simple as uploading photos from your mobile device! Consider a company Instagram account for your business as a tool to connect with potential customers.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of web design company, Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.