Turning Instagram into a marketing channel

Turning Instagram into a marketing channel

While promotional giveaways will always be popular and effective for generating brand awareness, small businesses always have to capitalize on new digital outlets like Instagram to stay competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace. The social network is dedicated entirely to visual content so company leaders need to find ways to incorporate videos and pictures into their advertising campaigns. Below are some tips entrepreneurs can follow in order to turn Instagram into one of their best assets. 

It all comes down to the hashtag
Hashtags almost seem like clichés at this point. After all, many social networks use the feature. However, some business owners have found that using this element on Instagram can directly lead to new sales. 

Michael Satterfield, owner of Morgan's and Phillip's, a clothing retailer, has found that hashtags are beneficial because he capitalizes on each one. He told the National Federation of Independent Business that he responds every time a consumer uses one of his hashtags. 

"Direct sales will come from using the correct hashtag. When you log in, you'll be notified if you have comments [on the photos]. Maybe people are asking when or where [the product] is available. Instantly reply to those and point people to your website, where they can buy the shirt," Satterfield said. 

Satterfield's example is one that every company leader should follow. Hashtags are only effective for marketing when entrepreneurs track user activity and prompt people to take further actions beyond just updating their social media profile. 

The benefit of Instagram is that business owners can post pictures of their products and use hashtags for each one. Then, when consumers use the slogans themselves, enterprises can respond with direct links to that item's page. As a result, the business likely just converted an Instagram user into a customer who will hopefully buy more merchandise in the future. 

Continual posting is key
Many owners limit their social media activities to business hours. This is partially because entrepreneurs don't want to advertise their brands every waking moment, which is more than understandable. However, social media marketing is a full-time mission that requires constant attention. 

According to Search Engine Watch, "Instagram users are on the platform interacting at all hours of the day and every day of the week" mostly because they use their smartphones to access the network. The news source points out that most Fortune 500 companies post the lion's share of their content during the day, but also upload additional pictures and videos at other times. 

Small businesses have to use a similar tactic to ensure that their brands are gaining attention among Instagram's user base. The more frequently an enterprise posts, the more likely it is to gain recognition and find new customers. 

Use customer-created content
Another great part about using Instagram is that it allows businesses to use their customers' content for marketing purposes. The Content Marketing Institute that Starbucks has had great success with this after kicking off its #itsfallwhen campaign. The cafe chain has patrons use that hashtag whenever they post a picture of a Starbucks coffee in a traditional fall scene. 

Independent companies can capitalize on this same strategy by encouraging followers to take photos of their merchandise. As a result, a business' items will gradually start to appear with greater frequency on Instagram, which will lead to higher sales. This will essentially work as free advertising that will help an organization build its social media presence, leading to increased brand awareness and more customers down the road. Instagram can be one of the most effective resources an enterprise has access to if it uses customer-created content for marketing. 

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