The number of businesses turning to social media platforms has escalated over the years. Applications such as Instagram, for instance, have become an attraction of adware and sponsored products that filter in through the posts of its user-base. The real question, however, is whether or not affiliating themselves with Instagram is worth the overall outcome.

Why are businesses turning to Instagram?

Instagram strives to make itself disparate from other social media platforms by being a photo/video-centric application that targets over 300 million mobile-users across the world. Having been ranked one of the top 10 smartphone apps of 2014, Instagram has proven to be an effective social media platform that enables its users to unleash their more creative, artistic side when broadcasting a message. These visual messages, along with their video counterparts, capture the interest of users and enable businesses to reach out to their target markets in unique ways. Mobile phones have become an everyday part of life, after all.

Does it fulfil all the needs of a marketer?

Although the platform continues to flourish and allow businesses to easily generate a following, its main purpose is brand awareness. The main issue with Instagram is that, while visual aids promote brand names and bring awareness to its many users, the platform makes it generally difficult to garner direct sales. The platform lacks the ability to embed links into the images it promotes, making it difficult to redirect users to the website or product and therefore achieve a sale. This is where Facebook and Twitter, for example, have proven to be more effective in the marketing world.

How do you get the most out of Instagram?

Instagram does more than simply populate a feed of neatly cropped images. Joining the community provides users with ample opportunity to promote themselves or, in the case of marketers, their wares. There are a number of ways to utilise Instagram’s vast user base, the main being Instagram-exclusive competitions.

instagram-competitionexample2Instagram competitions can help to accumulate a decent following and, therefore, potential new buyers. The promise of small prizes gives users the incentive to follow the host and actively watch for any new events you might create. While participating in your competition they’re inadvertently bringing awareness to both your account and your products. If the winner loves their prize? Even better. After all, no Instagram user can resist posting photographic evidence of their victory. You might argue that a competition is a worthless feat when you have only a small following ready to participate. Instagram’s search engine would beg to differ.

Hashtags make it possible to branch out of your following and expose your products to the rest of Instagram’s user base. Those hashtags make your product visible to anyone browsing Instagram’s unique search engine. A sports fan in search of photos depicting his favourite player might just so happen to like those new trainers you’re promoting in the sports tag, for instance. Competitions are both cheap and time effective. That one image can circulate a number of search engines with little more than a few cleverly placed hashtags. How you use those hashtags will make all the difference. After all, one participant can mean the difference between one new follower and a thousand. Those hashtags can also be recognised on other social media platforms.

Why not link your Instagram account to your other social media accounts?

It is super easy to link Instagram to your other social media platforms and build your following. Uploading a photo to Instagram and then posting that to your Facebook/Twitter page will give more share of voice and build linkages which help your brand appear as more relevant and credible. Your audience will use different social media platforms and by integrating your account with other platforms you are able to reach them all at the same time. This will then, of course, save time and time is extremely invaluable for a small business, right?

Is Instagram an effective tool for small businesses?

Instagram, if used to its full potential, it is very effective. Small businesses are able to build a strong network and reach out to their audience via the multiple functions that are available on the platform. Remember, Instagram has more than one purpose. You want to enhance your following and brand awareness? Think about what you can actually do, other than simply populate a feed of images. Although Instagram is lacking in certain areas where you cannot garner direct sales, for instance, there is much more that you can do to successfully enhance your digital marketing strategy.