Let’s imagine for a moment that the year is 1890. Yosemite was just designated a national park, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act started battling monopolies, and after years of suffering for his art, Vincent Van Gogh finally had enough.
You’re a dapper chap in a derby hat, or a smart young lady in an ankle-length, pleated “sports skirt,” skimming this article in the local newspaper. The headline might read, “Yellow Pages for Business: Is it Worth My Time?”.
Had the author, whose name was almost certainly Garfield, Thadwick, or Chester, come down against the Yellow Pages as a silly extravagance that would almost certainly waste a business’s time and money. They would have badly misguided thousands of companies, as the Yellow Pages became a business necessity in the coming decades, only recently getting supplanted by technologies like Instagram.
Fast forward to this present moment. You’re a modern gal or guy, likely perusing this content on your tablet as you relax comfortably in your athleisure-wear, sipping coffee, kombucha, or a mini-microbrew.
As you skim, you can rest assured that we’ve never met a Thadwick, we don’t have a single Garfield or Chester on staff, and you won’t find a condemnation of Instagram for business in this article. In our estimation, Instagram can be just as crucial for companies as the other major social media platforms when building an effective, multi-pronged social presence.
Consider that Facebook and YouTube have 2.4 and 1.9 billion active users each month, respectively. Instagram has over 1 billion. Twitter, by comparison, pulls only 330 million, and most businesses consider Twitter an essential social platform.
But you know, if a billion sets of eyeballs don’t interest you, by all means, go back to your muffin.
When Is Instagram Most Appropriate?
Instagram is a photosharing social platform. It excels at promoting businesses visually. If you’re a tax accountant, biohazard cleanup company, or infectious diseases research firm, Instagram might not be useful to you.
To take full advantage of what Instagram offers, your business needs to be able to generate a steady stream of engaging, timely, and attractive images that relate directly to what you do. If your company provides…let’s say “raw material” for use in animal breeding, there’s no shame in admitting that no one wants to follow a photo stream of your process.
You should consider your target market as well. If you’re a purveyor of stairlifts, dentures, or classic rock CD box sets, your audience isn’t likely to find you on Instagram.
That’s because users primarily skew young. According to SproutSocial, 72% of 13 to 17-year-olds and 64% of the 18 to 29 demographic use Instagram. This number drops precipitously for older age groups. You’ll find only 40% of 30 to 49-year-olds and a tiny 21% of 50 to 64-year-olds. The over 65 demo barely registers. So if your target market is generally over 35, Instagram might not be worth your time.
However, if your competition is using it, you probably should, too. You might be competing for a small group of Instagram users, relative to the total user base, but if you aren’t on the platform, you’ve inevitably lost them.
This is true for any business. You don’t want to be the only player in your local industry that isn’t on Instagram if the majority of your competitors are. You’re simply giving up any claim to those customers if you don’t participate.
So there are situations that might preclude the need to open an Instagram Business profile. Still, if you can generate regular, attractive, relevant visual content, and your target audience is regular users of the platform, you should certainly open a business profile and get busy creating content.
What Can an Instagram Business Profile Do For You?
Instagram offers several ways for businesses to engage with their audiences and help drive traffic to their websites or other landing pages. You can post photos. That’s obvious.
You can also target ads and other content to specific demographics and interest groups, and slice your target as granularly as you like. Instagram ads work in much the same way as Facebook ads. You need to be sure you sculpt your content to fit the medium.
It’s important again to stress the visual nature of the site. Instagram users expect a higher caliber of imagery than you might find on Facebook because photography is the central focus of the platform. Keep that in mind, when designing campaigns. Visual appeal is paramount.
Stories are a relatively new addition to Instagram, inspired by a similar feature on Snapchat, which was then pilfered by Facebook. Stories provide businesses a way to create visual narratives with embedded links that users can easily follow by swiping up on the image.
If you’re a business that uses social media primarily to drive traffic, you’ll find stories extremely useful. They’re also an excellent option for companies that want to integrate text-based content along with photography, video, and other imagery.
IGTV and Instagram Live
If stories are Instagram’s answer to Snapchat, then IGTV is their answer to YouTube. With Instagram TV, businesses and other content creators can start their own “television” channel, and then program it with vertically-oriented, full-screen video content.
Instagram has launched a separate IGTV app to deliver the full experience, but IGTV content can be watched through Instagram, too. Unlike stories, IGTV is intended to house long-form video content. Think how-to videos, product demos, and narrative content like television programs. IGTV offers businesses the ability to create unique video content targeted to their ideal prospects, and then keep them coming back.
Instagram Live capitalizes on the live video broadcasting format popularized by Facebook. It’s an excellent way for businesses to bring customers breaking news, significant product announcements, or live Q&A sessions. Live gives companies instant access to their customers.
These Features Seem Redundant. Is That a Concern?
You can indeed find stories on at least three platforms, video channels on two, and live streaming on at least three. So why is Instagram important?
Because not every person uses every platform. If there was perfect user crossover across all social media providers, you could focus on the largest one and be finished, but that’s not the case. There are certainly power users that are active on all of them, but most people choose one or two platforms and focus their limited time there.
This is the best reason of all for getting involved with an Instagram Business profile. You need to be active on all of the major social platforms if you want to get your brand and your content in front of the maximum number of people possible. If you leave out Instagram or any of the other big players, you cut out all of the users that focus primarily on that platform. And that can be a lot of people.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Instagram for business can be harnessed to spread your message effectively, and how social media, in general, can benefit your marketing efforts, give us a call.
If you’d like to know how the Yellow Pages can help grow your business, you should probably keep that to yourself.