What is Instagram and Why it is Critical for Your Business

Instagram has been a growing force as a social network since its first launch in 2010. Now acquired by Facebook 2 years after its launch, Instagram is now the 7th most popular social network in the world.

Statistic: Most famous social network sites worldwide as of September 2017, ranked by number of active users (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Since the acquisition in 2012, Instagram continues to be increasingly relevant with over 800 million active users to date. Growth has been exponential year over year with the potential to one-day surpass Twitter and Facebook.

Infographic: Instagram Now Has 800 Million Users | Statista

For those unfamiliar with how Instagram works, Instagram is a photo-sharing platform that enables users to share, edit, and engage with each others content. You can tag the photos with popular hashtags similar to Twitter so that users can discover your work. You can create stories similar to Snapchat to share in-the-moment experiences.

If you haven’t started an Instagram for your business, it’s not too late. Brands and companies have just begun to adopt Instagram in their content strategy, and it will take years for the market to become overly competitive.

Infographic: Brands Are Flocking to Instagram | Statista

The lack of competition provides an opportunity to invest in an undervalued advertising platform with incredible reach. But if you’re not into paying for clicks, here are five ways Instagram can make a significant impact on your business for free.

1. Future of E-Commerce

Amazon has been taking over the world of e-commerce, making it easy and secure to buy any products online. Shopify has made it easy for anyone to create and start a professional online store. The future of retail is shifting online, and Instagram acts as an intermediate between products and audience.

Instagram excels at promoting products. With a well-planned content strategy, you can leverage photos and stories to build a positive experience around your product, and strengthen your brand to a broad audience. With products so readily available, people are more concerned about what to buy versus where they should buy. Use this to your advantage to draw a crowd, and create a demand through the power of social media.

Instagram has recognized their strengths in promoting products. So much that Instagram is slowly rolling out the functionality to make it easier for businesses to sell their products. Product tagging is coming soon to business users, which allows business accounts to create direct links to the purchase pages of your product on your photos.

With this functionality, if an Instagram user sees something they like in your feed, they can simply double-click to purchase from your website. As of January 2018, this feature is only available for approved and eligible businesses in the US, but we expect this to roll out worldwide within the year.

2. Undervalued Influencers

Influencers are individuals that have influence over the buying behaviors of potential buyers. Influencers can be journalists, academics, industry analysts, professional advisers and tend to have a large following base.

Similiar to Youtube superstars the like of PewDiePie and Ryan Higa, Instagram has a set of their own. But as a growing business, you’re not looking to target the superstars. There are a vast majority of influencers with 25k-100k followers that you can easily contact to work out a mutually beneficial agreement to promote your products.

These agreements could be as simple as a shoutout for a shoutout, or financially beneficial arrangements where you can work out a kickback to the influencer if they can sell your products. Though these influencers have significantly lower following counts than the Instagram superstars, they can often exert more influence over their followers because of their close-knit community. As reported by Digiday, it estimates that Instagram influencer should cost $1,000 per 100,000 followers.

When looking for influencers, be sure to see how many likes and comments they receive on their photos to determine if it’s an influencer is worth collaborating with. With automation, it is now so easy to buy likes and followers, so the last thing you want is to work with a spammy, nonauthoritative account which can quickly hurt your brand.

3. Sustainable Distribution Channel

You don’t need to invest in an influencer if you can become an influencer yourself. Instagram is not all about sell sell sell, but building a community around your brand.

In the new era of social media marketing, it’s no longer about push marketing to the mass. Building one-on-one connections and personifying the brand is more important than ever.

Engagement is a lot of work. To maintain a sustainable Instagram account, you need to reply to every comment, answer all your direct messages and continue to like, follow and comment on your users content. The cost versus reward is entirely disproportionate though. Engagement will only cost you time, but the reward is the everlasting trust of a user.

The best part of Instagram is that it’s free. Once you have built your account up to scale, it will continue to grow through word of mouth from the trust of your user base.

4. New Channel for Customer Service

Social networks aren’t just marketing platforms anymore. It’s an outlet for customers to contact you. Instagram has two ways to let customers contact you: direct messaging and the contact button.

Direct messaging works similar to any messenger app. Users can click send message button to access the messaging function. Users can send you a text message, images and even share Instagram posts.

You will only see notifications for messages if you are a follower of the sender. If not, the message will be in the request tab until you manually approve it.

As a business, you might receive hundreds of messages a day, and it’s tough to reply to them all on your phone. As a tip, you can manage all your direct messages on your Facebook page after you converted to a business account, or you can download the Instagram app on your Windows PC and manage your messages with the comfort of your keyboard.

After you converted to a business account, you will be able to access a contact information option in your profile. Your contact information can be a phone number, email, or address, and will be publically available.

The button becomes a one-click contact us button to quickly drive leads and increased sales for your business. Again, these features are free and all it takes is converting from a personal to a business Instagram account.

5. Easy to use, Built for Everyone

Instagram works for everyone. From large apparel businesses such as @Nike to emerging service businesses such as @Planoly, Instagram will work for you. Instagram has a well-diverse userbase. According to PewInternet, 23% of Adult Males uses Instagram versus 32% of Women. 59% are between the age of 18-29, 31% between 30-49.

One thing to note is that millennials (born between the 1990s to early 2000s) are over half of Instagram’s user base. So if you’re in the B2B business with the primary focus of targetting top executives for leads, other platforms such as Linkedin will most likely be better for you.

Closing Thoughts

Instagram is critical if you’re looking to maintain a robust social media strategy in the future. But our tip is not to put all your eggs in one basket.

Though Instagram’s growth has been phenomenal, there are two other social networks to look out for: Snapchat and Musical.ly. These social networks operate very differently than Instagram but are quickly on the rise.

Do not be over sentimental to a single social network that is currently working for you. Continue to invest in emerging social networks that are on the rise, so that your business doesn’t get blindsided when the day Instagram loses relevancy.

What other social networks is working for your business? Let us know your story in the comments below.