Back in 2010 Instagram was the new kid on the block, garnering 1 million users in just two months. Fast-forward five years and the photo based social network now has over 300 million users (at the time of writing this is only 2m less than Twitter!) and is only gaining popularity.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Instagram is the new Facebook where the cool kids hang out (like Facebook back in its heyday before parents started trying to be ‘friends’ with their children). A celebrity loving, pet awing, meme-tastic place saturated with endless images of brunches in ‘rise’ filter and shameless selfies with equally shameless hashtags (search #girl #beauty #summer #makeup to be truly amazed by the vanity of the millennial generation).
No longer just for the hashtag-loving hipsters, brands and businesses are acutely aware of how powerful Instagram is; an app dedicated to making things look their best (or possibly better than they really are) is in many ways a marketer’s dream. Not only are businesses using the app to connect with their customers and perpetuate their brand image, but also as a site to display their products with the intention of a conversion to purchase. In fact, Dane Atkinson from SumAll explained that ‘when it comes to likes, comments, sharing and all of that, engagement from Instagram users is as much as 10 times greater than other platforms like Facebook and Twitter’.
Sounds perfect, right?
Despite the undeniable pros of Instagram, it is hard to navigate as a business as it is only operable on mobile phones and tablets. Consequently, managing and collaborating content is extremely difficult. You can’t put any linking text in (other than in your bio or unless you use a third party applications Like to Buy or Like to Know) so measuring success in terms of website traffic is a hard task too. Instagram can also be a really daunting place if you feel your company is not very visually led...
First up, the fat thumbed among us may breathe a sigh of relief as Ink361 is a free tool that lets you manage your Instagram account on the web rather than on your mobile phone. You can use it to like and comment, follow or unfollow other users, create albums, search users and hashtags and even share with non-Instagram users.
Crowdfire can help a business reach out to the right people and grow a social network. Previously known as JustUnfollow, the tool lets you unfollow disinterested users, find new users who are interested in your product, and grow your audience. Users can follow/ unfollow up to 50 users per day for free but there are paid plans that will remove these limits. It has a fantastic feature called ‘Copy Followers’ that basically nicks all the most active followers from any Twitter/ Instagram account you like, and displays them to you –perfect for extending your audience.
Just because your business or product is not particularly visual, does not mean you can’t exploit Instagram for its promotional purposes. With text tools like ‘Over’ you can add funky and fabulous texts or artwork to basic images to visualise what you wish to convey to your customers.
To make interaction with customers and collaborators as easy as possible, Repost installs a simple extension that allows you to quickly repost a photo or video that you like. What’s more, you can view what and who is getting reposted the most, which is extremely beneficial for social media analytics.
With the brightness adjustment, filter selection and contrast options, Instagram photos are somewhat of a labour of love, and so you’d probably like to display your pièce de résistance on your website too. SnapWidget then, is your best (cyber) friend. Used by more than 100,000 websites daily, it is the most popular Instagram Widget that allows you to quickly and easily embed a photo gallery in your website or blog.
6) VSCO Cam
If you struggle to take nice photos on your phone and/or find your images a little lacking, then a tool like VSCO Cam may be the answer to making your images interesting. In complete opposition to Instagram’s own filters, VSCO Cam offers an array of striking, unique image sharpening filters to distinguish your image from the everyday mundaneness of its content. We also love Afterlight (Apple or Android for 79p) as an alternative photo editing app, with 74 filters, 78 simple and 15 adjustments, making your photos appealing has never been easier!
TakeOff’s tagline, ‘Schedule Instagram Posts Smartly’, perfectly sums up this tool. Created by Crowdfire, TakeOff is a free tool that helps you to time when you post your images to Instagram, ensuring it is when your followers are most active. As if that wasn’t smart enough, TakeOff also analyses your caption to suggest relevant, high discovery hashtags, and even has a photo search option full of high-quality, C-C licenced images to keep your Instagram active. We also use Latergramme, which offers a similar scheduling service and can be used on a mobile or a computer.
Collecto is the best option for a free data analytics tool for Instagram. The basic option lets you sync your data and get interesting stats about your account, offers enhanced browsing features to let you browse images in a new way and lets you organise your images into albums to make them easier to find. If you really want to run with the big boys, Curalate is the world’s leading marketing and analytics suite for the visual web. Used by the likes of BuzzFeed and Gap, it comes at a hefty price tag, but you can apply for a demo before shelling out.
Not exactly a tool but helpful nonetheless, Instagram has its own site for Instagramming businesses. Instagram itself is all about helping brands to grow using the app and so has a really informative blog for businesses with useful content strategy tips on how to gain more followers and create engaging content. It also has an ‘Inspiration’ section, spotlighting brands that are using Instagram successfully and API examples, as well as highlighting hashtags to watch.
And if you are really looking to invest…
Piqora is a multi-channel visual content marketing platform that collects and assesses socially validated photos on Instagram and other visual networks. Trusted by big names such as Condé Nast and Etsy, it allows you to instantly see all your best images in one place. From there Piqora helps customers to schedule your best content to Instagram and your website, launch an Instagram Photo Contest to collect and manage UGC, as well as measure revenue and ROI. However, Iconosquare offers a free alternative that still provides you with key metrics about your account: how many likes you’ve received, your most popular post etc., making measuring your success on Instagram a whole lot easier.
We hope this list has given you some insight into how to use Instagram effectively for your business. Instagram is all about conveying your personality, so stay true to your brand, keep it simple and get snapping!
If you love any other Instagram tools or apps let us know! We’d love to try something new.
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