One of the greatest traits in mankind is the creative ability of people to take new technologies and techniques that were designed for one thing and then use them for something else. How many things designed by NASA or the military have then become commonplace useful items in our lives? (Think VELCRO.) When Al Gore founded the Internet (umm) did he envision Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones that are as powerful as computers of the 1970s being utilized not only by big business but small business as well to conduct online marketing of their goods and services? If you have kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews like my boys, they possess the ability to take any stick, rock, pine cone, teddy bear, Barbie doll—anything created by God or man—and turn it into a gun or a sword.
One of the newest iterations of this super-creative trait is occurring with the expanding use of Instagram as an Internet marketing tool. Launched in 2010 as an online photo-sharing and social-networking service it was originally thought of as a way to share photographs with friends and family by enabling the photographs to be distributed on various social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook.
According to Wikipedia, by December 2010 Instagram had 1 million users. By April 2012, Instagram had over 30 million users. In February of 2013, Instagram announced it had over 100 million active users each month.
Seems like it might be nice to reach 100 million potential customers as part of an inexpensive digital marketing strategy, does it not?
As one would expect, as more and more people began using this new service, some forward-thinking individuals discovered that this new technology is more than just a great way to show Aunt Bertha that your kids can turn a pot lid into a shield and a kitchen spatula into a light saber without having to invite Aunt Bertha to come for a dreaded visit. (I know—Jedi don’t use shields, but that’s actually kind of the point here—the kid doesn’t know better, thinks “outside the box” and in so doing combines the 2 technologies and creates a “Super Jedi.”) These individuals saw that Instagram could be used to promote their business in various ways. In essence, they saw that they could use Instagram as their very own personalized Internet marketing agency and enable them to engage in new forms of online and social media advertising that would normally require the hiring of a digital marketing agency.
In essence, the concept is as old as marketing and advertising itself. Giant marketing-focused companies have mastered this concept. Nike gets us to pay them money to buy clothes that have a “swoosh” on it. Then, as we wear that “swoosh” around we’re advertising for them. Now, if Aunt Bertha’s wearing that “swoosh” it may not be the marketing that Nike was hoping for, but all in all, they win. And all along their customers are paying Nike for the ability to do their marketing for them. But these days it seems that Nike is going as step beyond the idea of having their consumers market for them and choosing instead the more marketable, and larger advertising juggernauts.
Not only does Nike attract the consumer to wear their products for marketing purposes, they get the biggest names is sports to advertise for them.
Obviously, as with any decision affecting your business, before attempting a new strategy a careful analysis needs to be made. Do the products or services your business offers lend themselves to being viewed in an Instagram still photograph? Don’t just immediately think they will not. For most businesses there is a way that utilizing a still photograph can help your sales using the “picture is worth a thousand words” concept. But perhaps your analysis might lead you to conclude something besides Instagram may be what you need. For example, if you’re a plumber it might be hard to intrigue people and gain followers who comment on your photos and share their own with just a still picture. Maybe creating “How To” videos showing homeowners how to do minor plumbing repairs might be a better way to gain customers for a plumber. (An outstanding use of a Content Marketing Strategy by the way.) So maybe something different than Instagram would be, at least initially, a smarter use of your limited and valuable time.
But most likely there is a way for your business to use Instagram as your very own “online marketing agency” or as a part of your broader full-spectrum Internet marketing strategy.
Here are the basic concepts of using Instagram and why it can work for you:
Instagram makes your current customers feel personally connected to your brand or company. Perhaps they are just sharing with others pictures that you have posted via Instagram. Or maybe on your website you can enable your customers to share photographs of themselves enjoying your products or services. If you think about this you will see that this is possible whether you sell chainsaws or fine china, or are promoting your church’s youth group or a dive bar (hopefully not at the same time….).
Additionally, when you are using Instagram to share pictures of your products or services, always remember that your pictures should create hope in your customers or potential customers. If you are running a non-profit charity helping foster kids you could use Instagram to instantly share a photo of a smiling family just after the adoption of a former foster child as you seek donations to better the world. Hope is one of the most powerful of all human motivators. We at Jivaldi implore you to use it wisely.
So let’s consider an outdoors equipment company selling fly fishing gear. Let’s say the picture you post via Instagram is of a fly fisherman in mid-cast, the slow and dexterous curl of the line caught silhouetted against a backdrop of a glorious sunrise on a pristine river backed by the snow-capped mountains of the Rocky Mountain Front. Adding the hashtags “#sunrise”, “#mountainriver”, #flyfishing, and, of course, the hashtag of your outdoors company name will enable people searching for those kind of pictures to stumble across your picture and your business name. As they comment on your photos and/or share them with their friends, your company name is being sent all over the internet. Instant free online advertising.
Figure out the pictures your customers want to see then attach the appropriate hashtags to enable your customer to find them. For example #flyfishing, #mountainsunrise, #mountainlake.Then hashtag your company name to the photo as well.
Finally, when you log in to your account you receive notifications from Instagram if people have commented on your photos. If people are asking about your product or service IMMEDIATELY respond to those. Direct people to your website. And congratulate yourself. You have become your own Internet marketing agency.
As this blog post’s purpose is just to get you thinking about using Instagram to promote your business we won’t look into every example, but one of the best examples of a product that easily lends itself to using Instagram is in the apparel industry. Have customers connect with you via Instagram through using a hashtag that will link them with your Instagram account. You can see a great example of the basic principles of using Instagram here with The R2-D2 Dress (be sure to scroll to the lower part of the “R2 Dress” page to see the Instagram feed).
They are essentially allowing women to tag photos of themselves – wearing these dresses! You have a crazy dress that you want to sell. You give your customers an opportunity to share in your business by adding their photo to your internet marketing plan. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even Yoda to figure out that a customer that hashtags their Instagram pictures with reference to your account is well on the way to becoming a loyal customer.
And what have you done, here? Your business, be it a small business in its infancy or a well-established larger company, has begun to do what marketing giants like Nike do—Customers are paying you for a good or service—AND they’re paying you to become part of your marketing strategy.
Be creative. See if Instagram is a tool you can use. Most likely you can. And maybe this will make you think of some other technology that wasn’t designed with the purpose of marketing your company via the Internet, but could easily and inexpensively be used to do so.