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Use Instagram to connect with your audience

Editor's note: This article was first published in The News & Observer of Raleigh on May 14, 2015 under the heading "Ask the experts."

Photos are an emotional way to get people to connect with products, memories and especially other people.

To make those connections with potential customers and to build followers, the photo and video sharing social media site Instagram might just be what small-business owners need, says Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media, a Cary-based social media marketing firm.

“Instagram is a community where people interact with each other,” Tobin said. “Be engaged, active, and respond to comments from your followers. Find other communities similar to yours, and connect with audiences in those communities, too.”

Tobin says owners need to invest some energy into their posts and not simply use Instagram to push their products.

“Instagram’s mission is to capture and share the world’s moments, not just ‘photos,’” he said.

People want to learn something and to be inspired. Elicit emotion and make your followers feel something with your images.

Add links to your site in your profile and use hashtags to help people find your site.

“For one of our clients in the food industry, it’s the moment on your child’s first birthday when she smashes her first birthday cake and gets icing all over her face, and the laughter and joy that was exchanged with you and your partner across the room,” Tobin said. “That moment, captured on camera, and shared with the brand community, is the kind that elicits strong emotions.”

Food, fashion, beauty and travel brands tend to do best on Instagram as their products and the lifestyles surrounding them are exactly the types of content people share naturally on the social media site every day. And small-business owners can learn from larger companies on what types of images they should post.

“Some brands to watch on Instagram are Starbucks, Benefit Cosmetics and Nike,” he said. “You’ll see that their content shows their products as part of an aspirational lifestyle as opposed to making the product front and center in every post.”

Consider quality over quantity and shoot for no more than one or two posts per day, Tobin said.

Don’t post for the sake of posting, and it is okay to go for a few days with no content if you don’t have anything good to share.

Reach Teri Saylor at Find her on Twitter @terisaylor and on Instagram

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