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How to Use Instagram to Market Your Business

In the 21st century almost every business owner knows that to reach all possible customers, specifically millennials, their business must have a strong presence on social media. For most the solution is setting up a basic Facebook page and updating the page weekly with big announcements or pictures from the business. Some businesses go a step further and run a twitter account with very similar posts. But there is one big social media platform that many businesses are missing. Instagram. With over 300 active monthly users, this platform can be perfect for reaching picture loving consumers. If used correctly, Instagram can be a creative and low-cost medium to market your business and find new customers.

There are 3 steps to effectively marketing your business on Instagram. The first is using the app’s features to find users in the business’ desired target market. This process eliminates thousands of dollars that would be wasted on unwanted viewers in traditional mass advertising mediums. Targeted users can be found through two features: hashtags and picture location.

Hashtags are used routinely among daily users to expand their posts’ viewership and get more likes. Once a user adds a hashtag to their post, it is displayed on the same page with all other users using the same hashtag. For example, someone might add the hashtag “#Gamecocks” (or #Tigers for Upstate viewers) to their post. Now their photo is added to the #Gamecocks page with all other posts that have used the same hashtag. The business owner of a local sports apparel store in Columbia called “Cocky Apparel” that carries Gamecock attire can look up this hashtag and see all posts that have the #Gamecocks hashtag.

Another feature that can be used to the business’ advantage on the Instagram app is the location of photos. Like hashtags, users can add a location to their post and the post will be displayed on a page with other photos at the same location. By using the location feature the owner of Cocky Apparel can type in “Williams-Brice Stadium” or “Colonial Life Arena” to find fans that have recently been at those USC facilities.


By using these features, the store owner will find potential customers that have interests in Cocky Apparel items or local customers that might be in close proximity. The store owner should then scan the user’s profile to determine what other interests they have, where they live, lifestyle preferences, etc. Once the store owner decides if the user is within Cocky Apparel’s target market then the account should opt to follow the customers. This will both increase the brand’s popularity in the region while also developing a dedicated fan base.

Once a business has targeted their customers it can now begin the most important step: interacting with customers and selling the product. Instagram makes it easy to interact with customers using the Direct Messaging feature. Messages can be started by clicking the paper airplane picture in the top right section of the screen on the home page. Direct Messages are easy to type and are a great way to interact with customers if used the right way. To be effective, the first message should be personal, authentic, and point the customer towards a specific call to action.

The messenger should start off by greeting the customer by their name and introducing themselves and their business. ALWAYS include names so the customer knows this is not mass message. Authenticity goes a long way in impressing the customer. Next the messenger needs to briefly explain the similarities between the user’s interests and products that the business offers. Finally, the message needs to close with a call to action to look at a specific product that best fits the user’s interests from the profile scan or asking the customers to drop by the business. These call to actions should include special discounts for the customer by simply showing the message at the time of the purchase. The message must also ALWAYS include a link to the business’ website of choice. This addition will lead to increased web traffic. Here are two examples of messages that Cocky Apparel might send to potential customers.

To a female USC fan user who used the hashtag #Gamecocks but lives out of state

Hi Becky this, is Zack from Cocky Apparel in Columbia, SC. I noticed that you are a big out of state gamecock fan and wanted to let you know that our new Final Four t-shirts have been posted on our website. Use the code #Gamecocks at check-out to receive free shipping! Check our website out at www.CockyApparel.com

To a male USC fan that lives in the Columbia area

Hi Tom this, is Zack from Cocky Apparel in Columbia. I noticed that you are a big hometown Gamecock fan and I wanted to invite to come visit us on Main Street from 8-5 Monday through Friday. We have the new Gamecock polos that will be perfect for gamedays in the fall. Show this message at check-out to receive 15% off your entire purpose. Check our website out at www.CockyApparel.com and I hope to see you soon!

If committed to using Instagram, businesses should spend at least an hour a day completing the process of finding new customers and interacting with them. Some customers won’t respond. Some customers might respond, but not act. Just remember: 10 customers out of 100 messages are more than what you started with.

Just like anything else in business, the better quality of the account the more customers it will attract. Even though the app is free, it can become costly in time. If managing the account is taking up too much time from other areas of business, some outside part-time help might be a good option.

Having a part time account manager and a photographer could be a great addition in making sure new clients are routinely reached and your account has quality photos. These roles will require no more than 10 hours a week and might be perfect for current or just graduated college students with advanced marketing skill sets. Most are experienced with Instagram by using their personal accounts and know tips on how to increase photo viewership (best time of day to post, good filters, creative caption, etc.). They can mostly work from home and are always looking for new roles to put on their resumes. Consistently monitor the account and make sure the outside help is keeping the business’ theme and brand consistent throughout the account.


Now its time to start gramming and watch your business grow!

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