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Instagreatness: What is Instagram and Who is Doing it Right?

By Jessica Brown

Avatar for Jessica Brown

Photography has come a long way from huge cameras and hours spent in dark rooms. Not only has technology made our photographs crystal clear and easy to customize, but it’s made it even easier for us to share our favorite snapshots with the world.

If you haven’t heard of Instagram yet, it’s time you did. Especially if you’re a business owner.

Instagram is a social media platform on which you can share photos and videos with other users using your smartphone. Users crop their photos and videos to squares and can add filters and captions before posting. While users can only post from their smartphones or tablets, they can browse Instagram feeds on the web also. Like Twitter, Instagram incorporates hashtags so that users can find photos on topics they are looking for.

The company launched in October 2010 and by December 2010, it had more than one million users. Today, it has more than 150 million users, and was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion dollars.

It’s obvious that Instagram is a big deal… but why is it such a big deal for business owners?

Instagram has an entire page of their website dedicated to company success stories and tips for businesses on getting the most out of their platform. The success stories include Chobani, Nike, General Electric, and Ben & Jerry’s, all which have thousands of Instagram followers.

But small businesses are seeing success on Instagram, too. Two of my favorite local Instagram accounts to follow in Pittsburgh are the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum and Urban Cottage, a boutique near the Imagebox offices. While the museum shares photos of families learning and enjoying the space, Urban Cottage shares photos of things that inspire them, products, and the City of Pittsburgh.

We’ve seen with Facebook that photos and videos have become extremely important to engagement. Today’s customers are visual, and they like to get to know the businesses they are working with better than ever before. Instagram allows you to post attractive photos – of employees, products, work sites, inspirational quotes, sale information – in seconds. No Photoshop experience needed.

Here are 10 quick tips for getting engagement on Instagram:

  1. Follow back users who follow you
  2. Use hashtags
  3. Get creative and post both fun AND informational photos
  4. Cross promote on your other social networks
  5. Use Instagram to show love to customers and tag their Instagram accounts – with their permission
  6. Take photos that truly represent your brand
  7. Network with other businesses
  8. Be sure to include a link to your website for extra traffic
  9. Make short videos filled with tips or greetings from employees!
  10. Use it to run a photo contest and have users tag your business in their entries