YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With more than a billion users on Instagram, small business owners can reach new customers and even sell products or services – if they employ best practices.
That was the message at the Social Media Essential Brown Bag Series, a free social media workshop that took place Tuesday in Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University. Jamie Jamison, YSU instructor and so-called Instagram “influencer,” provided a group of some 50 students and community members with tips, techniques and insights from her own professional experience as a social media manager for White House Fruit Farm.
“Traditional marketing is changing,” Jamison said. “Instagram is definitely the way that most businesses are communicating with their customers and their potential customers and clients and even their friends. It is the way that most businesses are turning, and Instagram allows us to engage visually with their products, with their people or services that comprise their business everyday.”
Recent data from Hootsuite, a popular social media management platform, shows that one billion people use Instagram. Of those users, 80% follow at least one business, 72% have bought a product they saw on the platform, and 71% of U.S. businesses have an Instagram presence. In fact, Instagram has more than 25 million business profiles currently.
The first thing that a business should do is focus on its message and add “a real brief synopsis of your business” to the biography line of the Instagram profile, she said. Branding on Instagram should be consistent with the overall brand of the company or nonprofit organization.
“This is very important because this is your opportunity to connect with your ideal customers, clients and friends,” she said.
Instagram is a communication tool for converting and connecting with customers, she said. Users should follow other users whose focus is similar and who have a large base of followers to improve their chances of expanding their own network with potential customers who are interested in their products and services.
Additionally, geotagging Instagram posts can increase engagement by 79%, she noted. A geotag assigns geographical identification metadata to a photo or video so users can find it. “People tend to search in the general area” for products and services rather than a specific address, she said.
For businesses with a product to sell, Jamison said they can tie their Instagram profile to an online shopping cart. By using an e-commerce platform such as Shopify, or establishing a business Facebook account, “they can actually put products on their Instagram with a shopping back that takes a customer straight to their website” to purchase the product.
Proper hashtagging can expose a brand to a broader audience, and Jamison touted the benefits of having a branded hashtag. Creating a branded hashtag helps users search businesses chronologically, and provides “an opportunity for your clients to tag their photos, and that would give you in turn additional content,” she said.
She advised businesses to use “thumb-stopping photos” that make users “pause and stop and look at the photo and hopefully do something once you see it,” she said. Content should “inform, educate and entertain,” while remaining consistent with the brand of the company.
“You want to make sure that there is some consistency of brand with the Instagram,” she said. “So it’s very easy when someone chooses to follow you that they understand what that brand or that business is all about.”
To that end, she advises business owners to be selective about what they post. For example, if a company is a family business, than pictures of the owner’s family and kids make sense. “But if they are not part of your business, then they should probably not be on your Instagram page and you should stick as close to the brand as you can,” she said. However, more personal pictures can be posted in an Instagram story to display one’s personality, she noted.
That consistency should be maintained across all social media platforms, said Lori McGlone, owner of McGlone Media in Youngstown. McGlone was the second presenter at the workshop.
“Each platform still should have a general sense of who you are as a brand and what you are willing to offer and help people with,” McGlone said. One way to do that is to use the same profile picture for each platform so they are easily recognized by users. “If you have the consistency across all of your median that you use, that helps brand your business,” she said.
The username should be the same for each profile page as well so it is recognizable, she noted. This makes it easier for customers to hashtag or mention a business on their own social media pages, thereby increasing the chance to lead potential customers to that business.
To avoid overuse of social media, McGlone advised businesses to consider which social media platform works best for their business. But once a platform is chosen, she said it’s important to use it consistently.
“As a business, you don’t necessarily have to post everyday [on Facebook]. What I think is more important is really determining what message to get out and what type of interaction you have with your clients,” she said. “They know they’re going to at least get updated about what’s going on at that business throughout the week.”
Adam Earnheardt, chairman of the Department of Communications at YSU, said three other Social Media Essential Brown Bag Series will be held this semester. Each event will focus on a specific social media platform including Twitter, Facebook Live and Snapchat. The events are free to attend, but registration is required.
Details about the upcoming series can be found at YSU.edu/news/free-social-media-talks-cover-instagram-twitter-facebook-live-snapchat.
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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