Instagram has one big advantage as a marketing tool over other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Do you know what it is? (I’ll give you a few seconds to make some guesses.)
Here goes: Instagram is unique because people don’t view brands as interruptions, but as part of the experience. Facebook at its core is about following friends and family, and brand messages are often viewed as interruptions. Not so on Instagram. Your best customers—your true fans—will seek out and enjoy what you post on Instagram. That is both a great opportunity and a formidable challenge.
The Instagram opportunity: Most small businesses only think of marketing as a way to attract new customers, and Instagram isn’t the platform to do that. Rather, Instagram is a way to communicate directly with the most important customers you have—your true fans. The opportunity to nurture and engage with your best customers is a huge opportunity and not one small businesses should take lightly.
The Instagram challenge: One of the biggest challenges on Instagram is not to post items that come across as too sales-y (i.e. only posts about your promotions and sales). It’s just as easy for people to unfollow as it is to follow, so it is important to provide images that inspire, delight and engage as well as inform.
How to use Instagram to grow your business
Producing high-quality, enticing and unique visual content requires effort and time (trust me, I know.) One of the best ways to use Instagram—or any creative endeavour—is to take a page from Austin Kleon’s popular book Steal like an Artist and learn from the best. As Kleon explains in his book, taking good ideas, mashing them up and using them in your own way isn’t stealing—it’s creativity.
Examples of Kootenay businesses who are crushing it on Instagram
With that in mind, here are five businesses worth following on Instagram so you can learn from the best. I’ve included what they get right and one take-away from each example.
Kicking Horse Coffee in Invermere
Bio: Kicking Horse Coffee Wake Up & Kick Ass With Kicking Horse Coffee. 100% Certified Organic, Fair trade, Rocky Mountain-Roasted Coffee. kicking.horse/1PjSSv3
What Kicking Horse Coffee gets right: With more than 10,000 followers, Kicking Horse Coffee has more Instagram followers than their 10 closest Canadian competitors combined! One thing they get right is consistency. They post a minimum of 3 times a week and plan out their posts a month in advance. (Full disclosure: My daughter helps design many of the Kinking Horse Coffee social media images.)
Instagram takeaway: Be consistent. Try to post one or two pictures a week. It’s better to add new images at the same rate each week than to dump a whole bunch of photos and then ignore your account for weeks at a time. A side benefit of Instagram is that it will make you photo conscious. Take photos of new products, behind-the-scenes images, your staff at work and clients using your product or service. You can never have too many photos of your business.
Kootenay Soulfood in Cranbrook
Bio: Kootenay Soulfood Company farm-to-table, whole foods restaurant serving beautiful, vibrant, colourful, healing food in a happy, peaceful and welcoming space. eatsoulfood.ca
What Kootenay Soulfood gets right: You can’t go wrong by adding lots of pictures of amazing looking dishes, which Kootenay Soulfood puts on the table every day. They also sprinkle in new menu items and specials now and then in just the right mix.
Instagram takeaway: Get the promotional mix right. If all your posts are promoting your next sales event or are trying to get customers to BUY NOW you’ll quickly loose your audience. But there is nothing wrong with sharing your new products and special sales once in a while. There is a gentle balance between stunning visuals and heavy promotion, and it’s always best to err on the side of good photographs whenever possible.
Portraits by Lucy in Kimberley
Bio: Lucy Hamilton East Kootenay newborn, child, maternity and family photographer located in beautiful Kimberley, British Columbia Canada. lucyhamiltonphotography.com
What Portraits by Lucy gets right: Instagram was made for photographers—and Lucy makes full use of Instagram's features by showing off stunning photos of babies, couples and families. Portrait photography is difficult because people—especially babies and children—are unpredictable. But it is also the most rewarding because you are capturing a moment in time that will never be repeated.
Instagram takeaway: Make your customer the hero. The very best pictures to use are your customers using your product or service. For example, if you are a realtor include photos of a family proudly standing in front their new home. If you make custom cabinets, include a picture of a happy couple standing in their new kitchen. You get the picture.
Kimberley Centex in Kimberley
Bio: Kimberley Centex Groceries - Fuel - Produce - Juice - Coffee.
What Kimberley Centex gets right: Could this be the coolest gas station ever? The Kimberley pit stop is filled to the rafters with local products like baked goods, soup, organic nut milk, mustard, fresh produce, smoothies and monster sized homemade cookies. If you think it sounds delicious, wait until you see the photos—you’ll soon be traveling to Kimberley just to stop in and visit this Kootenay treasure.
Instagram takeaway: Put your products in their best light. Take your products off the shelf and put them on a plain dark or light background—whichever provides the best contrast. Try taking photos outside for the best lighting.
The Chopstick Truck in Fernie
Bio: The Chopstick Truck •Vietnamese Street Food• Food Truck• Fernie B.C. Find us roaming around BC & AB Catering • Festivals • Weddings • Corporate Events kootenaybiz.com/womeninbusiness/2017
What the Chopstick Truck gets right: #hashtag #awesome. I found this delightful Instagram account by using the #FernieBC hashtag. Who says food trucks have to serve greasy burgers? Not in Fernie, where the Chopstick Truck roams around offering fresh, fast and fabulous fare.
Instagram takeaway: Use the right #hashtags. It’s worthwhile to do a quick search and see which hashtags get the most usage. Don’t go crazy with hashtags—keep your posts to nine or fewer. Always use the location tag if applicable, so you’ll be found when someone searches for your local community.
One more Instagram tip
There is one more thing that you can do with your businesses Instagram account—put the images on the home page (Or any page) of your website. Most website platforms allow can connect with Instagram so you can have your most recent Instagram photos appear on your home page. That is an easy way to have fresh images and it will entice more of your web traffic to sign up and follow you on Instagram. Here's an example of the Branding Geek's latest instagram feed:
Did I miss any awesome Instagram accounts?
Do you know of an awesome Instagram account from a business near you. I would love to hear about it. You can message my new Branding Geek Instagram page or leave your comments below.