Can Customers
 
 
Picture Your
 
 
Products?
            
As social media continues to change, maybe
Instagram is right for you!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in a social media world where you can only use 140 characters (for Twitter), pictures are very important for businesses.  Enter the world of Instagram, where you can "share" and "follow" like many other social media types, but the focus is more on imagery than words.  With Facebook changing algorithms recently (read the "Did You Know" section below), businesses are finding it necessary to change up their social media strategy, and Instagram may be a weapon you want to use in your media arsenal.
 
In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that some newer social media isn't intuitive for me.  For this article, the majority of the information came from the Emporia Main Street Special Projects Coordinator,Lauren Woolard.  As a young, professional female, Lauren represents a target market most businesses would love as a consumer.  Knowing what you don't know in the world of business, and subsequently asking for help, is important as trends change quickly.  Lauren wrote her bullet points about her business Instagram experiences to help provide me some technical training, and I thought this growing social media format was important enough for businesses that I decided to share her thoughts with you.
 
At its core, Instagram is a social photo and video sharing device that contains several devices or "filters" to help dress up your pictures.  It's similar to Twitter or Facebook in that you can follow people or businesses and you can utilize hashtags to emphasize a key point.  Because the emphasis in Instagram is all things visual, text is marginalized to include only necessary or short content bursts.
 
Businesses or organizations using Instagram need to focus their attention on a few key areas that support your brand strategy.  Develop your vision, mission and brand plan, and then make sure your images and information support the reinforcement of those ideals.  Some post types you may want to consider include:
 
1. New Merchandise-  Let your followers know about products as soon as they come out of the box to encourage quick sales.  This also works for daily restaurant specials.
 
2.  New specials/sales-  Give followers a good reason to follow your business  by alerting them of new specials.
 
3.  Reminders of popular items-  Showcase high margin or high volume items to remind consumers to purchase from your business.
 
4.  Using followers as a focus group- Asking consumers which items you should purchase for your business.
 
5.  Showcasing how to use items- You may want to show different ways you can tie a scarf or alternative uses for everyday items in a photo montage.
 
As you are using Instagram, there are a few points of etiquette you should be aware of:
 
Avoid adding a lot of multiple picture posts that jam up peoples feed.  Instead, use an app like pic collage orPic Frame to create a collage.
 
If you showcase merchandise, make sure you add pricing and ordering information.
 
If people ask questions, answer them promptly to encourage sales.
 
Create a business hashtag and encourage followers to use it ( #mainstreet for example).
 
To gain followers, find and follow your existing or potential customers through Instagram.  They will generally follow you back.
 
Don't post more than one or two times per day.  A block of posts just gets annoying.
 
Encourage feedback and consistent usage through contests.  Weekly or monthly giveaways (a "Win it Wednesday" contest was suggested) can get new customers in your door.  Tell people that a like, comment or repost enters them into a giveaway contest to build your audience.  Or, you can develop a contest where customers can picture your products out in the "real world" and tag your business to win discounts and prizes.
 
So, how can Instagram work for specific business types?
 
– Hairdressers can show customer "before and after" style shots.
 
– Animal shelters could post pictures or video of new animals up for adoption.
 
– Big Brothers Big Sisters could encourage their "bigs" to picture activities with their "littles" to build awareness of the program.
 
– Businesses that hold classes, like Studio 11 or Junque Drawer Emporium could show montage examples of projects in various stages.
 
– A restaurant could show their dinner specials.
 
– Home Based Businesses could feature products at house parties or new lines.
 
– Businesses that have daily specials (like bars) could feature special items.
 
– Real Estate firms could showcase available properties. 
 
A recent survey of local high school and college students highlighted the difficulty in reaching the younger public consistently.  Media absorption patterns of individuals under 30 are erratic at best.  Finding different and more effective ways to reach your target market is important for any business with growth expectations.  While new media can be daunting (again, I had to ask for help), times change and businesses need to adapt to remain relevant.
 
For those of you looking for assistance with Instagram, other social media or any business issues, simply contact the Emporia Main Street office for confidential help.  We may not have all the answers, but we probably know how to get you some assistance you can actually use.  And, individual consulting is a free perk with your membership.  We understand that asking questions in a group can be daunting, so let's set up an individual meeting if you are looking for assistance in growing your business.