Instagram_Icon_SmallSome small business owners struggle with how to integrate Instagram into their marketing plan because the site focuses on photographs.  We recommend using Instagram to highlight you, your great staff, and your great customers.  It’s another opportunity to show the human side of your business.  Alternatively, small businesses can use an Instagram presence to garner support for the local charitable causes they support. Instagram can also serve as a strategic platform for supporting your company’s reputation management plan.

1.  Use Instagram as part of your employee recruitment strategy.  Take pictures of different department teams in action to show the culture of the department and the company.

2.  Highlight the human side of your staff.  Every employee has a story to tell, whether it’s something they believe in, a side business, a creative hobby. Ask them to submit pictures of their interests to show the creative side of your team.

3.  Use Instagram to highlight a community-building event or volunteer opportunity.  Does your team take on a project for Make A Difference Day?  Take photos of the day and the project and more of the charity to show your support of the cause.

4.  Use Instagram to highlight the many uses of your product or service.  For example, if you are a caterer post pictures of 50 different events that used catering.

5. Use Instagram for an around the world show.  Do you sell your product online?  Ask customers to take a picture of your product at some place well known in their state or community and send it to you. Compile an album of your product around the state, country or world (depending on your market share).

6.  Use Instagram to highlight the product life cycle.  For example, a coffeehouse could include pictures of the various coffees being delivered, ground, then prepared by the barista.  You could then move on to the customer and their enjoyment either alone or with a group.  This helps you audience to picture themselves at your company. You could post your album with a title like “See what you’re missing?  We miss you.”

7.  Engage with your audience on Instagram.  When we look at a brand’s following, we think wow how special they are that 1 million follow them but they only follow 5.  At My Marketing Cafe, we’re not sure we dig that for the small business world.  We believe it’s important to engage with your audience.  Follow their pictures, make comments, and show your interest.

8.  Hold a contest using Instagram.  Encourage your clients to use Instagram and submit a picture.  You can make this about your product but you don’t have to.  For example, you could celebrate love and ask couples to submit their favorite pictures.  Partner with local businesses to put together a great grand prize.  You may even ask for audience votes to select a winner.

9.  Use the hashtag # with your posts.  The hashtag works just as it does with Twitter and helps to gain exposure and increase your following.

10.  Post often to keep your audience engaged.  For your followers who follow hundreds of brands or people, it will be difficult to appear at the right time in their stream without frequent posts.  But… don’t just post to post, make sure it is still engaging content.

11. Use the Geo-tag feature to hold a contest.  Ask users to post their location using the geo-tag feature and a specific hashtag.

12. Use Instagram to build fame for your company’s celebrity.  Who is a celebrity in your business?  Is it the chef who makes the incredible meals?  Is it the clothing designer? Is it the display artist that puts together your product displays? Is it the front desk person who always delivers world class service?  Use Instagram to build an album of your celebrity at work and promote it using the hashtag symbol, your company name and the word secrets.  Or ‘top secret’, even better!

13.  Create a location page for your company, so others can find you. Instagram is integrated with the Foursquare location database.  Take a picture of your storefront or product and geotag it.

14.  Hold a product naming contest with Instagram.  Are you coming out with a new product?  Hold a contest using Instagram where followers can create a product name and  their own advertisement in the photo.

15.  Hold a photo contest for a company calendar.  Most people use electronic calendars now but you can still follow the calendar strategy to build interest in your brand.  Hold a photo contest and select twelve photos for the next calendar year.  Post these photos on the first day of every month with a clever title.  Post on Twitter too.  And finally, make the photo your cover photo for your business Facebook page.