The allure and simplicity of the new digital media channels gets people excited, but the frustration is that no sooner do you get comfortable with one platform and suddenly there is a whole new program to deal with.
Take a few steps back and examine what a small business needs. Case in point, if you have the resources to have a designated social media person, and his only job is to market you online, then you can pretty much participate in every social media channel.
The reality is that just about every reader here does not have that luxury and is confined by how much time and money they have. If this is you, then I suggest you concentrate on a few, and Instagram is high on my list.
Instagram, if you didn’t know, is an app that you download on your smartphone, and setting up an account takes about five minutes. And it’s free.
According to a report by eMarketer, 48.8 per cent of brands in the U.S are using Instagram for social media marketing, and that number is forecast to rise to 70.7 per cent by 2017.
The platform bills itself as a community built on the power of visual storytelling. First launched in 2010, Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012. Today it has some 500 million active monthly users worldwide, and as of June 1, 2016 had about 8.5 million users in Canada.
For your bake shop, the idea is that once or twice a day you will post interesting photos to your account. It’s all about capturing moments, and often the beauty is in the spontaneity.
Businesses have been using the platform from early on, using the simplicity of the app to showcase products in a visual way. This is why the medium is a natural for bakeries, where the mouth-watering products drive the business.
When opening an account, use your business name and you’ll need a profile photo—use your company logo. It will appear in a very small (about a ¼-inch) circle on most smartphones. You can visit business.instagram.com and it will walk you through getting started and provide some inspirational ideas.
Instagram allows you to create a business profile that will include your company’s contact information. It also allows people to get in touch with your business directly through the app.
To do this, you will connect through an existing Facebook account (you will need to be listed as an admin on your company’s Facebook page to make this connection). The Instagram business profile will automatically import the business information from your Facebook page.
Through this connection you’ll also be able to view some follower insights giving you a sense of who your followers are, where they are and what content they’re most interested in.
Once you have a business account you can also pay for promotions on Instagram, targeting users by geography or other metrics.
When it comes to telling your ‘visual story’, it’s as easy as snapping a photo using the Instagram camera on your phone. The app will lead you through a few simple steps. You can add a filter to the image, write a caption to describe the photo, and then you can also add hashtags (words preficed by a #) that make it easier for other users to find you when searching those terms.
For example, let’s say you just baked a chocolate bacon loaf of bread. So you take a picture of the finished product with your phone. Any picture you post should never be edited, Instagram viewers like when you have raw pictures. Add a brief caption describing how wonderful this loaf is and then type in some hashtags.
I once posted a photo of a mixing bowl filled with the beginnings of shortbread. My caption read “The start of some seriously tasty shortbread.” And I added the hashtags #shortbread #toronto #gifts #cookies #online.
In our example, anyone searching the words Bacon, Bread, Chocolate, Toronto will find your photo. Once they see this they have the choice to ‘follow’ you, and that’s what it’s all about. You want followers.
Whenever you post something, it will now appear on all of your followers’ Instagram feeds. If your shop offers daily specials, make sure your followers get a chance to see them, every day. One social media study revealed that top brands post 4.9 times per week on Instagram.
Search for businesses in your area, regular customers, topics of interest that your followers are following. Over time, as you follow more people they will reciprocate and follow you, and your feed will grow.
At any time you can see on your homepage how many people are following you and how many you are following.
To increase and maintain your following you need to do several things:
- Be innovative, you can show short movies as well. People like to see things being made, so show your work in action.
- Change it up. Don’t be afraid to show non-product related items. Show you’re human. By this I mean, as in our case, we sell cookies; I also post pictures of cool foods, non-cookie-related items that I make for staff. I also post pictures of things that I see as my days go by that I think are interesting. This is very important.
Knowing this, you may not want to post much about retirements, but you would want to post items like birthday and anniversary products because all ages have birthdays and celebrate anniversaries.
You also have to think of Instagram as an advertising audience. If you have 1,000 followers, it’s a direct route to them. Some may even respond to your posts, that’s engagement.
Promoting coupons will raise an “eyebrow” so to speak and may turn into sales. It’s worth a try.
Users also have the ability to ‘like’ a photo, which shows other followers that there may be more value in looking at your image.
Remember, you need to take real authentic photos. Food close ups always work, but don’t make it look too staged. Given the quality of smartphones now, this should be easy.
I am always asked what is a better medium for promoting a bakery, Facebook or Instagram. That is not an easy answer. My opinion is that Instagram is super fast and free. Facebook can be free, but it has a paid ad system as well. Use them both, or if you’re really not into technology, just stick to Instagram. It’s easier.