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18 Entrepreneurs Explain How They Use Instagram for Business

For entrepreneurs in first place, don’t rest. There’s an entrepreneur somewhere that’s gunning for the top spot. #competition

A photo posted by CEO Blog Nation : I am CEO (@ceoblognation) on

Social Media is here and it is not going anywhere. Many brands focus on specific social media sites because of the type of updates they can make or the activity level of their target market. Instagram is no different and the photograph heavy site (also short videos) is used by entrepreneurs and business owners to promote brands, communicate with customers and to tell their stories. Rescue a CEO asked some businesses how they used Instagram to help their business. 

1) Document the Process Not the Results

I am a photographer so it might make sense to use Instagram as a portfolio of sorts. But I rejected that right from the start and decided to use it to document the process instead of the results. I post pics of what I’m doing as a professional photographer (locations, lighting setups, meetings, behind the scenes) and then also a little bit of who I am (family, fun, general observations). I use If This Then That (ifttt.com) to auto-populate Twitter with native photos so my tweets don’t include links back to Instagram and then selectively choose which posts will be shared on Facebook. I also made an interesting choice from the very beginning to only post images in black and white. This has been very useful in setting my page apart and getting people’s attention very quickly. Over time I’ve heard from clients, competitors, friends, and total strangers that, “You are always working!” Exactly, because no one wants to hire the guy sitting next to the phone waiting for calls.  

Thanks to Benjamin Weatherston, Benjamin Weatherston Photography

Instagram: @btweatherston!  

2) Communication

My team and I utilize Instagram to communicate with a wide constituency of consumers, professional peers, fans, clients and industry stalkers :). I fulfill a multitude of functions by integrating Instagram into my communication plans. We share news about our music, sports and culinary industry clients, promote PR classes that I offer, recap events and fill human resource needs with strategic posts. I’ve been successful at identifying professionals to barter services with and tracked down critical resources and vendors in a matter of moments such as make up artists for a photo shoot, stylist for an award show and casting for a music video. Further, by allowing simultaneous posting to Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, posting to Instagram saves time and makes social media management more efficient. The use of hashtags is an incredible way to aggregate data, and aid me in quantifying activity, trends and more.

Thanks to Trea Davenport, Trea Day

Instagram: @treadavenport / @treaDayMPR

Before and after of the dresser we just did! #paintmebeautiful #paintedfurniture #beforeandafter A photo posted by Paint Me Beautiful (@paintmebeautiful1) on

3) Showing is Better Than Telling

My company’s called Paint Me Beautiful and we take old beat up furniture and make it look brand new again. Sometimes we have to fix some things but mostly we just paint the pieces using chalk paint. Instagram is ideal for us to use because it helps us to show potential customers photos. The before and after type photos are especially helpful for people who have trouble picturing things. Since we’re still so small I have to focus my marketing on specific social media outlets, Instagram has had the biggest impact on our customers so far.

Thank you Hillary Swingle, Paint Me Beautiful!

Instagram: @paintmebeautiful1

4) Impulsive Purchases

Instagram is a large part of our business. We sell women’s and children’s jewelry and most of the time the purchases are impulsive. Instagram allows us to show different products being worn at various times of the day which catches peoples eye. With sales largely based around impulse connections, we need to be consistent and get imagery in front of them often. If you show people enough variety, eventually its going to strike a nerve and convert into a sale. You have to be consistent and you have to provide entertainment. We think of Instagram as a chance to show we are human and to entertain our customers. If you provide value, it will return sales.

Thank you to Elissa Spektor, Love & Pieces!

Instagram: @loveandpiecesig

5) Unlike Any Other Platform

Businesses should keep in mind that Instagram is unlike any other social media platform. There are currently no native analytics offered and linking off-site is nearly impossible. It’s a social environment that is very self-contained, and all content created for it should keep that fact in mind. Instagram content should be extremely high quality and worth followers’ attention. It should not be for vanity or pure promotion. Only one photo occupies the entire screen at a time. Make your photo count.

Thanks to Lisa Parkin, Social Climber!

 

 

6) Stay Up to Date & Continue our Brand Story

As a business with visually stunning products, Instagram is a natural fit to keep our customers up to date with products and continue our brand story. I Thought of You keeps our fans engaged by posting a variety of content, such as daily affirmations, product beauty shots, sales, contests, and promotions. Keeping the visuals original and relevant, along with appropriate hashtag use, are the keys to a successful Instagram page.

Thanks to Mandy Nagel, I Thought of You!

Instagram: @ithoughtofyouxo 

 

 

7) Behind the Scenes Peek

I use Instagram as a behind-the-scenes peek into my life – what I eat, where I travel, how I workout, etc. I always pepper in my honest thoughts and feelings along with some health and wellness tips or an inspirational quote. Once in awhile, I use it to promote a program, eBook or upcoming event.

Thanks to Marissa Vicario, Marissa’s Well-Being & Health!

Instagram: @MarissaVicarioLink

8) Product Promotion, Launches & Events

Instagram has been a key tool for our influencer and blogger relations. We’ve seen a lot of brands utilize bloggers and Instagram elite as brand ambassadors. Brands are utilizing these influencers and their loyal followers as an effective platform to easily promote a product, launch, or event. Our agency has developed a long list of bloggers and Instagram stars…and these are women and men that we are working with on a daily basis, so we have been able to build a strong relationship. Using these relationships, we’re able to get our clients in the front of today’s celebrity…the digital darlings. Our connections certainly help since we’re seeing these influencers getting inundated with brand requests as brands are adapting and understanding their reach and following.

Thanks to Ali Grant, Be Social PR!

Instagram: @BeSocialPR 

Spread some holiday cheer. Wear Arctica Side Zips. #JoinFun #skiracing #snow #winter A photo posted by Arctica Race (@arcticarace) on

9) Spark Dialogue with Fans

Instagram is huge for us. For a lifestyle apparel brand, it is an excellent mechanism for solidifying our brand as well as leveraging crowdsourced content. It seems Instagram works well for a few niches: models, rappers, young kids, and clothing/lifestyle brands. Thankfully, we fall in the last category and see some real ROI on our Instagram. Like I’ve said in other columns, ski racing is not a huge market, but those involved in the sport are super passionate and visually oriented. Instagram is a perfect platform to spark dialogue with our fan base. At this point, fans are sending in photos hoping to be featured on our Instagram feed, which is great because we have a steady stream of content and we have engaged fans.

Thanks to Alex Birkett, Arctica Race!

Instagram: @arcticarace

10) Building a Community

I use Instagram to communicate with creative and visual solopreneurs, business owners and entrepreneurs. I allow them to see my personality, attempt to inspire and build rapport which is really important to the coaching relationship. I look specifically for particular hashtags and then like, comment and follow my peers and prospective clients. For me it’s all about building a community. I love the people of Instagram and being able to engage with people from all over the world through images and video is
awesome!

Thanks to Ebonie Allard, The Entrepreneur Enabler!
Instagram: @ebonieallard

11) Showcasing Photos

Since we operate through e-commerce, we heavily use social media to reach our target audience, especially Instagram. Our advertising is organic, but has engaged thousands of followers across various channels, and over 4,000 followers on Instagram. I often use Instagram to promote my business by showcasing photos of our pieces when we make them, which allows followers and potential customers to get an idea of all the options we have for styles, fabrics, colors, etc. I also share photos from I receive from our customers, wearing our product, giving potential customers a visual idea of how something looks “in real life”, on a person, or in a group. We handle a lot of custom wedding items, so I enjoy seeing how our products became part of our customers’ special day. I build relationships with wedding photographers by sharing their photos when they have photographed our customer’s wedding. Instagram is a very important tool, driving well over half of our business.

Thanks to Elspeth G. Crawford, Belles of Cotton!

Instagram: @elspethcrawford 

12) The “In Crowd”

Instagram plays a huge role in our marketing strategy. In just a little over 9 months, we went from 57 followers, to 10k+. Instagram is where we connect most with our customers and make them feel like they are in the “in crowd” with our company. We regularly post sneak peeks to new collections, promo codes, how you can win free product,  when we are holding sales, sometimes we even hold exclusive sales just for our Instagram followers. This makes them feel special and connected to our brand.  We also use Instagram as a way to show our products off, how to style different prints different ways. I can search our hashtag (#lot801) and easily find a photo of a child in Hong Kong wearing our apparel and repost it (with their permission of course) for the world to see. Sort of like, look how known our apparel is, even kids in Hong Kong wear our apparel and this is how they style it. Customers LOVE being featured on our page. They feel famous for a day.

Thanks to Lindsay, LOT801!

Instagram: @LOT801 

13) Helping Make Connections

Instagram has proven to be a very valuable platform for the Vint & York brand, with a strong connection to revenue, really helping us making connections with our customers. We love the interactive component, and seeing how our glasses fit within the daily lives of those who wear them. One of the things we have been experimenting with on Instagram is how we can connect it with what we have going on in our brick-and-mortar store in NY, Soho. With the direction social media is heading, these casual interactions are slowly becoming just as powerful as traditional advertising, for garnering consumer impressions and building brand awareness. We implemented an in store discount for those who visit our brick-and-mortar store: customers who take a selfie in our frames inside the store get a 10% discount on their order. It’s also a great platform for networking with influencers. A few of our favorite Instagrammers like Le-happy (@luanna90) have helped drive traffic to our site, by featuring Vint & York on their page and connecting us to a whole new audience of followers. Her post received 83.4k likes and 386 comments and have gained us an average of 500 followers in just one day.Our customers are inherently mobile, so Instagram is the perfect medium to reach them. Some of them don’t even have a Facebook account, but use Instagram on a daily basis.

Thanks to Alexandra, Vint & York!

Instagram: @VintandYork

Behind the scenes – Hair Care Commercial #LALove

A photo posted by Live.Art.Love Creative Company (@liveartlove) on

14) Behind the Scenes Shots & Inspiration

As a small company and team we use Instagram to connect to followers by showing behind the scenes and give inspiration to our artistic community. We find that showing followers how we work ignites them to move forward with pursuing their own passions in business.

Thanks to Tiffy Diamond, LiveArtLove.com!

Instagram: @LiveArtLove

15) Share our Philosophy

One of the greatest frustrations amongst sustainability entrepreneurs is this sense that we are not doing enough to solve the problems we face as a society. I think that part of the reason that people don’t do more is that it’s not always so obvious what one can do to help. Instagram allows us to share our philosophy in a very visual way. Whether it is an image of a used detergent bottle we’ve just cut in half and repurposed in the store or a photo of our laundry bags made from recycled materials, it just makes telling a story so much more instant and easy to understand. Sometimes, words just get in the way and, in that sense, Instagram is great as well. We would like to think that we can inspire people to make little changes in their lives based on what we post.

Thanks to Phillipe Christodoulou, The Eco Laundry Company!

Instagram: @theecolaundry

16) A Mix of Things

Whether it’s sending empowering messages about work, feeling good about yourself and having fun and/or showcasing my three beautiful children and the endless fun we have all around NYC. We are always on a new and exciting venture. In addition, I also love to showcase my events on Instagram to give my followers a peek into all the FabULyss fun that we have. Instagram is a truly amazing vehicle to let people into your world via photos and your hashtags. Due to the crowded market share, the only way to get ahead and stand out from the pack is to make some noise.

Thanks to Lyss Stern, Diva Moms!

Instagram: @diva_moms

17) Great Conversations

We use Instagram because it’s an inherently visual medium. The photography and imagery comes first — and we think that’s a great way to tell our story: showcasing independently crafted goods from artisans around the country. It’s also one of the best ways to connect with both makers and the people who are interested in them. We love interacting with them and getting their feedback on our brand, story, and products. People seem to really love the way we tie in our grid with our individual photos (check it out on mobile!): It’s a unique way to tell the story of our brand and makers through photography and typography, and get people excited for what’s coming next. We’ve actually been lucky enough to find some of our makers through the medium. And finally, the key to Instagram? Interact, interact, interact. We think of it as a vehicle for great conversations with a potentially super passionate user base.

Thanks to Goods of Record!

Instagram: @goodsofrecord

18) Creative Images & Quality Content that Connects

For hotels, Instagram is most beneficial when combining creative images and high-quality content to really connect with this passionate community of influencers. When posting, you can look to inspire your road warriors by snapping exotic destinations, over-indulgent cocktails, and local hotspots.

Thanks to Anna Crowe, seoWorks!

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Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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