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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 2 years ago

Use Instagram effectively for your business

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How to leverage social media into a powerful business tool.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Beth Robertson, owner and designer of Sarasota-based children's clothing line Shades Kids, uses Facebook and Instagram to promote her company. While Facebook has a higher volume of followers — 34,100 to 15,6000 — Instagram gets a better better return on her social media investment.

Instagram, says Robertson, gets more likes and comments, and has an overall better engagement with customers and would-be customers.

The most important aspect of Instagram, Robertson says, is an eye-catching image. “Once you have that,” she says, “it helps if you can do something that's engaging.” That could be tagging a friend who might be interested in the product or asking a question. Robertson says if she posts a photo of new products, she might include a question at the end such as “Do you love them as much as we do?”

Robertson takes a lot of her social media photos herself, including behind-the-scenes shots of the company and products.

The company also shares Instagram photos other people have posted of their children wearing Shades Kids clothing, which has the added bonus of providing authentic look for the brand. Shades Kids also does two big professional photo shoots a year for use on its website and social media.

Effective use of Instagram, which Facebook owns, requires constant upkeep. Robertson, for one, tries to post at least two images a day to Instagram.

Because Instagram is a visual platform, it lends itself to the retail, food, entertainment and beauty industries, says Nicole Carbon, a social media strategist with Sarasota-based Web Jarvis. But there are other industries that can use Instagram well, too. Carbon says one of Web Jarvis' clients is a crane company that uses Instagram to show images of its cranes lifting air conditioning units and other large objects.

One of the goals with Instagram, for any business, Carbon says, is engagement. “Likes, comments, follows — that's huge,” she says. “When you have that engagement, you're staying top of mind with people.”

Another key, Carbon says, is to show the culture behind a brand and the voice behind posts. By doing that, Instagram can allow companies to create emotional connections with people.

Profile information on Instagram is important to pay attention to as well, Carbon says. Profile photos should be representative of the brand, and for many companies, the best way to do that is with a logo. Bio information should be filled out thoroughly and include a company's website. “Give them a call to action that way,” she says.

On each image on Instagram, captions can convey additional information. Plus, people search Instagram using hashtags, so Carbon recommends using 25 to 30 hashtags on each post. That includes ones with geographic targeting, such as “#sarasotaflorida” or “#craneservicessarasota.” Robertson says, “You want to use hashtags that are popular, that people are going to look up.”

To increase viewers, Shades Kids sometimes pays to promote posts. Robertson says the company spends about $1,000 to $1,5000 a month promoting posts through Instagram and Facebook. It doesn't promote the majority of its Instagram posts, usually only special ones about topics, such as new collections.

Doing Instagram right takes time. That's why Robertson says her next hire will be a full-time social media and customer service employee. “It's gotten to where it takes several hours out of my day, but it's necessary,” she says. On average, at least 60% of the people visiting the Shades Kids website come from social media. “The more people who go to your website, the more sales you're going to have,” she says. “It's definitely worth the time investment.”

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