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BLOG: A picture is worth a thousand words — Instagram

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AKRON (Sept. 30, 2013) — The age-old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" has really gotten a digital makeover with the advent of social media.

There are a variety of different photo sites — flickr, PhotoBucket, Picasa, etc. — but one of the biggest names in the photo/video sharing sites right now is Instagram.

I recommend testing various photo or video-sharing sites to see which you like best and what works best for your business. In this blog, I will focus on Instagram because of its easy connectivity with some of the most popular social media sites out there today.

A little history, abridged

October 2010: Instagram was released. By December 2010, Instagram had 1 million registered users.

April 2012: Instagram was acquired by Facebook Inc.

December 2012: Instagram updated its Terms of Service that would have allowed the site to sell users' photos without notification or compensation. This was widely criticized and people started pulling out of Instagram. This led the site to not make this change.

Tips

Facebook's acquisition of Instagram makes it very accessible for anyone on Facebook. Basically, if you already are using Facebook for business, I suggest you keep reading to see how you can boost your presence through Instagram.

Social media is all about trying new ways to reach out and form relationships with your current and potential customers. Instagram is another avenue for that. I think some of the best advice anyone can use on any site is to just start using it on your own. This will help you both learn the ins and outs of the site, while building up your audience.

Like with other sites, while posting on Instagram for your business, you want to think about how you are representing your brand. Social media is meant to be more "fun" than traditional means of reaching out to customers, but you are still representing your brand.

You'll want to make sure that your profile is filled out and have a link to your website. Because of Instagram's relationships with Facebook — Instagram can be used through Twitter as well — this is a site you definitely want to coordinate with other social media platforms. Instagram is all about photos. People like photos. Why not utilize the site if you are already running campaigns on your other sites?

You can use your Facebook page to drive people to your Instagram by promoting contests, such as a "Caption this" photo contest where you post a photo and pick the best caption. Maybe you have a photo of someone with a flat tire. What goes through that person's head? People can have some fun with photo contests.

Videos

As mentioned in the history section, Instagram recently added video to its platform. These videos can be 15 seconds, which is a little longer than its competitor, Twitter's Vine, which allows for six seconds. A Social Media Examiner article said these videos can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, email and foursquare. These images can be embedded into a blog or website, through Instagram's desktop Web browser version. Videos are an option to think about when utilizing Instagram, especially since they are quick.

Suggestions

There are a variety of different topics you can post photos about. You still want to put thought into these campaigns even though they are "just photos." Like the title said, "A picture is worth one thousand words."

We all know that being interactive on social media is important, and the same rings true on Instagram. If you start to get followers, then follow them back. And remember to use hashtags when posting so people who want more information on certain things — like sales, tires, ThrowbackThursday — so that people can find you. Once you become active on the site and you decide it does fit into your marketing plans, placing a button on your website and in your email can also help people find you on Instagram.

Instagram is similar to Twitter in the way that you get a "handle" — your username — and hashtags are popular on the site. If you are already on Twitter, you may want to make the handle the same thing for consistency.

You may want to start following other brands as well from like-industries or from industries that your customers like. For instance, if you hear people in your shop talking about a new restaurant in town, check to see if they are on Instagram and start to follow them. You can also search for businesses to see which of your competitors are on Instagram and what they are doing to interact with customers.

Still wondering what kind of promotions you can do? Some businesses like to use Instagram campaigns to "tease" new products.

Or do you have any customer of the week/month recognition? Put that type of information up on Instagram. Or perhaps even an employee of the month promotion. All that type of posting will help create your brand on social media. It will get people involved in your brand — and that interaction is one of the biggest aims of social media.

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To reach this reporter: jkarpus@crain.com.

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