Instagram has over 900 million active users, less competition and more engaged audiences than Facebook and Twitter. And unlike Facebook, it’s adoption and rates of usage are still growing like a weed. This is one social media platform that you ignore at your own peril.

Although some perceive Instagram to be the exclusive domain of beautiful tanned people and their equally beautiful pets, it is in fact a powerful tool for businesses with constantly evolving advertising potential.

And like all social media platforms, Instagram is constantly evolving in terms of what it offers users and advertisers.

For example, it has just announced the introduction of their latest feature, IGTV. Something of a YouTube competitor, it means long form video has been added to the platform’s ever-expanding list of can-dos.

Understanding Instagram users

Instagram is particularly advantageous for industries which target a younger audience. The platform is supremely popular amongst millennials; 60% of users are under 30, an additional 33% are 31-49.

Furthermore, with women constituting 68% of active users, Instagram is the ideal platform for reaching the young female demographic. That’s a huge skew towards the fairer sex, and one that isn’t seen on other social media platforms.

Industries favoured by Instagram

Instagram is all about visual content. This medium naturally gears itself towards certain industries more so than others. A florist, event planner or travel company will likely find it easier to create beautiful content for their Instagram page than a recruitment agency or law firm.

Indeed, industries that sell on visuals such as fitness, food, beauty, fashion, automotive and creative based industries are best placed to thrive on Instagram.

However, that is not to say that less glamorous service-based industries cannot also use this platform effectively. They simply have to employ a little bit more creativity.

FedEx doesn’t exactly score high on the wanderlust scale but they have managed to curate a highly respectable social media following. This is largely because they have been able to showcase what they do in a creative way and look good whilst they do it.

Fedex instagram
Fedex manages to find a beautiful, romantic angle on its brand for Instagram.

For service orientated businesses the most advisable social media strategy to employ is to focus on showcasing the people and process behind the service.

Brands that tell a story through their social media and appear personable will always have a higher level of success than those that only focus on the products they sell.

Constantly evolving advertising options

Instagram offers significant advertising potential with several innovative options available to brands.

Instagram Stories Stories are ephemeral content displayed at the top of follower timelines just under the Instagram logo. Stories last for just 24 hours, and feature a host of fun one-touch animations and graphics.

Perhaps most importantly from a business perspective, Instagram stories are discoverable, meaning users can find them even if they don’t follow the account. According to Instagram *‘of the 400 million accounts using Instagram Stories, one third of the most-viewed stories come from businesses, and one in five stories gets a direct message from its viewers.’ *

They are also perfect for capturing behind the scenes style content as well as experimenting with different styles of posts such as photo, short video, Boomerang (GIF- like image) and live video.

Influencer advertising Another form of advertising available to a diverse array of industries is influencer advertising. This is an arrangement whereby you find an individual with a significant social media following that would appeal to your ideal market audience and pay them to endorse your product or service on their own social channels.

For best effect, these influencers need to incorporate your product or service in an authentic way.

These posts essential function as trusted referrals you would expect from a friend. In recent years this form of advertising has usurped celebrity endorsements traditionally used by big brands. Even large companies with enviable advertising budgets have ditched big name celebs in favour of influencer created content - simply because its more effective.

Many businesses have proclaimed to have found great success by using this strategy, however with an increasingly saturated market of influencers it’s important to understand that a high social media following does not necessarily equate to a high level of engagement. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity, and when it comes to influencers, ‘fit’ between the influencer and the brand is critical.

In industries where aspiration is a key motivator, influencers can often play a critical roll. Often athletes or fitness and lifestyle experts such as Daniel Conn can be hugely effective in landing your message in the fitness industry.

Sponsored posts The most traditional form of advertising on Instagram is the sponsored post. Effectively it’s a regular post that appears in users feeds that is marked as a ‘sponsored post’ to let users know it is paid placement. Currently one in every five posts showed to a user is a sponsored post.

One effective way for all industries to achieve a groundswell momentum in their social media is to use sponsored posts to ‘boost’ their most effective organic posts. That is, use ordinary Instagram posts to test which gets the best engagement, then put some spend behind it to amplify its positive effect.

Finding the right approach for your brand and industry

In truth, most products and services can marketed effectively on Instagram with the right planning and strategy. It’s just some might need a more creative, left-of-field approach.

But as we’ve covered those industries particularly suited are fitness, food, beauty, fashion, tourism, automotive and anything creative-based. Simply put, these are aspirational categories dealing in very visual subject matter that lends itself very well to the Instagram platform.

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