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Marketing 360® Blog

Should My Small Business Market On Instagram?

Post By Scott Yoder | Social Media Marketing

Instagram is a thriving, image-based social media platform you might be looking to use in your small business marketing.  Here are tips and insight that will help you determine if Instagram marketing and advertising campaigns are right for you.

At the end of 2016, Instagram hit a milestone.  600 million monthly users.  That’s twice the population of the United States.

It’s no wonder every business owner alive is eyeing Instagram – along with most the major social media platforms – as a place to market and advertise.  Instagram meets vital criteria:  millions of consumers are active on it, each potentially receptive to the right marketing message.

The challenge, of course, is reaching the right audience with the right message.  Social media platforms are not ostensibly built for advertising – at least not as far as users are concerned.  However, the platforms themselves – in the interest of profit – are all about advertising opportunities.  Moreover, the opportunity to interact with your audience and develop strong brand awareness is considerable.

The Art of Demographics

Demographics are vital on Instagram for two reasons.

First, consider who tends to be on Instagram.  According to Tech Insider:

  • 90% of Instagram users are under the age of 35, with the 18-35-year-old bracket being the best consumer target.
  • 68% of Instagram users are women.
  • Instagram is more popular in urban areas.  17% of US adults in urban areas use Instagram, compared to 11% in rural areas.
  • Instagram is not the most used photo platform, accounting for only 7% of photo uploads online.  It’s more about quality than quantity.

Pew Research found similar demographic results:

instagram demographic stats

So, if your target demographic is men living in rural areas over the age of 60, Instagram is not likely to be useful for you.  But if you’re targeting urban women in their late 20’s, Instagram has great potential.

The other aspect of demographics you need to understand is data targeting.  Instagram is owned by Facebook, so Instagram Insights ties into the types of demographics data Facebook gathers.

As of this writing, Instagram Insights is fairly new, and they only note demographic data on gender, age, and location of followers.  However, Facebook is now a demographics dynamo, with breakdowns based on income, lifestyle, family status, interests, generation, career, entertainment, health, food and drink, shopping history, digital activities, travel, mobile use, and connections.

Instagram Insights is part of the paid advertising platform.  If your product has a strong match with a particular demographic, you can run ads specifically to that group.

In the coming years, your can expect social media advertising on platforms like Instagram to be highly personalized, which is great for your business.  You can tailor campaigns to specific audiences, which tends to deliver higher ROI.

Are You Instagram-Worthy?

Instagram is photo-sharing app where a business brand can create a visual identity.  But just how does this visual identity develop?

instagram image Consider this article on SoulCycle spinning studios, opening in Toronto, that asks:  How much would you pay to work out at an Instagram worthy gym?

The target audience for this fitness experience is what they call the “gym-mirror selfie crowd”.  That’s a way of saying that their “expansive lifestyle boutique” experience is designed so clients will want to take selfies and share what they’re doing on Instagram.  Margret McNeill, University of Toronto associate professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education, makes the point:

MacNeill sees this rise of public displays of fitness as a kind of New-Age “conspicuous consumption.” “It was a criticism of the leisure class (in the 1800s), those who had inherited all their riches and were able to have very public displays of their leisurely life, to be able to go to the horse races, to play polo,” says MacNeill.

“To some degree, the phenomenon of people putting Instagrams up is a new version of conspicuous consumption — ‘I’m in this gym and you’re not.’ ”

In other words, there are certain products and services that lend themselves to visual branding, particularly from user generated content.

For example, say friends are at Vail on a ski vacation.  On top of the mountain, they take selfies with the grand vista of the ski area behind them.  This creates branding for Vail.   In another, one comments on how warm she is in her Patagonia coat, while another on how much she loves her new Never Summer snowboard.

Each of those products lends itself to this “new-age conspicuous consumption”.  Instagram is a great way to show off that you’re at Vail with your new snowboard.

Say, however, one of them gets a headache.  She takes a pain-relief product.  Is this going to make onto her Instagram page?  Not as likely.  The utilitarian aspect of the product doesn’t have the same “look at me” quality that motivates selfies and social sharing.

This is a consideration, not a rule.  Instagram has case studies across many business types, with different business objectives.  Any business owner with a creative plan has the potential to leverage it for marketing purposes.

This goes beyond just a few snapshots.  Instagram, taking a cue from Snapchat, has a stories feature.  This is a way of creating a slide show of images and short videos that tell a daily story, which disappears after 24 hrs.

Introducing Instagram Stories from Instagram on Vimeo.

For example, a fashion designer puts on her latest outfit, then creates a story of her wearing it around the city that day.  Or a mountain bike manufacturer takes their new model on a long ride, documenting the story of the ride from gearing up, to the toughest move of the day, to the after ride beer.

With stories, you are better able to share your product as an experience.  Likewise, your customer are able to tell their stories and include your products.

Visual branding on Instagram is a type of lifestyle marketing.   When your product fits into the perceived lifestyle of your customers, you have a great opportunity for exposure on this type of image sharing platform.

Is Instagram Worth it for My Business?

With Instagram, as with all social media marketing, one of the major problems to avoid is wasting time on the wrong platforms.

When you put together the demographics of who uses Instagram with the visual branding potential of your offer, you can get a pretty good idea of whether or not your small business should market on Instagram.

Let’s summarize.  Instagram works well for businesses that:

  • Target younger audiences that tend to use mobile devices for image sharing
  • Target female audiences
  • Target people in urban areas
  • Have products better suited for visual, lifestyle branding campaigns

Think twice about using Instagram if:

  • Your target audience is older
  • Your target audience is mainly male
  • Your product lacks visual appeal or a way for it to be included in visual branding
  • Your product is mostly utilitarian and doesn’t fit into a lifestyle branding strategy

Here is one more question to consider.

If you want to use Instagram for business, do you use Instagram for yourself?

This goes to an often overlooked step in creating a marketing plan.  One that comes before you set goals or outline a strategy.  It’s analyzing your attitude and approach.

If you’ve never used Instagram yourself and refuse to give it a try, how well do you expect to understand what impact it might have on your business?  How will you know what features will work for your marketing?  How will you get a sense of what content is best for visual branding and sharing?

You can outsource this work to a social media marketing team.  Marketing 360® has talented, creative people who can help you.

But if you’re unwilling to even experiment personally with a free platform like Instagram, you put yourself at a disadvantage.  The first person who should be sharing your business content is you.

So play around with Instagram.  If you’re older and have kids, friend them and see what they do (at least what they’ll permit you to see).  Instagram is first and foremost a social platform, and the better you understand how it works in that part of your life, the better you’ll understand how it might work for your business marketing.