Tired hands, quiet minds. By Big Cartel.

Starting With Instagram for Your Business

Whether you use Instagram in your personal life or not, I’m going to bet you’re at least familiar with how it works. But are you using it to build your creative business?

As a creative person, Instagram is essentially a secret weapon waiting to be unleashed. It isn’t just another social media platform made for distributing content and amassing likes. Whereas platforms like Facebook and Twitter are mostly made for sharing content, Instagram is all about creation. It’s especially unique in the sense that you can actually create within the app itself.

If you’re a maker - whether that’s a photographer, furniture builder, web designer, fashion designer, painter, sculptor, or anything in between - you need to be on Instagram. In fact, if you aren’t currently using Instagram, you’re running the risk of falling behind the compeition.

Instagram is About Interaction

“Engagement” is a fancy word that’s used to describe the level of interaction brands have with their followers. If you have high engagement, it means you’re doing a good job of connecting with your audience on a meaningful level. If you lack engagement, then there’s a lot of friction between you and your followers.

In a recent survey of more than 2,500 social media users with large audiences, 60 percent felt Instagram was the best overall platform for engagement. Second place belonged to Facebook, which only received 18 percent of support. In essence, the feeling among leading social media marketers is that Instagram is three-times better at engaging users than the second-best platform.

The moral of the story is this: If you’re going to make an investment in social media as a maker, Instagram is by far the best platform for driving engagement and building your brand.

Are you using Instagram?

Three Tips for Building Your Brand on Instagram

The good news is that the Instagram train hasn’t quite left the station. If you want to hop on, you can still utilize the platform as a powerful branding tool for your business. The key is to make sure you use it well.

Instead of just pointing out the value of Instagram and sending you on your merry way, I thought it’d be helpful to provide you with some practical tips and examples of how you can build your brand and drive engagement on the Instagram platform. Without further ado, here are a few things you should know.

Use video. Instagram has changed a lot over the past few years. What used to strictly be a social network for sharing images is now centered on video and even live-streaming. Since allowing longer video uploads and introducing “stories” to the platform, Instagram reports that video use has quadrupled. Beyond that, the time people spend watching video has shot up by 80 percent year-over-year.

This tells you that you need to be investing in more than just pictures. Creating video content requires a little more effort and planning, but it’s a sure-fire way to engage your audience. As a maker, behind-the-scenes videos - such as the ones seen on Bob Clagett’s profile - do really well. Brainstorm some unique ways you could be sharing your work.

Consider the destination. The interesting thing about Instagram is that it doesn’t allow you to include hyperlinks in your images, descriptions, or comments. This separates it from platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which allow you to directly send users to landing pages, product pages, or any other page you may be promoting. This means you’ll have to get creative with how you inspire your visitors to action.

Instagram does allow you to have a link in your profile, and one savvy thing skilled marketers do is use content to drive the focus back to the profile, and subsequently to the link. This can be everything from teasing your latest post in your story to telling people to hit the link in your bio in an image’s caption.

Whatever you do, choose your link carefully. Consider adding a customized landing page with a special discount or message for your Instagram shoppers.

Engage back. It’s not enough to create striking content and drive traffic back to your website and landing pages. If you want to really build your brand as a maker, remember to engage back. You need to create as strong of a relationship as you possibly can with your followers.

Engaging with your followers on social media could look like asking questions, responding to comments, liking your followers’ content, answering direct messages, and featuring followers in your posts.

Remember, social media is a two-way street. If you’re being selfish and only taking from your followers, you’re not really building a brand. You might get some likes and followers, but they’re not going to be invested, and they probably aren’t translating over into customers. At least not at a very high rate.

Putting it All Together

Instagram isn’t enough to make you successful. As always, the heart of your success as a maker lies in your ability to create products that your audience wants. Instagram is merely a platform that allows you to engage your audience through immersive content. Don’t get overwhelmed by the options - just give it a try. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to get started.

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Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffPost.com, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.