Instagram might not be the first social network that springs to mind when considering digital marketing avenues for your startup or small business. But here are the business benefits and some useful tips.

By Eoin O'Hara

“But I can share photos on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, why would I use Instagram?” I hear you say… but that’s a rather defeatist approach to proceedings.

Besides, have you used Facebook in your marketing strategy lately? No doubt you were disappointed to find that it’s become all-but impossible to garner any significant organic reach and that's bad news for bootstrapped startups. That said, Facebook owns Instagram now, so by syncing the two together, you can at least add an extra level of inter-connectivity in your social-media activity.

It’s time to get creative

As much as you might be sick to the back teeth of hearing it, in order to make the most of social media digital marketing opportunities, you need to be creative. Nowhere is this endeavour more welcomed than on Instagram. There are some rather obvious reasons why using Instagram in your digital marketing can be useful; I won’t bore you by going over those; but sometimes it can pay to take a little less mainstream approach, to really help you stand out from the crowd. 
Here’s a few less obvious ways to use Instagram to the betterment of your digital marketing campaign.  

1. Snap the team

Gone are the days when businesses of all sizes did everything in their power to maintain a persona of superhero style mystique… today people like to see who’s behind the fancy logo. Not only does it help to add a human touch to the business it also gives people a sense that they are getting a ‘behind the scenes’ look, entirely distinct from the highly polished exterior façade.

Instagram provides a pretty good platform on which to do this, and can quickly add a hint a professionalism to your spontaneous snaps. Uploads such as these probably won't go viral, and you shouldn't expect them to; their purpose is different, to layer the ‘human’ story of your business across your digital footprint.

2. Bring the offline, onl

By its very nature Instagram succeeds better in this endeavour than all other social media platforms. Compare if you will, the difference between a tweet ‘Having such a great time at the latest Club networking event’ to a picture posted to Instagram showing you having ‘such a great time at the latest Club networking event’.  Which is more likely to be commented on, re-shared, and generally engaged with?
There really is no comparison in the effectiveness.    
This is a fairly basic example, but it demonstrates rather well how the visually driven nature of Instagram can create a pretty good opportunity to build online and offline relationships simultaneously.   
3. Get creative with your products

Instagram provides you with a great opportunity to consider your product or service in a more creative way, to move beyond the usual means of presenting your offerings to their target market (and maybe even some new markets as well).  
Such is the sheer volume of posts uploaded every day that Instagram requires you to take a striking, thought-provoking, and visually inspired approach to the images you create.   
The idea is to present your products in a way that highlights their unique attributes, or shows off a clever / fun way to use them, thus presenting them as something that your target audience needs / wants.  
Admittedly this approach works better for some than others; a physical product is much easier to adorn and manipulate than a service, and food products lend themselves best of all to this type of marketing.   
4. Be clever but also cautious

It’s very easy to over shoot when it comes to being creative, and the last thing you want is for your business to appear foolish or contrived. 
5. Grow your specific identity

Whilst primarily you might be selling a product / service,  never forget that a lot of the time, you are also selling a lifestyle, ethos or idea. You should be playing to these aspects of your business identity through your visual marketing, and Instagram can serve as a great platform on which to build and develop this. The age old adage ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words’ still holds true, and cleverly selected visual content can very economically support the style and tone that you are trying to create.  
It’s important also not to ignore all the amazing visual content that is created around you on Instagram, and re-sharing some particularly good images can be a great way to engage with and show appreciation for customers whilst also reaffirming your business style.  
6. Engage alongside

Try to avoid the cardinal mistake of treating Instagram like a one-way street; it’s about more than simply posting a steady stream of professional looking images… you need to engage as well.  This means not only taking an active interest in your community's conversations with you, but also making sure that your voice is heard amongst the wider network.  

This is all about encouraging discovery, and the best way to do that is it to position yourself amongst the conversations and people that are influencing your industry; impressing the right person, or making the right connection, can quickly lead to major increase in your social media capital.  
This goes, not only for ‘individuals’ but also for brands and businesses; building connections with potentially valuable partners is arguably much easier via social media platforms like Instagram, as a result of the informal and ‘social’ atmosphere which prevails.  
Having said all of this, you may find that despite all of your snapping and posting, there is no real benefit to be had from using Instagram within your business, this is the nature of the social media beast. It’s easy to assume that your activity is reaching a representative cross section of the population, but as with any platform, this isn't the case. Some demographics will be over represented, whilst others, not at all; therefore it’s wise to review regularly what impact your efforts are having, and decide when the time is right to hang up the camera!

Eoin O'Hara is a business developer at; you can follow them on Twitter.