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Why every company needs to have Instagram in its arsenal

Instagram is so much more than a flattering filter app. It’s actually a useful business tool in the right hands. Here’s how to snap your way to success

1. Find out what your customers like

Find out if your target demographic is sharing feedback about your business by searching key words using the hashtag filter. If you have a bricks and mortar business your customers visit, you can also share a photo and tag your location, then click on a link above the photo to see all of the images that have been shared at your location. Restauranteurs and hoteliers especially will reap the rewards of this little trick.

Some establishments have even been cashing in on the craze for ‘braggies’ (that’s a selfie uploaded to brag about your location), rewarding those who boast about their facilities with upgrades, discounts and other perks. The 1888 Hotel in Sydney (AKA the Instagram Hotel) automatically bestows an additional free night stay to those guests with more than 10,000 Instagram followers.

2. Give them an exclusive

Make your followers feel special by giving them something you can’t get anywhere else. Instagram has one of the most engaged user bases out there - one report from Forrester Research found that Instagram generates 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter so this deserves a reward. Sale previews and discount codes are an easy win for fashion brands. Not only will these sort of posts keep your number of followers up, they’ll also generate cold hard cash. Michael Kors rewarded the first 50 people who posted a photo with the hashtag #MKDirect with a special message.

3. Harness user-generated content

Reward super-fans by regramming their photos. A gallery built with reshares shows that you’re connecting to your audience, giving them an emotional tie to your brand. Charlotte Olympia does this via the hashtag #caughtincharlottesweb while Anthropologie regrams not only fans’ pictures, but also those from different stores across the USA.

4. Turn likes into sales

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Instagram doesn’t allow tappable links in photo captions. You can get around this by inserting an external link in the URL slot of your bio or sign up to @liketoknow.it to transform it as a sales portal via shopable emails. Toni & Guy regularly use its Instagram page to publicise new product launches and direct followers to the shopable site.

5. Comp it up

Competitions are huge engagement drivers and if you introduce a voting element then you’ll increase the chances of it going viral. Sony had great success of its #SonyX picture contest and so decided to try it again with #Sonylove. If you’re nervous about some submissions being off-brand then Instagram Direct is an option. Gap was the first brand to use it for a promo.

6. Show off

Don’t be shy to showcase your product to its best advantage. British fashion brands such as Whistles, Marks & Spencer and Boden favour luxe looking still life set ups, sometimes with a GIF for added shareability.  Here at 3cc, we like to use Instagram as a virtual portfolio to show our breadth of work for clients: instagram.com/3cclondon

7. Build your brand

Make it personal. Your followers don’t want to deal with a faceless corporation, so use Instagram to inject a little personality to your brand. Giving fans a glimpse behind-the-scenes in real-time invites them to share in the moment. 3CC client Giles Deacon regularly shares snippets of photo shoots, London Fashion Week goings-on and witty memes that gives an insight into the man behind the label: instagram.com/gilesdeacon_

8. Make it count

Tools such as Iconosquare and Simply Measured will make sure the numbers add up to help you optimise your Instagram input. You can calculate the best time to post for maximum engagement, identify new and lost followers and work out reciprocal relationships versus followings who don’t follow you back, so you’re not wasting you’re time. 

9. Team up

Affiliate with a super-blogger/influencer to grow your fan base. Your business will benefit from the endorsement of someone you consider a leading figure as well as drive follows. Devise different ways of working with on-brand associates, such as gifting something personalised or inviting them to an event that they can report on via Instagram. Miss Selfridge asked Pandora Sykes - she of Sunday Times Wardrobe Mistress fame - to edit her very own rail in their flagship store. Sykes was happy to snap the fruits of her labour: instagram.com/taken-by-pandora-sykes

10. Be consistent

You need to keep content consistent - both aesthetically and editorially - so an Instagram calendar is a must. To cash in on time-sensitive hashtags, a calendar means you won’t miss the boat!

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