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Everyone knows about Facebook and Twitter, and even the smallest business owners tend to feel like they have a pretty good idea what they are doing on the two biggest social media platforms. But, some social media isn’t as easy to understand as the two giants. Instagram poses an especially difficulty problem for many business owners, who haven’t been able to figure out how you can turn a pictures and hashtag only platform into brand building and customer outreach.

You can do just that, if you take the time to understand Instagram and who is using the site. Once you’ve gotten down the basic features, you’ll find yourself sharing pictures and videos to thousands of followers in no time. Alexandra Burnett has some tips to help you get started.

  1. Complete Your Profile – Just as in real life, first impressions matter. Your profile is your chance to leave a good first impression by showing viewers who you are and what you do. It also won’t ever hurt to include a link to your Facebook or Twitter page and website. This way, any prospective customers can easily find out more about what you offer.
  2. Find Your Customers – You should have a pretty good idea what your demographic is by this point. If you don’t, start basic by looking for those in your city (#Tulsa) or share interests relevant to your market (#soccer). These people are all prospective leads. It is up to you to look for them and interact with them.
  3. Be Engaging – Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Reach out to everyone you can. Tag others, talk to those who reach out to you, show support for your community, and use your location. Everything you can to flesh out your online identity will help reaffirm to your viewers that you are the real deal.
  4. Be Consistent, but Don’t Be Spammy – It is important to post regularly. If followers notice you haven’t been posting, they may be inclined to unfollow you. The catch is, you have to show some restraint. Any more than a few posts a day is overkill. Try to set a limit of 2-3 at most.
  5. Show Off Your Products – Everyone loves to window shop, and Instagram is a great platform for consumers to idly browse for things they like. Highlight new products, and show off your services. If users are following you, chances are they want to know more about your businesses and what you offer.
  6. Make It Personal – Humanize your business by showing off the people who make it all work. Introducing employees to the public puts a face to your brand and shows you care about everyone involved.

Instagram LOgoMany considered it only a matter of time before advertising would find its way onto Instagram, since Facebook purchased the app. However it took much longer than most expected. Instagram has remained ad-less until now, but over the next few months you will finally see that change. Instagram announced late last week that advertising would begin rolling out within the Instagram photo stream over the next few months.

This doesn’t mark the first possible attempt to monetize Instagram. Jennifer Slegg reminds us of late last year when Instagram altered its terms to suggest that Instagram would all the rights to all photos posted on it, implicating that Instagram would begin selling those photos to advertisers. The response was massive and overwhelmingly negative, as users began to flee from the service until the terms were reverted.

Since then, the waters have been quiet, but it was heavily expected that Facebook would attempt to turn Instagram into a revenue generating service, seeing as it cost Facebook $1 billion.

This attempt is a little more direct than their change to their terms, but it appears they will be slowly integrating advertisers. They are clearly more cautious this time around – Instagram even emphasized that there would be no changes to how image or video ownership would be viewed.

The company is starting with just a limited number of U.S. advertising firms only showing small and occasional ads. All ads are required to use high-quality images and videos, so they should blend in on the feed.

Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow. We’ll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.

Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.

Expect the ads to be similar to the sponsored posts you see in Facebook, but designed for Instagram. The company will also be heavily soliciting feedback from users about the types of advertising being tested and shown, including the ability to hide them.

The savvy social media marketer already has a hold on Facebook and is exploring new markets, tools, and apps they can reach out to and connect with. Twitter is the second most popular social media platform, but Instagram has risen quickly and has a surprising hold on it’s niche market and function. Both have video. So, which is that social media marketer to choose?

Instagram vs. Vine Graphic

Source: Simply Measured/Search Engine Journal

If you are in the majority, you likely chose Instagram over the past few months as Vine and Instagram Video rolled out. As Search Engine Journal’s analysis shows, twice as many top 100 brands use Instagram Video compared to Vine. That’s pretty surprising, considering Instagram Video is far younger – only a few weeks old.

What makes Instagram the favored platform for marketing on social media video? What sets it apart from Vine? The basic differences come in video length and features. Immediately, one will notice Instagram Video has over double the video length of Vine, clocking in at 15-seconds, compared to Vine’s 6. They say brevity is the soul of wit, but apparently 6 seconds just isn’t enough for most marketers, but the filters may play just as much of a role.

When Instagram first came out, it became popular for its focus on photograph filters which overlay effects that turn amateurish phone pics into nice looking images. Now, they offer you the ability to do the same to your videos. They also offer a stabilization doctor to try to help minimize phone shaking in the video. All in all, this means nicer looking videos.

All of those points might be moot, if it wasn’t for sharability. When it comes to social media marketing, sharability is of utmost importance. You want content to reach as many eyes as possible. Instagram, with its 130 million monthly users, is owned by Facebook, which offers its ownn 1 billion monthly active users. Vine overall is smaller, with only 13 million users, and Twitter only has 200 million people actively Tweeting.

Everything considered, Instagram Video simply offers much, much more than Vine.

Vine has it’s own benefits, such as a looping feature which can be taken advantage of to create very unique “endless” videos. Vines are also embeddable across the web, making them easier for content sharing websites such as Buzzfeed to share. But, the sharing capabilities, extensive video options, and more comprehensive features make Instagram better for marketers and users alike. Marketing campaigns on Instagram have much higher potential to gain traction and you’ll be more likely to see some rewards.

You’ve probably already heard about the importance of images on the web. They catch the eye, foster interest, and statistically make people spend more time on any text than they would without pictures.

It’s all true, visual media is consistently present in your life, and the amount of websites and social media platforms centering on visual media are becoming more and more popular. In a society where almost everyone has a smartphone with a respectable quality camera, pictures are only going to become more ubiquitous.

Veer, a service for images, illustrations, and fonts, made an infographic to try to convey the importance of images online today. The graphic covers the history of internet graphics, and the popularity of image-based social media such as Flickr, Pinterest, and Instagram. They also have an animated version of the infographic here.

To maximize your business’s potential, you need an online presence. But in order to be successful with your endeavors into social media, there’s a foundation that must be layed. Here are four fundamentals, or building blocks, to get you started on creating your social media presence.

1. Set Goals, Make a Plan

Without a plan and clear goals in mind, you are already doomed to fail. Afterall, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Or, more importantly, when you veer off course.

Think about how you will define success and how you plan to achieve it. Consider why you are using social media and how you’d like it to benefit your business. Also, put yourself in your desired audience’s shoes and try to discover what they’d like to see out of your profile.

The Digital Relativity blog has more on setting goals.

2. Tools

By tools, I mean the social media platform of your choosing. This goes right along with making a plan because before jumping in, you should be researching various platforms to make sure you are using the most effective one for your business.

If your target demographic doesn’t include women 18-30, maybe you can skip making a Pinterest account.

If you want to concentrate more on articles and written content, you may not need to spend time on Instagram, YouTube or Tumblr.

Not that you can’t manage more than one social media platform at once, but you’ll likely be most effective with your time if you narrow down your choice as much as possible so your message is most powerful and received by your desired audience.

3. Be a Credible Source

Once you’ve landed on the right site for you, become a source of constant, consistent, credible content. Not only should you create your own, but you can also share content from other sources. You can even share competitors content and add a little extra commentary to set yourself apart.

The idea is to send the message that your business is the expert in your field. Ideally, when people think of topics that pertain to your business, they’ll think of you.

4. Build an Audience

What good is any of this if no one is around to see what you’ve done? Certainly, being on the right social media platform is a great start. Boxcar Marketing has some tips for building an audience on specific platforms.

Having great content is also key to making sure you have users continually viewing your profile.

Once everything is in place, target influential users that boast a large following and send them your content in hopes that they’ll share it. This isn’t necessarily someone you personally think is influential, but rather someone your users will respect and likely be paying attention to already.

Also, be active on your profile and on other user’s profiles. If you receive comments on content you’ve shared, comment back and start an intelligent discussion. If you see interesting content shared by someone else, drop in your two-cents, which again helps you become a trusted expert in your field. Interaction will bring potential customers back more than sterile content.

Above all, be professional, be courteous and be relevant. Don’t stray off course from your business. This isn’t a profile where you share your views or you interests. This profile is for the users that need your service. Give them what they want.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project recently released it’s findings from a phone survey of about 1-thousand US adults. As Matt McGee reports for Marketing Land, the survey aimed to discover who exactly is using various social networking sites. Some of the findings you may have already assumed, such as, Pinterest is dominated by women and those with good, higher paying careers are using LinkedIn. All of the information is valuable, however, so you can tailor messages on specific sites to the demographics that are most often found there.

Facebook

66-percent of Internet users are on Facebook, which is by far the highest percentage of users. Users are fairly evenly distributed between men and women, education level and annual income. The biggest advantage Facebook features is the captivation of older Internet users. 56-percent of those age 50-64 have an account, which makes Facebook the clear top choice for marketing to the older crowd, despite the fact that younger users also flock their.

Twitter

Though Twitter does not hold a large market share of Internet users overall, it is almost entirely populated by well-educated men and women under 50. The annual income data is well dispersed across the spectrum, which sets Twitter apart from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn

As I mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is generally used by successful professionals over the age of 30. Its clientele is made up of 36-percent of Internet users with college degrees and 34-percent of Internet users with an annual salary over $75-thousand. With the exception of Facebook, which posted large percentages in every category thanks to their sheer number of users, LinkedIn is by far the leader in those two categories.

Pinterest

19-percent of female Internet users have a Pinterest account and that number is almost certainly still growing. Though their ages tend to skew younger than 65, you can reach nearly every female group through Pinterest.

Instagram and Tumblr

These image based sites returned data that is remarkably similar. Their users are mostly young, 30 or below, with at least some college experience. Oddly, Instagram features a large number of well-off users, 16-percent of those with a salary above $75 thousand. Tumblr is more evenly dispersed and, if anything, tends to attract those with a salary below $50-thousand per year.