Too many Irish firms are ignoring the value of Instagram – don't get left behind
Your business launched its Facebook page. You've got a good Twitter feed, and now people are telling you to get an Instagram account. New figures show the photo-sharing app has over 200 million monthly active users and four billion photos shared on its platform. While Instagram is growing fast, it's not an e-commerce site, so can it drive your business?
"It's about bringing a business to life through the use of great imagery. It's not about focusing on your product or service but creating a story around your offering," says Andrew Murray, social media manager at creative agency In the Company of Huskies.
"There's so much noise on Twitter and Facebook that, at times, it's difficult to do something that stands out from the crowd. A lot of brands and businesses have not really adopted Instagram yet, so it's a little easier to cut through."
Working with brands in Ireland, Murray sees Instagram growing but at a slower pace in comparison to other countries.
"Irish businesses don't realise it's that big and don't realise its potential. Instagram is not about selling, it's about telling a cool visual story and that's the strategic secret to why it works for a lot of businesses."
Food website LovinDublin.com burst onto the Instagram scene with a hashtag that now has a life of its own: 'lovindublin'. Some restaurants have seen this as the perfect opportunity to tap into the thousands of Instagram users who upload photos of their daily lunches, along with the infamous hashtag. Those who are not connected to the photo-sharing service are missing out on the action.
In Cork, Kate Lawlor of Fenn's Quay restaurant uses Instagram to document her restaurant life, and to share it with others.
"I've a live stream that feeds directly onto my website. People can see what we're all about and what exactly is happening with up-to-the-minute photos," explains Lawlor.
"People can read a tweet, but when people see an image of a piece of beautiful fish, they think 'wow' and it entices them to try it."
Instagram saves Lawlor a "fortune" on hiring professional photographers due to its user-friendly photo editing.
Like Murray's advice on creating story around the business, Lawlor also takes photos of the sunrise in Cork, and staff having fun at work, as well as offering recipes to her followers.
At creative agency Huskies, Murray also advises clients to use the 40/40/20 ratio to a visual marketing plan on Instagram. With 40pc focused on people, or those behind the business, 40pc of photos related to the business or the area it's located in, and 20pc being the 'product push'.
"People are more likely to follow an account that doesn't focus only on the product, so it's important to vary things," says Murray.
Being creative is vital, and like any good advertising strategy, you need to add value. For example, rugby sponsors RaboDirect offer behind-the-scenes shots at fixtures.Brown Thomas offer some exclusive fashion previews. Ulster Bank Rugby showcase the best of their fans photos, while online clothing store Emerald Surfwear photograph big waves at Lahinch.
Businesses that are intimidated by taking photos may fear not – the photo-based app is user friendly.
"With Instagram's photo filters, you can make photos quite attractive, even if you're not the best photographer in the world," says Murray, who also uses a photo retouch app called Google Snapseed. "It even makes me look like a good photographer. You can hide a multitude of sins with it," he reveals.
Lawlor of Fenn's Restaurant uses Pic Stitch to make collages of food along with recipes.
"With everyone on their iPhones, and with so many different feeds, your picture needs to stand out. Irish people are great with Twitter because we love to talk. That's why I think Instagram is slow-to-grow with businesses, but a picture can paint a thousand words."