Instagram for business: the experiment


With established networks like Twitter on the decline, is 2016 the moment to embrace a new social channel for your business?

Just as it felt like everyone left Twitter all of a sudden, the fickle nature of social media users seems to have just as suddenly alighted on the visual Smorgasbord that is Instagram. At the end of 2014, Citi stated that Igers (Instagram users) were up to 1.8 times more engaged than Twitter users.  At the same time Instagram’s user levels rivalled the once great Twitter’s at 300million and continue to grow. So, is it the next big thing?

Instagram continues to prove its mastery of the mobile domain, according to eMarketer’s latest internet usage forecast. This year, 89.4 million Americans will log on to Instagram at least once a month, representing 34.1% of mobile phone users. And by 2017, 51.8% of social network users will use Instagram—surpassing the 50% mark for the first time.

But like any social media, it takes time to build up a following and work out what works for your business. So, with this in mind, we decided to set up an experiment to see if the things we think we know about Instagram actually measure up.

First up, what is Instagram:

Instagram: an on-line mobile photo and video sharing social site that allows users to share through other social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

You have to use the Instagram app on a phone in order to post (there are work arounds for PCs and Macs, but none are particularly satisfactory), however you can schedule posts with third party apps such as Hootsuite. The mobile nature of Instagram is one of the joys, being able to share snaps quickly and easily on your phone when you’re out and about. It’s ‘oh so easy’ if you’re the only person looking after an account but a bit trickier if you’re part of a team, which is where third party apps come into their own to help manage and review your account.

The experiment:

We decided to break from our usual use of the ifour Instagram account, (sharing cool and funny things we come across on our travels and giving a glimpse into the ‘behind the scenes’ of ifour studio life) to investigate what is actually popular on Instagram and what that means for your business.

Using a selection of the 25 most popular hash tags and stereotypical IG content, we embarked on a quest to see what would happen if we lived the “Instagram” life!

A feelgood message and the obligatory Instagram fodder, a green smoothie, we felt like this #humpday post was sure to start day 1 on the right foot. Surprisingly, this turned out to be our most popular post of the experiment. 27 ❤

Lunchtime rolled around, so like any good hipster, we photographed lunch, artfully styling, angling and lighting the food before we could actually eat it. This did diminish the enjoyment of the actual eating (THE WAIT!) but eventually it was yummy. 9 ❤

Post number 3 and we wanted to get a bit sparkly and magical following a debate about unicorns in the studio. It appears unicorns are a Marmite issue but certainly more popular in the ‘Gram than in the studio! 10 ❤

Day 2 saw the studio in high spirits with some great client projects on the go, so naturally we found a happy dog picture to convey that. Possibly Thursday mornings aren’t a high traffic moment but this wasn’t as popular as other posts. 6 ❤

Claire has a regular slot reviewing the papers on BBC Radio Kent, so we switched back to our usual content of #agencylife and posted a collage from her mornings activities in the radio studio with the ifour Owl under the has tag pic of the day (yes, we did cheat a little as we couldn’t decide between the three!) 10 ❤

#tbt (Throwback Thursday)
A quick trip down memory lane and a look back at the old style ifour branding was the perfect content for the 4th most popular hash tag #tbt. With a youthful looking James, grinning at us from 5 years ago, how could anyone not like it? 5 ❤

The results:

In order to review the results of our ‘deeply scientific’ experiment, we had a scout around to see what the best options for reviewing the metrics on your Instagram account. Having only a single link in the standard posts that you can follow (link in the bio!) makes it harder to trace which post has been the most popular if you want to drive traffic to your website. Whilst you can change your link to specific pages (and many users do) on a regular basis, Instagram’s real strength lies in building a community and, in turn, giving your brand some personality.

For quick, bite size Instagram metrics, we really like the infographic style of review tool Iconosquare. We also found the followers and overview page simple to use. Having a larger screen makes it easier to scroll through your walls posts to see what’s happening, like and comment when you follow larger numbers of IGers. There are several other options that are worth checking out too, such as SimplyMeasured, InstaFollow and CrowdFire. The level of metrics vary but the limited nature of the platform means it's pretty different to other social networks.

On a business level, you may be trying to sell something you feel isn't visual or a service that can be hard to show in a single photo. But if you look at cultivating your IG followers and communicating with them on an honest, personal level, you will have the opportunity to forge some strong links and really demonstrate the core values of your company, leading to a good awareness and a stronger emotional engagement when the time comes to buy. This gives you an opportunity to share images you maybe wouldn’t on other social channels, but, as was demonstrated by our experiment, the more relevant your content is to your followers, the more likely you are to get a better response. So, there will be no more unicorns and cute animals for us, but back to sharing examples of work and behind-the-scenes of studio life for our feed.

Here are our top 5 tips for content creation:

1) Keep it on-brand – Make sure content speaks to your audience by keeping it relevant, honest and in line with your brand values
2) Make it interesting – Keep the content truthful and engaging, it could be you share work in progress, news from team members or quirks that make your business special
3) Filters aren’t compulsory – if you have a great, high quality shot, don’t feel obliged to add a filter just for the sake of it
4) Tag and geotag – Tagging people pictured and geotagging your location makes it easier for other users to find you and join in the conversation
5) Join in the community – Search for relevant hash tags and like and comment on relevant posts and followers to really engage and build your community

What else can you do?

Multiple accounts: Instagram has recently added the additional functionality of linked accounts. While somewhat behind the curve on this, being able to switch between up to 5 accounts should remove one of the major annoyances for anyone with multiple accounts to manage. This update also includes push notifications for all linked accounts if enabled, meaning company accounts can be more responsive to comments and questions.  
Advertise: Many companies are also looking to Instagram paid advertising to take advantage of the additional options available over a standard post. With three options, static photos, videos or carousel adverts, which support links to websites, app downloads and video views.
Don’t be square: Once limited to square aspect ratio images, August last year saw a relaxation in the square obsession, meaning portrait and landscape images are now just as welcome. There are still limitations (landscape 1.91:1 and portrait 4:5) and narrow banners and panoramas still don’t work but the flexibility of ratios allows you to share even more!
Think outside the box: There are a range of image tools such as Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse that work with Instagram and open up different options, such as the ability create an image collage, or mini gif videos of time lapse or loops, whilst still maintaining the Instagram feel. Mixing up your content can add additional interest and create greater engagement.
Instagram still has different restrictions to most other popular social networks. However, the opportunities to show an honest and real side to your company, demonstrate brand values, along with the growth in users mean that this platform should not be discounted and is well worth investigating, regardless of your company size. 

If you are interested in looking at your brand’s strategy on social media or wider marketing approach, why not call us on 01892 541111, email at or come and have a cuppa at our Tunbridge Wells design studio?