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GUEST COMMENT How to be Insta-great – the dos and don’ts of Instagram strategy and etiquette

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Instagram is fast becoming an important tool for retailers to get noticed and boost sales. If you’re marketing your products on Instagram, it’s most likely because you want to increase brand awareness, customer engagement, followers, and ultimately, revenue. Instagram allows you to interact and create a relationship with your customers, but retailers need to be careful with how they implement their social media marketing campaigns. Being too aggressive or running Instagram initiatives without careful consideration can cost you both your customers and your reputation.

Here are four examples of common Instagram mishaps and how you can make the most out of this growing platform.

1. The internet is free, but photos aren’t

User-generated content is gold for brands, which is why you should make it habit to scour the Instagram universe for fan photos that you could use to promote your store. Once you find pictures that you’d like to use though, get consent from the people who originally posted the images to ensure that they’re ok with you using their photos. Failing to take this step can lead to upset customers and bad press.

You can avoid this Instagram faux pas simply by asking people’s permission before using their images. This can be as easy as commenting on the user’s post. And when you see customers who are constantly sharing great photos of your products, consider building a relationship with them. Reach out to these individuals directly, thank them for helping spread the word about your brand, and send them a token of appreciation (like a gift card). Doing so will not only score you extra points with the customer, but you’ll encourage them to keep generating content for your brand.

2. Be candid in stating your collaborations

Influencer marketing – the practice of collaborating with influential people within a community – is very common on Instagram. There are several accounts on the platform that have garnered large followings, and brands are eager to team up with the owners of these accounts so they can tap into their audiences. Usually, companies strike up agreements wherein the influencer posts something about the brand (usually an image of them wearing or using the retailer’s merchandise) in exchange for products, free experiences, or even money.

There’s nothing wrong with influencer marketing. In fact, it can be an effective tactic to put yourself in front of a relevant audience. However, problems may arise if the people you team up with fail to disclose that they’re posting sponsored content.

Make sure that Instagrammers are upfront about the nature of their posts and that your brand is transparent around influencers you’re working with. If not, you will be violating guidelines by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which requires brands and users to be transparent about an image or post being sponsored. See to it that they fully disclose their material relationship with your brand by tagging their posts with hashtags like “#ad” or “#sponsored”. This will ensure that you stay on the good graces of the ASA and that you don’t break consumer trust. Additionally, some users who follow the same influencers can be put off because they will notice that the posts don’t contain any disclosure.

3. Just like friends, followers should be earnt not bought

It’s understandable to want to grow your follower count as quickly as possible, but recognise that this process may take time. Strive to organically grow your Instagram presence by posting great content and connecting with your audience in relevant and creative ways.

This route takes work and you likely won’t get hundreds or thousands of followers overnight. But, if you do the legwork, you’ll find that the followers you gain are ones who are genuinely interested in your brand and more likely to buy from you.

Whatever you do, do not purchase followers. Social networks periodically crack down on fake accounts and the firms that sell them, so while buying followers might give you a nice follower count to look at, it’ll only be temporary.

4. Post high-quality content that will resonate with your audience

The most important thing retailers should know is that gaining traction on the platform starts with publishing great-looking images that your target audience can relate to. You can tell people to like your posts all you want, but if your images are low quality and uninspiring, they’re not going to spread. You shouldn’t just publish images that you think your audience will like. Do your research and determine which Views, trends, and content types would engage them the most, then publish images in line with those Views.

Start by posting great-looking pictures. Invest in your photography skills, or hire someone who takes Instagram-worthy photos. Be sure to listen to your audience. What kinds of images do they want to see? How do they respond to different content types? Get the answers to these questions then incorporate them into your strategy. Also explore ways to engage with the community. Run contests, encourage user-generated content, or team up with relevant accounts.

Ultimately, there isn’t a one-size fits all Instagram strategy, as each retailer is different. However, the best way to figure Instagram out is to know the basic online etiquette so you can try different things and see what works.

Pierre-Emmanuel (PE) Perruchot de La Bussière is general manager at Vend

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