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Cashing In With Instagram

You may think of it as sheer entertainment, but with 500 million dedicated users, Instagram is one of the world's largest mobile ads platforms. Social-savvy businesses, large and small, jumped into this community of visual storytellers because they saw the potential to grow their fan base and increase sales conversions.

Instagram posts generate an average per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent, versus an average engagement rate of only 0.5%-0.99% on Facebook. What does that mean to you? An opportunity to establish brand awareness, a community of followers who will comment, share, and potentially buy, and less work for more impact.
Perhaps you’re already posting images on Instagram, but there’s more you can do to generate exposure and encourage engagement. Here’s your step-by-step guide to Instagram success for beginners. Keep an eye out for next month’s issue where we will cover more advanced Instagram marketing, like ad campaigns. 
Establish clear goals.
Avoid the temptation to randomly upload images; know why you are on Instagram. This will help you to select appropriate photos, embed effective hashtags and create continuity with your overall business goals. Common goals are:
•   Increase product sales
•   Increase website traffic
•   Increase attendance at local events
•   Increase brand awareness
•   Increase branded hashtag mentions
Write an effective bio.
This 150 character section is the most important part of your profile, don’t waste it. Capture potential new followers with a snappy bio that includes your branded hashtags and a description of what your brand stands for and does. Instagram recommends between one and three hashtags here.
Create a branded look.
Your logo is probably what you’ll use in your profile section graphic. It will be really tiny on mobile devices so hopefully your logo is not overly complicated. If you have a busy logo, extract the key aspect and use only that part in the image section.
Think about the style of the images you’ll post. Do you want to portray light and dreamy, trendy and edgy, crisp and clean? How do you want your audience to feel when they come to your account?  Choose a few favorite filters so they all have a specific look that represents your brand well and gives a defined flavor to your page. This style will soon become recognizable to your followers. Instagram offers basic filters but the apps below will bring your images to a whole new level. 
Afterlight offers an array of adjustable filters, textures and frames to fit every mood or season, plus cropping tools to control every aspect of your photo.
VSCO Cam offers filters and strengthening sliders for everything from saturation to warmth. You can buy themed filter packs to round out your options.
The Over app lets you add text or art work on top of your images. The text makes your photos more visually interesting, and can replace or complement the standard Instagram captions.
Create branded hashtags.
Use more than your company name as your key hashtag—be more fun and abstract! What does your audience want in life: relaxation, decadence, escape? Make up a hashtag that encapsulates the intention of your brand. Crate and Barrel captures their brand image with the hashtag, #cratelife. You can also ask your followers to tag their own photos with one of your key hashtags. For instance, Lululemon Athletica asks users to tag their workout photos with #thesweatlife.
Create a posting schedule.
Be careful not to bombard your followers with an overload of posts. Successful brands release between one to three posts per day. Establish a good number and time for your posts. Test this by varying times, days and frequency and notice how many people engage (share and comment) in your posts. For instance, I’ve learned that early Monday morning is the hottest time to post to get the attention of my audience. Through testing I’ve come to know that before work, midday and very late at night drives the best engagement rates for me.
Encourage engagement by asking questions of your followers. When you release images of your new scented soap product line ask followers what their favorite scents are. Let them tell you what they want in your next product release. Encourage them to tell their own stories.
Play an active role in your Instagram community by commenting on other posts. And, when you’re at a farmer’s market or craft fair add location tags. 
Enable notifications.
Vital to engagement, people overlook this setting all too often. When someone shares or comments on a post you want to thank them, or engage in another way. Notifications will help ensure that you don’t neglect your Instagram audience. Enable notifications is in settings and you can control what notification you want to receive.
Get onboard at Hootsuite.
Who has time to post every day? No worries, Hootsuite or the simpler is the answer to your prayers. Create images and pre-load them into one of these management tools and schedule them to post on designated days and times and you’re set to go!

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