It is a part of my job to have social media profiles everywhere, both personally as Lorraine Ball and professionally as Roundpeg. Just as I advise my clients, I pick and choose the platforms where I really want to spend my time. As the platforms have grown and adjusted direction, I have certainly adjusted my mix. Lately, I am spending more time on Instagram.
When I started, I made a few of the typical Instagram mistakes, I used the platform as an easy way to share photos to multiple social networks at the same time. I connected with all the same people I knew on Facebook and Twitter, so I would see the same things in my timeline everywhere I went and I didn’t appreciate that there might be a business application for the tool. 
Over time I came to appreciate the unique features of Instagram. As an amateur photographer, I love browsing the timeline and searching hashtags to discover great images. I get inspired as I view the world through someone else’s eyes. And I enjoy sharing some of my favorite photos and seeing what type of reaction I get from friends and strangers. If you look at my personal time line you will see lots of photos of flowers, animals, interesting places and food. I also enjoy the quick glimpses into the lives of my friends and family as they share photos of kids, pets and vacations.  
Everyone uses Instagram a little differently and I usually don’t judge, but I have to draw the line at 300 selfies. Recently, we were screening candidates for a social media job at Roundpeg. We always ask candidates to share a link to one of their social profiles. Usually, we get links to Twitter, LinkedIn and occasionally Facebook. But this year, for the first time, we started seeing quite a bit of Instagram. Many of the accounts gave me a real sense of who the person was and they were more likely to move to the next step in the process.
The exceptions were the Instagram accounts comprised of nothing but selfies. My first reaction was to wonder how anyone can be that narcissistic. My second reaction was to know I didn’t want to find out. There was nothing even remotely interesting about the 300 duck faces. And we skipped more than one candidate because of the selfie laden account. Now I have nothing against the occasional selfie, but good lord, mix it up. There is a world beyond you.  
As I was thinking about these narcissistic personal accounts, it occurred to me businesses often make the same Instagram mistakes.

  • They jump on Instagram and proceed to push out the same information they are sharing on all the other platforms, but it doesn’t work here. You can’t embed hyperlinks (except in ads) to boring blog posts so you have to be more creative.
  • The timeline is filled with product photos. Yes, your jar of beans is lovely, but it won’t compete with a cute puppy or a beautiful sky at sunset. Your photos need to be more interesting so save the promotions for other platforms and get creative. One of our clients, Randall Beans does a great job on Instagram. They actually have two accounts Powered by Beans which features images of healthy lifestyle adventures and Open Spigot Farm, where they actually grow some of their beans. On Facebook, where we can embed links we share recipes, cookbooks, and coupons.
  • They miss the point that people like to see pictures of people ( just not 300 of the same person). Instagram is a great place to share pictures of your customers and employees.

Will you make sales if you are on Instagram or miss out if you aren’t? Maybe not, but if you are going to do it, do it right. For a few more tips, check out my conversation with Sam.