While photo sharing is certainly nothing new in the age of social media, photo-sharing mobile app <a href="http://instagram.com/" target="_blank">Instagram</a> has managed to grab and keep users' attention with its funky filters and special effects. Unlike photo archiving and sharing platforms <a href="http://www.flickr.com/" target="_blank">Flickr</a> and <a href="http://picasa.google.com/" target="_blank">Picasa</a>, which allow you to upload and share your photos with your social network, Instagram allows users to easily apply filters to photos to create an aged, vintage look, or zoom in on focal objects and blur out the rest of the picture. The result is a fun, addictive and inherently sharable photo experience that keeps Instagram gaining new users each day.<br><br>
But how can small businesses take advantage of the Insta-craze? Here are a few tips to get your business in on the photo-sharing action.–<a href="https://twitter.com/amandamogul" target="_blank"><em>Amanda Miller Littlejohn</em></a>
<strong>Share your behind-the-scenes experience</strong><br><br>
When customers opt in to your updates via social media, they are allowing you into their personal space online. So it's only fair that you return the favor by sharing real moments from the front lines of your business. Snap photographs and give followers a "sneak peak" of upcoming product launches before you post official photos on your website. If you travel a lot for business, share pictures from the road. Or share photos of your executive team or managers in brainstorming meetings to give your customers a sense of what makes your business tick.
<strong>Join in on the larger conversations </strong><br><br>
As you poke around on Instagram, you'll notice the use of hashtags which were made popular on Twitter. What's amazing about this is the ability to share your photos with a much wider audience by "tagging" them with key phrases or special-event tags. You can even search for existing hashtags in the search field to find Instagram users, or influencers, who share photos that align with your brand’s interests. <br><br>
For example, if you have a make-up line, you can take a photo of your latest lip gloss or nail color and tag the photo #makeup and #beauty. People who are searching for make-up or beauty photographs may see your photos even if they are not following you on Instagram. You may even pick up a few new followers this way, too.
<strong>Market more creatively</strong><br><br>
Since Instagram is visual platform, you can periodically share fun, filtered versions of your latest marketing handbills and flyers, and "invite" other users by tagging them in the comment section of the photo. The more likes and comments you get, the better. But be sure not to create a marketing stream of photos with only your promotional fliers, though. This can get spammy fast.
<strong>Get more mileage out of media and speaking engagements</strong><br><br>
Speak much? Why not showcase photos from fun angles during your talks or award acceptance speeches. If you get a lot of press for your business, you can get even more mileage out of it by posting screen shots or photos of your press hits. If you go into a television station to be interviewed, get someone to snap and post a photo of you being interviewed. This does several things: It piques the curiosity of those who may not have seen your speaking engagement or media coverage originally, encouraging them to go back and read or view the original story. It also increases your expert status and reinforces your position as a guru with expertise to share.
<strong>Give your customers direction</strong><br><br>
Professional photos of your product have long been confined to the "About US" page of your website. But when you post photos to Instagram, you can give your customers more ideas of how products can be used or are being used by other customers. If you have a product that your customers may photograph, encourage them to use a hashtag when sharing. For example, Dell's #xps hashtag, which customers are using to share photos of their new <a href="http://www.blackenterprise.com/technology/dell-xps-13-a-great-companion-for-the-on-the-go-consumer/">Dell XPS laptop</a> computers. Use hashtags to give your customers direction.
<strong>Share the more relaxed side of your business</strong><br><br>
Don't forget most importantly to have fun! If Flickr is khakis and a polo, Instagram is more t-shirt and jeans. Snap photos of your favorite customers enjoying your service or product. Capture a fun moment of someone laughing or having a good time in your store. Instagram is a fun-filled place where the happy, quirky and positive can spread in an instant.