Successful social media marketing involves grabbing the attention of your audience. Even more so than a catchy headline, a striking, beautiful, or intriguing image has the power to do precisely this, which is why image-based social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram can be such useful tools for small businesses.
Of the image-based platforms available, Pinterest and Instagram have the largest user base. Both can help you showcase your products and services, and give a snapshot of what your up-and-coming business stands for. Here, we’ll explain how both Pinterest and Instagram work and show you how your small business can use them to maximise your exposure, gain followers, and enhance your brand image.
Pinterest, Instagram… can they really be used for business?
Yes, they can! Not only that, but they’re incredibly effective because visuals are far more likely to grab a user’s attention than text alone. An interesting image can often be enough in itself to stop you scrolling past a Facebook post. Even on Twitter, research shows that Tweets with images attached get 35% more retweets than those without. So, images are important for getting noticed across all social media. But Pinterest and Instagram go a step further: they are driven entirely by visuals.
What are Pinterest and Instagram?
Pinterest is often used as a form of virtual scrapbooking. The images (pins) frequently link back to articles, blog posts, or sometimes albums of further photos. Instagram is a mobile app designed for uploading and sharing photos and short videos.
If you sell products online, both platforms might be useful ways to present those products in new and interesting ways. More broadly, if what your business does can be represented visually, they are worth considering. This includes food, fashion, crafts, interior decoration, and events.
Even if your business niche doesn’t have this obvious visual element, there might be scope for using these platforms; to present images of you and your team working on different projects as a visual introduction to your brand, for instance.
Your target audience
You should also consider whether your target audience is reachable through these platforms. There are thought to be 14 million monthly active users of Instagram and around 10 million Pinterest users in the UK. Instagram appeals to a young audience (90% of users are under 35) and Pinterest users, on average tend to be slightly older. Both tend to appeal more to women than men. To find out whether your target audience is likely to be reached by visual platforms, it’s worth compiling customer profiles, which are essentially snapshots of your typical customers, including their social media usage habits.
How to use Pinterest
The idea of a Pinterest account is to create ‘boards’ where you can ‘pin’ images. Crucially, these pins can link back to websites, so boards are often used by people who want to collect articles, product details, images, and other content to read or see later.
Pinterest can be a great organisational tool. For example, Marie Curie do a great job of showcasing their annual Great Daffodil Appeal. Within the board, there are inspirational articles, ways to donate to the charity, and unique fundraising ideas. It’s a great example of involving your customer base.
Your aim is twofold. Firstly, it’s to create and share the type of ‘pinnable’ content that users want to feature on their own boards, which in turn might be picked up by other site users. Secondly, it’s to turn your own boards into go-to sources of useful and inspiring content for your target audience.
How can I set up an account?
The Pinterest for Business page provides a walkthrough guide to setup your account. This includes linking your Pinterest boards to your website. It also includes installing a handy widget which lets people pin content from your website direct to their boards and a ‘follow’ button to help you grow a Pinterest fan base.
Next comes the task of creating and organising your boards. You are unlikely to engage audiences simply by filling your boards with bland photographs of your company’s products. Instead, think about what will inspire and interest them. For instance:
- If you are an events caterer, could you give insight into what makes an awesome summer party?
- Are you willing to share some of your favourite recipes?
- If you sell clothes online, might your audience be interested in fashion-inspired trends?
You can also showcase your own content next to items repinned from elsewhere, such as lifestyle magazines and popular bloggers.
How to use Instagram
Instagram is a mobile app designed primarily for users to showcase pictures and short videos. For small businesses it can be a useful tool for increasing brand awareness and engagement.
Unlike with Pinterest, it is not possible to link back to your website by tapping on the image. Instead, you can categorise your photos and videos using relevant hashtags (the # sign) to help these photos show up in the live feeds your customers are following or searching for. Examples might include #valentines, #beachwear, or #promdress. If you have a physical location, you should also tag your photos with that location. The location tag can then be used by other posters when they visit your location; such as on a night out at your restaurant.
As you research the Instagram presence of other businesses, you should get familiar with the trending topics linked to your niche. Examples might include #LFW (London Fashion Week), #TBT (throwback thursday), and #fairtradefortnight. Through hashtags, you can also drive traffic to your Instagram profile where a profile link can direct traffic to your website.
To build up your Instagram presence from scratch, you can search relevant hashtags to find influencers in your industry such as foodie bloggers or local newspapers and follow them. A good way of growing your presence is to comment on other people’s photos and follow people who are active in discussions.
Track your progress
With both Pinterest and Instagram, it’s important to track your progress to see if your images are getting customers to engage with your business. Pinterest has its own analytics feature for this, and tools such as SimplyMeasured can help you see how well your Instagram campaign is performing.
So there you have it. Small businesses like yours can use Pinterest and Instagram to complement your wider social strategy on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Interested in learning more about company formations and running a successful small business? Browse our help centre – there’s plenty of information in there about building your very own social media strategy, or check out our free Company Formation Guides for step-by-step advice on getting started.
This article was updated on 31st May 2017.