By Karen Nardozza, Moxxy President and CEO
Instagram is used by a lot of businesses, but it is not primarily a business communication platform. Instagram is used largely by individuals and people with fans (musicians, entertainers, the Kardashians). This platform was designed to capture images and use visuals—photos, videos and graphics—to help tell stories, capture memories and provide inspiration.
As such, many people (including me) have both a personal and a professional profile on Instagram. On my personal profile, you’ll see pictures of my pets, friends, husband, food, and places I’ve been or want to go to. I don’t post anything on social media I wouldn’t want my parents or 6th grade teacher to see (OK, maybe after too many glasses of wine I might), but a lot of what is on my personal page has no bearing or interest to my professional life.
On my professional profile (@karennardozza) you’ll see inspirational business quotes, photos from trade shows, pictures from client visits, shots of my team, etc. And my business has its own profile (@moxxymarketing) where my team posts images of our work, team functions (when we could have them) and our volunteer activities. I try to maintain a professional presence on Instagram, but because our clients are other businesses, I have a much stronger focus on LinkedIn (read my tips on LinkedIn).
Instagram can help provide a personality to your business, and usually one picture really is more powerful than a thousand words.
Follow to be Followed
As with other social media platforms, the audience of people who might see your posts (nobody will see all your posts) is driven by who you have a digital relationship with on the app. Getting followers on Instagram is not as easy as making connections on LinkedIn or inviting friends on Facebook.
It’s easy to search for people by industry or company on LinkedIn, and Facebook is always suggesting people who are friends of friends or like similar groups as you do. One click invites people to be friends with you on Facebook or LinkedIn. On Instagram, you have to be more proactive. One strategy is to follow other people and comment and engage in their posts. They might see you and might follow you back. At least a percentage of them will—if they’re intrigued by your comments on their posts, and when they view your posts, there is something there that is of interest to them.
You can send direct messages on Instagram and ask people to follow you, but it’s not as seamless and easy as it is on other platforms. You can also upload your contacts to find people to follow. There are services that you can hire to build your followers, but if you’re looking for quality over quantity, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
Who is Your Instagram Audience?
Search #strawberry on Instagram, and you’ll get over 18 million posts, while #strawberryfarms yields less than five thousand. If your focus is on communicating with end consumers, you can provide recipes, arrangements, and examples of how people can enjoy your products. “Meet the farmer” stories can put some people and emotion behind your brand.
If you’re trying to reach retail grocery or food service buyers, you can use Instagram to support your messaging on operations, scale, food safety, current production, etc.
Fresh is Beautiful
From farm, ranch and sea, to retail packaging and displays, the opportunities to visually tell your fresh story is almost limitless. And floral…Floral! Is there anything more beautiful? The fresh industry lends itself perfectly to visual storytelling, but it does take good photography and videography. If you say you “grow the most flavorful strawberries on the planet,” your imagery should jump off the screen and say “eat me”.
Instagram Posts for Today and Tomorrow
One of my themes in these posts during the COVID-19 pandemic is be authentic and appropriate. Stay consistent to your brand and messages. If the message or tone is not something you would have presented a year (or three months) ago, then it’s not authentic. When people are struggling to keep up or just get by, being appropriate is showing you understand their situation, you care, and are trying to help.
If you’re targeting consumers, focus on simpler, stay-at-home recipes, not large display trays suitable for a party. If you’ve been focused on food service and have reconfigured for retail, there are some visual stories you can create to back that up.
Now is a great time to post pictures and videos of the people who make your supply chain work, from field workers to truck drivers to produce department teams. Recognize their efforts and show your appreciation. Pictures or video of how you’ve adapted your operations can tell the story of how innovative you are and demonstrate your focus on safety.
Every Company Does Not Need to Be on Instagram
If you’re primarily communicating with other businesses, and don’t have great visual stories to tell, being active on Instagram might not be the best use of your time. If you do have good visuals, and especially if you’re also communicating to consumers, by being authentic and appropriate with your posts, you can use Instagram to reinforce your brand image today, and emerge stronger when business is back to usual (whatever the new usual will look like).