Businesses will soon be able to find a new home on Instagram.
The photo sharing app previewed new profiles and tools for businesses Tuesday, which will be available to people in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia in the next few months.
The update, which we first got a look at earlier this month, will add a prominent “contact” button to profiles, detailed analytics tools and easier access to promotion tools, which turn Instagram posts into ads.
For users, the most noticeable change will be the addition of a contact button to profiles of businesses, which will make it easier to interact with stores and brands outside of the app. Companies will be able to add an email address, phone number, or text message option to their profile, along with directions (if they have a physical location.)
Though Instagram currently has a private messaging feature, many users still rely on comments for the bulk of their interactions, which are difficult to sift through if a post has more than a handful of responses.
Businesses will soon be able to find a new home on Instagram.
Instagram contests are a secret weapon that many businesses neglect to use. You may be unsure of how to run a contest, concerned about the rules (we’re all a little scarred from Facebook contest rules), or just unaware of their power to help your business.
That’s why this post has everything you need to understand why Instagram contests are a good idea, what rules are associated with a contest, and the exact steps you should implement to set up a successful contest every time.
Why Instagram Contests Are Beneficial
I love Instagram contests for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, they instantly boost your engagement. You will get more likes and comments immediately (depending on your entry criteria). And, with the Instagram algorithm now rolling out, engagement is more important than ever. If you have a way to improve that engagement and increase your ranking in your audience’s feeds, wouldn’t you want to take full advantage?
Beyond this initial boost in engagement, contests also help you grow your audience. But more importantly, when executed properly, a good contest will help you grow a strong, targeted audience full of potential new customers. The key here is to ensure that your contest is centered around your brand and your products or services. For example, you don’t want to give away an Amazon gift card as a prize if you have a physical store where you can’t use an Amazon gift card. Not to mention that a popular, generic prize is going to attract the masses, not your ideal audience.
Instead, your prize should be something related to your business that your ideal customer would be happy to receive. You may not get as many participants in the contest, but those who enter are more likely to stay in your audience and be converted to paying customers.
You can also use contests on Instagram to encourage your audience to create user generated content (UGC). These are images (and/or videos) that you can repurpose by sharing to your account. This rewards your customers with public exposure and a shout out they’re likely excited to receive. And, you get a bunch of content that you can build into your content strategy. That’s a win-win. As a side note, you always want to ask permission to repost someone’s content in order to avoid any copyright infringement issues.
Finally, Instagram contests can also help you drive traffic to your website. And, in the long run, isn’t this what all of us want?
Depending on your contest requirements (you could require they fill out a form on your website), or your notification process (you could announce winners on your website), you have the option to drive traffic to your site. Even after the contest is over, if you’ve done a good job getting new followers, the posts you share following the contest period can encourage Instagram followers to visit your website.
Rules for Hosting Contests on Instagram
In general, running an Instagram contest is relatively unrestricted.
You can run a contest to get your audience to like your photo, leave comments on your post, “tag” friends in the comments, follow your account, or post content using a specific hashtag. You can be creative with your entry requirements as Instagram really doesn’t restrict these conditions.
There are, however, a few rules and restrictions you need to adhere to. Instagram requires that you MUST include all of these conditions in your contest posts:
- The official contest rules.
- Offer terms and eligibility requirements (for example: age or residency restrictions).
- Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and the prizes.
Instagram also prohibits users from inaccurately tagging themselves or others in a post. Therefore, you cannot ask people to tag themselves in your post or another unless they are actually in the photo. You can, however, ask them to “tag” (or @ mention) their friends in the comments of the post.
To protect yourself legally, you should also consider adding a statement like “Void where prohibited by law” and/or “No purchase necessary”.
The 11 Steps to Setting Up Your Instagram Contest
It sounds like a lot, but these eleven steps are all very important to achieving successful results from contests on Instagram. Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll see how well these steps work together and the process will flow smoothly.
- Define the end state. Do you want likes and comments on your posts? Are you looking to attract new followers? Do you want to increase opt-ins (webinar, email list, etc.)? Or are you asking your audience to create user generated content?
- Choose a prize. As discussed earlier, this should be something related to your business. It should be something your audience actually wants and that they would find value in. The value of the prize should match the level of participation requirement. For example, if you want likes on your post, a low cost prize is ideal. If you’re asking your audience to share photos with your hashtag, this is time consuming and highly active on their part, so the prize should be of high value and worth their effort.
- Define the entry requirements. How many steps will you require for participants to enter? Choose from options such as: like the post, follow your account, @ mention (tag) a specific number of people in the comments (usually no more than 3 people but this is a really good way to grow your audience organically!), post a photo with your hashtag, or complete a form on your website. Remember that the easier the steps and requirements, the better! You can also include multiple criteria where you ask them to like the post, follow your account, and tag 2 people in the comments. You want to ensure you limit the steps to no more than 3 or 4 though.
- Define the rules and conditions. Take into account the restrictions and rules mentioned above. Then determine if there are any restrictions you will impose for your business reasons: age restrictions, geographical restrictions, number of entries, etc.
- Define the time frame for the contest. How long will your contest run (days, weeks, etc.)? Then determine the start date and end date for the contest.
- Determine the promotional schedule. This will depend on how long your contest will run but you need to decide how many times per day/week you will promote the contest with posts on Instagram. If it’s a one day contest, one or two times that day is sufficient. If it lasts a few days, once a day would be good.
- Choose a hashtag for your campaign. Each contest should have its own unique hashtag so that you can accurately track traffic around that campaign. The hashtag should be related to your contest, the topic, your business, and/or your industry. The hashtag can also be longer than usual since you’re using it in a limited capacity. And, you want to make sure that no one else is already using that hashtag!
- Design your image(s). It is Instagram after all, and you want a powerful image that will draw in more contest participants. The image should announce that it’s a contest or giveaway. The image should include the hashtag. And, the image should be related to the theme of the contest and your brand.
- Decide on the winning criteria. How will the contest be judged (best image, most creativity, favorite photo)? Will the winner be randomly generated, and if so, what method will you use? How will you notify the winners? As a side note, I always recommend you notify the winners privately first (via direct message or email if you have it) before publicly announcing the winners on your account.
- Write your post caption. Yes, your photo should announce that it is a contest, but your post caption has to take everything into consideration. The first line (even the first words) of the caption should define that this is a contest. You need to include all of the entry requirements, rules, disclaimers, prize notification details, etc. as outline above. You want to keep it fun, and personal too! I recommend you write this up in a note app on your mobile device so that you can copy and paste it into each post you use to promote the contest.
- Define the analysis details. Now that you have everything ready for the contest itself, how will you determine if it was a success? What tools and tactics will you use to monitor engagement, reactions, and participation? It’s also a good idea to keep a spreadsheet or data record of each contest so that you can compare one contest to all of the others you run. This will allow you to measure performance across all of your campaigns.
Now that you have all of these tips and strategies in place, you are all set for your next Instagram contest!
But if you really want to maximize the results from your contest, plan out your posts immediately following your contest as well. If you’re successfully drawing in new followers to your account, you want to ensure that the posts immediately following the contest period are of top quality and planned for best possible conversion. Provide high quality images, be responsive to the comments and your community, and think about ways to use calls-to-action to drive traffic to your website, email list, opt-in, or sales pages.
When push comes to shove, you can get a business website up in a few hours, and I’m all for the ‘having something is better than nothing’ approach if it serves your business well. But with an organised approach, adding value to your small business website and getting good results from it should be the aim.
Having worked on dozens of sites over the last year, I’ve come up with some quick and easy wins for small business websites. They are easy to implement, and their impact is usually measurable within a few short months.
1. Connect your newsletter database to your website
Ok, so this might seem like a no-brainer. But something I have seen over and over when people launch a new site (or start grumbling about their old one) is that they are not offering their visitors any way to keep up to date with them. Sure, not everyone will leave their email address, but knowing that someone is interested in your brand, service, or product is basically impossible unless you give them the opportunity to tell you.
Whatever platform you’re using, you should have access to a form or popup to connect to your mailing list software of choice. For an easy, no fuss implementation, use MailChimp and SumoMe to get started.
2. Provide a thank you page for your form redirects
No one likes a dead-end! When someone does subscribe to your site email list, make them feel welcome by thanking them on a purpose-built page, and letting them know where they can find the best content on your site.
Depending on the software you are using, there are a number of ways to achieve this. Usually you are looking for an option to ‘URL redirect’ where you can insert the direct link to your pre-built thank you page.
3. Optimise at least 5 pages for keywords
I hate to be the one to say ‘I told you so’; but if you don’t actively optimise your site pages for Search Engines, you are not going to see any growth in organic searches. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your website looks. If it’s not indexing well in Google, then the only people who’ll know about it are those you tell personally.
The good news is that SEO doesn’t have to be overwhelming: I recommend that my clients start with the top 5 pages on their site they want to get found. Following a simple, proven method,carefully tweak your content on those pages to Google’s best standards and you should start to see gradual improvements.
There are a couple of wonderful DIY resources out there to learn how to optimise individual pages, but your best bet is using a checklist and getting up close and personal with your content – here are my a few of my favourites:
4. Connect your site to Google Search Console
Google is big. Like really BIIIIIIIII…GGGG. And your website is a tiny, tiny little speck amongst it so you want to give yourself the best possible chance of being found right? And, if your site has some kind of error that stops it from being found, you’d want to know that too right? Oooh, and you want to know what people are searching to find your site too I bet…
Well this tip is for you. Connecting your site to Google Search Console (previously Webmaster Tools) will allow you to do all these things.
Once you’ve created your Google Analytics account, head over to Google Search Console and connect the 2 accounts together. Then, submit your sitemap, hit ‘fetch as google’ and check for any errors.
Using WordPress? Check this out:
How to submit a WordPress XML Sitemap to Google
5. Publish a new piece of content every month (or more!)
This one takes planning and discipline but it is so valuable. Why? Well, lots of reasons but here are the top three for small businesses:
1) Google loves new content
2) It gives you an opportunity to talk to your customers in your own voice, and finally
3) It’s the perfect platform for creating targeted, timely and Search Engine Optimised pieces of content for your audience.
The best way to get started with publishing regularly is to brainstorm possible topics in advance and use a content publishing template to structure your article. Writing about things you’re passionate about is also easier than coming up with entirely new ideas, so go easy on yourself and get comfortable pressing that publish button.
6. Optimise images on your site for both search engines and page load
I’m a nag. I’m an alt text nag. Anyone who’s ever attended one of my WordPress training sessions will have it drilled into them that if you’re going to have images on your site, then they may as well earn their keep. I insist each image is optimised for web use, and has alt text (alternate text) included.
Having alt text applied to your images serves a few purposes:
1) Google doesn’t see images, it just sees code, so unless your website tells google ‘alt=”Blue goat”, it ain’t seeing no goat!
2) Accessibility. As the internet evolves, it should be accessible to all. Screen readers read alt text to tell a vision impaired audience what is on the page. No alternate text, no goat… Got it?
3) SEO – yep – alt text is a hot on-site SEO element and can add to the integrity of a Google result for your keyword or phrase.
How: Applying alt text via html is pretty simple, but could be time consuming. I prefer to get into good habits and every time I upload an image, I make sure there is alt text added. And whenever you are creating images for your site, upload at an internet optimised size from your software of choice, the faster the load speed, the happier Google is to serve your content to the world.
7. Be consistent with your branding and colours
Whether you’re a one-person operation or a team of 50, your business branding is important. Being consistent in the application of your branding across both your onsite and offsite platforms will aid your clients in recognising your business and reinforce your professionalism.
Good news. You don’t have to hire a designer every step of the way. My best tip is to establish a base style guide when you initiate your branding. Then, DIY the rest using tools like Canva for Work, where you can output standard image sizes for things like Facebook and Google, and also set up branding templates containing your logo colours, business fonts, image treatments etc.
Tools like Frontify also help us communicate our brand and style guide to other colleagues and stakeholders so that there is no dilution of the brand over time.
8. Connect your website to your Google Local My Business page
Looking to give your local search traffic a significant boost? The answer could be as easy as signing up for Google My Business Page.
Google My Business ensures your business pops up in Search, Maps and Google+ – so your customers know exactly where you are and how to make contact with you. Sounds pretty good, right?
Head to google.com and click the “Get on Google” button at the top of the page. You will be prompted to submit information about your business with the service going live once you have verified your business.
9. Share your content across multiple platforms
Knowing where your audience is trying to find you is critical to any digital marketing you do. Even if you’ve just started to write a blog, knowing how to get in front of potential customers is important. The best way to do this is to publish your content to different avenues. Personally, I post everything to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google +, But your audience could be hanging out in a variety of different social media and content marketing spaces. Get your content to them; don’t wait until they come to you!
This could be a whole post in itself – in fact it is! Head over to Kissmetrics to ready this rad article on how to get your content out there:
10. Use Good Quality Images. Always.
Nothing lets a perfectly designed website down more than atrocious imagery. Seriously, in a highly saturated online market, there is no space for blurry, muddy, dated, embarrassing images. These simply don’t cut it. And they shouldn’t. Because there are so many ways you can get good images on your site, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.
So, the best option is always to use professional photography. But, we don’t all have this luxury. I do recommend you get a professional portrait taken of yourself for use on about pages and the likes but it is optional.
Second to having your own photography at hand is using stock photography that you can purchase on a per-use basis.
Third, there are dozens of amazing repositories for obtaining stock photos legally, and free of charge.
To get you started, here’s a list.
Warning: Do not use images on your website that you haven’t licensed, don’t know the origin of or are unsure if you’re allowed to. It’s just not worth it – here’s why.
To wrap up
There are so many ways to improve the content, the engagement, the SEO and the aesthetics of your site, hopefully I’ve presented a number of ways you can improve your website in just a few clicks.
I’d love to hear your feedback, and your own easy wins for small business websites.
Any edge your small business (SMB) can gain to stay in the ring with your heavy weight competitors is crucial. In a world full of millennial customers, your advantage is your mobile presence. Bottom line—if your business is not set up to serve the mobile population, look for a knock out punch to come from the competition.
It’s no secret that SMB is the backbone of the American economy. It’s also no secret that technology is a major factor in a SMB’s success. You would think that as technology continues to evolve that SMBs would have greater opportunities to compete with their larger competitors. This is the case on some occasions, but for most, modern technology is evolving faster than businesses can keep up with, thus leaving many scrambling to understand the changes they need to make.
There are two basic approaches that SMBs can use to begin entering the mobile market, apps or mobile websites. Both options have pros and cons, and depending on your business, you will need to do some research. One thing remains certain, if you can afford to build both, you will certainly come out on top with more avenues to reach customers on the platform that they use the most.
In a recent study conducted by BuzzBoard, researchers learned that approximately 47.3% of SMB across the nation were not prepared for the shift to mobile (2). The study further reported that 49% of consumers looking for information about local SMB use their smart phones to do so, and of that 49% of consumers, 18% of those searches resulted in customers arriving at a brick and mortar store to make a purchase (7). Simply put, customers shopping and searching techniques are evolving faster than SMBs can keep up with. What that means to you as a SMB owner, is that you cannot afford to postpone developing a mobile presence.
Smartphones have dominated the mobile market as of lately. In fact, 64% of Americans or 2/3 of the population own smart phones, and 19% of those people rely on their smart phone as their primary means of staying connected online. Again, as a SMB owner, you have no choice but to begin developing your mobile presence. By putting it off and assuming that people will just find your website, you are easily loosing 19% of the population as potential customers.
Additionally, 68% of all emails are read on smart phones or tablets, so not only do SMBs need to reevaluate their websites and their app market existence, they also have to begin creating mobile friendly emails (8).
Because Google Says So…
Due largely to the giant shift towards mobile, Internet giants such as Google have begun revising their business strategies. Google recent announced that it would begin changing its ranking criteria by awarding sites with a stronger mobile presence higher rankings (9). The bottom line is when Google says you need to change your online presence, you have to follow suit; otherwise, any ground you’ve gained developing your digital existence will be lost.
Your business cannot afford to ignore the rules that Google sets for search criteria. It will end up costing you way more money in the long run. If you wait, not only will you have to spend money developing a mobile website and/or a mobile app, you will also have to pay marketing and advertising experts to help you regain the ground you lost by holding off development. It’s one of those penny smart dime stupid scenarios where businesses often find themselves struggling to make decisions.
In the case of developing a mobile presence, the decision is abundantly clear. You need to find the budget to get yourself a smart phone friendly existence. There are many open source websites options you can use such as Joomla or WordPress that offer built in responsive capabilities for a mobile site that can come at a very low cost.
In fact, open source content management systems are simple to learn to use of you have some technology skills. They require no coding skills, and they offer many step by step tutorials that you can use to begin building. The same is true with app development.
There are also many “build an mobile app” options that can help you cultivate an effective and affordable app without any coding knowledge. With a little legwork, you can have your business competing in the mobile market for relativity low cost.
Apps as a Mobile Option
Without a doubt, you have to have a mobile friendly website. First of all, a mobile friendly website offers a much simpler screen experience potential customers. When a page is easier to navigate on a mobile device, customers are less likely to abandon the page and find one that is easier to view on a mobile platform.
If you don’t begin developing your mobile existence with a device responsive website, you are loosing out on opportunity after opportunity. You need to be able to contend with your competitors, and without a mobile presence, SMBs in your niche will steal your customers. But in most cases, the mobile website is simply not enough.
As more and more technology platforms shift focus towards apps, it is in your business best interest to invest in app development as well. Apps offer mobile capability, but they also offer many additional innovative possibilities. Because an app can work directly with the device on which it is downloaded, it has the potential to allow customers and clients a more interactive mobile experience. Customers like simplicity. The like to go to the app to, book appointments, order supplies, get reminders, check status, etc. Simply put, an app offers a much more user-friendly experience.
Additionally, apps engage users more. If your SMB niche offers or requires any of the following, and app is most certainly the mobile market you want to begin using:
- Regular customers like coffee shops, hair salons, nail salons
- Extensive research before purchasing like car dealers, real estate
- Continued communication like contractors, event planners
- Vacation or entertainment like a casino or a resort
- Location reminders like a restaurant or a concert venue
- Valued reminders like a car garage or a dentist (13)
Studies indicate that 90% of media time is spent using apps instead of browser technology (12). Again, what that means to you as a SMB, is that you need to invest in app technology.
A mobile existence is going to be your SMB’s next life line, and if you wait too long to invest in the shift, you are going to end up spending more money trying to rebuild the online presence you’ve already built. Watching how the trend unfolds is no longer an option for your SMB. You have to begin adjusting to the change.
Sterling, Greg. Mobile: Ready-or Not? Why Small Business Must Adapt Now to the Mobile-First Consumer Marketplace. 1-14: Local Search Association, 2016. Print