#No Filter: Instagram Tips for Connecting With Customers

At 2017 Summer NAMM, Ryan Sargent, social media manager for MakeMusic, and Billy Cuthrell, owner of Progressive Music Center, shared ideas for using Instagram to connect with customers. According to Sargent, Instagram provides the best opportunity (more than any other social platform) for you to reach your customers exactly where they are spending time—and where they can get to know your business.

Cuthrell illustrated the power of Instagram by taking a photo of the audience and posting it in real time. He noted for audience members who self-manage their Instagram accounts that it helps to have an extra set of eyes and hands in a social media staff person.

Watch the video to see slides of Instagram examples. Here are highlights from the session.

How to Connect With Customers on Instagram
• Be authentic. Brands have a personality, and you recognize those that do and those that don’t. When you bring your brand personality to Instagram, it helps drive customers to your business. For example, you may want to associate your brand with lesson solutions and good ideas.

• Be passionate. You should post photos of things you care about, things your customers care about and things you both have in common.

• Likewise, take pictures of the things that you and your customers care about. For example, a photo of students practicing shows customers you are actively engaged in lessons. (Always get parent permission for this, and make sure your releases are updated.) The same is true with photos of beautiful instruments. You can also show you’re engaged with the community. Cuthrell stated that he posts photos of anything outside of his business, such as teachers at a student’s school, a concert or in the local community.

• Show that you know exactly what you’re good at through a great picture. Cuthrell encouraged spontaneity. He posted a photo of a kid playing the drums in a lesson room, and it became a classic.

• Don’t focus on Likes. “We’re not after the number of Likes,” Cuthrell said. “We care about someone coming in the shop and saying they saw the photo on Instagram.” Instagram can establish a higher lifetime value with your customers. They stay engaged with your brand, so you should be more interested in followers than any one post and number of Likes.

• Be educational. Use photos and videos that provide a service for customers. Consider focusing on how-to tips and before-and-after contrasts, or just introduce yourself. Tell them what you do and why you do what you do.

• Be real. You aren’t a faceless corporation. Be yourself. Post pictures that reflect your brand values, and don’t be afraid to post pictures that aren’t perfect. Also, take photos that show real life. Cuthrell mentioned that customers sometimes bring their dogs into the store, and he posts photos of the dogs. (He added that some kids are afraid of dogs, so be careful.)

Use Best Practices for Instagram Growth
• Tag everything! Tag other people and companies, such as instrument manufacturers. Always add your location. Use the city and state because people are searching Instagram, and you will pop up. And always caption your photo. You have room for up to 30 hashtags. It’s probably good to have two or three hashtags more than you think you need.

• Tags generate explores and reach, and make you searchable. Post as consistently as possible. It’s far better to post regularly than all at once, followed by silence. And it’s OK to post after the fact. Post before an event, and post after.

• Use basic photography techniques. Put the light behind you, not behind whatever you’re photographing. Focus on one object. Negative space, symmetry and strong lines are all good. (Sargent explained the bridge rule: Think about a photo of a bridge which has all three things.) Be candid, or be abstract. Make sure your photo fills the box, so that people can see the whole image as they scroll.

Drive Engagement
• Use Instagram Stories. It has 200 million daily active users (compared to 166 million daily active users of Snapchat). It’s free, and many of the most viewed Stories are businesses. Plus, Stories literally puts your brand top of mind. If your profile picture is your brand logo, your logo appears at the top of your Instagram feed (where Stories appear). This can help drive engagement for a special event.

• Use video. Videos get more meaningful engagement, and video views means people spent time with your brand. Keep videos short and simple, and use them in Stories.