Summer 2014
Picture Perfect By Crystal Vilkaitis

How to make Instagram work for you.

Although Instagram is much smaller than the social media giant Facebook, with about 200 million monthly active users it’s a website with growing opportunity. And since Facebook purchased this platform in 2012, we’re going to start seeing more integration between these two social media networks. For example, in the new Facebook Page layout you’ll find an Instagram tab built into the page.

Instagram is a mobile application and in order to use it, you need to have a smartphone and download the free app. Your profile and photos/videos can be viewed online but you cannot upload content online, you must do so from the application.

If you’re thinking about using Instagram to market your specialty retail business and connect with your customers, or you’re already doing so but want to take your efforts to the next level, here are some power tips:

1. Divine Descriptions

Your description can be up to 150 characters long. Keep it short and sweet, but do so strategically by knowing what’s most important for the Instagram user to know about you and your profile. Local specialty retail stores might include their contact info: phone number, email and address. Or you might have specific instructions such as: “Call ###-#### to reserve or purchase; we do priority shipping” etc. Finally, you might ask users to use your branded hashtag when posting photos of your kiosk or products. Ex: “Share your photos with us by tagging with #brandedhashtag.”

2. You’re Only Human

More than other social media outlets, Instagram is known for being a behind-the-scenes, grassroots and artistic platform. Be human and upload pictures of your staff, customers or fun selfies with product. Images with faces receive a 38% increase in likes and 32% increase in comments so get personal and show your beautiful self!

3. Use Hashtags

urthtonesA hashtag is the ‘#’ symbol before a word or series of words (all run together without any spaces #likethisexample). Hashtags categorize images and make them searchable. If you want more information on hashtags go to and search for “what the heck is a hashtag.”

One of the best ways to increase exposure and followers on Instagram is by using hashtags. Here are a few ideas on what to use hashtags for:

  • Location – #sandiego #socal (crucial for local brick-and-mortar stores!)
  • Events – #tbt #SPREE #selfiesunday #youreventhashtag
  • Emotions – #love #happy
  • Categories – #summer #gift #ring
  • Relevant – #june #vacation
  • Detailed – #cellphone #earbuds #scarves

4. Image is Everything

fox-and-fawnInstagram is a photo and video platform meaning you cannot have general text status updates like Twitter or Facebook. For that reason, it’s important your images look good. Most phone cameras optimize the photo for you but make sure you have good lighting and that the photo is not blurry.

An easy photo-taking tip from a phone is tap the screen so it autofocuses on the right part of the photo, this will help produce a nice clear and crisp photo. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to go through all the filters, the Mayfair filter receives the most comments and likes on average; it’s a good go-to option.

Here are a few more stats to help you understand how to optimize and get the most engagement out of your photos from Curalate, a marketing and analytics suite for the visual web:

  • Images with high lightness generate 24% more likes than dark images
  • Images with a high amount of background space generate 29% more likes than those without. So include a background versus having close-ups
  • Images with blue as the dominant color generate 24% more likes than images that are predominantly red
  • Images with a single dominant color generate 17% more likes than images with multiple dominant colors
  • Images with high levels of texture generate 79% more likes than those without

Crystal Vilkaitis

Crystal Vilkaitis has been using social media to market businesses since 2007 producing results such as: tripled web sales, increased blog traffic by over 2700% and coverage in Entrepreneur magazine and USA Today. She is the owner of Crystal Media, a company dedicated to helping retailers market online to increase exposure, traffic and sales. To receive free weekly social media tips visit

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