Three visual social platforms to use to promote your business: Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest

With the wide availability of image creation tools, social media has seen a definite shift towards a more visual conversation. Here’s how you can use Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest to promote your business.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is the king of visual social media, with more than 150 million active users. It’s also tipped to be the fastest-growing social media platform for 2014, according to research from GlobalWebIndex.

Getting started
Instagram accounts are free and easy to use. Simply add a picture, write a caption and apply a filter to create visual effects. Unlike many other social media platforms, Instagram is primarily a mobile- and tablet-based app, though it can also be viewed online.

What images to use on Instagram
Create a window-shopping experience for followers – use well-styled imagery to give them a taste of your products and services. In the captions include relevant and useful information, including prices and product names where appropriate. Behind-the-scenes images, inspirational pictures and text-based graphics can also be a great way to add variety and show a different side of your brand. For inspiration check out Warby ParkerRed Bull and Topshop Australia.

Tips for Instagram success
To encourage users to find your content on Instagram, use relevant hashtags, such as #fashion or #food. Once you have a loyal following you can even start your own hashtag to help build a community around your brand. For example, fashion retailer Sabo Skirt encourages customers to use #saboskirt when posting pictures that feature its garments.

What is Flickr?

Flickr is an online photo-sharing community owned by Yahoo!. In March 2013 it was reported that Flickr had a total of 87 million registered members, and that more than 3.5 million new images are uploaded daily.

Getting started
Choose from a Free, Ad Free or Doublr account, depending on factors such as the volume of images you plan to upload each month. Flickr suggests using your website address as your screen name and filling out your profile with information that describes what you do and leads viewers back to your website.

What images to use on Flickr
The most important thing to note is it’s against the terms of service to use Flickr for blatantly commercial purposes. That means you shouldn’t fill your photostream with straight product shots, overly staged images and advertisements. For the best results use genuine, creative images that showcase your brand’s culture and personality. Behind-the-scenes photos, artistically styled product images or photos of happy customers in your store can be great ways to tell your story.

Tips for Flickr success
You can tag your photos with relevant keywords and geographical data to make them more easily found. Larger companies such as Urban Outfitters and digital printing company MOO use Flickr groups to collect customer-generated content, but for smaller businesses the best way to get exposure is to contribute to existing groups. For example, if you have a bike shop, there are plenty of groups for cycling enthusiasts to which you can add photos. Use your descriptions well (avoid the hard sell) and include links back to your website.

What is Pinterest?

Online scrapbooking platform Pinterest allows its users to collect images by “pinning” them to mood boards. It is most popularly used in lifestyle categories such as fashion, beauty, home and garden, weddings, and food and beverages. As of July 2013, Pinterest had a reported 70 million users, with women making up the majority of pinners.

Getting started
Pinterest allows you to create business pages that can act as an online storefront if you choose, or just give your profile a more professional and credible look. Once you set up your business account, start pinning your images, organising them onto boards to make it easy to find and browse content.

What images to use on Pinterest
Pinterest is often used as a destination for shopping inspiration and product discovery, and brand studies have shown it’s the most effective social media platform for driving sales . When you add images of your products or services, include as much shopper-friendly information as you can: prices, product names, locations available, and links to purchase. Take a look at the boards of Better Homes and Gardens Chobani and Sephora for ideas on how to provide useful information while presenting your brand in a fun, creative and aesthetically pleasing way.

Tips for Pinterest success
Engaging with other Pinterest users can help to extend your reach. Where relevant, re-pin other users’ content to your boards. You can also use group boards to collaborate with other pinners and increase your exposure. Drive traffic back to your site by including links with each image you pin.

How services or other “non-visual” businesses can use visual media

What if you don’t sell particularly beautiful products, or you sell a service that can’t be easily represented through images? If you’re an accountant, a personal trainer or a hardware store owner, you can still use visual platforms effectively – it’s just a matter of thinking a little more broadly.

A good strategy is to focus on conveying the culture and personality of your company. Some ideas might be:

  • Inspirational images
  • Quotes
  • Infographics
  • Behind-the-scenes images
  • Step-by-step instructional images
  • Images of company celebrations
  • Photos of happy clients or customers
  • Images of your building, office or store
  • Photos from relevant community events
  • Graphics advertising a special offer

Take a look at companies such as MailChimp General Electric Mashable and Middle Sister Wines for examples of thinking outside the box.

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