Is Instagram insta-good?

Examining Instagram as a spa retailer marketing tool

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram — the internet is crawling with social interaction between consumers and businesses. With so many platforms available, it can be hard to determine whether one is a viable option for your showroom over another.

Instagram’s 700 million active monthly users make it a force to be reckoned with, and moreso than other platforms, experts say, Instagram’s most effective marketers have built brand loyalty.

“Whether you work with hot tubs or with Popsicles, e-commerce needs to be more human,” says Monina Wagner, community manager for Content Marketing Institute, a leading global content marketing education and training organization located in Cleveland, Ohio. “Yes, generating sales is important, but what you’re looking to do [with Instagram] is foster genuine long-term loyalty.”

This starts with making your Instagram account look natural and feel engaging. Use imagery from inside your showroom and customers’ backyards, Wagner says. Customers mentioning your business in an Instagram post — using the @mention feature — further extends your reach.

“User-generated content provides an authentic look at the joy your products bring,” she says. “Plus, promoting user-generated images is another way of enhancing the customer experience and showing appreciation to those who support you and your business.” She does recommend asking permission from the customer before reposting their images.

BonaVista Pools, Hot Tubs & Swim Spas in Toronto has been actively using its Instagram account since fall 2016, with posts going up three to five times a week. Mary Brennan-Brown, retail operations manager for BonaVista, says it strengthens trade relationships and keeps its presence in the industry known. “[Instagram] takes people behind the scenes of the business and focuses more on what you do versus what you sell.”

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Brennan-Brown recommends collaborating with other trade professionals, businesses and people by tagging their profile in your Instagram posts to reach a broader audience. She also expresses the importance of following others, and interacting by liking and commenting on their posts. “When others comment on your photos, reply back to show that you are paying attention and that you care.”

Singer recommends posting at times when users tend to be most active, usually between 5 and 7 a.m. and between 6 and 9 p.m. “Take a cue from your customers — they’re most likely going to be using your products after work and on the weekends,” Wagner says. “Also, Instagram feeds are crowded with brand-generated content during the traditional workday. Do you want to stand out? Post later in the day or Saturday and Sunday.”

When users are searching for specific content, they search by hashtags, which makes this feature an important element in Instagram marketing. “I use hashtags for people to find our brand quicker, as well as for creating awareness about #hydrotherapy, #relaxing or the season, like #Summer2017,” says Tori Root, vice president and co-owner of Spa World of Schoolcraft in Michigan.

Wagner says hashtags can be extremely effective in attracting potential customers, but she warns that brands should be judicious. “There is no limit on the number of hashtags used with each post, but by adding more than a handful of hashtags, a brand’s message becomes lost. Remember, aesthetics rule Instagram. Don’t let the description of your photo disappear because you included 20 hashtags in the post — you’re casting too wide a net and it looks like spam.”

Wagner recommends the rule of three: readers remember three ideas from each article they read, so she uses three hashtags with each Instagram post. She says personalized, short and memorable hashtags set your brand apart. So don’t be afraid to create one specifically for your brand. “And use the hashtag consistently when posting, even on other platforms, because no one will remember the hashtag unless they consistently see it in their feeds,” she says. Spa World of Schoolcraft, for example, uses “#premierspadealer in SW #puremichigan” for additional brand awareness. Root also uses the slogan of their hot tub manufacturer #theresonlyoneJacuzzi to increase brand awareness.

If used consistently and effectively, Instagram can be a great addition to your marketing toolbox. “Photographs are a powerful way to build awareness in a noisy social world,” Wagner says. “Instagram provides businesses with tremendous marketing and customer service opportunities.”