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It’s a cliché to say that businesses need to connect with customers via social media. But simply being in the arena isn’t enough; you have to know what to do when you get there.

So when a friend asked to be convinced of the value of social media for his business, we didn’t go all lawyer and say Exhibit A, B, C — although we could have. And we didn’t go all financier and discuss ROI — although we could have done that, too.

Instead, we’ll go all preacher and discuss in a series of sermons, um, blog posts, about how social media can be the salvation of your business. The value, as one businesswoman astutely says, is the more people know her work and her approach, the more likely they are to do business with her.

We anticipate Pew Research Internet Project social media findings – the 2014 numbers came out this month! – like Oscar nominations.  Armed with this shiny, golden data, we’ll illuminate the value of social media for businesses channel by channel. We’ll start with this year’s front runner in terms of benefits:

Instagram

Show, don’t tell, is the essence of good storytelling because people process images much faster than words. And Instagram is all about visuals with photo and video sharing.

Snap a photo with your phone and share it with followers—that’s the simple beauty of Instagram. It’s a growing platform, owned by Facebook. The Pew numbers: 26 percent of adult Internet users – 21 percent of the entire adult population — use it.

Don't think there’s not a visual component to your business — you just have to think creatively! For example, if you’re a financial planner, you could show alluring vistas and seascapes of dream vacations.

Best practices: Instagram strives to be organically promotional — hyperlinks refreshingly can’t be shared. So the most powerful images are ones that feel uncluttered by lots of verbiage. And the best content is original content – so no cat or dog memes unless animals are part of your business.

The value: You can target who you follow, and most of the time, they’ll follow you in return. If you own a store, use Instagram to promote new merchandise and sale items. Restaurants and cooking publications have us salivating over their stunning food photos! One of the most effective Instagram photos we recently saw was of an architect’s desk so meticulously organized and finely appointed that we’re ready to hire the firm today!

Next up: Facebook.

Follow us on Instagram: @madcreativekc.

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