Instagram is a new marketing frontier for small businesses that have the potential to bring in many new customers. As of July 2019, it was ranked #6 among the world’s most popular social networks, with over 1 billion users worldwide. Users love it for its strong visual focus and upbeat vibe.
The key to successfully marketing your small business on Instagram, as with other social networks, is building an engaged following and positioning yourself as part of the online community which could very quickly become your future customer base.
1. Use a business account When joining Instagram, you can select whether your account will be a personal account or a business account. The latter is ideal for business because it allows you to view analytics, connect your account with your Facebook page, run paid advertisements, and it makes it easier for followers to contact you.
Starting off with a separate business account is crucial towards establishing your brand presence and will allow you to strategize and implement many of our Instagram marketing tips for all small businesses. 2. Fill in your bio Instagram gives you 150 characters to tell potential followers everything they need to know about you. Use this space wisely. You can include hashtags in the bio, which can help more people find your profile. Make sure to include a link to your website. 3. Establish your identity and look Because Instagram is such a visual platform, the “look” of your profile matters. You want your followers to immediately associate your content with your brand. Using certain colour palettes and fonts can help with this, as well as a certain style of image that’s consistent with your message. 4. See what your competitors are doing Not sure where to start? See what other small and medium businesses like yours are up to on Instagram and draw on their ideas for inspiration. Take note of the kind of content they post, the hashtags they use, their visual language, and so on. You can also check to see how well they’re doing: how many followers do they have? How much engagement do they get on their posts? This will tell you how well their strategy is working. 5. Plan your content Once you’ve decided what kind of content you want to post, be strategic about it: plan what you’re going to post at least on a weekly basis, if not for several weeks at a time. Posting regularly and consistently helps keep your followers engaged. 6. Use hashtags strategically Hashtags are one of Instagram’s most important features for businesses. They make it possible for people who don’t follow you to discover your content. Research has shown that using 7 or 30 hashtags per post performs best, but that it varies depending on how many followers you have. Instagram recently added a feature allowing you to see how many people found your post through the hashtags. This can help you measure how effective your hashtags are at generating engagement. Don’t underestimate #hashtag strategy as a really powerful Instagram marketing tip for small businesses!
7. Embrace Instagram Stories The Stories feature on Instagram has been making a huge splash and can definitely help a small business Instagram page. Stories appear at the top of followers’ feeds, which makes them stand out — and they’re a lot more dynamic than regular feed posts, with tons of cool features. You can post multiple Stories a day without cluttering up your followers’ feeds. Stories should be an integral part of your Instagram marketing strategy. 8. Use video Instagram isn’t just for stills! Videos are more engaging and fun, and you have multiple ways to post them on Instagram. Clips of up to 1 minute can be shared on the feed, 15-second clips can be strung together on Stories, and there’s even IGTV, the new feature that allows you to post videos of up to 10 minutes in length. 9. Don’t be shy about direct messages Direct messaging is more intimate than public discussion and may be considered more invasive. However, there are cases where it’s appropriate and can help you build better relationships with your customers. For example, if someone writes a post or comment praising your business, sending a DM to thank them is a nice personal gesture. On the flip side, if someone says something negative or posts a negative review, moving the conversation to DM helps keep it out of the public eye and shows the customer that you’re taking their concerns seriously. 10. Actively engage with other users If you really want a strong presence on Instagram, you need to do more than simply post your own content. Interacting with other people’s posts and comments show them you are sincerely interested in them and not just trying to get their business. Respond to comments on your posts, follow interesting accounts, and like other people’s posts. The more they see you in their notifications, the more often they will think of you. 11. Encourage engagement The next level of engagement is posting content that encourages your followers to engage. For example, ask your followers to answer a question about themselves, or to tag another user who they think needs to see your message. On Stories, you can do even more with this: use the emoji slider, quizzes, questions, and chats to get your followers actively interacting with your content.
12. Add calls to action wherever you can Make it as easy as possible for your followers to move to the next stage of the sales funnel. Be straightforward and tell them what you’d like them to do next, such as clicking the link in your bio to learn more. 13. Post at peak times Posting your content at times of highest traffic means you’re likely to get more engagement and interest. How do you know when is the best time to post? It varies, according to the nuances of your specific audience, and the best way to know the ideal time to post is to experiment and see what works best. Sprout Social conducted an experiment like this and found that the best times to post on Instagram were on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and Friday between 10–11 a.m. 14. Collaborate with influencers and related small businesses When you collaborate with other businesses and influencers on social media, everybody wins. Having another Instagrammer review your product, run a competition with you, take over your account, or work with you to create joint content exposes you to a wider audience and can be lots of fun to launch! 15. Use paid ads Even with all the above efforts, it can be a challenge for small businesses to reach new audiences organically on Instagram. A little paid advertising can go a long way. Instagram ads allow you to target very specific audiences, increasing your exposure to the people most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. This generates excellent conversion rates and often proves a good investment. 16. Craft unique content for Instagram It makes life a lot easier to reuse the same content across all social networks, but this will get boring for people who follow you on multiple platforms. Furthermore, if they engage with that content on Twitter or Facebook, they probably won’t engage with the same thing on Instagram. You can still reuse content, but change it up a little: add a unique caption or alter the image a bit. And every so often, try to post something that’s exclusive to Instagram. Instagram Story templates are a great way to create content that’s unique for IG.
17. Offer exclusive discounts to Instagram followers Speaking of exclusive, nothing will make potential clients want to follow your Instagram account more than exclusive offers and discounts. Not only are unique offers likely to bring in new followers, but they will also entice loyal followers from other platforms to follow you on Instagram, too — and that’s good news for your profile because loyal followers who are already familiar with your brand are more likely to engage with your content. 18. Focus some of your content on your location Especially if your business depends on a local market, put yourself on the map! Post photos of your daily life, your engagement with the local community, and recognizable local landmarks — and be sure to include some local hashtags. This will strengthen your brand image as a contributor to your immediate area. 19. Geotag your posts Another powerful way to increase your Instagram small business’s connection with the local area is to tag your location in your feed posts and Stories. Geotagging will ensure that your content shows up in the results when people are searching for content from your area. To geotag a feed post, add your location on the caption editor page; to geotag a Story, use the location sticker. 20. Up your photography game The higher-quality your images are, the more professional your Instagram profile will look…and you don’t need to be a professional photographer to produce captivating images. Most smartphones have excellent cameras — and with just a little basic photography know-how, you can make your photos look amazing. Do a little research or consider taking a class to learn about the basics: lighting, composition, and so on. It’ll make a big difference. Another thing that will take your images up a level is learning to use a photo editor. You can use the native filters and editing capabilities on Instagram, or you can try your hand with something a little more sophisticated, like Snapseed. 21. Craft compelling copy Engaging copy in your photo captions and bio is no less important than high-quality images. If nothing else, double (and triple!) check your text before posting to ensure that you don’t have any embarrassing typos or grammar mistakes. 22. Use Highlights The Highlights feature allows you to select collections of Stories to display right on your profile page. They’re a great way to showcase what your business is all about, and to get more mileage on the excellent content you produce for your Stories. 23. Keep an eye out for trends This is another point where staying engaged with your followers and watching competitors and influencers comes in handy: there are trends in social media, and staying on top of them will keep your brand hot and relevant. Whether it’s a certain meme, a hashtag campaign, or specific types of content, adding your brand’s voice to the conversation can do a lot for your image. 24. Organize a giveaway Giveaways are a tried-and-true method of growing your following and increasing engagement. You can offer a free product, service, or coupon to be selected at random from users who follow your instructions. Asking them to tag a friend to enter the contest will help increase your exposure.
25. Monitor your following and keep tabs on your small business analytics Instagram provides insights on your stats in the Insights page for Instagram business profiles — and you can learn a lot from watching them methodically. It will help you see what strategies are most effective: what kind of content creates the most engagement, optimal timing for posting new content, and lots more.