The social media sphere can be a daunting place for small businesses. This is especially true when large corporations boast millions of followers and a seemingly endless budget for their marketing efforts. Instagram recently revealed that they now support two million advertisers and 15 million businesses on their platform. However, there are still plenty of opportunities on Instagram for small businesses, so we’ve put together some top tips on how to get started on the platform.
Create engaging content
On Instagram, image is everything. It’s arguably the most visually led social media platform around today. You need to have a firm grasp of your brand identity and content visual strategy before you start posting. Instagram themselves recommend that you identify a “cohesive look and feel”. Your aesthetic must be consistent.
It is worthwhile taking time to follow businesses with a similar aesthetic and ethos to your brand’s. This can help inform your content and provide you with repostable content, too.
Identify a suitable tone of voice for your captions. You may decide to limit your word count, or perhaps your brand suits longer captions that don’t necessarily relate to the product or service in your picture. Maybe you can use “Tag a friend” or ask your followers questions. Some brands use emojis – others won’t suit them. The captions you attach to your images are as important as the images. You’re aiming to spark engagement, which is vital to keep in mind.
Do your research on which hashtags related to your products, services, brand and industry are highly used by searching key phrases in Instagram’s own search function. You’ll be shown the number of posts that have used the hashtag you’ve searched. Your posts should include hashtags to increase your visibility on Instagram.
Hashtags can be added to your post in two ways: (1) within the image’s caption, or (2) as a separate comment. There’s no best way to do this. Look at your competitors’ content and identify the most popular approach. You should, however, ensure you don’t go overboard with the number of hashtags you use. While there are no hard or fast rules, we would recommend that you only use hashtags relevant to your image and brand.
Identify popular hashtags to influence content creation. #MotivationalMonday and #ThrowbackThursday are both great for informing a content plan, but should not be used every week or you’ll quickly bore your audience.
Monitor your success
As a business account, Instagram gives you insights for your organic posts, Stories and promoted posts. Use this data – impressions, reach, engagement and saves – to better understand the success of your content. This knowledge should inform your content strategy. If your audience is showing more interest in behind-the-scenes content or product shots or user-generated material, for example, adapt your strategy to reflect this and serve them more of what they love.
Link your social accounts
It’s also a very important step to link your company’s Instagram account to your other social media profiles. This will enable you to share your organic content quickly and easily from one platform without having to re-upload the image to each new social profile. While this approach will not work for every image you upload, it can help drive more traffic to your Instagram profile and increase your reach and following. The social sharing capability in Instagram also allows you to tailor your message for your other platforms. This will save you from committing the serious social sin of hashtagging in Facebook captions, unless there is a very specific hashtag that is acceptable on Facebook or Tumblr, like #FridayFeeling or a competition hashtag.
Create a boutique atmosphere
As a small business, it will be much more difficult to gain thousands of followers on Instagram quickly. Use your size to your advantage. Acknowledging your smaller audience and creating a boutique atmosphere will translate well on Instagram. Provide your fans with a more personal experience – reply to comments and engage on a personal level with you followers. This can also be promoted by sharing user-generated content. Creating that ‘individually-focused’ experience for your followers will keep them invested and wanting to come back for more.
Build on this air of exclusivity by using your Instagram account to promote special offers and sneak peaks of new products. Make announcements on Instagram Stories, run ‘comment to win’ or ‘hashtag’ competitions that only exist on your Instagram account. These engagement strategies are sure to boost your reach and delight your followers, encouraging them to keep coming back for more.
Provide great customer service
You can employ a solid customer service plan on Instagram, too. More and more, customers are turning to social media to ask brands questions. Be prepared to answer questions about services, products and other queries on your Instagram account. A rapid, friendly, efficient response made publicly to queries will instil trust in your brand and will impress customers. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of repeat custom and more positive engagement from your followers.
Use Instagram ads
Consider utilising some of your marketing budget to run ads on Instagram. You’ll increase your exposure and, if executed well, your ad campaign will prove a great ROI with an increase in traffic from your Instagram account. Instagram ads run through Facebook’s Ads Manager, which is great news for you. This will enable you to utilise Facebook’s excellent targeting power and reach the audience you want to engage, greatly increasing your chances of building a larger fan – and potential customer – base.
Using paid advertisement is the next step in increasing the impact social media has on your small business. Learn how to amplify your social media efforts on Instagram and more with our Advanced Guide to Social Media Ads.