Although small businesses have different pressures than large ones and tend to be known more locally, they still need to do social media marketing. After all, building rapport with customers helps to overcome some issues, such as low prices and slick advertising, that can push locals to the national chains. Even businesses that provide localized services are primarily dependent on individual relationships to drive sales.
If you’re a small business owner, using Instagram can be a great way to connect with customers and create brand awareness. But knowing how to use Instagram effectively can be tricky. Here are 15 tips that will help you get the most out of Instagram for your small business.
The Basics to Setup
Successful Instagram marketing all begins with setting up your Instagram account for success. Just like print and other internet advertising, your Instagram profile is critical to customers getting a sense of who you are as a business, and what they can expect from you. In this sense, Instagram for small businesses is like an interview: you get to introduce your business, and people get a good or bad impression from this. For that reason, it’s important that “dress” your Instagram account for success.
1. Identify Your Competitors
Since so many small businesses are already using Instagram you can learn a TON just by looking at your competitors. For instance, you should know how they present themselves. Even within the same industry, there are many ways to impress customers. Each company has a different brand voice, marketing strategy, and distinctive. As you identify and review your competitor’s Instagram profiles, you’ll learn a lot about them.
Of course, you can also learn lessons from competitors outside your immediate market. Not only does this serve as a good “gut check,” but if you live in a small enough market you might not have enough data from immediate rivals. The closer their community is to yours, the more relevant it is. Mastering Instagram for small businesses requires a thorough understanding of your competitor’s marketing approach and how to counter it.
2. Set Up Your Business Instagram Account
Don’t just switch your personal Instagram account over to brag about your business. A real Instagram business account gives you access to ads platform and analytics. So, while it’s tempting for a “one-person shop” to combine social media, this isn’t beneficial over time. After all, your friends and family probably want to hear about the “off work” person they know and love.
To that end, you should set up a separate account and use a different email for it. Many small businesses use a free account, like Gmail, to manage their business. Sign into Instagram using the alternate email, and then specify that the account is for business. You’ll also give your business name at this point. If you trade under your own name, then a content creator account MIGHT be more appropriate. However, this only applies to the smallest of businesses.
3. Nail Your Instagram Bio
Make a great first impression by making an attractive bio. The first step in identifying your competitors should give you lots of ideas on how to create your own. For example, if you run a landscaping business and everyone shows off their trucks, you might try connecting the truck (and logo) with your smiling face. People might identify your crews by looking at the truck, but they ultimately hire a landscaper that does a good job and treats them right. This is the “you factor” of getting new clients, so consider showcasing it.
Similarly, you want to ensure that your Instagram for small business bio reflects your brand voice and values. Often, small businesses pride themselves on their employees or the higher quality of goods they sell. So, if your employees are great or your treat the well, brag about it. Similarly, if you sell fair trade products, make sure people know. It’s all about differentiating your brand from the competition.
4. Don’t Forget Your Link in Bio
One of the challenges of Instagram for small businesses is that regular posts can’t have a link. For instance, if you have a photo of your product, you can’t include a link to buy it unless you’re paying for Instagram ads or a shoppable post. Since these are too expensive for the smallest businesses to buy a lot of, you’ll want a different way to drive traffic from Instagram.
Luckily, there’s a solution. You don’t need to be an Instagram for small business customers to use this, but everyone gets a single link in their bio section. Using this one link, you can direct to a page with additional links (yes, it’s off of Instagram, and several service providers do this) or to your website. One of the best options is to redirect people to a landing page that serves as a lead magnet or marketing opt-in.
5. Do Your Hashtag Research
Another critical Instagram for small business factor is hashtags. As you probably know, hashtags help people find posts on Instagram that deal with a particular topic. They can deal with just about any topic, from politics and religion all the way to hobbies and specific brand names. To that end, you need to find several hashtags that are important to your business, its industry, and your location. This way, you’ll reap not only the topic-related traffic but also benefit from some local SEO on Instagram.
But how do you use hashtags on Instagram? For most of us, these #words categorize and sort posts. However, they also let you track and participate in industry discussions. Finally, in terms of Instagram for small businesses, it’s often beneficial to have a branded hashtag. When the time comes to do this, consider using a hashtag generator. This will help you avoid accidentally “choosing” an existing tag, and also make suggestions.
Instagram Content Strategy
Next, as a business owner, you should think about an Instagram content strategy. This is one way in which Instagram for small businesses is different from personal use. Content strategy for Instagram is similar to strategies for other media types, but it’s specific to this social media platform. In addition, your strategy is critical for success, because poor strategy can easily sink your business goals. Let’s look at some important strategy concerns.
6. Post Amazing Content
First, your content is an important reflection of your business and what it has to offer. Even if you don’t sell physical goods, but provide services instead, your Instagram for a small business account should be compelling. Instagram is a visual platform so make sure that every post is of minimal quality. For services businesses, consider showcasing your staff.
Of course, not everything you post needs to be directly about your business. A lot of businesses post inspirational quotes with graphics, industry news, and other appropriate content. These options help you build rapport with your followers and foster a discussion on your profile. Plus, as the content gets distributed it’ll draw new people to your profile. In this way, your great content will help increase your business’ Instagram following.
7. Pay Attention to Captions
Another way to make your Instagram for small business marketing efforts more compelling is with excellent captions. While doing something mildly descriptive is fairly easy, a more difficult task is making Instagram captions engaging. For example, while a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s important to give context to the photo. For better results, make the caption memorable rather than a dry description of your photo.
8. Post High-Quality Photos
These can be taken from a smartphone, but make sure that the aesthetic is an Instagrammable one. For example, you shouldn’t publish a picture that puts your head in a shadow, unless there’s an artistic reason for it. Likewise, work-in-progress pictures should have some artistic sensitivity, rather than, for example, leaving all the dirty rags right in the middle of the frame. Instead, showcase a fine feature of your company’s work that demonstrates your employees’ overall skill.
The same thing goes with pictures that you use to showcase inspirational quotes. Just because you pick an understated image doesn’t mean it should be poor quality. Otherwise, you risk distracting your viewers from the message. And, in the same vein, if the picture is too fancy people won’t pay attention to the message, either. Always pick an artistic, yet appropriate, balance.
9. Post Instagram Stories
One of the great Instagram for small business features is Stories. In case you don’t know, this is a series of pictures along with a form of visual narration. So, while a picture is worth a thousand words, a Stories post can be worth a long article worth. Using this technique allows you to continually engage with your audience.
10. Post Regularly
Any social media algorithm rewards consistency, and Instagram is no different. Although posting ten times a day is overkill for even the most prolific content creator, that doesn’t mean a busy business person can post once every ten days. Rather, most Instagram for business users can post five times per week. A few can even get away with two or three a week. Just make sure that, whatever you do, it’s consistent. You don’t want your posts to be ignored or penalized by the algorithm-or by your fans.
11. Use Highlights to Showcase What Your Business is All About
Highlights are a frequently-neglected feature on Instagram that turns your Stories and other ephemeral content into something more permanent. Visitors to your page will see the Highlights and have the opportunity to view them, but your fans won’t be notified when you make one. The beauty of this feature in Instagram for small businesses is that it lets you showcase your company. For instance, if you make a Story about how you helped a customer find the perfect birthday present, it’s a good reflection of your store and how it works. By making this a Highlight, other people can view it later, increasing the impact of your Story.
Instagram Engagement Strategy
Instagram, and social media in general, must be a two-way street for success. It’s one thing for you to create content and thereby share your ideas with your audience. However, it’s something different to hear back from your customers. With both individual accounts and Instagram for small businesses, having a high engagement rate helps to distribute your content more widely. And as your content gets distributed, you’ll have more opportunities. Here’s how to ace the engagement game.
12. Connect with Your Audience Actively
This not only includes responding when your followers comment and send you DMs but also following and engaging with the content of your followers regularly. One way to do this is to comment on someone’s content if it uses your proprietary hashtag. The follower is signaling that they want the content associated with your business, so by responding you’ll capitalize on it. Another way is to pipe up when someone talks about something that your company had a hand in. For instance, a home builder can gush when the client moves into their home and shows it off on Instagram. Chances are, if you engage with their content, they’ll reciprocate.
13. Host Contests and Giveaways
People from all walks of life and a wide variety of interests love contests and giveaways. Not only is it nice to get something for free, but a little friendly rivalry can be fun. Plus, it raises brand awareness for a business owners while boosting their engagement with the algorithm. Best of all, contests are typically inexpensive to run with a high ROI.
I have a more detailed post about Instagram contests on my website.
Further Reading: How to Do A Giveaway On Instagram in 12 Easy Steps
14. Feature Images Taken by Your Customers and Fans
Of course, not only is it unnecessary to have your staff take every picture that goes on your Instagram, but this approach misses out on some great opportunities for engagement. Customers that are happy with the goods or services they obtained from your business are likely to brag about it on social media. With Instagram for small businesses, it’s more likely to be a product they bought or a service with tangible results, like house painting. So, if someone offers you pictures of their success story, ask them if they’ll let you put them on your Instagram. Not only will the customer react, but their friends might too.
15. Follow and Partner with Influencers
Finally, one of the best ways to boost engagement on Instagram is by partnering with influencers. As I’ve said many times before, influencers are beneficial because they have a loyal, engaged following. If they post about your brand, then a lot of people will hear about it. Likewise, influencers are good at driving engagement. In this case, what’s theirs is yours from a marketing standpoint.
Further Reading: Instagram Influencer Marketing: The Complete Guide
Instagram is a powerful social media platform that can be used to connect with your target audience and grow your small business. By following these 15 tips, you’ll be on your way to creating an Instagram account that engages customers and drives traffic to your website. Still, want to learn more about Instagram marketing? Check out our other blog posts for more in-depth information on how to create a successful marketing strategy using this popular social media site.
Hero photo by Cassandra Polito on Unsplash