Instagram marketing tips for small businesses

Keeping up with the latest social media marketing trends is a full time job, so how can you manage it when you’re a one man band or small company?

Social media has a ton of benefits for small businesses, not least that it gives you free access to a global pool of potential customers!

But mastering the nuances of different channels, creating content and connecting with followers can be a challenge.

In our Infographic series, we’ve been exploring the ways small businesses can get more out of their social channels! In our previous post, we looked at Twitter and how to engage your audience on one of the most interactive social platforms around.

Now, we’re exploring the aesthetic world of Instagram, and how you can use imagery to promote your brand!

3 things to know about Instagram before you get started

Instagram is unique in the fact that its content is solely image based, which may attract or dissuade businesses based on their experience with creating visual content.

But with only a smart phone and a little creative flair, any business can have an Instagram feed to be proud of and put a strong stamp on their brand.

There are several things you should bear in mind when you begin using Instagram for your business:

1. Because content must be visual, Instagram is better suited to certain types of business. B2C businesses and those with an aesthetic product will probably find it easier to create content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use Instagram if you aren’t selling a product. Lots of businesses that are selling a service such as business consultancy have success with Instagram, as it allows them to showcase their own personality, which is ultimately what clients buy into.

Before getting started with Instagram, think about the type of content you will be posting, and be realistic. If you’re going to struggle to find content it may not be the best platform for you.

2. Like Twitter, Instagram requires a high level of community management if you want it to be successful. Not only will you need to post regularly, you’ll also need to respond to comments, reply to direct messages and interact regularly with other relevant content.

The informal nature means that it’s quick and easy to interact with people on Instagram, but you have to be prepared to make the commitment if you want to build momentum on your feed.

3. One of the quirks of Instagram that you’re probably aware of if you already use it is that you’re unable to include links in your posts. This is a change from other social platforms, where you might regularly share links to relevant content, your own site or offers you’re running.

You can include a single link in your bio, which you may want to direct to a splitter page, that then contains links to several different pages, allowing you to talk about them in your posts. It’s important to bear this restriction in mind when you think about the sort of content you might want to post.

Once you’re confident that Instagram is a good platform for you, you can get started on the fun part; curating your feed.

Consider a unified look and feel

While your individual posts won’t often appear next to each other in your followers’ feeds, when they click through to your profile, they will see all your posts laid out in a tile grid, 3 posts wide. For that reason, it’s important to think about how all your posts will look together to create a cohesive feel and promote your brand identity.

Some accounts make use of the tile layout to create a unified look and feel, possibly alternating posts between an image and a block colour or a quote to create a checkerboard effect. You may have also seen people that break one large image into tiles and post it in the correct order to create one large image that is 3×3 tiles wide. The downside of this is that the image will become broken up the next time you post a picture, so is a technique you may want to use sparingly if at all.

A simpler approach may just be to choose a certain filter or image style for your posts. Try and use similar styling when taking pictures as well as just editing them, using the same lighting where possible. You may choose to post images in the same style, for example flat lays.

No matter how you choose to style your posts, putting a little thought into the look and feel will go a long way to creating a profile that people want to engage with.

Create high quality, engaging content

More so than on any other platform, the quality of the content you post on Instagram will determine your success. No matter how interesting your caption is or how amazing the offer you’re promoting, if you a post a blurry, out of focus image, no-one will take the time to look at it.

Bear in mind that you should be creating your own content. Posting stock photos or stealing other people’s images and passing them off as your own won’t create a good impression of your brand.

Make sure all pictures you take are in focus, well lit and well thought out. Taking a few minutes to think about the composition of a photo can make it look much more professional.

As well as good quality content, you’ll also want to post a variety of content that engages your audience, and this can be where some businesses struggle.

Some content ideas include:

  • Photos of products
  • Photos of you and your team
  • Photos of events, workshops, charity work that you do
  • Flat lays of your products, workstation or other relevant item collections
  • Relevant GIFs
  • Eye catching boomerangs (moving images)
  • Quotes
  • Testimonials
  • Hints/tips
  • Graphic/animated images

The most important thing when creating content is to get creative, show personality and try and post images that people can relate to and will want to engage with.

Another great way to drive engagement with your content is to run competitions that your followers can get involved in. You may ask them to share a post, tag a friend or follow you for a chance to win.

If you do sell a product you could ask users to post images of themselves using or enjoying it for a chance to win. Not only does this promote your product to their followers, but it also gives you some great user generated content that you can share on your feed.

Make use of the available features on Instagram

In order to get the most value from Instagram, you’ll want to make use of some of the other features on offer.

The main one, and one you’ll likely have experimented with before, is Instagram Stories. Since its launch in 2016, Stories has become just as much a part of the Instagram experience as the classic post.

Users can post photos and short videos that are available to view for just 24 hours, making it a great way to keep content fresh and relevant and engage with your followers on a personal level.

Other features you may want to explore include:

  • Shopping – a great option for small businesses and ecommerce stores. Once your account is approved you can add product tags to your posts that show prices and link back to your website.
  • Instagram TV – one of the newer features is Instagram TV, which lets you share longer videos with your followers. Videos will appear in your timeline, cut down to 1 minute, and give your followers the option to ‘continue watching’ the full video. This is great for product demonstrations, tutorials, etc.
  • Direct Messaging – if you’re looking for a way of engaging one on one with customers on Instagram, direct messaging them is a great option. You can answer questions, notify competition winners and communicate easily on the platform your clients are most comfortable with.

#Hashtags

Everyone knows that they should be using hashtags on Instagram but getting them right isn’t always straight forward.

Hashtags are a great way to categorise content, letting Instagram know to show your post when users are searching for a certain topic. People can also follow hashtags in the same way that they can follow accounts, so that posts tagged with that hashtag appear in their feed.

Because of this, the most important thing to remember when choosing hashtags for your posts are to keep them relevant. If you are constantly posting pictures with hashtags just because they are popular, you can end up doing more damage to your brand appearance than good.

It can be a good idea to do some research into the difference hashtags that fit in with your brand and keep a list that you can use when you post. Try and choose a mixture of mainstream hashtags and some that are more niche, as that may make it easier to get your post shown and reach those who are already more invested in your message.

The maximum number of hashtags you can use is 30 in a post and 10 in a story. However, the recommended number for a post falls somewhere between 9 and 12. There is no exact formula for what works best however, and the most important thing is to do what feels right for your brand.

Another commonly discussed topic is where hashtags should be located. The most popular options are either leaving a few lines below your description (do this by using a full stop to mark each new line) or posting your hashtags as a comment after you post the image.

Use the Insights feature to review your posts

As with all social channels, reviewing what you are doing and how it is working periodically will help you find the formula that works for you.

On Instagram, anyone with a business account can view certain statistics on their posts to see what engagement they have driven. Just click on any post and then on the ‘View Insights’ link underneath it.

Instagram will then display information which helps you identify which posts have performed well, using statistics such as interactions, new followers generated, website visits, where interactions came from (existing followers, people who searched a hashtag, location tag etc).

You can also navigate to the menu (top right when viewing your own profile) to see further statistics on a weekly basis, and more insight into the demographics of your audience members.

When you have identified a post type or group of hashtags that performs well for you, you can repeat this across your channel to build more momentum.

Have you found this information useful? Why not share our infographic to help other small business achieve their marketing goals!

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