Social media platforms come and go, but a handful—including Instagram—appear to be here to stay. How can your small business establish a presence and engage with both current and potential customers?
First of all, in case you're questioning whether Instagram is worth your time, know that it's especially important if your customer base is under the age of 30 as nearly 60% of 18- to 29-year-olds are on Instagram.
Still not convinced? With its 700 million monthly users and the best brand engagement rate among all social media platforms—yes, including Facebook—Instagram can be an exceptionally powerful tool in your social media arsenal.
What follows are some tips to help get you started on Instagram and give your small business a boost via one of the most visually stunning and interactive social media options available.
1. Curb appeal
Online first impressions take less than two-tenths of a second to form, so begin curating your Instagram presence with your profile. Your photo should be easily identifiable with your brand; using your business's logo makes the most sense, but you can also be creative so long as the image clearly represents your enterprise.
And don't neglect your bio! Instagram is on the casual end of social media, so less serious and more emoji-sprinkled bios are common. Your overall goal is to explain who you are and what you do in the best way to reach your target community.
Also, because of Instagram's focus on the visual, a successful profile is often not only clear and informative, but also pleasing to the eye. Short sentences—even bullet points—and vertical spacing are useful techniques.
One last consideration for your bio: It is the only place you can include a clickable link on Instagram. While the most obvious choice is your website's landing page, you can also link to a specific campaign page (then promoted through posts), your most recent online content, or anywhere else that makes sense for your business.
2. Business account
Take advantage of Instagram's business profile feature. Through this, you can include an email address, phone number, and physical address for your business and also have access to analytics tools and the ability to promote your business.
The Instagram for Business blog is a great place to see how other businesses are using the platform.
3. Content is king
Just as with every aspect of your online presence, quality content on Instagram is what attracts and keeps followers. Start filling your gallery immediately, even before you make a public push.
Look to your competitors to see what kinds of images have generated the most interest and interaction. Don't simply copy those, of course, but use this information to learn what works best on Instagram.
There's more detail about content in a bit, but here it's worth mentioning that only high-quality photos should appear with your business's name attached. Thanks to the technology in your pocket, you don't have to hire a professional photographer, and there are countless smartphone photography tips and tricks online for both iPhone and Android users.
4. Get creative
Product photos and videos (both displaying and demonstrating usage) are the most obvious type of content you can publish, but, beyond those, here are some other ideas:
- Stories: A feature that lets you share videos or photos that will disappear after 24 hours; this allows you to go deeper into a story and spend less time producing and perfecting it.
- Behind the scenes: These types of posts give followers a peek at how things work in your business, especially putting faces on the brand, and can be extremely effective.
- Quotes that resonate with your followers: A program like Canva can help you create attractive images with quotations on them.
- Contests/giveaways: Giving away free stuff is always a hit, and on Instagram that may include a photo-sharing contest with a hashtag specially created for it; you can also simply have people comment or like you on Instagram to enter your contest.
Which brings up the topic of post captions: Again, your voice should be consistent, but your captions can be used in various ways from simply explaining an image to engaging with your audience directly by soliciting replies.
5. Find your followers
The easiest way to find your target audience is to seek out your competition and see who follows them. Like and comment on their photos to get yourself noticed, but be sure to otherwise engage with them as well, especially by responding to comments left on your photos. Everyone on social media prefers genuine interaction to spam-type comments.
Encourage your followers to post experiences with your brand and return the favor by sharing your followers' related content. Interacting with similar brands can also be a good strategy.
Whether you love or hate the pound sign followed by (one or more) words, the hashtag has become the primary way for users to locate content and accounts relevant to their interests. Posts with at least one hashtag get more than 12% more engagement than those without.
To get a broader perspective, check out Hootsuite's The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide for Business and, for identifying hashtags that will be most relevant to your business, a service like Websta can help.
7. Publish frequently and consistently
An active Instagram account will see more engagement than one with sporadic posts and gaps in communication. Instagram is a bit of an outlier among social media platforms, though, in that consistency is more important than exactly how often you post.
So whether you post once a day (as most businesses do) or once an hour (OK, that's probably excessive), you should keep at that pace in order to keep your followers engaged.
8. Analyze and stay informed
Once your account is up and running, keep track of what works and what doesn't, and adjust your methods. In addition to internal analysis, pay attention to Instagram's ever-changing algorithms, which also will influence the way you need to use the platform.
So, now you have some tips to help you get going, and this is only the beginning. Once you get more familiar with Instagram, you can start experimenting with paid advertisements and lots of other fun aspects of the platform.
With Instagram, the #sky is the limit (and also currently the 44th most popular hashtag).