Instagram is taking social media for businesses by storm. As more and more businesses migrate to the platform, especially those with dedicated branding that’s focused on visuals and aesthetics, many smaller businesses are looking to make the most out of their feeds. If you fit that bill, then we at ThriveHive hope that this post is helpful as you build your social media marketing strategy.
Many small businesses and individual creators use Instagram to launch their stores, promote existing websites, or help foster creative communities. If you’re the sole owner of a small business, you may want to consider whether or not you want to divest your personal Instagram presence from your business’s. In this case, we suggest that you:
Do: Err on the side of business-first.
If, after considering how comfortable you are with being the face of your business, you decide to mix it up with personal and professional posts, try to keep the personal posts to a minimum anyway. Ensure that you are the only one with access to your company account, or that everyone with access adheres to a specific protocol so that mixing in occasional personal posts won’t confuse your overall aesthetic.
Don’t: Flood your feed with personal posts that are unrelated to your central business aesthetic.
Instagram is a hub for cultivating aesthetics. This is why we recommend that you figure out your business’s brand or aesthetic prior to starting your feed. To begin this process, we suggest that you:
Do: Research other businesses in your industry.
Find a range of businesses—ones that you compete with directly and also ones whose feeds are inspirational or aspirational to you. Take note of the style of their posts, the amount of content written under each post, how often the company posts, and how varied their feed is. Also keep track of the hashtags they use!
Don’t: Sample a wide range of tangentially-related businesses or those businesses run by colleagues or friends. Aligning yourself with the right businesses from the get-go is very important — you don’t want to fall in the wrong spot!
On Instagram, hashtags are everything. The more of them you use, and the more wide-reaching they are, the more likely you are to find and connect with both individual Instagram users and other companies. It’s important to highlight the things that are most relevant to your business in your hashtags, such as naming the product and the industry you’re in.
Instagram is also well-known for building communities around niche-specific hashtags such as #knitstagram or #indiedyers. Paying attention to your competitors’ hashtags is a great way of learning more about these hashtags, and which ones might be useful for you in building your community.
Location, location, location. Helping your followers find your business — or where they can purchase your wares online — is essential to boosting your sales. Once you add your location on Instagram, both you and your followers and customers can tag you in posts, and prospective customers can also find your business through the Explore feature, which groups posts and accounts by location. Adding your location and allowing your customers to tag it in their posts also gives you access to a feed or “channel” of all the posts in which your business has been tagged.
Tired of cross-posting the same image on all your social media accounts? Save some time by posting Instagram photos to your Facebook page. Integrating your accounts in this manner allows for a more real-time feed appearance — if you’re not as good about updating Facebook as you are Instagram, linking your accounts will help fill the gaps. You don’t have to post everything on both Instagram and Facebook, just the content you choose, so your Facebook page viewers won’t be overwhelmed.
Instagram, like Twitter, offers a more real-time approach to social media than Facebook or email. The lifespan of an Instagram post, thanks to feed algorithms, is usually much shorter than it is on Facebook. But Instagram offers more tools to keep your followers engaged, such as Instagram Stories, hashtag communities, and the Explore page.
With Instagram Stories especially, you’re able to offer followers live, inside glimpses at what’s happening in your studio, office, or restaurant space. Engage with your followers using polls, holding contests, or advertising one-day-only specials. Find new customers and people in your area using hashtags and the Explore page, where you’ll discover curated feeds of industry- and area-specific posts.
Instagram allows you one minute of video per post or Story. That’s a lot of time! It’s important to keep in mind the nature of each type of video when posting, however — with Stories, viewers expect something raw, spontaneous, or human. Let your customers in on a fun moment at the office, or do a fun and silly Q&A.
Stories will play one right into the next, like a chain feed, so you can post several consecutive videos to your story with the same thread or message, and your viewers will likely view all of them. With Instagram video posts, you can post one full minute of polished, edited video of any content you find relevant or helpful to your customers.
Instagram works with a suite of other apps to provide users — both individuals and businesses alike — with the tools necessary to post high-quality, well-edited photos and video. Apps like VSCO, Afterlight, and Canva give you access to filters, light editing tools, and graphic design tools so that you can customize your photos, include in-video tutorial notes, or cast your products in slightly better lighting.
This is a key part of marketing, social media marketing especially. Learn about your followers as people — where their loyalties lie outside of your company, which causes they believe in, how much a part of their lives these causes and beliefs are. Powerful visuals that combine your products with these causes, or use your products to solve or combat these issues, can imbue your audience with a feeling of loyalty and respect for your company and its products. Focusing your educational, inspirational, and even humorous or entertaining content around these values and issues can also help you demonstrate to your audience where your own allegiances lie, which can increase feelings of brand loyalty and commitment.
An age-old strategy for increasing your follower engagement is to run a contest. Instagram contests can be done a number of ways, from asking your followers to participate in a poll in your Story, to vote in the comments, to share posts you’ve made to their accounts and tag you in them. An important thing to keep in mind about contests is that the ask — sharing a post or asking for votes in a poll — should be of a similar relative size to the prize you give out. A follower should not have to jump through hoops to enter a contest, so be reasonable with your requests!
Instagram rolls out new features every few months — from introducing Stories, to staying seasonally appropriate with new filters, stickers, and other creative tools. Learning about and using these features will show your followers how savvy you are, and in some cases, will even teach them how to use the new features themselves! Staying up to date with new Instagram features will help you prove your salt to your customers and followers, and may even inspire them to use your products in new ways, if you can pair your products with some of those festive new filters and stickers that appear each season.
As always, getting the most out of a tool, platform, or follower base here means that it’s really best to stay as in touch with your followers and platform policies as possible. Demonstrating your savviness while also proving how aware you are of your customers’ opinions, values, and habits, will benefit your bottom line time and again