According to a survey conducted for Instagram, “81% of respondents said Instagram helps them research products and services.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The social media platform’s visual aesthetic makes it highly engaging, entertaining and informative when it comes to businesses posting about their offerings. And when they capitalize on connecting with their audience through Instagram’s messaging, tagging, and hashtagging capabilities, things tend to click in the brand-building department.
Savvy digital marketers know to use Instagram for business-boosting initiatives. Since its launch in 2010, the app has evolved, and currently welcomes two billion active users each month. Millions of brands have leveraged that traffic to pitch their products, inform users, and gain new followers.
The takeaway: Having an “Insta-presence” is an increasingly reliable way to boost your bottom line by enhancing the visibility of your products and services. With so many potential shoppers and clients spending time on the platform, it’s high time to kickstart your digital marketing strategy with these tips:
1. Connect with your audience
The chance to build connections on Instagram for small businesses is a gigantic – a humongous – opportunity. In measuring the engagement (interaction on posts, including likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares, and reactions) across 14 leading industries, Instagram (.67%) outperforms Facebook (.064%) by over 10x, and Twitter (.037%) by over 18x.
Use hashtags and location tags
The ability to connect with existing customers and expand your reach is further bolstered by the use of hashtags and location tags. Use a tool like RiteTag to research and implement hashtags. Including just one hashtag can grow your engagement rate to 29% per 1K followers. Tagging your location can generate up to 79% more engagement. More information on tracking hashtags is available here.
A fun aspect of Instagram for businesses is when your followers use their posts to feature your products, services, or experiences with your brand. If you spot a follower post that you think would make a nice addition to your content calendar, reach out to the user to see if there’s an opportunity to re-share it (and make sure your legal/copyright bases are covered). These types of posts create greater brand awareness and present your business as friendly and involved with its fans.
2. Set up an Instagram store
Have you set up your own Instagram shop? This 2021 app feature allows brands to sell their products directly on the app by setting up a store on the platform. This update seems to cater primarily to product-specific (not service-related) storefronts, but it certainly does up the game for in-app marketing opportunities (and eliminates the need to usher shoppers to your “link in bio” section when you’re trying to get them to the point of purchase.)
Here's some additional information on setting up a small business Instagram shop.
3. What’s your story?
Instagram Stories are short video clips or photos accessed at the top of an Instagram feed on the home screen. Because of their 24-hour lifespan, they’re a chance for brands to create exclusive content that cuts loose and is relevant to the moment.
For instance, a microbrewery may post a brief Instagram story covering the making of a new IPA, which will intrigue followers and hopefully result in them appearing at the tap room to try it out (with a few friends).
Stories are also a great way to pull back the curtain to show some personality and interact with your followers. They can feature hashtags, @ mentions, and location tagging, as well as some more fun options like stickers, GIFs, polls, countdowns, and questions you can ask your followers. A fall 2021 update also allows brands to place swipe-up links in their stories, letting users navigate to an external website.
Instagram Story Highlights (collected below your bio information) are another opportunity to increase engagement; these curated collections can feature important information like business milestones, services, products, or recent news.
4. Seek out influencers
Influencers, also known as ambassadors, are exactly what the name suggests — people who leverage their social media following to attract business and boost sales. The right influencer knows the ins and outs of using Instagram; their expertise is precisely why brands hire them to make their offerings look good.
Several websites are out there to help connect brands with influencers, or you can begin by doing your own research to find those willing to tout your brand in exchange for your products, services, or payment.
For small businesses, micro-influencers are an emerging trend. These users have smaller followings but the type of content they create caters to the more niche needs (and budgets) of smaller operations. At least a quarter of small businesses in the U.S. use influencers as part of their digital marketing strategy.
5. Get to know your followers
As your following continues to grow, you should start seeing comments on your posts. Respond to these! If you receive meaningful feedback, a sincere reply — whether to kudos or criticism — will portray your business as approachable and authentic. This is not to say that hateful or discourteous discord will be tolerated; you should report and remove this banter immediately when necessary. Also, don’t feel like you must answer every single comment, as this could appear disingenuous and forced.
Be sure to keep paying attention to any customers that have posted about your brand. To stay on top of things, this responsibility could be shared with more team members, if necessary. Keep an eye out for when your business is tagged in a user’s photo, video or story, and see if there’s an opportunity to build on the connection by commenting and/or reposting (with permission).
6. Host exclusive contests
Exclusive contests are a fun way to engage your current list of followers and build brand loyalty for your product or service. Statistically, Instagram accounts that hold regular contests enjoy 70 percent faster growth of followers than those that forgo this somewhat simple marketing strategy. As well, these posts get a higher rate of commenting and likes as compared with an average post — a reported 91 percent of Instagram posts with 1,000 or more comments are contest posts.
How does this work for your business? Select an item or service that would be appropriate as a giveaway for the number of winners you choose (one is fine, or you can select a handful). Post an eye-catching image of the item (or graphic explaining the service), accompanied by a caption with clear rules. To engage followers, encourage them to tag a friend in the comments (thereby entering the follower and the friend). Another option is to create an Instagram offer encouraging followers to post something and tag your business in their photo, thereby creating an entry.
Tailor the rules how you see fit — and take note of what you learn to continue growing your brand presence with future contests.
7. Enhance your bio
Spend just a few short moments on Instagram, and you will inevitably see the invitation to check out the “link in my bio.” What does this mean? This refers to your Instagram business profile, a sector of space to describe your purpose in your industry, convey a corporate personality, and prompt your targeted audience to take action. The centerpiece of your business bio should be an eye-catching photograph of either your top-grossing product, your logo, the face of the corporation, or any other image that will encapsulate the essence of your enterprise.
From there, Instagram bios allow for just 150 characters to super-summarize your business (emojis are allowed for brevity). Also, the bio area is the only space on the Instagram profile that allows for URL links to your sales page or general website (see why that “link in bio” language is crucial?). Another highlight of the business-optimized IG page is the opportunity to add a call-to-action button, which can direct users to your email, DMs, or phone number.
8. Take the business-ad plunge
The Instagram app knows it’s good for business, and for this reason, offers an Instagram for Business option. A business profile, as opposed to a personal page, opens up certain opportunities reserved for business marketing, including:
- Paid (sponsored) advertising campaigns, tailored to your business budget
- Access to metrics to see who is viewing your content and how your followers interact with each post
- Access to Shopping on Instagram, in which you can tag your products within each post
- Seamless conversion from a personal account to a business profile
- Flexible ad formats: images, stories, videos, carousels, collections, explore ads, IGTV ads, shopping ads, and reels ads
Here’s a handy guide for learning more about Instagram ads.
9. Kill it with content
For every photo or video you post, give your followers and potential customers a reason to stick around; give them something they haven’t seen, something they haven’t considered. With so many visuals vying for attention on Instagram, make yours stand out. Easier said than done, sure, but that’s the game (and the fun).
Remember: Your content should be relatable to your audience; this requires a bit of prowess and creativity. Dig deep to find what’s unique about your brand, then invigorate your followers to want to learn more. The goal is to create a unified brand through diversified social media posts.
Some brand content ideas for your posts
- Post product- and service-specific images that are high resolution.
- Go behind the scenes. Show followers the people behind your company and what makes you different.
- Ask a question, tell a story, or initiate a game or challenge in your posts; experiment with different posts to see the type of awareness and engagement you can gain.
- Consider using a photo or video app to take your content to the next level.
- Play with your branded themes and color palettes for your posts.
- Your Instagram post grid layout presents some fun opportunities.
- Instagram Live is perfectly tailored for brands who want to connect to the 80% of users would rather watch a live stream than read a blog.
10. Authenticity wins every time
You’ve put your soul into your business, building it from the ground up with your own blood, sweat, and tears. Your social media content should reflect the heart of it all: you. Try not to overthink or over-produce each post. Focus on spontaneity, the uniqueness of your staff, the vibe of your office space, or the Zen of your creative space.
Wrapping It Up
Be yourself, let your light shine, and remind your followers why you do what you do. Instagram is one piece of the pie, but a big one. With a well-developed social media marketing plan, your followers could turn into leads, which could turn into sales, revenue, and ultimately, profits. As with any social media tool, it takes time to learn its capabilities, so keep these tips handy when you’re starting out. And once you’ve got your account set up, follow us!