A practical guide - Instagram for Small Business
It's instant, it’s insanely good at everything, and it is inspiring. (Could I be any cheesier?) So yes, welcome to the new-age digital world, with a plethora of platforms that have serious potential. Instagram – is one of the most successful apps, leading the digital platforms with image-based content. From trending hashtags, viral posts, to posts with quality products, and some with raining complaints; it has been there and done that. It is a singular platform for small and big businesses alike, greatly bridging the gaps between the two ends of the business, newbies starting out small, and the big brands reaching for the bigger!
By 2019 Instagram was ranked 6th most popular social network, with more than 1 billion users worldwide. It has been a raging success all over the world, and one of with its high vibe, trendsetting capacities, superior visual focus, but the major reason is user engagement. According to a survey, Instagram has high engagement rates than most social media platforms, like 54 times higher than Pinterest, 10 times higher than Facebook, and 84 times higher than Twitter. Phew! That’s got to be something right?
Did you know –
Instagram is nicknamed the ‘king of social media, as it gathers over 4.2 billion likes per day!
With the pandemic changing how we reach out to people and remote connection getting the necessary hype, Instagram is the key to building an engagement, increased following, and thereby, positioning your business in the limelight of the online era. Here you have a chance to build a strong community, position your brand right in front of the audience, which will help your business expand and grow; all by building a potential customer base.
If you own a small business, Instagram is the right place to start your marketing and branding journey. However, with so many options for marketing, it is vital that you choose the right strategies and invest in the right direction for your business. We have compiled all the interesting, and trending hacks that can help you successfully market your small business. Right from leveraging the platform's special features to increasing your digital footprint, we have it all covered.
Instagram is the best, and why…
- The sheer audience that your business can reach through this platform; is humungous. According to statistics, more than 1 billion people use Instagram every month, and roughly 90 % of those users, do follow at least one business account.
- The visual appeal my friends! Nothing communicates better than a stunning creative or image. It creates the first impression, and Instagram is heaven for striking with creative and visual appeal. Well, we talk with experience, there are many instances when the pictures solely have invited us, to follow a certain brand page.
How to leverage Instagram
So, where do you start, when there are more things on your mind than just how to log in and create an account? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you form a strategy.
- The first step is to set your target audience. It sets the tone of your approach, design, language, theme, and the whole strategy for marketing. Research on the audience demographics can help you with an idea of which people use this platform. For example, the largest ad audiences on Instagram are users between 25-35 years of age. Find out the important segments of your business that can overlap with your target audience, or can emerge through the active niches.
- Look for people who are already your customers. You can also look out for contacts on your other social media channels.
- Know your competitors, research the audience that follows them, and how it varies from your audience.
- By knowing your followers and target audience, you can get an idea of the trends they like or the kind of content they like and engage in. This information can be very useful in upgrading or forming a creative marketing strategy for your small business on Instagram.
- When it comes to strategies, they should be designed with a complete run through of all your business goals and objectives. Experts suggest the following of SMART framework - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. That is, create achievable, relevant, and innovative goals, to help your business objectives. Below is the complete explanation.
- Specific: Create a target. Like the number of followers, you want to achieve in a certain time. With a set goal in mind, it is easy to tap progress and measure success.
- Measurable: Any improvement you make, needs some type of metric to make your concepts a goal.
- Attainable: Having goals and working hard is a great idea, but over stretching, can do more harm than good. Make sure your goals are within your reach after your best effort.
- Relevant: Make sure that your business goal setting matches your larger business objectives. Any effort now should be a direct or indirect contribution to your larger goal for the future.
- Timely: Keeping a time frame helps you keep an account for everything and everyone. Measuring and keeping a check on your success is easier when you set time limits to achieve short-term goals and growth.
- Just like setting goals, keeping a track of performances is vital too. It gets a lot easier once your objectives are set. Identify the most important social media metrics, for your business. Since each business will have a variation in metrics, but there are a few that relate to social media, which you can refer to. Make sure your goals are focused on one of these four stages of the customer journey.
- Awareness: It refers to the accounts that your business was able to reach, the rate of growth of your followers, and post impressions.
- Conversion: It gives you an idea of the click-through rate and bounce rate. If your strategies include services like paid marketing and ads, also consider cost per click and CPM.
- Engagement: It measures engagement and amplification rate, based on likes, shares, and comments.
- Customer: The actions taken by customers like retention, repeat buyer rate, etc.
Plan your content calendar
- Once you plan your goals, objectives, target audience, you can plan when and what to post on your Instagram account. Creating a content calendar gives you a good idea about upcoming events, special days, and also gives ample time for you to plan and create great content for your business account.
- Mark important dates and events, and start researching on them and plan relevant content that fixes around your brand or product too. Pitching in when customers are most likely to be interested, is a big win on the strategy front.
- Develop a series or plan a theme, that revolves around your calendar, this way you save any last-minute content crunch, and also get help with creating high-quality content, by planning beforehand.
- Since newsfeed algorithms have ‘recent’ as an important ranking parameter, it is advisable to always plan posts, when your audience is online, which is also a great solution to improve your organic reach.
- Check the most popular days and times for your audience. You can easily check this with an Instagram business account.
Create a profile that generates business.
Instagram is a great place to build your brand, despite its small space. It leads the audience to your brand, website, and also has more features, that can help you connect with the audience in more ways, than just being known as a business.
- Give your audience a reason and the curiosity to follow you. How do you ask? Through greeting them with an impressive bio! Create attractive content that reflects the voice and value of your brand. Few points to consider when creating your bio –
- Keep the bio short, crisp, and up to the point, delivering the crux of your objectives and goals.
- When using different types of info in the bio, use line breaks, to help them look more organized.
- Strengthen your bio by adding a call to action (CTA). This gives them a reason to click on your link.
- Play a little with the creative. Make your bio interesting by adding a casual touch and emotion. Add an emoji to your content, which may relate to or draw people towards your brand.
- Add a link to your website, campaign, another Instagram landing page or blog, for the reader to follow. Use this link to your benefit. Instagram offers this one and only spot, that offers a clickable organic link, which is a great tool and opportunity for small businesses.
- A profile picture says a lot!
For most business accounts, a logo is used as the profile picture, make sure that if you are using the logo, it is uniform throughout your profiles. Also, consider the quality, resolution, and appeal of the picture that you use.
- Give easy communication options. When people are interested in your business or product, give them a quick reference to connect to you. Easy navigation and having information at the fingertips, is a big plus point, improving more traffic and sales.
- Include your email address, phone number, or your business address that can help them communicate with you easily. Instagram also creates corresponding buttons like Text, Call, Email, or Get directions, for your account. You can also configure action buttons that your customers can use like for example to book an appointment.
- Use stories and highlights, to maximize the value of your business. You can also organize stories and make collections on your page.
Content is and will always be king!
That being said, it is every bit true. No matter where and how you post, the quality of your content is the deal-breaker. It is an impression of your brand, which is why, your central focus, should be - posting content that gives your business the wings to reach and impress maximum people. Let’s take a look at some tips that help.
- Break out of the ordinary when creating content. For most businesses, going with the flow, like posting food photos for restaurants or craft reels for handmade products is the regular deal. Try to get creative with your content. Along with posting regular images, ads and videos, post the making process, or about the team that makes your business stand proud. Letting people know about the process, makes them informed and builds trust.
- Make user-generated content your best game. Inclusive content helps people imagine themselves with your service or product.
Posting about user reviews with products, or anything that reflects your business through the user, is a good way to enhance your audience base. When you use real-life examples, it builds faith and trust among people.
- Keeping a theme or a specific colour palette, or a unique design and pattern that reflects uniformly in your content also helps create an identity for your business. The moment you post on Instagram, these unique markers will let your fans instantly know it’s you!
- Make pictures come alive on Instagram. Posting great and awe-inspiring photos is important, as we discussed, Instagram is a photo-driven platform. Getting a professional is sure the best way to do this, but you don’t really have to invest if you are on a budget. You can take great pictures from your mobile too. Simply follow some basic rules. Check out videos and simple tricks and hacks, to shoot outstanding pictures for Instagram.
- Although a visual platform, writing amazing captions is also important along with good creativity. Use captions that are clear and create a strong impact on the reader's mind. There are many options to learn about writing the best Instagram captions. Researching about impressive copy, hashtags and, how to appropriately use them to grow your business will help.
- The story format is the best tool to use. People love the casual aesthetic it gives to the content on Instagram. According to a survey, more than 500 million people watch Instagram stories each day. A survey by Facebook in 2018 found that more than 58% of people who participated, were interested in a brand after following its stories. People love the brand stories and instantly connect with the appeal. They are more likely to become interested in your business after seeing it in a story. Use links to your business in a story for driving people to your service or product.
- Instagram has introduced many upgrades and additions. Many formats with Instagram have great potential, which is much more than just sharing a photo. Instagram Carousels, IGTV, Instagram reels, Instagram Live, and Instagram Guides are all amazing tools to make the best of your content and dazzle your audience.
- Consistent posting helps reflect how serious and dedicated you are to your business. Posting regularly is as important as posting quality content. Let your audience know that they can rely on a consistent inflow of inspiring ideas and information, from your brand. This steady stream helps in building a strong following.
- Use a social media management tool, to help you post when you may not be available or have more to do, during a certain period of time. Schedule your posts in advance, which not only helps you post consistently but also saves you time.
Engage with your audience; help your business grow
After making an impression with great content, it is time to reflect and connect to your audience and build a rapport that builds trust and authenticity.
- Regularly respond to comments, that keep your users active and motivated for your brand. Try to avoid using bots, when replying to comments. Give it a more human value, by personally replying to comments whenever possible. Keep social media policies, guidelines, and troll policies, in place, to help support your customers, in order to manage a positive community.
- Use hashtags to help people find your brand more easily. You can also create your own hashtag, like a trend that revolves around your brand. It is a great way to attract new followers to your business. They can share related photos, content, or videos that can add to user-generated content and help grow a community among your followers.
- Use other social media platforms to promote your Instagram account. If you already have a strong contact base on other digital platforms, use it to share the idea of your brand with great content, so people know what to expect when they visit your business account. Promoting blogs through embedding your Instagram posts directly is also a great way for reaching out and growing your business.
- Include your Instagram handle as a signature to brand your business. Use it in your website, email signature, posters, visiting cards, corporate identity, packaging, etc.
- Collaboration with Instagram influencers is trending now, and to be true, it works like a charm. Look for influencers who have a strong fan base and can be easily associated with your brand.
- Check your existing customer base, chances are you will find influencers there too. Approach people with great potential to collaborate with your business. Even if they have a small fan base but have a dedicated following, they make great micro-influencers, that can help your brand.
- Check for Instagram campaigns that help you meet your business goals. Even if they include paid ads, they have great potential and help you achieve your brand objectives for a specified time, for both your paid and organic posts.
Work towards the improvement of your account by measuring success.
All the hard work that you invest in will give you results, but in order to optimize your strategies and grow more, you will need to measure your success with your existing plan.
- Instagram does have an inbuilt analytics tool on your business profile that helps you track your progress. It is a good tool, however, it tracks back only 30 days of data. Many other tools help you measure your progress with automated reporting and longer periods. For eg. Hootsuite, Iconosquare, Phlanx, Keyhole, Creator Studio, Facebook Ads manager.
- Using A/B testing is also another great way to improve your strategies for business on Instagram. You can check and test to see which type of content works or how they perform for your target audience. Based on the results you can fine-tune your content and strategies.
In conclusion, Instagram is the best option for promoting your small business. As you get accustomed to the platform and tools, you will also find new and better strategies to leverage this small yet immensely powerful social media platform. Every business takes time to spread its roots and take upon a strong foundation. Just like conventional marketing, it is going to take some time to see results. Be patient and consistent with your inputs and efforts. Stay updated with the social media trends and beats, to get a creative and informed edge to your content. Wishing you the best for your business. Go set the follower's trail moving, which leads your business to growth!