If you’re looking to market your business, it’s no secret that social media is making it easier than ever to do so. One of the leading social media platforms you ought to know and use as a small business owner is Instagram. Instagram is no longer just a platform to share your meals or pets. The platform has evolved into a marketing tool that can create serious ROI for your business if used often and strategically.

Whether you’re new to Instagram, just getting started or consider yourself a pro, utilizing the platform for your business is seamless. However, it’s important to keep in mind the best practices. Here are a handful of best practices from a few influencers and experts for marketing your small business on Instagram.

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Alessandra Madrid recommends, “Whether it’s from a younger member of your team, local organizations, or even a freelance social media person, make the investment necessary to make your business shine in the already overpopulated online world.”

Utilize Instagram for business

Once you get your Instagram account up and running it’s crucial to inform your audience that you are an actual business. Bill Nagel writes, “Instagram introduced the Instagram for Business platform last year, which includes an insights tool. The insights tool allows small and local businesses to understand what types of posts are resonating and who their followers are. When you’re setting up your business Instagram account, make sure that your business name is the username and that it’s displayed in the bio. This will help users find you on the platform. Additionally, make sure your profile is public and includes links back to your website for more information.”

Engage with your audience

Social media is, of course, meant to be social, therefore engaging and interacting with your audience is key. Tiffany Luke writes, “My best advice for small businesses is that they should genuinely interact with people on Instagram. Take the time to reply to as many comments and message as you can, and interact with the accounts that you follow. By doing this, you are showing your consumers that you really care about what they have to say and that you appreciate that they are interacting with your brand. Instagram marketing is a two-way street.”

Own your niche

As a small business, it’s important to define and own your niches. Don’t confuse your audience with a couple of posts related to your business, followed by a random personal video clip of you at a concert, unless it’s related to your niche. Anna Brockway suggests becoming a hub for your industry content or for your niche. She explains, “One of the strategies that have worked exceptionally well for us has been to curate incredible content from industry talent and share it on our channels. This strategy has transformed our Instagram page into a hub for design inspiration and into a place to discover talented interior designers. While the temptation may be strong to use your social channels as purely self-promotional, you can also have a lot of success by doing the hard work of curating interesting and relevant content for your customers. Sometimes you have to give before you get!”

Give people a reason to follow

The best content that attracts followers on social media is relatable content that can educate, entertain or inspire someone. If you engage with emotion, the followers will come. Tori Tait encourages small business owners to think and ask, “Why would someone follow you? What type of content should they expect? Will your Instagram show exclusive content or behind the scenes? Will you tease new products, or share events there first? Think about why someone would choose to follow you and what content would keep them engaged over time, and then deliver on that. People are rapidly scrolling through their feeds so be sure to give them a clear and compelling reason to not only follow you, but to stop their scroll and check out what your business is sharing.”

Utilize influencer marketing

Brandon Chopp recommends to, “Find popular accounts that meet your criteria for selection and engage in a conversation to gauge whether or not it’s a good fit for your brand. Oftentimes, we will send one of our products to an influencer for free in exchange for an honest review that is posted to their blog or social media followers. For us, the most important element of an influencer package, aside from cultural fit, is the overall reach of their blog or social media accounts. We measure our return on investment based on the number of impressions we receive, how much referral traffic we get, and of course, how many sales result from the campaign.” If you are time poor and do not have the time for outreach, Chopp also suggests to “utilize a platform like Tomoson, a tool that helps pair influencers with brands,” or to consult with an agency that specializes in influencer marketing to execute it for you.

It’s not all about the number of followers

Usually, influencer marketing and the number of followers are thought to go hand and hand. However, this is slowly changing with a recent rise of micro-influencers. Micro-influencer have a following between 10,000 to 50,000 followers and are preferred based on quality over quantity, as well as high engagement over numbers. Nick Leffler explains, “Social media isn’t about big numbers and having a following. If they’re not engaged, then 100,000 followers is the same as 10. The key to Instagram is to make the right connections. That means targeting the right people and providing them something valuable.”

Use Instagram ads

If influencer marketing isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t have a budget for public relations, Instagram ads may be the DIY solution for your small business. Remi Silva suggests, “Instagram ads are incredible because of the level of targeting you can do, as well as prove exact ROI from each of your campaigns.”

Create an insta-worthy atmosphere

If you’re a brick and mortar store, you can try what Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Gersh Miller did. The duo used an actual retail space to boost their Instagram presence, and decided that color, pattern, mirror and light were essential in creating a rich and dimensional Instagrammable space. They want their customers to come in, chill out, and of course, take pictures! Instagram’s geo features are also a big help.

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Turn your customers into promoters

Matt Gibbs writes, “The best way for a small business to market itself on Instagram is to turn its customers into promoters. Give them a reason to post on Instagram from within the venue — inspire shareable moments. Whether it’s through service, experience, art or the unexpected, create as many snap-worthy moments as you can. Viewing customers as the influencers that matter is important because each time they post from a venue, they are exposing your small business to a new audience of followers.”

Smart branding

Nowadays, branding is everything, especially when it comes to nailing the perfect Instagram feed for your business. Matt Schroeder suggests, “When you look at a brand’s page, you should be able to see a theme, whether it be similar color schemes, genre of photos, or just bright or dark or grayscale photos. Keeping a consistent look really helps play off professionalism in the eyes of a possible consumer.”

Use high quality photos

Caley Dimmock writes, “Instagram is a visual-first platform. Make sure your images are of great quality, represent your brand, are cohesive with one another, and successfully create a mood that appeals to your target audience.” It’s common for small businesses to use free stock photos, customer photos and even other Instagram photos. If this is what you like to do, Dimmock also suggests to, “ask permission before you use other people’s photos. Unless they have used a hashtag that gives you permission, some people do not want their images used for commercial purposes without giving their permission.”

Hashtag strategically

Kris Ruby suggests, “Do not make the mistake of only hashtagging industry related keywords. This does not help your prospects find you. It only helps others within your industry find you, which won’t expand your digital footprint or increase followers if you are looking for leads on Instagram. Hashtagging keywords related to what potential customers would search for is a better strategy.”

Use Instagram Stories more

If you haven’t utilized Instagram Stories for your business, then you’re missing out. Instagram Stories offer endless opportunities for you to tell your story, offer new products, advertise and more. While Instagram Stories is fairly new, you don’t have to be a pro to create custom content with the built in filters and plugins, such as Boomerang. Ilse Valfre suggests, “Instagram Stories are a fun way to show off your personality, so post more of them. It also gives your followers something to look forward to, and the content can differ quite a lot from your regular posts. We love Stories because it gives followers a chance to really feel like they are a part of our business. We show behind the scenes of photo shoots, tease upcoming products, give an inside to our blog and more.”

Use video

Brandon Bryant offers top tips for utilizing video with Instagram. He explains, “Capture your audience with something interesting in the first 10 seconds, make sure the video is mobile friendly in sizing, keep it short and sweet [under 90 seconds], give tangible takeaways, include calls to action if you can, do your best to articulate the purpose or mission of the product, use apps like spark post and continual to make them into IG stories content, answer questions that you get from your audience, and create a weekly series on IG stories live and save it for twenty-four hours.

Create a content calendar

Content planning is not only recommended for corporations and big brands, but also recommended for small business owners. Creating a content calendar can help you strategize around important days, as well as help you keep track of what’s working and what’s not. By having a record of your content, you can tweak and make changes as needed. Brandon Bryant also suggests, “creating an editorial calendar focused on a content strategy.”

Go live

Video and live streaming are the future. If you’re a small business, the sooner you get started on each, the better. Instagram video is the new commercial, and it is ideal for short video snippets of your product, service or even updates. On the other hand, Instagram live offers an authentic, real-time way to connect with your audience, and it is commonly used for Q&A sessions, behind the scenes, giveaways and more.

When using Instagram for your small business, be sure to think outside the box, experiment and find what works best for you, your objectives and business. Most important of all, remember that with any type of social media marketing, consistency and authenticity is the key to success.


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This article was written by Marie Flounoy for Small Business Pulse