A photo might be said to be worth a thousand words, but can it attract thousands of followers? Instagram’s meteoric growth would suggest so, giving small businesses the potential to attract an audience and engage with clients. But how can you best harness its reach and use it to augment your brand?

Here are a few Instagram marketing tips to get you started.

Developing an Instagram strategy

Few people predicted how popular Instagram would become. The app, designed for smartphone use, now has more than 1-billion monthly active users[1].

People often wrongly assume that Instagram is purely about pretty snaps of food, travel and beauty, when in fact, a lot of businesses are successfully using it in markets such as engineering and retail. Some brands find the platform incredible for driving business sales, with clear call-to-actions, links to their business website and compelling content.

Another misconception is that follower count is equal to influence. While some popular accounts have a following of genuine, loyal fans, others have a high number of passive followers who don’t engage with the content or follow call-to-actions. Quality, relevant content leads to meaningful engagement, rather than a high follower count alone.

Before you get started, you need to define your target audience and set goals about what you want to achieve from your Instagram marketing efforts – be it sales, branding or networking. Once you understand who you are targeting, you can plan your content with an informed and inspired approach. Content discovery is a central feature on Instagram, so through the effective use of imagery, hashtags and descriptions, you can grow a relevant following a lot quicker than on other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Setting up Instagram for small business

When it comes to setting up your Instagram profile, take the time to craft it in a way that communicates exactly who you are as a business and what you do. Write a short but clear profile bio and include a call-to-action such as a link to your website, product, or sign-up form.

Unless you have a verified account or a business account with over 10,000 followers[2], your bio is the only place on Instagram where you can add a clickable link, so make good use of it. You can change the URL to support the different objectives you may have – for example to sign up for a newsletter or to promote a specific page on your site related to the post that you have just made.

It’s worth considering opening a business account[3], as this means that you will be able to add a phone number, an email address and your business’ physical address to your profile. In addition, you will be able to access Instagram analytics for your account, including impressions, reach, website clicks, follower activity and video views, and add call-to-action buttons to your profile, so users can book, buy, or contact with ease.

Creating content for Instagram

Since content on Instagram is very visual, it gives an opportunity to show what your company – or a certain aspect of it – is about.

Understand your audience and align your imagery to things they’re really interested in. Due to the nature of the platform, businesses in the fashion or food industry, for example, may find it easier than other sectors to create content that attracts their audience. Those in less creative fields, such as finance or business, will need to think more laterally in order to be engaging and relevant.

Remember to compose compelling captions to accompany your posts. Longer story-telling descriptions can be more powerful and engaging, while developing your brand voice. Test different styles and caption lengths and see what resonates with your specific audience. Hashtags are also critical to discovery and building a following, so identify the most relevant for your business genre and attach to your posts – just don’t overdo it.

The introduction of more video content in recent years makes Instagram a fantastic platform for story-telling. In general, you’ll find that videos and images in the main feed are more polished, while Instagram Stories and live video are slightly more ‘real’. Due to the more improvised nature of Instagram Stories and live video, they are really valuable for showcasing the authentic, unscripted side of your business. Plus, positioned at the top of the news feed, they can attract more visibility than a standard post. At present, Instagram Stories are limited to a length of 15 seconds; videos in the main feed can run a little longer at 60 seconds and live videos can run up to one hour[4].

Building your business on Instagram

Instagram can certainly act as a sales channel, especially if your business lends itself to visual creativity, such as fashion, cosmetics and food. For non-retail businesses, however, Instagram has more value as a branding tool and relationship builder.

Encourage conversations and interact with your followers to build loyalty among the community, which will hopefully lead to conversions. When people leave comments on your posts, engage with them. You can also search for popular posts using relevant hashtags and leave your own comments or provide (free) advice to help people out.

While Instagram can provide great organic results, Instagram ads[5] are worth trialling, as they can assist with getting your content seen by a wider, more targeted audience and promote your product or service. Of course, remember that working with the public and offering a professional service comes with risks, so be sure to have adequate small business insurance in place.

 

The return on Instagram marketing isn’t instant, however, in the current landscape it has the potential to be an incredibly powerful marketing tool. With a bit of planning and goal setting, you can come up with a strategy that will help to propel your business to success. By sharing quality content tailored for your market, you’ll be able to reach a huge new market, and hopefully convert them into loyal new customers!

 

Download our PDF Guide: https://www.hiscox.co.uk/business-blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/instagram-marketing-guide.pdf

 

[1] https://www.websitehostingrating.com/instagram-statistics/

[2] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/add-link-instagram-story

[3] https://sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-business-profile/

[4] https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/5/17431996/instagram-longer-videos-hour-rumor

[5] https://adespresso.com/guides/instagram-ads/