Instagram For Small Businesses
Instagram isn’t just a fancy photo album with social features.
With a user base of over a billion people and 89% of it outside of the US, it can effectively work a branding channel for your business, where you can attract and retain a worldwide audience that you can turn into (not only local) customers.
Now, we know that running a small business online is hard enough and sometimes social media rules don’t make it easier. Under this aspect, Instagram is no different than your regular Facebook or Twitter.
That’s why we sought out the first-hand advice from people who have been there, done that. How did other small and online businesses do it on Instagram? Read to find out.
But First… A Word on Using Instagram for Small Business (Before We Dive Deep into Strategy)
In short, it’s this: use the channel only if you are not expecting an unrealistic amount of ROI from your Instagram initiatives. Calloway Cook, President of Illuminate Labs explains:
“Instagram marketing is great for exposure. It allows a brand to position their products in an ideal context, which is unachievable through Google search results or the brand’s website. When consumers see their favorite influencer with a new product, they’re more likely to try it.”
Calloway so kindly shared a screenshot of a paid partnership that Illuminate Labs had with a health influencer: However, Calloway says, “the ROI tends to be lower than paid channels like Google Shopping Ads.”
“As a brand, you have to determine how much exposure and increased follower count is worth relative to increased ROI. If the two figures are close, I’d argue that the ancillary benefits of Instagram marketing make it the better option. Say you have one paid ad channel that achieves 125% ROI, and your Instagram marketing efforts achieve 100% ROI. In that case it’s likely worthwhile to direct that ad spend to Instagram because of the additional exposure and branding benefits.”
The key here is to keep it realistic. Once you’re okay with that, read on to learn the strategies that worked for other small businesses.
1. Use Direct Messaging with Interested Users
Once you get interest from Instagram users, you can use the platform’s messaging system (Direct) to contact those users and be helpful. As Stacy Caprio, Blogger at AcneScar.org, tells from her experience:
“I have found direct messaging all my new followers on instagram to be a great way to connect, help them get answers and familiarity with my business and products. Building a relationship with your followers is the key to success when selling on Instagram, and one way to do that is through DMing those who have already expressed interest in following you.”
2. Share Infographics
Instagram is a visual-based platform, whose users are on the constant lookout for content that makes them think, and infographics are visual content packed full of information. We have a perfect match, here! John Ross, Founder and CEO at Zivadream, shares his findings:
“We have had a lot of success on Instagram by sharing infographics. For whatever reason, infographics seem to have more impact and get more likes, shares and tags than images and video. We have had luck by picking a juicy or controversial subject in the education space, pulling data on it, preparing a nice infographic, and sharing on IG (as well as other social). The edgier and more interesting the topic, the better. People always seem to have someone they want to tag to share with.”
3. Encourage Follows with a Contest
While forcing users to follow accounts is borderline unethical, encouraging follows is a good practice, especially if users get something in return for their new interest. That’s why contests work. Quincy Smith, Founder of ESL Authority, shares his success story:
“The biggest success we had was running a contest on our website and using the tool Gleam.io to allow people more chances to win by following us on IG. We give away courses regularly and people get 1 entry with their email but can earn more by following us on social, retweeting things, etc. Doing something similar on IG is possible, but limited to your current followers (assuming you don’t partner with anyone). However, if you use your existing website traffic + email list and the appeal of free stuff, it’s really easy to get people to follow you on IG.”
4. Leverage Influencer Marketing
Research by HypeAuditor shows that businesses spent $5.24 billion on influencer marketing in 2019, with an increase by 22% compared to 2018. And influencer marketing is what Lewis Keegan, Founder of SkillScouter.com, suggests that you use:
“The best way you can use Instagram to market your business is by marketing it through influencers. These influencers have a significant number of followers and usually, these followers are very avid fans and would not hesitate to try out any product or service endorsed by these influencers. All you need to do is give an influencer a free sample of your products or services, and in return, ask them to advertise it in their Instagram page.”
5. Use Hashtags and Respond to Comments
Being active with your followers and commenters is a plus point on Instagram, showing users that your brand is alive and kicking and not there just to get promo posts in front of them. Also, use Instagram hashtags wisely to get create engagement and grow your followers. Jennifer Willy, Editor at ETIAS, says:
“Similar to SEO optimization, Instagram also has a special place for high-yielding keywords or what we call hashtags. Utilizing hashtags is an easy way for your business to generate and increase traffic from users who are out there looking for just what you have to give. So, it’s very essential to use relevant hashtags that make sense with your post and brand. Another important thing is feedback and comments. Comments can be both positive or negative, but the main thing to remember is that almost everyone can see the comments section and they do see it. So, it’s very vital to engage with the customers and users to attract, promote, and compel them about using your brand or services.”
6. Leverage Instagram Story Ads
Instagram Stories are popular and effective, with 62% of people growing an interest for a brand after seeing it in a Story. Now, Simonas Steponaitis, Marketing Manager at Hosting Wiki, suggests that you also look at Instagram Story Ads in addition to regular Stories:
“I worked with many small brands and learned Instagram story ads are the best way to advertise and market products or services compared to other techniques. It is more effective because it offers advertisers a more authentic and interactive way to engage audiences on Instagram and have low CPA than other methods. I suggest using video format for story ads is the best idea because it has a higher ROI driving more engagement and conversion.”
A Warning Note: Don’t Buy Fake Followers
If you have to buy followers, make sure they’re real followers from a trusted service and not a bunch of fake accounts. Simonas Steponaitis also warns against the practice:
“I have seen many small business marketers buying followers from external platforms and think a big number will work for them, but unfortunately, it didn’t work from now. The reason is that those followers are inactive and not your target audience, so the engagement ratio is meager. If an Instagram bot or algorithm catches you, you get the first time warning or maybe banned your account permanently.”
Instagram marketing for small business doesn’t have to be a nightmare. As you could read in this article, it can actually be an easy and enjoyable journey if you keep your expectations realistic and focus on creating engagement and regularly respond to feedback. To your success!