We talk about Facebook a lot, but really there’s no better place for a small business to show their work, raise their profile, and keep their customers engaged than Instagram. For a lot of different reasons.
Instagram is image-focused. (Show what you do in a creative way.)
You can network with other businesses and get inspiration.
Users want to follow you, see your work and schedule your services.
And you can use your Instagram page as a place to experiment and have fun!
Today we’re going to break down some best practices for using Instagram. We’ll learn how to find more followers and to use the platform strategically to actually boost your business – not just gain far-flung followers who won’t translate into sales.
1. Set Up A Business Account
Starting your Instagram is as easy as downloading the app, registering your profile, and uploading a photo. Easy enough. But if you have a BUSINESS (and I know you do!) you should consider converting your account to a business profile.
All you have to do is visit the options menu and hit "Switch To Business Profile." (Here's a walkthrough on how to make the switch.)
You'll get some immediate benefits from having a business account:
One, you can add additional contact info like your location, email, and phone number so people can get in touch with you.
Two, you can access valuable data about your followers, posts, and engagement. This can help you refine what you post and when.
And three, you can promote posts if you want to. This can help you get extra eyeballs on super important posts.
Insights & Data
The data insights you get with a business account are pretty cool. You'll see a demographic breakdown of your followers, which can give you surface information on who's looking at your work and when.
The when part of this equation is very helpful. If you're only going to post a couple times a week, it's best to post when the most people are there to see.
By making small tweaks to your content and posting schedule, you can eventually see big gains in likes and engagement.
The most important thing about posting is to be consistent. Post daily if you can, or stick to three times a week. Whatever works for your schedule.
What matters most is that your followers can count on you to deliver content that they want to see consistently.
Then, you can look at your data to fine-tune precisely what days and times your audience is the most engaged. Looking into your insights will help guide you on when you should post, when your audience is active, and on what days get you the most attention.
4. Experiment! (Instagram Is Not Your Portfolio)
It’s true that you want to take a strategic approach to your Instagram, but don't get stuck worrying about it too much. Insta is meant to be quick and off the cuff. If it takes hours to make a post, you’re doing it wrong.
That's because Instagram should work like a companion. Your followers are not expecting only 100% professional-level-quality images. In fact, it's better if your account seems casual – but intentional.
Try experimental images, and behind the scenes & casual mobile pics. Keep it on topic, but give that topic wiggle room. Probably 80% should be your main business. The other 20% is playtime.
Above all, have fun!
5. Write Better Descriptions
Your followers will like to know more about your cool photo – where was it taken? Did you use any new equipment? Usually a quick sentence or two will do.
And don't worry about "SEOing" your descriptions. Insta uses hashtags to let people find images they like.
6. Use #Hashtags To Get Found
Instagram uses hashtags to help users find the images they want to see.
This means that unless you use hashtags on your posts, users who don't already follow you won't be able to find your images.
On other platforms, the rule of thumb is to only use 1 or 2. "Less is more." But on Instagram, the rule is flipped. "More is more!"
You can include up to 30 hashtags per post. You probably shouldn't DROWN every post in hashtags, but do aim to include at least 10 or 15 at the end of your post.
Include a mix of "popular" and "less-popular" hashtags. When you start to type a #hashtag, Instagram will tell you how many posts are currently using that particular tag.
In this context, they are also your COMPETITION. For example:
#art has nearly 227 MILLION posts.
#modernart has 3.8 million.
but #postmodernart has only 17 thousand.
Where you might drown in a sea of #art posts, you may rise to the top of a smaller tag. It's good to think strategically about your use of tags, and notice which work better over time.
INCLUDE AT LEAST ONE LOCATION-SPECIFIC HASHTAG! Remember: the majority of your customers will be LOCAL.
We'll finish our #hashtalk with one last word of caution... If you use a lot of really general tags like #art, #love, #happy, you could find that you're getting a lot of activity from spam bots. Which is not really going to help you get real human followers or sales.
7. Stay On (Or Ahead Of!) Trends
Instagram is not only a place for your fans to find you – it's also a place for you to build a network, see new work, and get inspired.
Following and engaging with other businesses is super helpful for figuring out what people are liking, responding to, and doing out there on that dangerous cutting edge.
When you can, grab a big old piece of that inspiration pie for yourself and try new methods, subjects or editing styles.
And you can take inspiration for your promotional strategy, too.
Know a someone who is #KILLINGIT on insta? Take a look at the way they write their descriptions and the hashtags they use. New and trending tags pop up all the time, so be on the lookout – you could be making a bigger splash in a smaller bucket.
And when new features or tools come out (like STORIES or LIVE VIDEO just did recently), don't be afraid to give it a go and experiment. If you stay plugged into the shifting trends, you can uncover better tactics and new/more engaged followers who are hungry to know your business better.
8. Engage With Your Community
Gaining followers is good, but so is following others. (This is the SOCIAL part of social media :)
Remember! To get friends, you have to make friends. So go ahead and follow some accounts that you really like. Businesses you admire and would like to know better. Networking is an important part of your business, and by creating relationships you can open up new doors in your career.
And if someone leaves you a comment ... comment back!
Sure, it takes a minute. But your followers will super appreciate you taking the time to say "thank you" for their comment or to answer a quick question. The user you engaged with will likely stick around and come back more often. If they weren't following you before, it's likely that they will now.
People like knowing that there's a face behind a brand, that you're not a robot that spits out pictures. The more human you make yourself online, the more your followers will want to engage with your brand.
And if they're in your area looking for what you do... you can be darn certain they'll remember you.