With over 1 billion users, Instagram is just too big for businesses (even small ones) to ignore. The image-sharing platform, owned by Facebook, is a vital channel for connecting with customers, building engagement, and showing people who you are and what you offer.
Here are five strategies to turn your Instagram account into a winning marketing channel.
1. Make Every Image Count
Every image your small business puts on Instagram should matter. All your pictures should be well-lit, carefully composed, and match the branding and style of your business. Think of your feed as a kind of informal, ever-growing catalog, filled with product pictures and mood-setting scenes. Most important, the contents of that catalog should always cater to the interests of the people who follow your account and see its content.
“The difference between a business account that just posts for the sake of sharing, and an account that makes an impact is that they know what clients want to see,” says Sue B. Zimmerman, an Instagram business coach.
Sue points to The Dry Bar, a salon chain, as one company that’s getting it right. The company’s feed contains just a hint of snark, plenty of fresh flowers and touches of the brand’s signature yellow.
“They use their Instagram feed to reflect their brand values and what makes them unique in their niche,” she says.
2. Build Conversations in the Comments Threads
It’s images that will attract attention and build engagement, but Instagram isn’t all about pictures. The comment threads on your posts also allow businesses to interact with customers in the same way that a store assistant builds a relationship with a brick-and-mortar visitor.
“Your comments should advance the conversation or add a new perspective that keeps the comment thread active,” says Sue.
That means doing more than picking an emoji. It means going into detail and really thinking about what you want to say as you add new information.
3. Take Your Time and Watch Your Stats
There are no overnight successes on Instagram, at least not for businesses that focus on real followers and engagement. A following in the thousands takes time to generate, and much of that time should be spent figuring out what kind of content your followers respond to most.
“Be patient and analyze your Instagram insights,” says Sue. “Then you’ll never have to guess the kind of content that your followers will want to see.”
Create a content calendar, track the results of each post that you create, and make more of the images that generate the most shares, likes, and comments.
4. Hit the Hashtags Hard
Building a following on Instagram means first being found on Instagram. It means helping people who are interested in the kinds of images that you’re sharing to find them easily. Instagram can’t search the pictures themselves, but it can search the text around the image, especially the hashtags.
“I think a lot of businesses, especially when they’re starting out, underestimate how valuable hashtags are for discovery and growth,” says Sue.
Know which hashtags are always relevant for your industry and your field. Keep track of the hashtags that are currently popular. And make sure that you include a number of tags with your posts so that people looking for those hashtags can find you.
5. Treat Stories as Your Own Personal TV Channel
Much of Instagram marketing is built on individual images that give followers snapshots of your business—carefully curated and photographed snapshots, but snapshots nonetheless. Instagram’s Stories knit those snapchats together to create a single narrative. You could link a series of images to show the creation of a product, the delivery of a service from door-to-door, or the stages in a make-over, for example.
Sue compares Stories to having your own TV channel, a place where you can broadcast whatever you want that’s relevant to your audience. She also recommends using IGTV, Instagram’s newer video-sharing application.
“Since Instagram decided to integrate IGTV into the feed, brands and businesses are seeing a huge surge in the number of people watching their IGTV content,” she says.
So as you’re building your business with Instagram, choose your images carefully; talk to your followers; take your time; use the hashtags; and don’t be afraid to use Stories and IGTV to stay ahead of the game.
About Joel Comm
As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.
Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.
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