[HOW TO] Use Instagram to Turbo-charge Your Small Business With Ease

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Most small business owners and marketers focus on the "big fish" of social media sites for their social efforts and lead generation. Commonly, they look to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for generating leads. However, many neglect using Instagram for business marketing. With over 200,000,000 (yes, that is 200 million) active monthly users, there is no reason your business should not be looking at ways to use Instagram for business to explore opportunities for cultivating meaningful relationships with current and potential customers.

Know Your Target Instagram Audience

Before we jump into some Instagram tips, you first need to know who your target audience is. If you don't know who you are targeting, it will make it very difficult to be successful at what you are doing. Your business needs to know their likes/dislikes, messaging they respond to, and ultimately what their pain points are. Most important, you need to react to messages in effective way on right time. Knowing these characteristics, you can tailor your Instagram images and videos to touch and target on these issues. By speaking in a language your target audience can relate to, you can easily grab their attention, build trust, and ultimately turn them into a lead. Let's take a look at some of the Instagram best practices for business.

Prove Your Company is MORE than a Logo

Unfortunately, the extent of social initiatives by most companies is often accompanied by logos, stale messaging, and cheesy stock photography. Businesses often struggle to put a human touch on their social initiatives, which result in low connection rates between the potential customer and the company. Whether you are in a B2B or B2C environment, in the end, it is B2H (business to human). Nobody likes doing business with a logo, people do business with people. To prove your business is more than a stale logo, use Instagram to show the personality of your company and culture. Show who the employees are that make it possible for others to do business with you. Instagram allows you to be informal with your imagery. There is no need to have high dollar camera or video equipment. Typically, most smartphones are more than sufficient for taking these images and videos. Plus you can always add one of the many Instagram filters to your image to a new look. And if you want to take your images to the next level, check out some of these Instagram photo tips.

Showcase Your Products & Services

Using Instagram and your business offerings allows for the showcasing of your products and services. Also, you can use this platform for online live shopping. However, instead of simply taking pictures of the end result (much like products listed on your website), why not show the story behind what goes into making the product or service? For example, if you manufacture products, showing the process of building it is very intriguing to many. See how Gaeta Dental utilized Instagram for this purpose:
Rather fascinating, isn't it? Imagine if your business took a similar approach...what could the image/video tell your customers about the product? Is it the craftsmanship? Materials used? Processed involved? No matter what it is, you are sure to generate conversation and ultimately an affinity with your potential and current customers when using Instagram for business promotion.

Share Community Involvement Initiatives

Perhaps your business spends a portion of their time helping the community. Everyone loves a "feel good" story, so why not share the efforts your business is putting towards community involvement? Instagram is a perfect channel to show the employees behind the initiative (humanizing your brand) and helps promote the cause(s) you are supporting. So whether it is a holiday toy drive, helping others learn a language, or donating time at a local animal shelter, documenting the event with pictures allows you and your employees to easily share on Instagram.

Engage With Others

Not to beat a dead horse, but if your business is on any social channel and not engaging with others, then you are simply having a conversation with yourself. With Instagram, it is in your business' best interest to engage with your audience. Whether this is replying to questions or comments on your own images, or liking and commenting on others. Engaging with your followers should be one of the reasons to use Instagram for business.
[TIP] - If your Instagram business account is new and you don't have a large following yet, have your employees engage on your pictures with their personal accounts.
By engaging with others your brand becomes more human (instead of a logo and "corporate speak"). Engagement with others will also carry the conversation further than someone simply looking at your images. It will serve as a foundation of a relationship.

Appropriate Use of Instagram #Hashtags

Instagram allows for up to 30 hashtags to be used in a post. Does this mean you should use 30? Probably not. However, you should use Instagram business hashtags to your advantage. For example, when you upload an Instagram image (or video) you should definitely tag it with relevant tags. The tags should be clear and concise to what the image or video is about. I don't advise making up some random hashtag like #iamtherealcookiemonsterunless you are Jimmy Fallon.
Instead, use keywords that directly relate to the image and your business (when necessary). For example, words that describe the image as well as a location when applicable. While Instagram does not have a full-fledged search function, it does make the hashtags clickable and link to other images that use the same hashtag. Therefore, you can easily discover others who are tagging images that relate to you and your business. This can help make it easier to build a relationship if there is already similar ground between the both of you.

Get The Most Out of Your Business' Instagram Marketing

If your small business has not yet jumped into using Instagram, there is not a better time than now. While there are many companies who have yet to take advantage of it, you can be one step ahead of your competitors leaving them to play catch up. And if your competitors are already leveraging Instagram, it might make sense to use an Instagram competitor analysis software. Be sure to go beyond vanity social metrics when measuring the successes of your Instagram initiatives. You'll want to be sure you are measuring what matters when it comes to social media and the principles of marketing on Instagram are similar to most other social channels, however, it is how you implement and execute your initiatives that will make your business stand above the rest. Now my question to you: Is your small business already using Instagram for marketing purposes? What successes (or failures) have you experienced? Leave a comment and let me know! Also... Do me a quick favor: Share this post with 3 people you know who could benefit from these Instagram tips for business. It will take just three seconds. Just shoot them an email.
  • Sylvia Parker June 27, 2014

    This is great! I think it’s really important to give a human side to your company. A way to show that yes, this is a business but it’s run by actual people, not robots. Instagram is unique in that it’s all visual and, like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. It also gives your customers a chance to catch a glimpse of what you’re like behind the screen. It makes you much more approachable.

    • Chris Makara June 30, 2014

      Great points Sylvia, Instagram is definitely a way to promote the human side of your business. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment.

  • Donna Peterson August 2, 2017

    Great post. I am thinking about using Instragram for our Direct Marketing Company but I am concerned about crossing the line between personal and business. What type of images could a service company use?

    • Chris Makara August 3, 2017

      I’d say it would be best to test out and see what works. I might start with images about things your team is working on (personable imagery) against possibly industry related images. It’s hard to say without really knowing a lot about what your company does/offers.

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