As one of the most used social media platforms in the world, Instagram can be a wonderful tool for small businesses. You can grow a following, build brand awareness, or promote your business to get more sales, but only if you know how to properly leverage the platform for maximum growth.
To get the most out of your business Instagram account, you have to dig deep into the features and develop a multi-layered strategy. We’ll walk you through 15 surefire ways to maximize Instagram success for your small business.
The Benefits of Using Instagram to Market Your Small Business
Instagram offers a ton of benefits for small businesses including:
- Increased brand awareness and visibility: Instagram boasts over one billion active monthly users, which means you have the opportunity for huge reach.
- Engage with your customers: One of the best things about social media is its ability to connect you directly with your customers on a fun and personal level.
- Created targeted ad campaigns: Instagram makes it easy to create and post ads that are targeted to your market based on location, demographics, or similar interests.
- Cost-efficient marketing: While you can pay to create targeted ads for your audience on Instagram, you can also market through the platform completely for free.
The Challenges of Using Instagram to Market Your Small Business
While there are many benefits to using Instagram, there are also some challenges to overcome, including:
- Posting consistently: It’s often hard to keep up with a consistent posting schedule of high-quality content, especially if you don’t have a dedicated marketing person.
- Beating out the competition: While there are a billion Instagram users, there is also a lot of competition, which can make competing for organic growth difficult.
- Dealing with negative feedback: Because it’s crucial for a business profile to be public, it also means it can draw negative reviews, criticisms, and even trolls to your page.
15 Pro Tips to Market Your Small Business on Facebook
1. Optimize Your Bio
On Instagram, you don’t have a lot of space to flex your business – in fact, the bio only gives you 150 characters. It’s important to use that space to promote who you are as a business, what your business sells, and any other vital facts to help draw customers in quickly.
Also, be sure to include a link in your bio. This is crucial for driving traffic to your website for sales. A popular technique for businesses is to create a custom landing page with a tool like Linktree, Koji, or Linkin.bio to add multiple links. From these platforms, you can add your website link, as well as special promotions, specific product pages, or other relevant information.
Seasick Sunscreen Co does a nice job of including all the most important info in its bio section:
2. Know What Your Competitors Are Doing
With all social media marketing, it’s important to keep tabs on what your competitors or other small businesses are posting. This can help you stay up to date on trends and create unique content that outperforms these other businesses.
While you shouldn’t copy any other businesses, you can use them for inspiration if you’re struggling for ideas. Explore the site to find businesses that are doing similar things to you and analyze their content. You can note down what kind of visuals they use, how they format their captions, and what sorts of hashtags they add to emulate on your own page.
3. Plan Your Content
Instagram can quickly feel overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the site. To keep on top of it all, it’s essential to plan out your content in advance. You can create a content calendar with your posting scheduling clearly laid out. You don’t need to post every day, but try to post at least a couple times a week to build up an engaged following.
Ideally, you should have at least a month planned out ahead of time, to simplify the process and ensure all the posts are relevant to your audience. This doesn’t need to be completely set in stone, as there may be major events or trends that pop up suddenly that you want to take advantage of, but you shouldn’t have to post on the fly.
Meta is working on rolling out a schedule function in the Instagram app. It’s already available for some users, including most business accounts. If you have this functionality, it’s a great way to further automate your content. If you don’t have it yet, you can use a third-party social media management platform like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule Instagram posts.
4. Embrace Interactive Stories
Some businesses shy away from stories since they vanish after 24 hours – but they’re perfect for less polished, more interactive content to help boost engagement. You can post several throughout the day without overwhelming your followers’ feeds.
Some ideas for making the most of your stories include asking your customers a question and answering them one by one, or by creating fun polls or surveys around your business, your products, or something random. Instagram provides built-in templates for these ideas and much more.
5. Use Highlights to Show Products/Features
Even though stories only last 24 hours, you can save them as highlights that appear at the top of your business page. They look and function just like the stories, but they won’t disappear. In the example below, Pilot Kombucha has used its highlights to create unique product stories about all its different flavors. :
Instagram lets you easily categorize your stories, so you can create ones that talk about your business, your specific products, FAQs, and more.
6. Use Hashtags To Your Advantage
Instagram uses hashtags to help categorize and sort content, to make it easy for users to find their interests. You can use this to help your page grow organically, by carefully considering your hashtags. These may include:
- Branded hashtag: This is a specific hashtag uniquely associated with your business – either your brand name or a slogan related to your products.
- Product hashtags: These are keywords that describe products you may be selling in a post, like #digitalmarketing or #highheels
- Niche hashtags: These are words associated with your industry. For instance, #beauty or #skincare for a makeup business
- Event hashtags: For holidays, seasons, or other events you can use hashtags like #blackfriday or #earthday to get your content in front of new users
- Location hashtags: These are city, state, or other location names that can help Instagram better sort your posts like #austintx or #newengland
You can either put hashtags in the caption, the comments, or a mix of both. Try to keep the amount you use to between 3-5, but there is no actual limit.
7. Repost User-Generated Content
An easy way to post more on Instagram is to repost other users' content, with proper credit of course. The best way to do this is by seeking out posts of people using your products in some way.
Ask your customers to share pictures of themselves using your products or tag you in their posts. You can ask directly through social media or on email communications, especially post-purchase. Then, you can repost them to your own page or stories. Just make sure to tag the original poster and give them an appreciative shout-out on your page.
8. Go Live
Instagram live is a great feature that allows you to connect with your potential customers in a more personal, less polished way. You can go live spontaneously or schedule a live session ahead of time, so followers know when to get on. With Instagram Live you can do a behind-the-scenes look, run a Q&A session, or host an interview.
Additionally, Instagram Live has a Shopping feature, where you can add products before you start, and then discuss them in a live post. This is an awesome feature for you to discuss your products in a laid-back, casual way.
9. Create Custom Ads
A great way to target specific users on Instagram is through paid advertisements. These look like other posts in a user's feed, but are marked “sponsored” under the brand name.
As long as you have a business account, you can either choose to boost an existing post or create a sponsored post from scratch. You will need to use Meta’s Ad Manager to create ads, either online or through your phone. The ad manager will walk you through the steps to set up an ad, asking you to decide:
- Your marketing objective: boost post, drive website traffic, get likes, etc.
- Your post type: picture, video, carousel, etc.
- Your specific image and text to go in the ad
- Your audience: gender, demographics, geographic location, etc.
- Your budget: how much you are willing to spend (Meta will automatically stop the ad once the budget has been reached).
10. Post at Peak Times
To get the most views on your posts as possible, it’s best to time your posts to when people will be on Instagram and more likely to interact with them. This varies from industry to industry, but generally weekends have the worst engagement and weekdays between 9am and 3pm have the best engagement (everyone scrolls at work!).
However, for your specific business, you might find these don’t get the most engagement. While these offer good starting points to try, it’s important to experiment and analyze your posts to optimize your posting times. Don’t be afraid to adjust and work outside the norms, if you find that leads to better overall engagement.
11. Host a Giveaway
Hosting a giveaway on Instagram is a great way to boost brand awareness and grow your following. For prizes, choose a product or a bundled set of products that best represent your brand. You can host alone or team up with other companies to have an even farther reach.
It’s important to have some entry rules in the caption, along with who can enter (specific if it’s limited to people in a certain geographical area and minimum age for entry). Common rules for Instagram giveaways include following, liking, or commenting on the post, as well as possibly sharing or tagging a friend for more engagement.
Here’s an example of a giveaway hosted by multiple businesses:
12. Collaborate with Instagram Influencers
A great way to boost your exposure on Instagram is by teaming up with Instagram influencers. You can offer influencers free products or possibly pay them for promotion. While this isn’t a free marketing tactic, it’s a great way to expand your reach and get seen by customers that may never have found you organically.
For small businesses in particular, working with micro influencers (1,000-10,000 followers) is the perfect first step into influencer marketing. Choose influencers that align with your brand values and are possibly already customers themselves, as it will be more authentic.
13. Engage with Your Followers
Instagram isn’t a one-way street. To truly gain a following and improve your business image, you’ll need to engage with your followers constantly. While this can come through interactive stories and giveaways that are discussed above, it needs to go further.
This means responding to comments on your posts, DMing someone a thank you that might’ve tagged your product or business, and interacting with other people’s posts. Yes, this is a lot of work, but it can help you go beyond surface-level engagement to build customers that are active and confident in your business, which can help boost retention.
14. Make Your Profile Page Pop
Since Instagram is heavily visual-focused, it gives you a great opportunity to let your design skills take center stage. Use stylized feed layouts on your page to give visitors an aesthetically pleasing and unique overview of your business. A few popular methods include:
- Puzzle feeds: This is when you create one image out of many different smaller posts
- Tile feeds: You can create a tile effect by alternating between either text posts and image posts or posts with two different colored backgrounds
- Same background: Use the same background in every post to create a sophisticated and uniformed look.
Here’s an example of a puzzle feed from Hiller Art Studio:
15. Understand Your Analytics
Instagram has a great built-in analytics tool that allows you to understand how your posts are performing. For small businesses just starting out on Instagram, this is crucial for growing your channel. While you shouldn’t obsess over all the metrics, you should get a feel for the big picture.
Take some time after every post to analyze how it performed. For those that did well, note the type of content and the time of day it was posted. When it comes time to plan more content, keep those insights in mind to prioritize the top performers.
What’s the Best Way to Accept Payments Online?
Pay.com is the best way for any small business to accept payments online. No matter what type of products or services you sell, Pay.com has the features you need to easily accept payments, with or without a website. If you’re selling through Instagram, you can even create Pay Links for products, to send interested buyers directly to the checkout page.
To get set up, you simply need to sign up here and complete a simple onboarding process. Once approved, you’ll gain access to your Pay Dashboard, where you can set up your payment system for your business.
From your Pay Dashboard, you’ll be able to set the payment methods you want to accept. Choose from some of the most popular including digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay and credit cards.
The Bottom Line
Instagram is an amazing marketing tool for small businesses. From optimizing your bio and posting branded content to using paid advertising and influencer marketing, there are a ton of different options.
If you’re new to Instagram, start with a few of these tips and incorporate more over time. This will allow you time to see what works and what doesn’t for your specific business.
However you market your business on Instagram, Pay.com is the best way to accept payments online. With a ton of different features like custom checkout pages or direct Pay Links, it’s the perfect payment solution for any business, no matter how big or how small.