How to use Instagram like a pro for your small business

 
How to Instagram like a pro - post from AdvancedStyle
 

First up - are your customers on Instagram? Read “Should you be using Instagram to promote your business” first. There’s  no point in getting the low down on Instagram if your customers are not on Instagram. 

Thanks to Instagrammer AdvancedStye for the above post and image and please support International Day of Older Persons.

1. Your bio

Your bio (or profile) is all important. It’s the one place within Instagram that you can place a clickable call to action back to your website or registration etc. 

You get 150 characters, so about the same as Twitter, but with a little imagination and emojis you can convey an awful lot in a small space. Your goal with your posts should be to drive people to look at your bio for details of your offering, hopefully, nudging them to click through to your website or sign up for your email etc. 

A good strategy is to regularly update your bio so it matches your latest posts or campaign activity that you’ve got going on. 

Your bio is also searchable within Instagram so do think about keywords (including your hashtags) so you’re more visible to people searching. 

Have a look at the following good examples of bios: @thecanarypress @toneitup

 
Canary Press on Insta
Tone it up on Insta
 

To connect up your post to your bio, always make sure you include your @handle at the end of each post in your comments so it’s easy for people to get to your profile. 

Make sure that you are using your UTM codes to track the individual click throughs based on each individual call to action that you use in your profile. This way you can measure the impact of each post and the channel overall to your bottom line by connecting up post click throughs to registrations, sales, web visits etc. 

2. Your images and the story behind it

Instagram is all about images + relevancy to your followers. Ask yourself if you’ve got visuals to explain and promote your business. With enough creativity, energy and madness you should be able to work out your visual strategy or story for your business. However, if you can’t or don’t have the time to create great visuals then you will struggle to get benefit from Instagram. 

The key is to use images to tell the story of your business. However, as the good digital business owner and strategist that you are, you need to have a clear idea of WHY you are using Instagram. 

For example is it a branding exercise to raise awareness and get your name in front of more people, or is it to actively sell your products and as an extension to this will you use it as a service channel? 

Decide on this first and then start brainstorming around what your visual story telling will be about your business. 

When you start to work out what you’re going to post on Instagram, I suggest that you also think about how frequently you will be able to post, and whether you can sustain this over time. 

Different ways businesses are successfully using Instagram are: 

  • Consultants such as deep matter experts and other similar service type businesses focus on events and activities that they participate in. They also use inspirational quotes etc as a way to establish value and their personality. 
  • Those with products to sell style them to show them in all sorts of situations (to their best advantage of course) 
  • Using customers to post their images of your products 
  • Service based businesses showcase their customers making milestones. 

Regardless of what you do, Instagram is a visual platform and it works best when the visuals are strong and highly relevant and engaging to the followers. You must commit to high quality and engaging images. 

3. Styling your images

To bump up the interest and impact of your images, consider using images with words and quotes to add messaging and context. 

Good apps for styling and adding text to your images are: 

  • Wordswag
  • Over 
  • Phhhoto - moving gifs for Instagram

Here’s a few examples.  @splashopm and @minettesvintage

 
Example of words on image for Instagram
Words instead of images examples for Instagram
 

From a practical perspective, if you’re using images that you’ve shot on your smartphone then styling and posting will not be a problem. However if you’re importing images from another source or camera, then make sure that the image size is large enough eg. 640 x 640. This will then be scaled down by Instagram to good effect. If you’re starting with a smaller image and the app needs to scale it up, then this will be of questionable quality. Remember the visuals are everything. 

4. Protect your images

If you’ve got proprietary images you need to protect them by watermarking them. In fact, a good strategy regardless of whether your images are worth protecting or not is to ensure that they are all watermarked with your website URL or other call to action. When other people share your image, your comments will be lost, so this is a good way to keep ownership of the image once it’s been shared. 

Use one of the apps above or picmonkey.com or canva.com to insert a watermark of some kind. 

5. Comment to extend the image story and include your call to action

Every post should have a comment posted with it to extend the image story and to give a strong call to action. At a minimum consider a “view my bio to sign up/buy/learn more etc”.

Top tip: Use the location field to insert a clickable link …. thanks to Peg Fitzpatrick as heard on her interview Social Media Examiner

Be inventive with your call to action - it doesn’t just have to be 'visit my website'. 

For example if you’re after email addresses then put a free download of some sort in exchange for the email address. Other types of call to actions that you can use within the comments are: 

  • Double tap if you agree
  • Click the link @bio for a free giveaway or download 
  • Tag 3 friends. (This means that those people will receive the notification but also provides education on how to use Instagram - remember many people are not going to be power users of the app). 
  • Share on Facebook.

6. Frequency

Peg (from above) also suggests that the most successful companies on Instagram are those that posting at least twice a day - phew - really? 

This is a big commitment for a small business, so my best advice is make sure you’ve got a clear strategy and source of ongoing visuals to hold up your strategy. I do believe that you can have success without posting multiple times every day, as long as your visuals are strong to have cut through when you do post. 

The guiding principle needs to be when you post make it quality by being engaging and relevant. 

7. Hashtags are your invitation to play

Hashtags are widely used (by about 40-50% people) on Instagram. They allow you to put your images in front of new people as part of the hashtag hub. 

Let’s just say you’re interested in organic seasonal food. Using the hashtag #organicfoodie will give you every other image that has been posted with that hashtag. It allows you to see images of people that you don’t follow. From a business perspective, it means you’re putting yourself directly in front of new people that may be interested in your product/service etc. 

In my previous post on Instagram I ran through how to use hashtags as a way to research who was using Instagram. This same research will indicate to you what hashtags you should be using, volumes etc

If you’re not using hashtags as part of your Instagram strategy then you’re “not baiting your fishing line” so to speak. 

Other good uses of hashtags are: 

  • when you’re attending events to see what’s being posted
  • as a local business using hashtags to capture people’s attention for your store/business in the area
  • for grouping like people together
  • create a visual hub for your brand - whether it’s you posting to it or your customers. 

Businesses that that are using hashtags well are: @Frank_bod and @abrowntable

 
Frank_bod profile
ABrowntable on Insta
 

8. Spreading your Instagram love

Apart from hashtags to get your images seen and getting your call to action to work for you, consider some of the following: 

  • Collaborate with other businesses - and swap shout outs. 
  • Guest post on another account or have someone guest post on your account (a good example of this was Mrs Meyers Clean Day with Grace Bonney from Designsponge* posting on all design things beautiful for a week - I’d never heard of Mrs Meyers before Grace got involved). 
  • Do a promotion or give away using your hashtags to get it front of your target group/audience.
  • Pay for an influencer in your ‘target audience’ to do a post/promotion.
  • Repost any posts from customers or related businesses. This might be something that you can use as a call to action or build a promotion around.  

A great example of inventiveness at work is Sue B Zimmerman. She’s an Instagram consultant and expert. She uses the hashtag #suemademedoit with her clients. She gets them to post to this as a great form of engagement but also she’s created a hashtag hub of people literally recommending her! 

9. Reposting on Instagram

This functionality doesn't exist within Instagram so you need to use a work around. I've outlined two approaches below, based on what I thought was the easiest.

Method #1 Install a specific app

This approach is best if you want to repost from your mobile. The app that seems to be best rated and most widely recommended is Repost for Instagram from Red Cactus. 

You do need to connect up your Instagram account to this, but once done you can browse both your own account, those that you follow or even search for new accounts. 

To repost, you need to be in the Repost app (just in case you missed that).

 
Exampe of a repost using app
 
  1. Click on the re-post button at the bottom 
  2. The caption from the post will be automatically copied - you can't change anything at this point, just select ok. 
  3. Select 'Copy to Instagram' 
  4. Make any changes you want (the app has now shunted you across to Instagram) 
  5. Add a comment - including a thanks and the relevant hashtags to get them into your hashtag hub. 

And you're done. The image has automatically had a label on the account holder inserted into the image. 

Method #2 Using Iconosquare 

This method needs you to be working from your desktop. I also like the way that the attribution of the post owner is done however I have noticed that the quality of the image is not good quality, so I would check that this is ok before posting. 

  1. Go to Iconosquare and logon with your Instagram account
  2. Search for the post you want  and click to open the post
  3. At the bottom of the post is an option to 'repost'
  4. Select this and send the image to your email
  5. Then swap over to your mobile or if on your desktop save the image from your email account 
  6. Then logon to Instagram and post as you would normally. 
 
Reposting from Iconosquare
 

Key points for both of these methods. 

  1. Bring your repost to the Instagrammer's attention with their @handle so they know you've reposted one of their posts
  2. Hashtag the post to get it into your hashtag hub
  3. Write a comment on the post. It can be a simple thanks to the other Instagrammer or something about how/why you like it or how it relates to you. Providing context is great and it also helps you relate the post back to the owner and helps you establish a good connection with them 
  4. Consider sharing it to your other social accounts like Facebook or Twitter, particularly if it's a good rap for your business. 
 
Image of a reposted image using Iconosquare
 

10. Managing your Instagram

So far the API for Instagram has remained closed which means having to logout and switch between accounts (if you have more than one). However Hootsuite has introduce scheduling for Instagram but it’s only in the form of a reminder to get on and post to Instagram. 

11. Final tips

If someone comments, then respond, even if it’s just a thank you! In addition, if someone has a query or question about your product or service, then initiate a conversation with the direct messaging facility within Instagram. You can only message followers, so it’s also a great way to increase followers, particularly for after sale service and recommendations. 

12. Advertising ...

Advertising for everyone is now open. Till now only big spenders have been allowed as part of the beta testing stage. The advertising appears as a sponsored post in your feed. You create and manage the campaign through your Facebook advertising dashboard, and get to use the same demographics and profiling as Facebook. I’ll revisit this topic when it’s been up and running for a wee while so there’s more case studies to look at. 

Summary

Instagram gets much higher engagement than it’s sister company, Facebook. With the right strategy and approach, it can be a great platform to introduce your business to new people and build your brand and customer base. However, if you can’t commit to a quality visual story for your business on an ongoing basis, it may be a struggle to get return benefit from your effort. 

Do let me know if your on Instagram so I can follow you. Best of luck!