How to Use Instagram to Grow a Business
Hey, boss! Maybe you’ve heard of the great perks that Instagram provides to business owners, however you may not be using the platform yet or are curious to learn more about how to use Instagram to grow a business — yours, to be exact! Here’s your official lowdown.
social media 101
As I’m sure you are well aware: your competitors are on social media, it’s just a fact. So… you want to be on it, too! To me, there isn’t an argument that could stand a chance against social media for biz.
There’s a TON of perks to using social media for marketing, including: we get increased brand awareness and recognition, we are able to resolve customer service issues via the platforms, we improve the trust and loyalty in our brand and we get cost-effective exposure vs. placing traditional print or other media ads for thousands of dollars.
Facebook - the place for fans
I often say, unless you’re willing to pay to play, Facebook is more of the platform that your fans find you on - it fosters that already build relationship and allows your customers to stay informed about your latest business promotions and events.
It’s great for marketing events and getting the word out there via social shares. It’s also an equally valuable space for social proof - people want to see their friends interested in X, Y, Z before they become interested, before they buy into your services or products. It’s a great review site - considered by consumers to be close to Yelp, for example.
But, unless you’re a business that can leverage things like Facebook Groups to increase awareness of your brand and gain new “likes”, or unless you can shell out those dollars to pay (which I do recommend having at least a $100 budget per month if you’re a small business), it’s one of the slowest moving platforms in terms of gaining new traction.
Twitter - big brands on a small scale
Similarly, Twitter is fantastic, but only for certain niches. A small, local boutique owner isn’t going to see the same return from Twitter as a mainstream brand that sells online, a social influencer, celebrity or someone/something of higher stature - an organization, a cause, a corporation, a CEO, a politician. A well-established and well-oiled machine!
This is why I’m a huge advocate for Instagram - nearly any and every niche can participate in the fun and every brand/individual has an equal, level playing field to make an impact in the digital space.
so, why instagram?
Instagram in many ways is a storytelling platform, greatly focused on the visuals and well thought-out captions sharing the heart and personality behind a brand. It is the emotional side of your branding and marketing.
In a recent study, it was discovered that campaigns with solely emotional content performed twice as well as those with solely rational content. We need to leverage the balance between both, as the consumers are getting smarter and smarter about sales and the world of marketing.
People are done with the sleazy, overly-pitchy sales tactics, especially in the younger market, leading with the millennials and now Gen Z. We are savvy to what you are doing in your marketing and we want it done right - leading from the heart and purpose, not a boring text-heavy graphic with no depth or feeling.
Instagram, as I mentioned before, gives everyone a level playing field. Someone who has 0 followers has the equal opportunity to make an impact and grow their brand on Instagram as someone with far more - they do not rank or favorite posts based on popularity of the brand or corporation status, they filter a consumer’s feed based on what they show interest in and who they interact with on a regular basis. This gives you tons of exposure opportunity.
share quality content
Like I mentioned above, Instagram is a storytelling platform, ready to embrace your next feel-good (or emotional) discovery and musing. Leveraging the platform as a place to share quality content and connect on a deeper level to your audience is the key to being successful on Instagram.
When you think about the personal nature of Instagram and what is appropriate to share and where, be sure that you utilize every aspect of the platform: regular posts, Stories and IGTV, and tailor your content to each platform.
YOUR CURATED FEED
Your beautiful, intentional, well thought-out curated feed is the catalyst to the first impression people will make of you when they click over to your profile. This is where your main posts live, and where you should be posting high quality imagery with high quality captions. This is your “best version” of yourself and your business. This doesn’t mean you can’t share vulnerability - please do! Just make sure that every post here flows well with those around it and aesthetically pleases.
Your Instagram “Story” is a running feed of photos and video content that is a less-curated, more relatable approach to sharing with your audience. It’s here that you’ll share a ton of behind-the-scenes, inner workings of your brand and the things you do in your day-to-day life. Yes, trust me: they want to see it!
Your Story can be located by tapping on your profile photo (there will be a pink ring around your profile photo when you have a Story published). There’s also three components to your “Story”:
Component a). Individual Posts
Individual posts consisting of photo and 15-second looping video content shared to an overall growing “Story” that continues chronologically through time, expiring after 24 hours. You can add super fun, engaging aspects to your Stories - such as interactive polls and votes. And, people will often respond to Stories by sending you a private message and continuing the conversation.
Component b). Story Highlights
Story Highlights are a great way to showcase regular Stories that you want to save for weeks/months to come. Simply create a Story Highlight and name it something relevant to that topic. For my business, I have “News” (news about the business), “Marketing” (marketing tips), “Branding” (branding tips), “Faves” (things I’m currently loving), “Everyday” (my everyday life) and “Blog” (the latest blog posts - including this one!).
Then, you’re able to select which images and videos you are going to add in to your Highlight. This creates interactive categories that new visitors can check out while browsing your main profile, giving them an in-depth look at your operations and staff, as well as giving them free tips & tricks.
Component c). Going Live
While lives cannot be saved as Story Highlights, you can “go live” and broadcast live video to your followers that can be saved for up to 24 hours on your main Story. I suggest that my clients go live every other week and create consistency that their followers can depend on. There’s nothing worse than promising your followers you’ll be on at X time and dropping off (I’m even guilty of this). This is a way you can demonstrate dependability and dedication you have to your audience.
You can post a regular feed post before going live, encouraging questions from your audience or announcing the topic and time/date so they can tune in, or you can make the same post in your Story and use a poll option to gauge their interest in certain topics.
Your IGTV CHANNEL
Everyone has an “IGTV” or Instagram TV channel built in to their account. This is where you can share longer running video content. Unlike your Stories that disappear after 24 hours and loop with 15 second clips that can appear choppy, your IGTV stream will stay up until you remove it and is being strongly promoted as a big, exciting function of the platform, encouraging ease of gathering views.
For now, you can publish up to 10 minute videos if you have an average smaller-following account, and up to 60 minutes if you have a larger brand account, however Instagram has said that they intend for there to be no time limit in the future. This is a new feature just announced in 2018 and has endless opportunity if you jump on it quickly.
using hashtags & geotags to be discovered
When you share your content, there’s two super key components to consider:
Hashtags - phrases or words that get you discovered in searches.
Geotags - location stamps hooked up to a greater map, that shows where that content was produced or where you want that content to be relevant - also helps get you discovered in searches.
When we talk about hashtags, we need to consider three things:
1. Where our target client/customer is hanging out (aka: which hashtags are they using?).
2. Where we want our message to get out (aka: which cities or countries do we fit in?).
3. Where should our content naturally appear (aka: which hashtags are people using in my niche?).
When picking our hashtags, we should select a few location-based hashtags, a chunk of niche-relevant hashtags and the rest (the majority) of our hashtags should be hashtags where our ideal customer or client is spending most of their time.
Your goal is to get into their mind. For example, if you were a digital marketer like myself targeting female entrepreneurs and creative small businesses, you would want to use hashtags such as #makersgonnamake, #calledtobecreative and #womeninbiz. These are hashtags that potential clients are going to be populating with their own posts and is where they find new people to follow.
When we talk about geotags, we need to consider two things:
1. Where are we physically based and where is this post coming from?
2. Where do we want to appear in searches?
This can get a little tricky. We want to appear in searches of the location(s) we want to serve more of, however we also don’t want to be misleading or false in our publishing.
For example, I live in Olympia, Washington State’s capital, but Seattle is the closest big city (about 1.5 hours away) and would attract a wider variety of clientele to me - if I wanted, I could geotag my posts Seattle without too much misdirection. I wouldn’t tag myself in Austin, Texas because while I would love clients there, too and am absolutely fit to serve them, I don’t want to come across as dishonest.
You may also choose to tag a specific place or business, perhaps even your own! However, just keep in mind that by doing so, you are limiting your reach. As a business account on Instagram, your address is already on your profile in an accessible place, and regardless, it’s easily searchable on Google. You don’t need to tag every post with your place of business. Tag the city instead.
Geotags are a beautiful, functional way to get discovered, so getting strategic about how you use them is super important. It’s a fine line to walk and you’ll ultimately have to go with your gut.
reaching out with community engagement
So, I’m sure you’ve heard it said before: you can’t just post and expect people to listen. As we briefly covered in the beginning of this post, Instagram is a great, level playing field for all brands to entice a new and growing following. We do this by interacting with our target customer or client - searching hashtags and geotags where they spend their time and interacting by liking, commenting and following profiles that fit the persona of our ideal connection.
Even if we all spend 15 minutes per day interacting and engaging with our target community, people will take notice and begin to follow us more and more. And ultimately: try not to get caught up in the numbers. Contrary to popular belief, social media isn’t a numbers game - it’s all about the relationships and the feel-good fuzzies. Focus more on connection and less on competition.
Have a question about Instagram or social media in general? Pop it below in the comments! I’d love to hear from you and answer anything I may be able to help with.