It’s no secret that Instagram is growing rapidly as businesses and consumers alike discover the allure of a more visual platform. As a matter of fact, Instagram now has 1 billion monthly users and is considered the fastest growing social network. Many small businesses still struggle with how exactly they should be using Instagram, especially if their product or service is not that visual. How can small business owners take advantage of this rapidly growing social platform?  Here are a few insights on the social network as well as several Instagram tactics that really work.

What is Instagram?

InstagramFor those who have never used Instagram, here’s an overview. Instagram is a social networking app made for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone. When you post a photo or video on Instagram, it will be displayed on your profile. Other users who follow you will see your posts in their own feed, and you’ll see posts from other users whom you choose to follow. It’s very similar to Facebook which makes sense since Facebook now owns Instagram. Also, like Facebook, using the platform is free, but there are options to advertise.

Why should businesses use Instagram?

Besides the fact that Instagram is now the fastest growing social network out there, here are a few more reasons you should be using Instagram for your small business. First, it makes your company more relatable and personable. Since the platform is built around image and video sharing, it encourages companies to capture many different aspects of their products or service, as well as their company culture overall. Remember, people do business with people, not companies, and Instagram is an ideal platform to show off your company culture. You can also partner with influencers that can help your company rapidly grow its presence. An Instagram influencer is someone with a substantial online following and partnering with someone who has influence in your industry can be very impactful, even helping you to reach demographics previously out of your reach. Hashtags are especially powerful on Instagram and help others who are interested in your kind of content find you quickly. Instagram is designed for mobile users, and since mobile is overtaking desktop searches, having a strong online mobile presence is critical. Last, Instagram allows your company to be creative. On Instagram, your marketing person can go wild coming up with new ways to draw attention and add followers and new customers. Show the public that your brand has personality and that it is cool to shop with you by mixing it up with contests, shoutouts, vivid images, interactive videos and more.

Learn the marketing tactics that work on Instagram

Your business could follow the basics on Instagram and do fine, but if you have the inside scoop on some additional tactics that can really boost performance, why not use them? Here are a few to try.

Create an Instagram strategy

socLike any other marketing efforts, the best way to start on Instagram is to have a strategy. You want to identify what your goal is, what kind of content you’re going to create, how often you should post, who is going to create the content, and if you’ll be doing any advertising on Instagram, to name a few. Your initial plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, especially if you’re new to Instagram, but understand a few basics so you know how to have a consistent presence. There are many marketing consultants who can help craft a strategy if you don’t know where to start.

Identify your hashtags

This is a tactic many newbies to the platform fall flat with. There needs to be a rhyme and reason to the hashtags you use. The more hashtags you use, the more engagement you see. However, after about 10 hashtags, you risk losing out on some of that engagement so think carefully about what tags you use. Use hashtags for categorization and discovery; think of them as your top keywords and keyword phrases. If you’d done this exercise for your website, this should be a fairly straightforward process for your Instagram presence too. Don’t string too many words together with a single hashtag. Keep it simple and straightforward; remember, hashtags are helpful in people looking for content like yours, so only use hashtags that are applicable.

Remember that Instagram is a two-way platform

communicationYou can use the best hashtags out there but if you’re only communicating one way, and not connecting, liking and sharing other content, you’re not going to grow your platform. Instagram gives you the opportunity to engage in your industry’s online presence, so be sure you’re doing just that!

Find a platform to manage your Instagram efforts on

Just because Instagram is meant to be a social network for the mobile platform, don’t try to run your small business Instagram only from your phone. Here are a few tools that can help you manage your Instagram efforts:

  • Hootsuite
  • Combin
  • Linktree
  • Repost
  • Social Insight
  • Buffer
  • Sendible
  • Tailwind
  • Shorby

As you can see, there’s no limit to the number of management and promotional tools out there to help manage your Instagram account. Find the one that works for you or find a social media marketing consultant that can set up a tool for you.

Use influencer marketing

Chances are you’re not going to get a celebrity to help promote your Instagram presence, but you can find someone in your industry that can help boost followers and engagement. Influencer marketing works, because people trust recommendations from friends, so people also trust recommendations from influencers who feel like friends. If you can’t afford big influencers yet, try working with micro-influencers first. Micro-influencers have a smaller following, but their followers are generally more engaged.  Businesses like Hybrbrands can help.

Try advertising on Instagraminfluencers

One of the best Instagram tactics is advertising. If you’ve ever advertised on Facebook, you’re already fairly familiar with the Instagram ad platform. Instagram is integrated with Facebook Ad Manager so brands can leverage Facebook’s massive wealth of user information to advertise directly to their target audience. Why advertise on Instagram? 75% of users take action on Instagram ads (e.g., purchasing a product or going to a website). 35% of American adults use Instagram. It’s effective and it works. Hootsuite created a great guide on how to advertise on Instagram. Be sure to check out “How to Advertise on Instagram: A 6-Step Guide to Using Instagram Ads“.

The key to Instagram success

We always tell our clients the same thing when it comes to Instagram:  don’t try to do everything at once. Start small, measure, and then continue to add tactics as you become more comfortable or can afford them. And again, measure, measure measure! It’s not about being busy on Instagram, it’s about being effective! While these are Instagram tactics that really work, do only what you’re able to effectively manage and measure for the best success.

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Patty Hughes

Patty Hughes is President of Strategic Marketing Services and has over 20 years of experience in marketing and sales strategy.Having been fortunate enough to develop exceptional business relationships with both customers and colleagues throughout the years, she has been honored to help small businesses grow and has enjoyed being a part of their successes by partnering with them to establish a well-developed marketing strategy and assist in managing their ongoing marketing needs.
Patty Hughes
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