With more than 400 million active users, Instagram is a powerful tool that helps small businesses share their story in a fresh way.
With 80 million photos posted daily, it can seem hard for small businesses to stand out. Here are five ways that can help.
Show and Tell
Post photos of your products and services. If you are product-based business, post images of your products or videos of the production process. For instance, if you are a bakery, show off your freshly-made pastries.
If you are a service-based business, post photos of your process or tools used for your service. For instance, if you are a photographer, show off your favorite piece of equipment or your editing process.
The Rocky Mountain Soap Co. shares photos of their all natural skin care products. The company highlights the ingredients in each product and links to the online store in the bio.
Introduce your community to your employees, post photos of the production process or take your community behind the scenes of a video shoot. These everyday moments are big opportunities to show your company's personality and engage your community.
Hootsuite takes its community behind the scenes to share its corporate culture and personality. The company shows off its offices, celebrates community involvement and introduces its employees.
Give Exclusive Access
Let your audience be the first to know about a product launch or an event. For instance, you could post a photo of a discount code or behind-the-scenes photos of your new location.
Days prior to its launch of its line of watches, Tiffany and Co. posted photos and videos that detailed how they crafted the product line. They continued the campaign after the launch with more behind-the-scenes content.
Don't Create Content Yourself
User-generated content is a powerful tool to connect with your community. Regramming is a great opportunity to share your audience's photos to your own account. This not only gives the user greater exposure, but also saves time curating content.
How do you do this?
First, create a branded hashtag. Make your hashtag unique, short and easy to remember. You might want to create a specific hashtag for photo and video submissions.
Second, monitor the hashtag and regram the submissions. Make sure to credit the original user.
Travel Alberta relies on user-generated content to populate its Instagram feed. The tourism agency encourages users to tag @TravelAlberta or use the #explorealberta hashtag, which allows them to feature photos and videos from and with their community.
Run a Contest
Contests are a great way to get your followers engaged with your brand. Whether it's a like-to-win contest or a hashtag user-generated contest, this is a great way to reach out to your community and promote your business.
Offer a prize such as a free product, or service or even the opportunity to be featured in your feed. To learn more check out Social Media Examiner’s blog post, How to Run a Successful Instagram Contest.
Dunkin Donuts ran a competition during Halloween 2014. The company asked its followers to dress up their coffee in a spooky way and post the photo using the hashtag #DresseDD. The five winners were each given a $100 gift card.
There are some best practices to keep in mind when using Instagram for your small business.
- Use relevant hashtags. Hashtags allow you to get your content in front of many sets of eyes. Pick hashtags that are relevant to your business and industry. Think about using a branded hashtag, too.
- Post regularly and consistently. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it.
- Use video. Snackable video content is a major opportunity for brands. Companies can now post 60 seconds of video content. That's a lot of time to tell your story through this rich content medium.
- Be careful to not post promotional content only. Your Instagram is a way to tell your story. Your brand is more than your products or services. It's your history, values and direction. Share images that represent that as well as your products and services.
- Optimize your profile. Include a link to your website. Write a short bio. Use an appropriate profile picture. Every piece of your Instagram strategy should help you tell that story, including your profile. Here are 20 tips to help you get started.
Use these tips and best practices as part of your overall social media plan and you will start to see strangers turn into followers, followers turn into customers and customers turn into loyalists.
Did these tips help? Let us know by leaving a comment below or add your own tip to this list.
About the Author
Brittany is a marketing strategist, freelance writer and lifestyle blogger in Calgary, Alberta. When she is not crafting winning marketing strategies, she can be found scoping out the best coffee in the city, testing a new recipe or updating her blog. You can follow Brittany on Twitter (@BrittanyBrander) and Instagram (@brittanybrander).