1. Get social
Remember when photos weren’t perfect and social media was actually about being, well, social? One of the best ways to enjoy Instagram while also building your business is to get social. How? By sticking around after you post for at least 15-20mins to comment and engage with your audience in real time, sending clients / customers surprise voice and video messages in the DMs, talking about things NOT just related to your product and/or service, shouting out people who inspire you, and starting real conversations that promote debate by asking questions rather than shouting scripted marketing messages.
Using IG Story tools such as the poll, countdown, ask a question and this or that, will help increase engagement and also your knowledge of who your customer is, and what they most want. On the grid, things like running competitions, asking customers to use a branded hashtag and/or send a DM can help your exposure. Likewise, utilising the full 30 hashtags (in the first comment) and location tags (even creating your own unique one i.e. The Universe) can help your brand get seen by people who are not otherwise following you. (Remember to change up & test hashtags regularly!)
2. Be consistent
Jasmine Star is a California-based photographer, business strategist and go-to guru for all things Instagram. With more than 300K organic followers, she suggests the biggest thing small biz owners can do is be consistent. ‘So often we get in our heads about posting the perfect picture and writing the perfect caption that we make it so unnecessarily hard, overwhelming, and “just-forget-it-I’m-over-this” that sometimes we just don’t post at all.
The best thing you can do for your business is show up every day on Instagram, and connect with followers in a place of service to them, not from a place of perfection for you.’
3. Make instagram your #inspo
We all know about comparisonitis, but who we follow and engage with as small biz owners is completely within our control. Make Instagram a place of inspiration for you by following accounts and people that either bring you energy, are examples of your ideal customer and/or are potential brand collaborators.
Likewise, make your account a place of inspiration for your audience by creating posts that are a mix of value-based, people-based and brand-based. Some people use a 4,3,2 formula to do this on a grid, meaning 4 out of 9 posts are value-adding (tip, tool, recommendation, quote), 3 are about you / the people behind the business (humanising your brand) and 2 are about your product/service (how to use, testimonials etc.). By doing this you’re not using the platform simply to sell, but to share and build real connections.
4. Work with the platform, not against it
Instagram is a business, so it makes sense to embrace their changes, rather than bemoan them if you’re using their service. While there’s no doubt IG will move into a similar “Pay to Play” direction as Facebook, you can still utilise the platform now without paying for reach.
Pay to Play ‘is not a matter of IF, but WHEN’ says Star, ‘And while it’s tempting to get down about it, I take the opposite stance: I want to maximize my time on the platform, build as much as I can, leverage it today because I learned from what happened (and is happening) on FB. Instead of looking at the glass half-empty, I look at a glass filled with opportunity and the chance to make the most of it.’
A more recent tactic from the ‘gram is to heavily promote IG TV posts on the discovery tab and in the feed, so making these (along with stories) part of your marketing is key. How? According to Star, there are three ways to engage your biz audience by utilising videos on IG TV:
• Clearly outline the purpose of the video (this is called the “promise”, what they get as a result of watching).
• Articulate a pressure point (i.e. How to Organize Your Work Day) and offer 3-4 tips (this is called the “solution”);
• Have a clear Call To Action (this is where you invite them to DO something, like leave a comment/click to buy/sign up for a newsletter/etc).’
5. Don’t play in borrowed playgrounds
While IG is a fantastic tool for small biz owners to build their biz and engage with their audience, you should always be looking at how you can guide people from that platform to one you own. Social media is always a borrowed playground; the rules can change anytime so never build a business solely on these platforms. Guiding people to a place you own may look like asking them to sign up to your email, download a freebie, purchase an item, attend an event, come in-store or visit your website. The sooner you can connect with customers (past, present and potential) on a platform you own, the better.
Fiona Killackey is business consultant, author and mentor for My Daily Business Coach. You can sign up to her weekly email full of small biz insights and tips here.
Jasmine Star is a photographer and business strategist and a guru at Instagram for business. Check out her own Instagram here.