Editor's Note: Matt Foster is a Content Strategist at Distinctly. Today he joins us to explain how a small business on Instagram can build their presence, and effectively engage with a diverse audience.
Since it was introduced in 2010, Instagram has become one of the most popular and widely used social media sites, competing with Twitter as a key platform for business users. So how can Instagram benefit you as a small business?
In December 2016, Instagram boasted over 600 million followers: a world of potential clients and customers for small businesses. This enormous market is often tapped by bigger brands looking to develop their social media marketing efforts, while smaller businesses sometimes assume it will not work for them; this simply is not true. In this article, we’ll show how to raise brand awareness and reach a larger customer base as a small business on Instagram. Let’s get started!
Target Your Content
After setting up an Instagram account, it’s time to post content. But where do you start? The key to success on Instagram is knowing the kind of content that will capture the attention of your audience. As a small business, it’s important that you know who your target users are, and tailor content to their interests. Begin by looking at your current customer base, and decide who they are in terms of age, location and gender. Once this information is clear, it’s easier to make an informed decision on content and hashtags.
Hashtags and trending topics are important on Instagram, and many will be relevant to you. When a hashtag relevant to your business blows up, it’s a great way to reach a wider audience beyond your followers. Adding hashtags to the content you post means it can be easily found, and posting content that is relevant to current trends can do the same. Both techniques are good ways to not only gain followers, but generate brand awareness in your target market.
Keeping your Instagram content related to your company brand is important, and this can be done by choosing a niche theme. When you have a theme, followers know what to expect, and will rely on you for similar posts down the road. It can take some experimentation to find something that is both unique and well-received, but once you’ve found something that works, you can focus on perfecting it.
A woodworking business based in Georgia, USA - Sons of Sawdust - reclaimed wood to create new products. By taking photos of their projects and posting them online, the company has created a popular online portfolio showcasing their work, and providing a behind-the-scenes demonstration of their processes. To make sure the right people see it, Sons of Sawdust uses relevant hashtags – #workshop, #oldwood, and #salvage, for example – so it will be found by a wide variety of users interested in woodworking.
Engagement is Key
Being active and engaging your audience is vital to building a successful presence as a small business on Instagram. You can post great quality, relevant content, but if no one knows you have an online presence, you will struggle to grow it. Start by telling current customers that you have social media accounts by putting a link to your Instagram on your website, and advertise it on other mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Include all social media links in your email signatures to drive traffic.
Consistency is a tremendously important way to keep your audience engaged, so content should be uploaded on a frequent and regular basis. The more active a small business is on Instagram, the more engagement they will see in return.
There are optimum posting times for Instagram, so try to establish a routine and post when most of your audience is online. Social Insights and Iconosquare are tools that will help you find the best times to post for maximum engagement, and both use analytics to optimize for your unique follower-base.
Another way to gain a large Instagram presence is collaborating with another local business or organisation that has already established themselves on Instagram. Working together exposes you to a pre-existing audience, and expands your own base.
Instagram has become the social platform for influencer endorsements. Do research to identify an influencer who shares your product, service, or target audience on Instagram, and build the relationship through engaging, ultimately inquiring about them promoting your business.
You can approach and offer between $20 and $100 they will promote your product or brand to their followers. There are plenty of research tools you can use to target the right influences for the size of their following in set niches, although be aware this must be matched with high levels of engagement of their followers when they post content.
Alasdair Inglis – Marketing expert at We Are Grow
Be Unique and Stand Out
In order to create an engaging Instagram account, it is essential to stand out from the crowd. So where do you start in terms of generating unique content? Your business likely offers a product, service or experience that is sold to customers through a unique selling point (USP), and you can use this to attract followers.
The London Helicopter has special access to bird’s eye views of the London skyline every day. The company’s USP lies in offering an experience that many people want to see, and that very few get to see. As a visually oriented platform, Instagram is a perfect place for this company to showcase these experiences and share them with followers who are unlikely to forget the brand if they are ever on vacation.
Have a Consistent Style
As mentioned before, consistency is key to all forms of social media and Instagram is no exception. But while many companies remember to post consistently, they often neglect stylistic consistency. People follow a brand because they want to see more of whatever attracted them in the first place, so giving it to them is important.
A popular way of doing this is to concentrate on a branded color palette throughout your content. Oreo does this well by using the same house style and color scheme in each of their posts:
Instagram is About More than Gaining Customers
While social media can absolutely help you to gain new customers, it isn’t just a quick way to boost your business and market your products. It also works to demonstrate excellent customer service, and the quality of people who work for your business.
There are many ways businesses and brands can benefit from this besides the acquisition of new customers:
Boosting Sales Among Existing Customers: Businesses who show great customer service on their social media accounts are likely to see a boost in sales and profits. Research by Aberdeen Group found that brands who are good at customer service benefit from an annual financial gain of 7.5%, against the typical 2.9%.
Creating Brand Advocates: Using social media turns your customers into brand advocates. If a customer has a good experience with a brand on social media, they are three times as likely to recommend that brand to a friend or family member. This is how word of mouth works in the digital age.
Creating a Positive Image: Social media platforms are a good way to show old and potential customers alike that you are interested in them, and this matters even if you aren’t getting direct sales from your content. 74% of shoppers list social platforms as a main influence on whether or not they made a purchase, so it is important for brands to focus on customer care and maintaining a friendly, outgoing public image.
Like other social media platforms, Instagram gives your customers a space to interact with your company, a chance to retain old customers, and gain new ones. Using it effectively means appreciating the unique qualities of a visual medium, and being sincere in your efforts to build a positive image that your brand will be remembered for. Getting started isn't hard, and it's well worth it - hopefully the advice above will help you to build your presence on a platform that is teeming with opportunity.
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