Updated: Mar 20, 2021
As A Small Business
I'm the first to admit I didn't like Instagram at all. When all of my friends were leaving Facebook and flocking to Instagram, I resisted. Then the businesses started moving over too and I knew I had to get onboard. My biggest issue was that Instagram seemed to be all about the images and I'm primarily a words person. Now I love art but personally I've always prefered to use words to express my thoughts and ideas. So when I started using Instagram two years back, it took some getting used to.
Today, it is my favourite social media platform. Usually the first one I recommend to my clients and my go-to for my own businesses.
So I'd like to share with my fellow self-employed and small business owners a few of my top tips for owning it on Instagram:
Decide on 'Your Look'
If you're an established business then you've probably put some time into developing a strong brand image. If you're just starting out and heading to Instagram to get the word out, then you'll want to decide now what your brand looks like, because you're about to share it with your potential clients. Colour pallets are especially important here. My Ms Marketing colours are pink, yellow and sometimes green. Fresh colours to represent a bright, feminie and uplifting approach to marketing. However, by colour pallet we're not necessarily talking colour. Black and white photographs are beautiful and impactful too. The important thing to consider here is what you've got to showcase and what links them together. If you're a product based business, would you rather showcase your product in its natural environment or against a plain backdrop so the focus is on your item? Ideally, as people scroll through their feed, when they see your post they should be able to recognise your business, because your 'look' is unique to you.
Many businesses on Instagram follow the mantra that quantity is key, but this couldn't be further from the truth. In actual fact, people scroll through Instagram looking for the images that are most unique, engaging, emotive or eye-catching. Posting content that is off-brand or that has not been well-thought-out is a great way to lose followers. So choose
your best images. Put half an hour into editing a photo and writing some great content to go with it and do this 4-6 times per week, rather than spending 2 minutes 4 times per day shoving content onto your feed without a clear idea of what it is you’re hoping to achieve.
You may increase your overall 'likes' by posting five times a day but users have to visit your profile before they can follow you. It's there that they will decide whether they want to see more of your content and if it's too random, chances are they won't commit to a follow. Which leads me on to my next point...
Honestly, it's not too difficult to get likes. You could simply repost something funny that's doing the rounds on the web, or post a stunning photograph that maybe doesn’t have anything to do with your business. But if you get 5,000 likes on those posts what has it actually achieved? What you really want to look at is whether people followed you from the strength of that post. Often, they won’t have because chances are, they aren't actually interested in your business. A key mistake businesses make on social media is to treat it as a school playground where whoever is most 'liked' will be popular. In business, it's about communicating with your target audience, attracting customers and turning that into sales. So you'll want to attract followers. Think of them as your potential loyal customer base and make sure you engage them. Furthermore, think about who your potential followers are going to be when you select your hashtags. What hashtags are they following?
Invest in Great Pictures
Written content is important on Instagram, but we'll get to that next. The first thing users are going to see is your media so it has to be good. No, actually it has to be perfection because your competition is SO big. Also, as mentioned above, you don't just want the 'like' you want the 'follow'. If you're not a great photographer then you'll want to do one of three things:
1. Hire a photographer and book a photo shoot to provide you with an album of photos to use. This is great because your pictures will be unique, but can be expensive (see below for my amazing offer)
2. Invest in a stock photo subscription. This can be really good for service-based businesses as your imagery will often be more obscure. However, it's not right for product-based businesses and the really great images available will likely be being used across the web so they'll feel less special
3. Learn how to do it yourself. This is not easy but it can be fun. These days you don't even need an amazing camera. There are plenty of add-ons available you can buy for your phone and there are even Lightboxes that can make your products look really professional. Drawbacks of this are time and, although anyone can learn not everyone will be great at it because there is a natural skill involved too. you have to ask yourself if you have an eye for design.
Content is Key
So now we return to the reason I resisted Instagram at first and I'm going to have to admit I was wrong because the content that goes with your photos is important. A year or two back a lot of people were just posting photos and hashtags but it's geared up a level now and those who are selective about who they follow and what they like (and these are the only people worth engaging with) want to hear from you too. For this, we need to return to why you posted the picture. Sometimes it will be simple. For example, you sell home furnishings and you've posted a picture of a vase. Tell your followers about the product but also why did you choose it, where would you recommend placing it, who should buy it and why will they love it. If you're passionate about your products then this shouldn't be too tricky. You needn't be a wordsmith either. Talk as you would to a customer face-to-face. However, other images can be trickier. With service-based businesses (not including food and beverage outlets) you will probably find you know what you want to say before you select the image. So maybe you're showing a picture of you at work - tell us what you're doing. Or maybe you have are launching a new service or have a special offer on. Simply tell people about it in a fun and upbeat way. Let your excitement shine through. The effectiveness of written content so often is in confidence. Don't be afraid to sell yourself and tell people how great your business is. How will they know otherwise?