Instagram, with its origins firmly embedded in community, heavy emphasis on the visual and numerous places to create and publish content makes it an ideal platform for small businesses. However its rise in popularity and constant new features can leave many uncertain how to use it effectively. Here’s my top 10 tips to make it work for you:
Choose a business account. This sounds pretty obvious but I often come across businesses without one which means they’re missing out on analytics, contact and action buttons, access to advertising and should they reach the magic 10k followers the swipe up (to a link) option in Stories.
Pay attention to your profile. Ask yourself whether your bio invites engagement, tells people who you are and what you do? Make sure you’re making the most of your account name, link and Story Highlights and that your grid is a true visual representation of who you are. People will literally land on your account and make a decision in seconds as to whether to follow you or not based on this.
Befriend the algorithm. That’s right befriend it, contrary to popular opinion it is not out to get you and you don’t need to ‘hack’ it. It is, after all, just a piece of code which prioritises popular content. Once you take the time to understand it you can actually get it to work to your advantage.
Craft your captions. Just because Instagram appears to be all about the visual this doesn’t mean you can neglect the caption that accompanies your post (this includes IGTV and Reel captions too). The caption should build on the story or message in the visual, should invite engagement with a clear call to action and above all be infused with personality. Bland and salesy just doesn’t work on Instagram.
Don’t oversell. Even though Instagram has made shopping from the app easy, businesses selling products should avoid looking like a catalogue. Sell us the emotions, the story, the benefits (and then apply the shopping tag) be clever and less direct. For service based businesses reaching the ‘trust’ factor through quality content and building relationships will ensure sales without being too salesy.
Research hashtags. Wildly guessing, choosing the most popular and reusing the same ones in each post is not a strategy which is going to produce results. You need to look at them in context, research them and choose the less popular to give your post a chance to be discovered. For many right now hashtags are not performing like they used to and I suspect there's change heading our way (you can easily keep yourself up to date with changes in my monthly newsletter) possibly with more emphasis on keyword searching within the app.
Engage more than you post. Put the social in social media (a tip for all the platforms you’re using), respond to anyone who engages with your content and be sure to spend more time on other people’s accounts commenting on their posts, Stories, Reels and IGTVs. Social media is about building relationships with those important to you just as you would in real life.
Show yourself. Faces and people will always get more engagement. Show yourself, your team, your customers, your community etc. on ‘the grid’ and especially in your Stories.
Embrace Stories and try out Reels. Stories are the antithesis of the perfect grid, used the right way they can ‘supercharge’ relationship building with potential customers, lead generation and really help make you money. If you’re reluctant to embrace them ask yourself can you really afford not to? Reels are being favoured by Instagram, they’re its newest, shiny feature and they want it to be a success. Without insights it’s tricky to interpret their impact on your business but the chances of you getting higher visibility with your followers (and possibly new audiences) are strong.
Study your analytics. At a glance you can find out who your followers are by location and gender, best times to post and which posts drive certain actions. Use your insights to help shape your Instagram strategy.
If you feel overwhelmed by this list I’d recommend starting with an audit of your profile. It's the first touchpoint for any new follower and will influence, in seconds, their decision to follow you (or not). It’s the very first thing we cover in detail in my Instagram For Business Workshop and fits perfectly into a Power Hour.