Instagram announced that it hit 500 million users this week- which is super exciting for the Facebook-owned application, as well as businesses, as the platform is showing no signs of decline.
Are you on Instagram for your business? Or considering joining Instagram for your biz? We highly recommend it as a network to compliment your social media presence, or, as a place to grow one!
Below we are sharing our top tips for using Instagram for business, and using it effectively in order to drive sales, gather leads and increase your brand exposure.
1. Establish a strategy and work with your goals in mind
As you may be aware, you can spend a lot of time getting lost in the imagery on Instagram. If you haven't established some goals and a strategy for your business, blog or personal brand profile you could be spending a lot of time on the platform without necessarily getting a return on investment. We suggest you note down the following points in relation to your own business and keep them in mind next time you log on to Instagram:
- Your end goal- what are you hoping to get out of your Instagram presence? (Think customers, growing database, brand awareness, customer relationships etc.)
- Who is your ideal follower? Make sure that you know this "person" well, sharing content formulated for them.
- Consider how much time you have to dedicate to the network- Instagram can definitely be time consuming. You may wish to develop a schedule in which you publish to the platform, as well as setting aside time dedicated to replying to messages, questions and comments.
- Are you hoping to collaborate with social influencers? Consider making a list of potential candidates as you come across them- this will save time when it comes to the stage when you are ready to take on influencer outreach.
2. Develop a profile theme and stick to it
What does your business offer? What makes it unique? What are your areas of expertise?
You need to work out what your profile will showcase, taking into consideration the Three E's- enrich, educate and entertain. Instagram has become much more than just sharing pretty pictures- you need to work hard on developing your profile story and sharing content strategically.
Choose 5 words or topics to describe what your business offers and write them down. Each time you go to post to Instagram, make sure that your photo and caption is meeting your theme in more ways than one. Below, I have an example for you.
Example theme for a healthy lifestyle coach:
Overall theme for the profile:
- Healthy recipes and meal ideas
- Tips for getting more movement into your life
- Inspirational quotes
- Authenticity- showing the personality behind the brand
You can go further and write down the vibe (feel) of the profile:
Describe how you want your profile to look:
- High quality photos
- Branded quotes
- Colour palette consistent with branding (blue, green & white)
- Feminine- appealing to the female market
Work on your own profile theme, taking into account your values, culture, target market and branding. For further exploration of this and more, I recommend the Creative Social Media Planner, which you can read more about here.
3. Keep your caption purposeful, neat and creative
Whilst Instagram is famous for being a visual platform and a picture does say a thousand words, it is important to make the most of your caption. This is your chance to show consistency with your tone of voice, values and personality. It is also your chance to call your follower to action.
Calls to action ideas for your caption:
- Direct viewers to your bio to visit the clickable link and sign up to your newsletter to receive a discount, promotional code or free resource
- Share an excerpt of your latest blog post and ask viewers to visit your blog to read more
- Ask a question, engage your audience on a topic of discussion
- If you made a statement with a quote (in the posted image) then try asking viewers if they agree, or would like to tag a friend to share with them
- Use emojis to show your playful side (if it aligns with your brand).
Other useful tips for your caption:
- Always proof read your caption prior to posting.
- Try writing your caption in the notes app in your phone, including spaces, paragraphs and any emojis. You can then copy & paste your caption directly into your post to make sure that your caption is well written, spell checked and spacing is correct so that your post is effortless for the viewer to read.
- Keep the caption for writing your description only- then enter your hashtags in a comment straight after you have published the post. Putting your hashtags in a comment rather than your caption keeps it looking tidy and easy to read. See below for example: (the hashtags are hidden in the comments)
4. Nourish your Insta-Community
In the busy online world of social media, I believe that people are craving connection. If you can engage your ideal followers and develop a connection with them, then you are able to start building trust and developing a relationship.
It is simple to implement this strategy on Instagram- think of the words by Danielle LaPorte: "Find your tribe, love them hard". Find your followers by interacting with existing communities with similar interests to what you or your brand offer. Like and comment on their photos, find those that you believe to be your ideal or target customer.
I recommend spending at least one hour a week doing this- more if possible. At Social Media Creative, we call this Community Cultivation, and it is one of our specialties. Try to fit this in during a peak time (Sunday evening is a great one) and do it with focus- know who your ideal customer/client and find where they hang out.
Another form of nourishment is to make sure that you are replying to follower comments. Have they paid your post, product or blog a compliment? Ensure that you are attempting to reply to follower questions and comments where possible- this might make someone's day!
5. Quality content, expert value
Apart from visual entertainment, is the content that you are sharing on Instagram providing your followers with value?
As part of your business plan, you would have carved out a niche or segment of the market that you are targeting- are you sharing relevant ideas, expert tips, resources or inspiration to motivate and educate your community?
Chances are that you generally gain someone's attention with an image or offer that caught their eye. Then they checked out your profile in full, read your bio and if they liked what they saw, they clicked on 'Follow'. Now that you have gained another follower, you need to make sure that you deliver on your promise, what ever the reason that they chose to follow you, it is up to you to ensure that you continue to demand their attention with quality posts.
6. Encourage user-generated content
If you are lucky enough to be at the stage on Instagram where your customers are sharing their purchases with their following, then you are doing very well indeed. Sharing user-generated content does many things for your brand on Instagram and we have listed some benefits below:
- Creating hype surrounding a product- giving your followers the impression that the product it is a must have.
- Showing followers how the product is used, how it looks in real life and how it can be styled in-situ
- Encouraging the trust of your potential customers- if others are buying, it must be good.
- Sharing genuine, unique content consistent with your branding.
- Building a relationship with the customer
Our tips for using and encouraging user-generated content:
- Always credit the creator- tag the original profile that shared the image both in the caption, and on the photo itself.
- Implement a unique hashtag for your community to use- ensuring that it has not yet been used and that it aligns with your brand. For a good example of this, see Frank Body who place their creative hashtag #letsbefrank in their bio.
- Only select user content that is of quality; pasting a low-quality image that is pixelated or too dark to match the rest of your profile will make it look inconsistent with your look and feel. Use some slight edits to improve the image if need be, but don't go overboard, find another image instead.
- If you are working with influencers, ensure that you have provided guidelines for them to follow when they do post- this will aid in ensuring that you are getting the most out of the collaboration and that the post is high quality and can be reused for your own profile.
7. Review and grow
Do you ever flick back through your profile to take a look at what your audience responded to? You may be surprised with what content had a stronger response (more likes or comments) than other content that was shared.
If you want to go further than just checking out likes and comment numbers, we suggest the following tools:
- Sprout Social - this is what we use & recommend, amazing Instagram reports
- Iconosquare- comes with a free 7 day trial to see if you like it
- Instagram- that's right, Instagram has started rolling out Business Profiles for Instagram, where you will be able to view your profile's insights within the app. We have been lucky enough to have changed our profile over to a business account, see below for a sneak peak at the insights you can view:
Want more? We have listed our favourite go-to resources and tools to optimise your Instagram business profile. From creating graphics, to the best analytical tools out there, get your free list by clicking below.
As we are super passionate about all things Instagram, this post could have gone of for days!
If you have any questions or if you would like us to cover something that we might not have mentioned, feel free to shoot us an email or please drop us a comment below.
We hope that you picked up something in the post that you can implement today.
For more tips, tricks and inspiration, be sure to follow us on Instagram here.