How to Optimize Instagram as A Small Business
After being introduced in 2010 Instagram has become one of the most popular and most used social media sites, competing with Twitter to be one of the key platforms for business users. So how can Instagram benefit you as an SME?
In December 2016 Instagram boasted over 600 million followers, opening a world of potential clients and customers to small businesses that were not necessarily within reach before. Instagram is often used by big brands to great effect, while many smaller businesses assume it will not work as well for them; this simply is not true.
Here we show how to raise brand awareness and reach a larger customer base as an SME on Instagram, one of the most popular and engaging social media platforms.
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 type of content you are going to post to capture the attention of your audience. It is important that as a small business, you know who your target users are and then tailor the content to meet 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 is much easier to know what to post and what is popular amongst that Instagram community in terms of hashtags.
Hashtags and trending topics are important on Instagram and many will be relevant to you. Using these when they are popular great way to reach a wider audience, as well as your current followers. Hashtagging the new content you post will mean it can easily be found and posting content that is relevant in terms of trends can do the same.
Keeping your Instagram content related to your company’s brand is important, and can be done through choosing a niche theme to target. This allows followers to know what to expect and that they can rely on you for posts they are going to enjoy and find interesting.
A woodworking business based in Georgia, USA – Sons of Sawdust – rework 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 giving a behind-the-scenes look at the process. To ensure this is seen by interested parties, Sons of Sawdust have used relevant hashtags – #Carhartt, #diy, and #wood, for example – to put the images in front of a relevant audience.
Engagement Is Key
Engaging and being active is one of the most important parts of having a successful Instagram account for your SME. You can post great quality and interesting content but if no one knows you have an online presence you will struggle to have it grow.
Start by letting your current customers know you have social media accounts by putting a link to your Instagram account on your website and advertising it on other mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Plus, include all social media links in your email signatures to drive traffic.
Consistency is key to having a successful Instagram account and content should be uploaded frequently. The more active a small business is on Instagram, the more engagement it will see in return.
There are optimum posting times for Instagram so try and post during these and with a routine. Social Insights and Iconosquare are both tools available to help you find the best times to post for maximum engagement, and both offer analytical tools to guide you.
Another way to gain a larger Instagram presence is to collaborate with another local business or organization that has already established itself on Instagram. Working together can promote you to their following and expand your audience 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 enquiring 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 – We Are Grow and Marketing expert in residence at the British Library.
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 having a unique selling point and you can use this to attract followers.
The London Helicopter has unique access to bird’s eye views of the London skyline every day. The company’s USP lies in offering an experience that people want to see something that very few people have. As a visually led platform, Instagram is the perfect place for the company to showcase these unique views of London and share them with their followers.
Consistency is key with all forms of social media and Instagram is no exception. Followers begin to expect content at regular times and have expectations as to what they want from you as a user so it is advisable to provide consistently new posts.
A popular way of doing this is to concentrate on a branded color theme throughout your content. Oreo does this well by consistently using a house style and color scheme in each of their posts.
Instagram Is More than Just Gaining Customers
Though one key benefit to using social media is that it can help you gain new customers, it isn’t just a quick way to boost your business and market your products. It works just as well when it comes to showing off excellent customer service.
In the very beginning, it was platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that dominated when it came to social media for small businesses but Instagram is making ground on these platforms due to its visual nature.
Instagram has introduced a number of features that makes it easier than ever for customers to communicate with the brands that they follow on Instagram and users can now contact a company directly from the Instagram profile page.
J.D. Power’s research highlighted that 67% of customers use social media for inquiries and complaints.
There are different ways businesses and brands can benefit from this:
Boosting Sales: Businesses that 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 that are good at customer service benefit from an annual financial gain of 7.5%, whilst others only see a rise of 2.9%.
Creating Brand Advocates: Using social media is an excellent way to turn 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, making word of mouth an important part of your marketing strategy. 50% of shoppers have said they would avoid using a brand again if they suffered poor customer service on social media.
Creating a Positive Image: Social media platforms are a good way to show customers and potential customers that you are interested in them. For example, many big brands create separate accounts specifically for customer service. 74% of shoppers list social platforms as a main influence on whether or not they make a purchase, so it is important that brands focus on customer care and creating a positive online image.
Instagram and other social media platforms allow customers to have a voice. Occasionally customers will have something negative to say about a brand on social media, but the key is to deal with that negative comment in a professional way to highlight how you deal with customer service, how you acknowledge complaints, and how you work to fix the issue. Customer advocacy can be increased by up to 25% if complaints are responded to quickly.