Instagram has now grown way too big to ignore if you run a small business. With over 1 billion accounts, 500 million of which are active every day, the platform has gained a huge amount of traction—and it can help your business do the same.
Still not convinced? Think Instagram is just for arty food snaps? Let us prove otherwise…
Small businesses need Instagram
- 80% of Instagram users follow a business and 200 million visit at least one business profile every day
- A third of the most viewed stories originate from businesses
- 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram
- 67% of GenXers and 60% of millennials say they’re more likely to buy something from a brand they follow on the platform
Stats like this are why 25 million businesses got in before you and have an Instagram presence! So let’s make sure you emulate their success.
Understand the algorithm
This year, Instagram changed its algorithm. Posts are no longer shown in chronological order; instead, the company announced that posts are now ordered in a feed based on how likely the users is to be interested in it. It focuses on engagement, taking into account video views, likes, comments, shares, saves and even DMs—and also factors in how quickly and for how long users engage with content.
So what does this mean? Depressingly, it’s estimated that 70% of posts aren’t seen. However, if your post gets a lot of attention very quickly, attracting a barrage of comments and likes, it will be shown to more of your followers. If an image or video holds the interest of users for longer, that post will also rise up the Instagram ranks.
Wield your hashtags wisely
Hashtags can be a powerful tool. They make platforms searchable; they allow people who don’t follow you to discover your content, and they help to ensure people on other platforms engage with your content too. Users can now follow hashtags, so if they and your business have a common interest, they’re likely to see your posts.
You’re allowed to use 30 hashtags on a post, but research shows that sticking to 11 or less is best. Many major brands use 3-5. However many you use, you need to ensure every hashtag has earned its place.
- Ensure they’re relevant to your post, otherwise, users will just become irritated (and they may select the “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” option. Care to speculate how many of your posts need to get that treatment before Instagram makes your content slide down the rankings?). You can also use up to 10 hashtags on stories, and include hashtags in your bio.
- Don’t use the same hashtags, or list of hashtags on post after post, day after day. It gets boring; some are probably irrelevant, and Instagram’s community guidelines state that “posting repetitive comments or content” isn’t acceptable.
- Check out the hashtags used by influencers and competitors in your area. You can put a relevant keyword into Instagram’s search box and select the Tags tab to see a list of all the hashtags that include your keyword, plus the number of posts tagged with it. Bear in mind that while a high figure may mean a hashtag has lots of followers, it also means lots of posts (amongst which yours may be overlooked). Combine more general and/or popular hashtags with more niche, specific hashtags, and don’t forget location hashtags if they’re relevant to what you do.
- Monitor and regularly reassess which hashtags are gaining the most traction.
Brand up that bio and profile
Our Social Media Manager Donna Costello recommends your business logo becoming your profile picture so that people can easily identify you and your brand. You should also keep things consistent by making your username and account name the same—and don’t forget those (relevant!) hashtags in your business bio.
Remember that content is king
While everything you post should have a consistent look, make the content itself is varied. Make it social; this is social media, not just an advertising platform. Ask questions. Answer questions. Include pictures of customers if you can (obviously, with their permission!) and staff (ditto for the permission).
Avoid continual, bland, up-close shots of your products. You’re not slowly leaking the contents of a catalogue here, but trying to engage with existing and potential customers.
Include videos as well as pictures: these can be reviews (of your products or something else relevant), a humorous tour of your office, a how-to video or a video of a product or service in use. Caption your videos for people who don’t turn the sound on.
Remember that timing is everything
Social media tools can help us appear to be present on social media 24/7, but if you prefer more personal, real-time interaction and need a day off, make it a Sunday. Stats show it’s the day with the lowest engagement. Don’t take Thursday off, though. Thursday is the king of engagement days, particularly at 5 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3-4 p.m.
Generally, engagement is best between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Tuesday to Friday. Other specific engagement hot spots are Wednesday at 3 p.m. and Friday at 5 a.m.
Engage, engage, engage
Like or reply to your follower’s comments as quickly as you can. It’s good for your reputation and good for the post’s algorithm response.
Use Stories and the Poll and Question Features to get people chatting about your posts and your brand. Ask questions in your captions now and then, and respond to the answers.
If you have a business account and more than 10,000 followers, you can use the Swipe-Up feature, allowing you to link the ‘see more’ arrow on your Stories to a hyperlink to a relevant article or product listing on your website.
Make the right connections
Who are the movers and shakers in your industry? Follow them. Engage with them. Share and like their content. Don’t be in their face all the time, though, or fawn over them; this isn’t likely to encourage them to follow you back or repost your content.
Convert to a business account
With a business account, you gain access to the Shopping feature (providing you have a Facebook shop), allowing you to provide customers with pricing and product information. You also gain access to analytical tools, allowing you to study your followers and engagement statistics. A business account allows you to add more business information such as contact details, location details and your opening hours.
Instagram has detailed guidance on setting up your account and using it for business, so if you don’t already have a presence on the platform, make it your New Year’s resolution to have your account up and running for the New Year!