Instagram has over 400 million users globally, with nearly 100 million users in the US alone. Purchased by Facebook in April 2012, the company is no slouch when it comes to delivering numbers. With a community this massive, it’s no surprise that it has spawned entrepreneurs with whole businesses just based on the platform.
Now, the above is all fine and dandy, but the big question is how can you get a piece of the action? These six simple tips can help.
1. Maximize your profile
Instagram rolled out its advertising platform to all businesses as of September, 31st 2015. The platform allows you through your Facebook for business Ad Management console to place ads on Instagram. This allows you to get your message, specials or other content in front Instagrams 400 million active monthly users faster.
With this additional exposure, you should make sure to update your profile and completely fill it out. Currently, you’re allowed to place a link in your profile and give a brief description. You have 150 characters, so use this space wisely. Let customers know what kind of problems you can address and how they can get in touch with you.
Forget the sales mumbo-jumbo; just have a clear, easy-to-understand message. Here’s a quick example: “Tired of dealing with damaged, breaking hair? I have been helping women over the past 6 years to grow healthy, strong hair. Get a free consult at 123-456-7889.”
2. Stay on topic and be consistent
Instagram is no different from other social media platforms in that there’s a lot of noise out there. Everyone is peddling get-rich-quick schemes, pictures of their pets, what they had to eat… you name it!
The fact is, however, that many people do use the medium to find help and get ideas. By simply showing up at the right time, you may be able to respond to a specific need.
Most people will check out other pics in your profile, so staying on topic is important. In our hair salon example above, it would make sense to demonstrate through images how you can help solve a problem that customers are facing. So, you may want to show products that can help or examples of what damaged and healthy hair looks like.
Another great idea could be allowing your users to go behind the scenes. Introduce them to your existing customers (with their permission, of course), have them meet the staff, reveal a little about your home or personal life, and get them involved in your decisions — for example, “which shade of yellow should we paint the walls?” or “what do you think of these 3 new concepts for our new signage?”
All of this must be woven into your daily life so you stay consistent. Then, once every week, you can sit and figure out a few strategic posts that you can put some additional effort into.
3. Master the right #hashtags
By far, this is one of the most important lessons I have learnt on Instagram. By using the correct hashtags, you can get all the exposure you need. Forget trying to create your own hashtag. Unless you’re Rihanna with over 37 million followers, using your own hashtag may not be that effective!
Instead, use one of the more popular hashtags. The native app gives you an idea of how many people search a particular term as you type it. Also, riding the wave of popular tags like #tbt (Throwback Thursdays) could be a great strategy. Back to our salon example, you could post an 80’s hairstyle with a caption: “How many of you rocked this back in the day?”
As another example, let’s say you’re an accountant. You could make a simple post of the first calculator invented (or the inventor), or anything that can be tied to your industry from history. You could even post something about yourself back when you first started your business. The goal is to get conversation going with present and potential customers.
4. Use “Add location” in your posts
For physical businesses, this is a great way to promote your location to people in the surrounding area. Using the #Instagram places #search feature, potential customers could stumble on your business.
Most social media platforms give users the ability to find things of interest to them nearby. On Instagram, this would show as photos (one of which could be yours) allowing people who’ve never heard of you or your business to find you.
Try it! I’m currently in Mississippi and found this local blog, Southern Laced by local author Kelly Stone. Her blog and books are now on my radar.
5. Brand and customize your images
It’s taken me almost 15 years to master Adobe Photoshop and I’d say I’m 70% proficient with the software. That used to be the learning curve which kept most people from creating great images, not to mention the price tag.
Today, however, with the proliferation of free mobile apps for taking and manipulating images such as “Adobe Post” or “A Beautiful Mess,” just about anyone can come off as a professional. This makes taking pictures of your store, its surroundings or the products you sell, for instance, very easy.
The point is to go for original images and build your brand on them. It could be your company logo or just your #hashtag. The fact is that if someone shares your image, finding your business by those looking at that image becomes a little easier.
6. Look for ways to help potential customers
At the time of writing this article, the tax season for American businesses was just about complete. Let’s say that you’re an accountant. A simple and great strategy could be a sequence of posts with simple tax tips for small businesses to bear in mind for ending the tax season, or for the upcoming tax year.
Now, as another example, let’s say you’re a local mechanic. A post with a reminder to change your car’s timing belt at 90,000 miles, posted from your shop with the location turned on, could be a great way to go.
There are tons of people asking questions on Instagram daily with the hashtag #help. Taking 10 minutes out of your day to address the ones pertinent to your industry or geography could give your business quite a boost. If you spend just a few extra minutes asking “How can I use this tool to help or explain stuff to existing and potential customers?” you’d be surprised at the amount of ways you could use this strategy.
The takeaway from all of this is that Instagram, like most other social media platforms, can be a great tool (and even your own little magic wand!) when used correctly. Get out there, learn the basics, perfect your business’s profile, be patient and consistent, and always try to stay on top of what potential or current customers might be needing or looking for.
Take advantage of all the extras you can do with your posts like adding locations and hashtags as well as customizing your images. Instagram may not give you instant success, but in the long run, if managed properly, you could be reaping in the profits sooner than you expect.
For some more advice on how to use Instagram hashtags, why not check out this article. Here’s an illustrated tutorial article that will take you through each step to better implement what you have just read.
Now, if you are really starting to get hooked on the whole Instagram idea, here are a few more articles to help you out: