Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to save your marketing budget and grow your account by only using free Instagram marketing tools and techniques!
Instagram is an awesome platform to showcase your products, services, and overall business. But small businesses often spend a lot of their budget on social media marketing, where in fact, some of the best and most rewarding techniques are totally free!
To help you get started (and save some $$$!), we’re sharing 9 of the best free social media marketing tools, Instagram marketing tips, and techniques that you can work into your strategy today!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #1: Curate Your Feed to Create a Balance Between Product & Lifestyle Shots
As a small business or startup, we know you’re super proud of your products and services. But when it comes to Instagram marketing, you walk a fine line between showcasing your products and coming across as a glorified sales pitch!
Remember that Instagram is a social platform first and an advertising medium second. So if you want to grow your following and sell more products, you have to strike a balance between showcasing your product and honoring Instagram’s social roots.
It’s all in the planning! Taking a birdseye view of how your feed currently looks and how you’d like it to look in the future is so important — it helps you identify when and where you’ve been pushing products too often, and where there are opportunities to incorporate other types of content.
To do this, try to plan a feed with a simple ratio of your different types of content. For example, if you’re a business that makes leather handbags for businesswomen, you may want to balance your feed with shots of a bustling city, lifestyle shots of women on the move or at work, and your product shots. So you could create a ratio of 1:3 — for every three ‘other’ lifestyle or city shots in your grid, you can include a clear product shot.
Take a look at how @wearefeelgoodinc creates a great Instagram aesthetic by mixing ocean scenes, lifestyle shots, and product shots of their sunscreens across their feed. It’s subtle marketing that really works on their grid!
The easiest way to do this is to use an Instagram Visual Planner like Later. Simply drag and drop your photos onto the visual planner, re-arrange them to see how your future feed will look like, and save to schedule them!
The best news? It’s completely free to use!
Plus, once you’ve identified the spots on your grid where you can showcase your products, you can really go all out with carousel or video posts to maximize on exposure while still maintaining a balance in your feed!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #2: Use Instagram Stories to Introduce Your Business
Your followers are savvy and inquisitive, and they want to know more about your brand!
So simply introducing your products with photos on your feed isn’t enough these days — you need to take the time to introduce your brand and business too.
Your followers are curious about how your products are made, the people behind the business, and what you have planned for the future — so take the time to share this info with them.
Not only does this open up great opportunities to create engaging content your followers will love, but it gives you another way to introduce your products and services without dipping into the marketing budget.
Instagram Stories is one of the best platforms for this — it’s short video clips allow for quick and easy insights into your day-to-day business life. Jewelry brand @mejuri is a great example of how they incorporate behind-the-scenes content of their business and product-based content.
Think about creating some of these Instagram Stories next time you want you’re planning a content calendar:
#1: Tell Your Brand Story
Don’t be afraid to share with your followers how, when, and why you wanted to create your business. Let them know about your struggles as a startup and some of your proudest moments to date.
#2: Take Your Audience Behind the Scenes
Think about bringing your followers along to your warehouse or introducing them to the manufacturing team or where you source your materials from.
If you’re selling a service rather than a physical product, you could share a ‘day in the life of…’ post on Instagram Stories that shows glimpses of the inner workings of your business and who is involved in running the business each day.
If you’re already on a Later Business plan, you can schedule Instagram Stories! Just like your feed posts, you can now plan, schedule, and publish your Instagram Stories!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #3: Use Branded Community Hashtags to Stand Out
Instagram is a busy place, and for small businesses starting out on the platform, it can be particularly hard to be seen or heard.
But just like IRL business, word-of-mouth marketing really helps to build a brand’s reputation on Instagram. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a community of engaged followers and a branded hashtag to spread the word!
A great example is @herschelsupply’s #welltravelled hashtag, which the brand created to connect like-minded users around their love of travel and travel photography.
While not directly promoting Herschel or its products, the hashtag has been used on nearly 4.5 million posts and has been key to growing Herschel’s community. Plus, followers of the hashtag and the brand know that Hershel is the driving force behind the hashtag so their products are regularly featured in the tagged images around the world.
It’s one of the easiest ways to have your audience and customers speak on behalf of your brand. If your followers share their love for your products, you’ll soon start to see a difference in your follower count and sales!
Looking to create a branded hashtag for your brand or business? Check out our free Instagram Hashtag Strategy Guide. Learn how to implement an effective Instagram hashtag strategy that not only grows your engagement but also boosts the effectiveness of your Instagram marketing campaigns!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #4: Level-Up Your Product Showcases With Instagram Stories Templates
While your marketing budget may not stretch to the point of hiring a graphic designer or video editor, you can still make your Instagram Stories look awesome.
There are some amazing photo and video editing tools and apps out there that can really level-up your product showcases (and are completely free!). So when you do post stories that show off your products, you’re guaranteed that they’ll stand out from the crowd.
For Instagram Stories videos — try out Over app! Over’s free version is filled with great tools and templates to help you create better video content for your Instagram Stories. Later’s Social Media Strategist, Mel Brittner is a big fan of the easy-to-use app that can take a basic selfie video and make it more dynamic and engaging!
For images, Canva (available on desktop and mobile) is packed full of ready-made Instagram Stories templates that are fully customizable so you can add in your brand colors, fonts, and product shots!
Looking for some other freebies? Check out Later’s Instagram Stories templates that are completely customizable using Photoshop!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #5: Launch a Regular Weekly Series
Having a weekly installment on your Instagram profile is a great way to encourage your follows to tune in regularly!
Plus, it’s a chance to cover topics you may not usually be able to on your feed or your Instagram Stories that your audience is interested in. And you can potentially weave in more info about your products and services!
Later has recently started hosting weekly tips on Instagram Stories where we share some insider hacks to creating awesome Instagram content. While it’s not always based around Later’s features (in fact, we share a lot of tips from other tools and platforms we use like Over and MailChimp!) there are times when we reveal a little-known fact about a Later feature!
Other brands like Airbnb and Beats by Dre are also jumping on the Instagram Series trend and are hosting a regular topic each week!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #6: Host Q&A Sessions with Your Audience
There’s no better way to get to know your audience than by listening to the questions they have about your brand, business, and products.
And to help you build a deeper connection with your customers, you can host a Q&A session on Instagram! The Instagram Stories Question Sticker makes it super-simple to collect your audience’s most burning questions, or you can host an Instagram Live so your followers can tune in and ask questions while you’re having a chat!
Not only is this a great way to research your audience while engaging with them, your followers could also have specific questions about your products or services, and you’ll be there to answer them! It’s an easy way to subtly introduce your audience to some lesser-known products in your line, or showcase newer products in your collection without spending a dime.
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #7: Plan a Collaboration Project With Other Brands
Instagram collaborations are a great idea if you’re looking to easily and cheaply market your products to new audiences.
While Influencer marketing does often require budget and strong strategies for success, teaming up with a like-minded and complementary business doesn’t need to blow the budget.
If you find a brand that you’d like to partner up with on Instagram, you could host an Instagram Stories Live session together and invite both your audiences to tune in as you discuss a topic that’s relative to both your industries.
Or you could work together to create a product for your audiences, like a podcast, ebook, or a weekly newsletter! Once you’ve found the right partner, the mutual benefits for both parties are endless!
Free Instagram Marketing Tip #8: Become an Industry Leader in Your Field
While Instagram is a great place to market your products, it’s also a great place for information sharing.
By making yourself an industry leader in your field, you’ll already be steps ahead of your competition while followers and potential customers turn to you for advice and guidance, as well as your product line!
One way to do this is to be generous with your information and resources — you could create free ebooks or guides, write knowledgeable blog posts and share them on your feed, or regularly produce how-to content on Instagram Stories or IGTV.
The aim is to become a point of reference for your followers so they know that when they tune in your stories or visit your profile page, you’ll always be sharing content that is relevant and useful!
Don’t forget to share the love and highlight others in your field that are doing good for your industry. Whether it’s an app or program you’re using for your business, or an innovative product just come to market, share as much relevant information as possible with your audience so they know they can always rely on you to help answer their questions! Check out how @alextooby continuously provides current and trending information for her followers:
Marketing your business online doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, especially if you’re focusing your efforts on Instagram.
With some forward planning, strategy, and great content, you’ll easily be able to optimize your product and business marketing on your feed, without having to blow your budget!
Ready to start? Sign up to Later today and you can begin planning, scheduling and posting all of your Instagram content for free!