Using Instagram for small business is a powerful (and affordable) way to grow your company.
With Instagram, you can reach new customers, stay connected to your existing ones, and even make sales right from the app, which makes it the perfect platform for marketing your small business.
If you can successfully tap into your Instagram audience, and create a strategy that’s both artistic and tactical, you’ll quickly see growth in your Instagram account and your business’ sales.
But striking that balance between art and strategy is often difficult, especially if you’re just starting out in Instagram marketing.
To help you overcome the specific challenges that small businesses face on Instagram, digital strategist and designer Quinn Tempest to create the following guide for building winning Instagram strategies for small businesses!
Instagram for Small Business: How to Strike the Balance Between Art And Strategy
If you’re looking to grow your small business and boost your sales, Instagram is a platform that can really help you leverage your selling potential.
However, while it ’s fairly easy to produce beautiful photos and a curated feed on Instagram, many small businesses forget a key ingredient: strategizing their posts to sell.
It ’s important that brands and businesses on Instagram strike a balance and create a strategy that’s not only creative and beautiful to look at, but also draws in new audiences and drives them to your website.
In the simplest of terms, you can’t have an Instagram account filled with pretty pictures, without putting time into developing a strategic position.
And, you can’t have a strategy that doesn’t align with your brand’s overall image, aesthetic, and business goal.
In order to have an effective Instagram for small business strategy, you need to have both the artistic and the strategic component!
If you’re a small business, your Instagram strategy is going to make up just one small piece of your overall, holistic approach to digital marketing. But it’s such an important piece to the puzzle!
And the reason building an Instagram strategy for your small business is so important is because of these four factors:
People buy from businesses they like. Whether it’s the products they’re selling, or their brand ethos and messaging, we’re more likely to buy from brands that we like.
People like businesses they feel they can trust. That likeability factor is rooted in how much we can trust a brand. More and more we’re seeing consumers vote with their hard earned dollars and it’s important as a small brand to build that trust.
Relationships build trust. The stronger the relationship with your followers, the more likely they’ll trust in your business and buy from you.
Content builds relationships online. Every post, caption, and Instagram story you produce goes towards building that relationship as you share more about your brand, products, and company ethos!
When it comes to using Instagram for small business, you need to approach it as a curated visual experience that showcases your brand. It needs to be both creatively presented and strategically planned if you want to build a strong relationship with your audience.
Ready to get into the nitty-gritty of your Instagram for small business strategy? We’re going to jump right into the strategic side of your Instagram plan, before we discuss the creative side.
How to Build an Instagram for Small Business Strategy
There’s a reason why we’re starting with the Instagram strategy side of things — it’s often the part that gets left behind and forgotten about!
A strong Instagram for small business strategy is often the missing link between producing beautiful images and reaching your business goals.
We don’t want to waste precious time and energy on creating beautiful posts and a curated feed if they aren’t going to help grow your account and boost your business sales.
If you’re a small business, you’ll want to make sure you’re reaching new audiences that match your target audience. And the easiest way to do this on Instagram is with Instagram hashtags.
Finding Your Target Audience on Instagram With Hashtags
One of the biggest challenges a small business can face on Instagram is reaching the right audience for their brand.
But if you can find and use the right Instagram hashtags, you’ll be placing your content and products in front of the right people. People who could turn into followers.. or even better — customers!
When it comes to finding popular Instagram hashtags for your Instagram account, start thinking in terms of “topic buckets” or “hashtag sets.”
For example, if your brand’s target market is female entrepreneurs, you want to start thinking about what kind of content resonates with that audience most.
You could post about women in business and entrepreneurship, or write blog posts about marketing and branding, or empowering females in the workplace.
All of these topics should help you create topic buckets that will influence what kind of hashtags you want to use for each individual post. And when it comes to choosing your hashtags, it’s important not to be generic!
Going back to our example of a business targeting female entrepreneurs, you might think that using the #entrepreneur hashtag is a good strategy. Not so. This hashtag has nearly 40 million posts under it, and it’s updated every couple of seconds so the results are too broad and the market is way too saturated.
Using a generic hashtag like this means you run the risk of your post getting lost in all that noise.
Instead, think about finding hashtags that are more streamlined and targeted to your audience.
A niche hashtag could be #womenpreneur, which is more specific to a female entrepreneur and more likely to reach your target audience.
You could also try using a community-related hashtag like #wearethecreativeeconomy, a community of creative female entrepreneurs on Instagram.
You could also use a branded hashtag, which is similar to a community hashtag but is branded to a specific product or business, like Marie Forleo Business School #bschool branded hashtag.
In a nutshell, when it comes to hashtags, don’t be generic or choose hashtags that are too broad. If you’re posting great Instagram content to a market that’s already saturated, your post is not going to reach your target audience.
If you want to find and save hashtags into “sets”, Later’s Instagram Hashtag Tools can help you find the best hashtags, organize them by category, and insert up to 30 hashtags into one post at the click of a button. Learn more about the feature here!
How to Research Hashtags And Find the Right Ones for Your Small Business
When it comes to finding the right hashtags for your small business, putting some time and effort will definitely pay off!
Start by going into Instagram’s Explore page, and search for a hashtag that you know would work for your brand and messaging.
When Instagram produces the results under that hashtag, it also gives you a scroll bar at the top of related hashtags. This is a great place to find new hashtags for your posts.
This is Instagram’s way of telling you what other hashtags are popular or related to your topic. But remember to check how many posts have been published under that hashtag. If the hashtag has already been used hundreds of thousands of times, it could be too saturated and your posts will probably go unseen.
You can also take a look at your competitor’s posts or use Later’s Hashtag Suggestion tool. Both are great places to find inspiration and discover new hashtags you might not have known before.
Another handy website for hashtag research is Displaypurposes.com. You can search for a hashtag and the tool will provide more suggested hashtags for you to try out.
You can also find relevancy and popularity data on these suggested hashtags to help you fine-tune and build a hashtag list that really converts into more followers.
If you’re looking to build a complete hashtag strategy, you can check out Later’s Instagram Hashtag Strategy Guide. It’s a 53-page hands-on guide that walks you through the steps you need to take to implement an effective hashtag strategy that boosts the reach of your Instagram marketing campaigns. And the best part? It’s completely free!
Once you’ve found the right hashtags that put your posts in front of your target audience, it’s important to start guiding them away from Instagram and onto your website or online store.
Instagram for Small Business: Why You Should Drive Traffic from Instagram to Your Website
When it comes to social media marketing, it’s important to remember that you don’t own your followers on Instagram!
If one day Instagram isn’t around (heaven forbid!), you’ll still want to maintain those strong relationships you’ve built with your social audience, and hopefully, keep them as customers!
So it’s important to always look for opportunities to move people off the Instagram platform and onto your own channels like your branded website or online store.
Think of Instagram as a springboard to help get people to where you really want them to be — browsing your website’s homepage or looking at your products!
If you’re a B2C business, you could lead a promotion on Instagram and drive people to visit your website and shop with a promo code.
Or if you’re B2B, providing a free guide, workbook, or training course could be an easy way to get people off Instagram and onto your mailing list or website.
Making sure you also have a really great calls-to-action in your post captions or Instagram Stories is also a great way to guide your followers to where you want them to be.
How to Get Creative with Your Small Business Instagram Strategy
While creating a beautiful Instagram aesthetic will really help you gain followers, it’s just as important to make sure that your aesthetic reflects what your brand and business is about.
Think about the art of your Instagram feed as the visual strategy for your content marketing — it should still speak to your audience, draw them into your brand, and immediately let your viewers know everything you stand for.
If you want to hone-in on your visual strategy and build that creative side to your feed, you need need to ask yourself three questions.
What does your brand stand for? What is your vision for your business and how are you going to translate these goals and core messages through images on your Instagram account?
What does your audience care about? You can start thinking about what kind of content will resonate with them and serve them on Instagram.
What makes your business or brand unique on Instagram? It’s tough to stand out from the competition!
The answers to these three questions combined is what’s going to build your creative strategy, and a strong Instagram aesthetic that clearly represents your brand, draws in new followers, and converts them into customers!
If we take a looks at some examples of businesses on Instagram, you’ll see how important is to find the time to plan, and think about the creative side of your Instagram feed.
In the case of @vitruvi, their core brand statement in their profile bio completely reflects their vision across every image in their grid. It’s calming, muted, and a very subtle showcasing of their products, which is totally in line with their brand tone and style.
Similarly, @yesto uses product shots in almost every photo, but in a style that is bright, unique and stands out well against their competitors. They know what kind of images resonate best with their audience, and they continue to create those images in their posts, Instagram Stories, and website imagery too.
Whatever creative Instagram aesthetic you choose for your business on Instagram, make sure to use those three questions to strategize and translate your creativity into your Instagram grid so everyone who visits your profile knows exactly what your brand is about!
And now that you’ve nailed your Instagram strategy, and built your creative aesthetic for your feed, it’s time to bring the two together!
If you want to take a closer look at how to build that balance between “art” and “strategy,” you can download Quinn’s free Instagram checklist here, it’s a free guide to help you build your Instagram feed with tools, tips, and more tailored advice for small businesses on Instagram!
Creating an Instagram Strategy for Small Businesses: Planning for Success
When you’re running a small business, you don’t just have one “job,” you probably have 3-5 jobs in your company! Since you can’t dedicate your full days to Instagram marketing, you’ll need to stay organized and plan ahead to have the most success.
By strategically planning and creating an editorial calendar for your Instagram profile, you’ll be able to build a more balanced relationship between strategy and art into your feed.
And one of the easiest ways to plan for the future is with a platform like Later. When it comes to the strategy side, you can research, collect, and save hashtags for your post caption, and see how you’re growing through Later’s Analytics.
On the creative side, Later’s Visual Planner helps you see what you feed will look like as you schedule your posts for the future and curate some user-generated content (UGC) for your feed through Search by Hashtag.
If you’re feeling ready to get your strategy in place, here’s a quick action plan for your Instagram profile.
Collect and curate your content: Spend some time taking or sourcing the images you want to share on your Instagram feed, making sure they reflect your brand’s core message and visually translates it to your new audiences.
Schedule your best time blocks: Take a look at your analytics, or use Later’s Best to Post feature to pinpoint the best time to reach your target audience.
Create a hashtag library: Put in some time to find the right hashtags for your target audience and create those ‘topic bucket’ hashtags for your posts.
Write strategic captions: Remember that you want to guide your audience away from Instagram and onto your website or online store, so write interesting, engaging captions with strong calls-to-action.
Batch your planning sessions: Try to plan your Instagram content around 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you can have a clear vision of what your feed will look like. If that seems like too much, start by planning a whole week of content at one time.
Building an Instagram strategy for small businesses doesn’t need to be complicated, or overwhelming.
All you need to do is make sure you keep a balance between your strategic planning and your creativity. That way, you’re guaranteed to reach new audiences, gain new followers, and convert them into loyal customers for your brand or business.
Ready to grow your business with Instagram? Later is the #1 Instagram marketing platform to help you plan your feed, schedule posts, optimize your analytics, and more! The best part? It’s free!