There’s no denying photos make an emotional connection that text cannot. Not only are images easy to digest, instantly captivating and interesting; they ultimately make your brand more engaging and appealing. You don’t need to be a major brand or celebrity to grow your own Instagram following. And you definitely don’t need to pay big bucks getting an ‘influencer’ on board. You can create a dynamic and engaging Instagram feed for nothing except a little time and effort.
With over 5 million active Australian users, if your small business isn’t already on Instagram, it should be. It’s a particularly great platform for visual businesses such as those focused on retail, restaurants or cafes.
3 questions to ask before you publish:
- What does my audience want to see?
- Why would they choose to follow my business?
- What will get them talking about my business?
8 quick tips to bringing your Instagram A-game
Stick to one style
Think of your Insta feed as your creative portfolio. You need to have a definite style in mind. Similar to your website, you wouldn’t have different pages with varied italics, colours, image style or graphics. You want everything to be in sync, a clean synergy across your brand that your customers identify is distinctively yours. Same goes for your Instagram feed. Choose a style, filter and ‘look’ that is uniquely yours and use this consistently across your images. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to make your photos high-quality. Read up on some basic rules of photography and make sure your pictures are eye-catching and appealing.
- VSCO Cam is an exceptional app for Android and iPhone, giving you high-quality images equipped with stunning filters.
- Hipstamatic is an analogue style camera app for iPhone which has it’s own lens, films and filter options.
Curate photos in advance for the upcoming month and schedule these on your chosen days and times. You’ll be relieved at how much time you’ll save when you’re not worried about creating fresh content each day. Of course, when the opportunity comes up to spontaneously post, that’s great. But by having images scheduled and running in the background, keeps your Instagram feed gradually growing and consistently builds your audience.
- Put together an Instagram editorial calendar, so you know what’s coming up and can track results & responses. You can download a free social media calendar here.
- There are plenty of social media scheduling tools, but not all of them work well with Instagram. One that does is called Schedugram, and the other is Hootsuite. Both have free trials and paid subscriptions.
#Hashtag it up
Hashtags. Love them or hate them, they work! Especially on Instagram. Do some research to the most used hashtags in your industry and put these in the comments section of each post. It’s also a smart idea to have your own unique hashtag for your business and encourage your audience to use it when they post about your product or services. Extra points for using hashtags that influential people in your industry are currently using.
- You can find the most searched for hashtags for your industry here and here. Type them into the notes in your phone for a quick copy and paste every time you publish.
Whenever you post photos of your products, customers, staff, yourself, don’t forget to add your geotag location. This allows restaurants and retailers to promote their location, products and people at the same time. Users can search nearby for businesses if they have location services switched on, and as a business owner, you should have your business set up on Instagram for people to easily search and find you.
- For iPhone users, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and make sure location services are switched on for the camera app you use. This way, your photos will always have the geo location on them, regardless if you post the image at a later date.
A glimpse behind the scenes
Behind the scenes snapshots are a great way to connect with your audience, giving them a sneak peek into the day to day activities of your business. This style of photo is less stylised and less formal, offering a cheeky, casual and approachable feel. For retailers, it could be a quick pic of unpacking a new delivery of stock that’s just arrived. For restaurants, it could be a snapshot into the kitchen; washing dishes or prepping for the night’s service ahead. Not everything on Instagram has to be polished to the nines. Come on, let your audience see behind the curtains!
Nurture your online community
Building an engaged Instagram audience takes time and commitment. For this reason, you should never neglect your audience. Replying to and ‘liking’ all comments left on your Instagram feed is a great customer service opportunity. While you’re giving back to your community, reaching out to affiliate businesses to re-gram, like, comment and share their best photos is also a great idea.
- Encourage your audience to like and share your Insta pics with their own friends and network. Make it worth their while by offering discount codes, free delivery or competitions.
Don’t waste the bio
Just because Instagram is about sharing beautiful images, you shouldn’t neglect your business bio. This tiny piece of real estate can say a lot about your business and the people behind it. Make sure you tell people what you do, why you do it and have a link to your store or website. You can also encourage people to follow you on other social networks here, linking to Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Make it snappy, make it sharp and most of all, make it memorable.
- Why not take advantage of the space in your bio to track current promotions and competitions using unique URLs. This way you can measure just how effective Instagram is at driving traffic to your website and online sales.
The hardest part! Consistency is key when it comes to building a strong Instagram profile for your business. Do the research, you need to know what day and what time is best to post for your audience. Test and trial what works well for you and stick to the schedule. We know that retailers targeting mums don’t post between 3pm-4pm because that’s generally school pick-up and they have the least engagement. Again, you need to understand your audience and their behaviour. If you’re in the retail business of selling baby clothes, a morning post could be something warm and cuddly, and gentle and soft start to the day. The afternoon post more active, prams, activity, fun and games. The evening post could wrap things up, be it be a glass of wine for mum or a bedtime bath pic. Be smart about what you post, when you post it and most of all – be consistent.
Over to you…
Do you have an Instagram account for your business? What tips do you have for increasing engagement and building your audience?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.