Social media has become an essential marketing tool, but each platform works differently. As a small business owner, social media presents an opportunity to grow your online presence faster than normal. Instagram is one of the best platforms to use because it has over 1 billion users with 500 million of those users logging in every day.
However, if you want to make Instagram work for your small business, you are going to need to take some steps to ensure you get the best results.
Find A Target Audience
The majority of the tips I will share with you really depend on promoting your content to your target audience. That means you need to actually know who your target audience is.
The simplest way to determine your target audience is to examine who is using your website. You can find all kinds of information by using various tools like Google Analytics. Some of the information you can collect is the age, location, gender, and much more.
Use this information to get a rough idea of who enjoys your content. It is possible you may discover that your theoretical target audience is very different from your actual one. In this case, you may even want to change the way you market.
If you do not have your audience in mind, there is no way to properly market to them.
Create Good Instagram Posts
I’m pretty sure everyone knows that if you want to be successful on a platform, the content your produce needs to actually be good. However, many beginners on the platform do not realize this.
And this is especially true when your Instagram account represents your business.
If the quality of your images and frequency of your posts is erratic, what does that say about your actual business? Nothing good, that I can assure you.
For this reason, I strongly suggest making sure the images you post are of excellent quality. This may require you to purchase a better smartphone or an actual camera to take better pictures.
But, it’s not just the quality of the picture that matters, it’s what you are taking a picture of. One of the most popular types of content is taking a photo of your pets.
Be honest, who doesn’t like seeing dogs and cats in funny or cute poses? Successful images in this category are achieved in two ways.
- The creator spends hours finding the perfect pose for their pet.
- The creator got lucky.
Seriously, you either put in a lot of work or get very lucky. And since you can’t control luck, you should always strive to make sure the images are top-notch. This can take a lot of time, especially when you are new to the platform.
Best Photo Practices
As I was a saying, a lot of work goes into taking photos, and there is a lot of useful information available.
For example, did you know images with faces are 38% more likely to receive a like?
Social media is all about connecting with others. Thus, it should not be a surprise that they want to see your face. However, you should also try to add action to your images.
Still images have a place, but images that capture someone in the middle of action often perform better.
And while there are many more tips on the kind of images you should create, it is worth mentioning the types of images you shouldn’t make.
On average, food images do not perform well. This is generally because people are just bad at taking images of food unless it is their niche.
It can also be found disgusting or even offensive if you post certain foods. For example, showing a picture of an extra rare steak to a vegan audience is not going to go over well.
Make Instagram Posts At the Best Times
When to post on Instagram is just as important as the content itself. Actually, it might be more important. Timing is everything, and this is the main reason you need to know your target audience.
For example, let’s say your target audience is in highschool. Posting during school hours Monday through Friday isn’t going to do you any good. No, instead, you need to post when this audience is most likely going to check Instagram – either first thing in the morning, or after school let’s out.
Each small business has a different customer base and as such, optimal posting time may vary. Luckily, most of the work has already been done for you as there are great collections of optimal post time available online.
According to HubSpot, the best hours to post on Instagram during the week are as follows:
- Sunday: 10 AM – 2 PM
- Monday: 9 AM – 5 PM
- Tuesday: 8 AM – 6 PM, *7 PM
- Wednesday: 5 AM, *11 AM – 3 PM
- Thursday: 5 AM, *11 – 4 PM
- Friday: *5 AM, 9 AM – 10 AM, *11 AM – 1 PM, 2 – 4 PM
- Saturday: 9 – 11 AM
However, just keep in mind this is based on averages across the board, which means it may not work for your specific core audience.
Note: Consider what time zone you are in when posting as well.
The Right Hashtag Can Make A Big Difference
It’s a fact, posts with hashtags get more exposure than those without.
Hashtags on Instagram work as a type of sorting feature. If you want an image of a beach, most of this content will include #beach. These play an important role on the platform, and you should use at least one hashtag per post.
It is important to realize all hashtags were not created equal. Some of them are just more popular than others, and you should research what the most popular hashtags are on the platform.
Just remember, these constantly change.
But on the same point, your post can reach a more niche audience with less popular hashtags. That may get you more engagement than the more popular hashtags. Thus, it really is dependent on your brand and posts.
Hashtags also play a big part in the platform’s algorithm. Simply put, posts without hashtags will not appear where they belong in search results.
Understand Instagram’s Algorithm
If you own a website, you should be very accustomed to catering to Google’s algorithm. But Instagram has its very own.
It pushes the most recent content to the front of search results, which is a very big reason why the timing of your posts matters. Your posts will get the most traffic quickly after they go live.
Thus if you post at the right time, when your audience is most likely to check Instagram, you will get better results.
However, this goes even further because it can boost the engagement rating of your post. Engagement is a measure of the likes compared to your followers.
So for example, let’s say you have 10,000 followers, but your post only gets 10 likes versus 100 followers that gets 30 likes. The smaller 100 follower account has much better engagement than the larger one.
Recency and engagement are the two biggest factors in the Instagram algorithm, and they go hand in hand.
If you want to do well on the platform, you need to understand the basics of its algorithm.
Note: The Instagram algorithm is constantly changing. It is important to always look up the latest information when searching for tips on this matter.
Scheduling Your Posts in Advanced is Vital
If you want to be successful at Instagram marketing, you need to follow a schedule. Posting on a regular basis at the same time helps you out in multiple ways.
First, the algorithm really likes it. Consistency is another factor on a very long list, and scheduled posts make this an easy one to master. Just keep in mind that if you change your schedule or post frequency, Instagram will not like it.
Next, your fans will know when your posts go live. This ensures they will be more likely to check even before the algorithm recommends them. This significantly boosts the engagement of your posts.
This also is great for the poster. Let’s be honest, big Instagram accounts are not logged in 24/7 waiting to post. They will usually spend some time the night or week before setting up images.
This frees up a lot of time and ensures that if life happens, your account will still be posting content.
However, there is a downside to scheduling weeks in advance. Sometimes real-life events can make something you decided on posting a month ago be a PR disaster. You need to make sure you double-check what will be posted every day to ensure it hasn’t lost its charm.
Scheduling your posts is great, and if you are serious about Instagram marketing, you should be doing it responsibly.
Follow the Trends
Instagram is a pretty trendy place, and what’s in the spotlight can change overnight. This actually highlights the biggest flaw of setting up Instagram posts weeks in advance.
You simply have no idea what will be trending next week or even tomorrow, for that matter.
Instagram trends present a great opportunity to rapidly grow your followers if you can react fast enough. However, since trends are sometimes completely random, the only way to figure them out is to be on the platform 24/7.
But the growth potential is often worth the trouble.
You should try to follow trends that fall into your business spectrum. For example, let’s say there is a trend about cooking a burger.
If you were a restaurant owner, it makes complete sense to jump on that trend. But if you are creative enough, you can make it work for other businesses. For example, what if you owned an arcade and your image was you flipping a burger with one hand while using your other to play a game?
That helps you stay with the trend, but also promotes what your business is all about. If you follow a trend, apply it to your business.
And on the topic of trends, Instagram Stories is going to be your best friend. Stories have 500 million daily users and the engagement is off the charts.
If you’re new to the platform, you may be unaware of what Stories actually are. To put it simply, you take a few photos or create a video and use it to create a story using filters, text, and drawings.
However, what makes this content special is that it is only available for 24 hours after posting.
After 24 hours, the Story vanishes. This is the most important part of Stories because it forces creators to make something new and also ensures that visitors are not just looking at the same Stories every day.
Thus, it keeps the content fresh and makes visitors fear that they may be missing something if they do not check. Which is textbook FOMO marketing.
Use Other Social Media Platforms
Social media isn’t just about connecting people with each other. It’s also about connecting your various accounts together.
Instagram is a great platform to advertise on, but it is not the only one out there. And more than likely, you have another account on Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms that have different followers.
Getting visitors from those platforms to follow you on Instagram is essential.
A great way to achieve this is to reuse some of your best Instagram posts on other platforms as a reminder for them to follow you. It’s a great strategy and can help you consolidate your followers across multiple platforms.
Not to mention that you can connect your Twitter account to Instagram. So any time you post something new on Instagram, it can instantly be shared on Twitter.
It Is Not An Overnight Process
Unfortunately, many businesses have this misconception that social media accounts grow really fast. And while there are examples of extreme growth, I assure you that these only happen in extremely rare cases.
Every Instagram success strategy always includes a plan. Create small achievable goals that help you establish an audience and schedule. If you set unrealistic goals, like getting 1000 followers by the end of the month, your experience will not be great.
In reality, expect to grow very slowly at the beginning. It could realistically take months or a year to build a small audience. But once you grow your profile, the marketing potential is worth all of the work.