September 20, 2017 Last updated on June 7th, 2019
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All small businesses on Instagram out there have one thing in common: they have a lot on their plate.

From branding your business, to building relationships with influencers, to developing products, to driving sales, to doing customer support, to blogging (the list is endless, really), it seems that there’s no possible way to squeeze in Instagram as part of your marketing strategy. And surely — when would you find time?! You’re working 24/7 like a machine and your responsibilities are endless — but here we are, saying that you should add Instagram to your to-do list?

The challenges of small business owners on Instagram

The thing is, if you lack time or resources, you can still succeed at Instagram for Business. It’s just a matter of working smart, optimizing your efforts, and creating an Instagram strategy that kills two (or even more) birds with one stone.

There’s a big list of benefits that your small business can get out of Instagram. To name a few:

  • Building trust and personality for your brand (aka ‘brand humanization’)
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Reaching your target market
  • ‘Free advertising’
  • All-in-one platform for building relationship with customers and influencers
  • Driving traffic to your store or website
  • Staying ahead of your competitors

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In this article, we’re offering you a step-by guide on how to set up, develop and optimize your Instagram strategy for maximum results, with minimum effort. Work smarter, not harder!

Small Businesses on Instagram: How to Achieve Maximum Success with Minimal Efforts

Small businesses on Instagram: 9 tips to achieve maximum success with minimal efforts

First things first:

1. Getting activated: Instagram for Business

To get started, you’ve got to activate your Business Profile option in Instagram settings. Doing this will give you access to Instagram Ads and Instagram Insights (aka ‘native analytics’), and also enable you to add contact buttons to your profile.

Your Instagram business profile will be connected to your Facebook business page (so you’d need to have one already). As you set it up, your Instagram will display your business category as it’s set up on Facebook: Local Business or Place, Company Organization or Institution, Brand or Product, Artist or Public Figure, Entertainment, or Cause or Community.

To activate business profile on Instagram, go to:

Options —> Business settings —> Switch to Business Profile

How to activate Business Profile on Instagram

Fill it in. Save. Et voila.

Next step:

2. Optimizing your bio like a pro

Fact: people have a very short attention span.

That’s why you need to fill out your bio effectively, so that people understand what you’re all about the moment they see you. An effective bio needs to:

  • Have a memorable, eye-catching profile pic
  • Convey what your business does
  • Show the point of difference
  • Show a bit of personality
  • Prompt to take action
  • Have a URL

It’s a simple formula, really. Take a look at how Dunkin’ Donuts are doing it:

Dunkin Donuts Instagram example

Once you’ve followed it, proceed to the next step:

3. Setting up goals & auditing your Instagram feed

Chances are, you probably have some content published on your Instagram already.

Chances are, this content wasn’t really planned out properly, with a goal in mind.

If you’re one of the small businesses on Instagram, your goals should be (in this order):

  • First, growing your following
  • Then, engaging your followers
  • And finally, monetizing them
Growing —> Engaging —> Monetizing

Engagement should be a centerpiece of your Instagram marketing activities, as without engagement you won’t be able to a) increase your followers, and b) eventually monetize them.

The ugly truth, however, is that if your content sucks, it sucks. If your photos are very good examples of very bad photography, you’re not going to get far.

So, hand on heart, go through your feed and ruthlessly delete pictures that are:

  • blurry;
  • poorly edited;
  • lack any kind of aesthetics;
  • do not contribute to the overall look of your feed;

Be heartless.

And after that, proceed to…

4. Creating a killer feed

There’s no ultimate formula of what makes up an engaging photo on Instagram, as it might be different for each brand. However, there are definitely some engagement patterns that we identified at Iconosquare. According to our research, the most engaging photos often:

  • Have a wow factor: extraordinary photos always catch people’s attention;
  • Show people: as it helps other people imagine themselves being in this photo;
  • Put products into (an often unusual) context: as it provides a creative, unusual angle;
  • Are of high-quality: i.e. sharp, well-edited, with certain aesthetics

On your feed, publish only the best of the best photos you’ve got. This means, you’ll have to have a selection process. If you don’t have good photography skills, get them (or hire a photographer). If you don’t have enough content to post, produce it in bulk, so that you’d always have photos in advance. (Because yes, it’s okay to repeat your photos sometimes.)

Alternatively, instead of Instagram feed creation, you can do Instagram feed curation and only post user-generated content produced by your customers. In this case, you’d only need to have an eye for photos that match the requirements mentioned above (have a wow factor, be high-quality, etc.).

Once you’ve shared some content , take a look at your Instagram Insights (or, better still, Iconosquare Analytics ?) to see which types of photos resonated most with your audience, and reproduce the successful examples.

One thing to remember about your Instagram feed is to always ask yourself: If you were an Instagram user, would you follow your own account? Would you be inspired looking at your own photos? Would you be interested reading your own captions?

This point leads us to the next one:

5. Being real and telling your story

“Never before has the human race been better at spotting a fake.” — NewsCred

The consumer’s eye has become a lot more sophisticated, and what it wants is something real. Something authentic. Something s/he can relate to.

Storytelling is essential on Instagram. It’s not about posting pretty pictures, but about putting them — and your brand — in context. Captions, therefore, are super important. Tell a little story there, or a joke, or make a comment to give context to your photos. (If you use an emoji, we’ll give you a bonus point ?)

Instagram Stories are also a perfect way to tell your, well, story. As stories are only visible for 24 hours, you can switch off your perfectionist mode here and focus on being authentic instead. Focus on being you.

You can:

  • Create a logical sequence (aka an actual story) on Stories, with a beginning, middle, and an end;
  • Use videos and boomerangs when you’re attending events with your team, etc.
  • Be goofy and try out face masks;
  • Tag people and brands;
  • Add links to your Stories to drive your audience to the products/services/blog, etc;
  • Broadcast live content;

Post stories whenever you find a story opportunity or experience a content gap, i.e. when you haven’t posted anything on your feed for a few days.

For that not to happen…

6. Stick to a schedule

One of the rules of thumb on Instagram is posting consistently. They say the average brand posts about 1.5 times per day on Instagram, but this doesn’t mean YOU have to post 1-2 times per day, too. The trick here is to find the right balance:

If you post too infrequently, your content won’t get aided by the algorithm. However, if you post too frequently, you’ll be technically spamming on people’s feeds and it will be just a matter of time until they lose interest in what you’ve got to say.

Start with posting a few times per week instead (about 2-3 posts), testing different days and timings in order to see what works for your brand and your audience.

In that sense, using a scheduling tool helps, as you can schedule your content in one sitting, pre-writing all your captions, hashtags, etc. in advance. You’d only need to swipe the push notification on your phone for the post to appear on your feed later on.

Schedule posts on Instagram

So, once again:

Take a few hours of your time, schedule your content in bulk, and then analyze the results.

And once you’ve done that, the next step is to:

7. Engage with your followers

When someone pays you a compliment in real life, do you ignore it and go on your way, or do you stop for a moment to say “thank you”?

That’s what we thought.

(You look nice today, by the way.)

You’ve got to interact with your followers underneath your posts. Whether it’s a compliment, or a request, or a question, make sure you acknowledged it: the very least you should do, is put a like on their comment, but it’s even nicer if you say “thank you”.

Ideally, however, you should go beyond that and try to add a little extra, whether it’s asking a question back or making a little joke, etc. The more that people see the real you, the better.

Again, to save time: pick a day (or time of the day, e.g. during your morning commute) when you review your published content, and go through the comments. You can also review the comments through a tool you choose to schedule your posts — this might save you time.

Interacting with your followers shows that you’re a real person, and not some perfectly crafted photo-robot. But what’s more: it also gives an indication to Instagram that there’s some activity going on on your post, so, as a result, the algorithm will give your content some “feed love” and show your post to more of your followers. Which increases your reach.

However, another way to increase your reach is to:

8. Advertise

As a new Instagram account that just started to grow it’s following, it makes sense to give it a little push. You can use Instagram Ads to boost your posts, advertise your account, and increase your reach at the beginning.

It’s easy and uncomplicated to advertise on Instagram: as you have your Business Profile activated now, the only thing you need to do is click on “Promote” in your profile and choose an already-posted picture from your gallery.

Instagram Ads are an active way of promotion, which requires a bit of time, a bit of money, and a bit of your attention.

But, there’s also a passive way to promote your Instagram account, which is:

9. Promoting your Instagram on other marketing channels

There are a few things that you set up once that will drive people to your Instagram page without you having to do anything anymore.

You can:

    • Add an “Instagram feed” on your Facebook, Youtube, and other pages, like this:

How to add Instagram feed on Facebook

    • Shamelessly embed some Instagram photos into your posts for visual aids, like this:
    • Install a widget on your site, like this:
Instagram widget example from
    • Use an Instagram pop-up on your blog, like this:
Isntagram popup example from Milo tree
    • Put your Instagram handle on your business cards, like this:
Follow brands on Instagram business card example

Image source: White Dot 32

Those are really simple, easy tricks that, in contrast to Instagram Ads, require less time, less money, and less of your attention. So why not give them a try?

Sometimes, it happens that some of your most diehard readers and loyal customers aren’t following you on Instagram, because they interact with your brand on other channels. (And also because people are usually a bit lazy, or forgetful, or don’t do things until they’re prompted — or all of that together.)

So don’t miss out on this opportunity to draw people in from your other platforms.

In conclusion: Have fun

Instagram doesn’t need to be overwhelming — especially at the beginning, when you need to be focusing on creating strong foundations instead. Cover the basics properly, and the rest will follow. For many people, Instagram is a numbers game: everyone is obsessed with how to gain more followers and how to gain more likes.

But the truth is, sometimes less is more: focus on engagement instead, on producing better content, creating a good strategy and optimizing your Instagram flow. Don’t overwhelm yourself, and have fun. That’s what Instagram should be about after all.

Over to you!
What are your tips for small businesses on Instagram?

About the author
Olga Rabo

Olga Rabo

Olga is a LeadGen manager at Iconosquare, based in Berlin. She’s all about creating strategies, increasing clickthrough rates, and sharing her in-depth knowledge of content and social media marketing. She’s a big travel addict, a huge Katherine Ryan fan, and her favorite time of the day is brunch.

More posts by Olga Rabo

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