Your social media marketing should make up an key percentage of your marketing strategy. But have you concentrated your efforts on to Instagram yet? You might be surprised by just how successful small businesses on Instagram can be!

Getting started with solid foundations

First off, in order to get started as a business on Instagram you’ll want to activate the Business Profile option in your settings to benefit from all the dedicated features. Doing this will give you access to the contact button on your profile, Instagram Insights which will help you to keep an eye on your posts’ performance, Instagram ads which are essential for good social marketing, and also Instagram’s new shopping tags which are being tested in the US and should become available for all brands at some point this year.

Next, fill out your bio to clearly show what you do and why people should follow you. It’s a good idea to include your business’ full name, a short sum-up sentence about what you do and what you sell, a relevant hashtag or two and a trackable url to your website. Track this url to see how much traffic you’re driving from Instagram and compare week to week or month to month to gauge which posts are working best for you conversion-wise.

You’ll want to make sure your website is 100% responsive otherwise you’re wasting opportunities. People arriving on your website via your Instagram account will almost certainly be on mobile. This means that your website needs to adapt to their screens to prevent them getting frustrated.

Lastly, ensure you promote your Instagram account via all your marketing channels (social and non-social) to bring as many potential new followers (ie: new customers!) to your account as possible.

Check out the Instagram for Business Ebook – the best and most complete resource for getting to grips with Instagram marketing for businesses big and small.

Now you have the basics covered, you can move on to turning your Instagram account into a sales driver

Treat your feed like a gallery

Your Instagram feed is like a window to your store, so make sure you only share your very best images. The unspoken rule on Instagram is to keep things refined and beautiful. This rule should apply to businesses also. In general, Instagrammers are drawn to great content, so know your audience and grant their wishes!

Keep a close eye on your posts and work out which ones are the most engaging. From here, you can optimize your strategy by posting similar content and thereby improving your results each time you post.

Another thing you should be looking at is the way Instagram’s algorithm affects your posts and their engagement. If you optimize each of your posts to get the most out of the algorithm, you can increase your posts’ lifespan. Your posts will just keep on giving! How can you do this? Find out your best time to post based on when your previous posts have received the most engagement. Also, Instagram can tell you when your followers are the most active. From there you should be able to find an optimal time to publish each of your posts.

The algorithm put in place by Instagram works in ways we don’t fully understand, however one thing’s for sure: engaging posts which get likes and comments within a few minutes of being posted get bumped to the top of users’ feeds. This means potential for even MORE engagement, if you can get that first bit which is necessary to get boosted. Trial and error will be your friends here!

Make sure you post often enough

The average brand posts to Instagram 1.5 times per day. This doesn’t mean we’re telling you to post 1-2 times per day, but it’s all about finding what works for you and your audience. If you’re rarely posting, you won’t get the engagement you should be getting because your posts won’t be aided by the algorithm. What’s more, your followers won’t feel the need to engage with you because you aren’t there all the time. Stay relevant to your followers by settling into a posting schedule that works for you AND them, and you’ll reap the benefits. That being said, posting too frequently has some serious downsides too. You could lose followers due to being considered “spammy” and your engagement will also suffer as a result of this.

It’s all about the creative!

Showcase your products without being pushy. Easier said than done, I know! As mentioned earlier, you need to imagine that your Instagram is like a window to your store. To go deeper into the metaphor, products don’t just jump out of a store window into people’s faces! You can feature your products in your posts without being too obviously “sales-y”. It’s all about creating a universe which revolves around your products without being totally obsessed with them.

A really easy way to talk about your products on Instagram is to feature User-Generated Content (UGC) by reposting your happy customers’ shots. Doing this is a win-win situation. You will gain an authentic post featuring your products, and the follower whose post you’ve used will get more visibility. Plus, they’ll likely be flattered that you’ve asked to reuse their post!

Vary your content format. Instagram was once all about the stills, but that’s not so much the case nowadays. Don’t be afraid to mix it up by posting the odd video amongst your photos. You can now even add a Slideshow Post for your followers to flick through. Kind of like a photo album, you can add up to 10 photos and videos to a Slideshow. See how some brands use Slideshows in this post!

Differing content will capture your audience’s attention and help get your more engagement! Keep an eye on the format which performs best for you. You may find you have more views on your videos than impressions on your photos for example. All this extra knowledge is important going forward and optimizing your posting strategy.

Keep tweaking and improving your Instagram strategy to learn what works best for consistently great results. Never forget you’re connecting with real people, not just numbers on a screen!


Tell your story (with Instagram Stories)

You can use Instagram Stories to tell your company’s story in an authentic way, creating a real connection with your audience. If you’re just getting started, make the most of this opportunity to document your journey.

Make your Stories follow a logical sequence. Rather than just creating random slides and putting them in a Story, TELL a story with a beginning, middle and end. Doing this will entice your audience to continue watching, rather than getting bored and quitting your Story.

Add links to your Stories wherever possible. Adding links to redirect your audience to your products/services/blog is a great way of continuing the Story outside of Instagram. Doing this can help uncover a genuine interest in your brand.

Try to use video. Using the video options within Stories will help give a voice and a face to your business. Video is already huge, so if you’re not using it yet, it’s time to get comfortable with it! There’s also now an option for recording “hands-free”.

Go Live

The other way of sharing video via Instagram Stories is by going live. To go live, simply swipe left within the Stories camera screen and hit the “Start Live Video” button. You can then broadcast live for up to 60 minutes. You should be aware that unlike Facebook Lives, the video you broadcast will not be saved within Instagram (so it’s a case of be there or miss out).

Going live on Instagram will give you fantastic reach and reinforce the connection you’re creating with your followers. The second you start a live video, your followers will receive a notification letting them know you’re on-air. What’s more, your live broadcast will be pushed to the top of the Stories feed on your followers’ home pages. This means greater visibility for your brand!

Some ways you can make the most of live video are by hosting a Q&A session with your followers, broadcasting an event you’re attending, promoting the launch of a new product, etc. Stories and Lives are great ways of showing the true essence of your business through very “human” images. Don’t be afraid to show your faces and sense of humor!

Engage with your community

Engaging with your Instagram community is essential for authentic growth and interaction with your followers. Keep the conversation going by replying to comments on your posts, and make this a priority!

If you like and comment on posts related to your niche you can expand your visibility and get noticed by others similar to you. This opens up whole new communities of potential followers (so potential customers!).

Lots of businesses on Instagram like to run contests and giveaways to increase their engagement. If you’re looking for a quick hit, host a giveaway. A giveaway could be the perfect way of improving your engagement rate and follower count. Ask your audience to follow you, like your contest post and tag 3 friends in the comments to be in with a chance of winning your latest product. You’ll see your follower count and engagement rate leap up! And all you have to do is pull a name out of a hat at the end!

If you’re looking for a lasting effect and a content bonus, host a UGC contest. Ask your audience to post a piece of User-Generated Content in return for the chance to win a prize. The UGC could be a selfie featuring your product posted on a specific hashtag: simple! This works both ways. Participants will potentially win an amazing gift from your brand, and you’ll cash-in with incredible photos to add to your content bank.

Did you know that engagement actually boosts engagement? Instagram’s algorithm favors engaging posts, so the better your content, the more likely you are to be bumped to the top of feeds!

There are over 600 million monthly users of Instagram, and over 95 million photos and videos are shared every single day. That’s a LOT of potential visibility for your business. With a reported 500,000 businesses already advertising on the platform, Instagram is shaping up to be the new place-to-be for marketing your brand.

Use Instagram ads wisely to boost your posts and promote your products! For a complete guide to using Instagram ads check out this free ebook – the ideal resource for getting comfortable with Instagram ads.

New ad formats will be coming out this year, notably full-screen Stories ads which went live to all advertisers on the platform in March. Here is Instagram’s official announcement.

Embrace influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is on the rise and is a great way to gain attention regardless of your industry or the size of your business. Word-of-mouth and influence are proof that traditional marketing methods may not be up to the job anymore. More and more, marketers are realizing that people trust people more than advertising blurb.

In order to really get the most out of influencer marketing on Instagram for your business, you need to identify the right people in your industry to work with your brand. For example if you’re a local restaurant you can try to find people in your city who have a decent follower base and are posting about #food.

There’s no two ways about it: tracking down influencers on Instagram is not easy to do. So, to help, we created a search engine within the Iconosquare platform that can help you find the right influencers for your business in just seconds – literally! Learn more. If you’re not using a tool to search for influencers, you can check out the “Top Posts” on your industry hashtags on Instagram. This can give you a better idea of who’s posting engaging content in your field.

Once you’ve identified the right people, get in touch with them and try to arrange a partnership. For example you can offer them a free dinner, a T-shirt or tickets to a show in exchange for a post.

Stay tuned for more information about influencers, an Iconosquare Guide to Influencer Marketing on Instagram will be coming soon!

Arm yourself to succeed

So this is all well and good but it has to be pretty time-consuming, right? Instagram itself does not offer many features to help businesses streamline their workflow and measure their performance.

If you’re taking things seriously on Instagram, you need the best tool, a tool that will save you time and help you optimize your performance. Over the past 6 years we’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of business measure and improve their performance on Instagram. Give us a try and start your 14 day free trial!

Last but not least – educate yourself!

Instagram is moving really fast and it’s hard to keep up to date with all the latest features that keep coming out.

We are here to help you with that too! The Iconosquare weekly newsletter is jam-packed full of all the latest Instagram news, tips and tricks straight from our team! Sign up today and benefit from our weekly video news reports about all things Instagram, plus our most-read blog posts on improving your strategy on Instagram!

Join over 130,000 subscribers now!

We hope you found these tips helpful for building your Instagram marketing strategy! Tell us how you’ll be using Instagram for business this year in the comments!