Your business starts when you get your first customer, but where do you find them? In this post, we’ll talk about how to use Instagram for small business growth.
Digital marketing is becoming the fastest, most cost-effective way to find customers for small businesses. But if you’re not super techy, all the possibilities can make your head spin.
You might have questions like, “Do I need a website? Should I blog? How do I use Instagram for business?”
Here at MeetEdgar, we’re here to answer your marketing questions like it’s our job – because, well, it kinda is.
For now, let’s tackle that Instagram question.
How can your small business use Instagram to grow? The limit does not exist!
Even if you don’t have a K next to your follower count, it’s possible to see real sales results from using Instagram for your business.
All you need to do is make a few intentional choices while you create your account, posts, and stories! Here are some ways to make Instagram work for your business!
1. Name & Handle: Branding your small business on Instagram
On Instagram, you get two opportunities to name your account. The first is with your handle, this is the “username” that goes after the @ sign. Typically this should be the name of your business (or your name).
Since Instagram is so popular and has been around for a while, you might need to get creative with your handle. This is especially problematic for stores with broad names. Like a flower shop called, “Mary’s Flowers.” You can get creative by adding words like “the”- “real” – “shop” or “i am” to the beginning of your handle. Adding words is usually better than changing the spelling or getting creative with the order of the words because you will still show up more easily in search results.
Here are some creative Instagram handles for inspiration!
Second, you can choose what your “name” is on Instagram. This is the bolded text in your profile, just under your picture.
If you had to get creative with your handle, you can use the name section to make the name of your business clear. But if your business name is available as a handle, you can get creative with the name part of your profile by explaining what your customers get when they work with you.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer, maybe your name is “Visual Brand Personality” or if you’re a dessert blogger, yours could be “Simple, Sweet Creations.” Think of it as a tagline for your business!
Here’s a great example of a brand that uses the name section to explain a little about what they do!
2. Customer Focused Bio
You have 150 characters to explain what you do and who you are in your Instagram bio. It’s like your digital business card. This means you might need to get a little creative to cover everything. The main thing you want to do is show them what you do for your customers.
If you’re a graphic designer, maybe your business is about, Helping small businesses improve their marketing with easy-to-use brand templates! Or if you’re a dessert blogger, maybe your business is about, Teaching “you gotta taste this” recipes to beginner bakers.
From there, you can add a little about you or your team, your core values, and maybe even some credibility markers. Things like press coverage, awards, or significant milestones in your business show people you’re an expert in what you do – without tooting your own horn too much.
3. Instagram Story Highlights
If you can’t fit everything into your bio – you can use your Instagram Story Highlights to explain the rest. These are short videos and pictures that “live” under your bio, above your feed. Typically Instagram stories disappear after 24 hours, but you can create groupings of your stories to remain on your profile.
This is very helpful because you can essentially tell your brand story through these highlights. You can design the covers so the little circles are all on brand and consistent.
If you’re a graphic designer, your story highlights could include things like: logos, about me, reviews, before & afters, etc. Or if you’re a dessert blogger, your story highlights could include things like: cakes, pastries, about me, tools, etc.
Think about it from the perspective of your customers and clients. What’s going through their head when they land on your profile? How can you use these highlights to answer their questions, provide direction, and show them a little of your brand personality?
4. Website Link in Your Bio
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links in your photo captions. So the only place you can include a link (other than in your stories – we’ll cover that in number 6) is the website part of your profile.
This is where services like Linktree come in handy! Linktree allows you to put one link in your profile and “branches” out to all the links you want to share.
You can include direct links to your blog, free downloads, podcast, or even your products and services page! This saves you time by not having to change your link constantly when you reference a new blog post, sale, or media feature.
One link to rule them all.
Using something like Linktree is actually a service to your customers. Let’s say you posted a new blog 3 days ago and said the link was in your bio, and posted a new product this morning and updated the link in your bio.
Since the Instagram feed is ordered by an algorithm instead of chronological order, people might see your post from 3 days ago before the one from this morning. By clicking your link, they would be taken to the product page – not the blog post they were expecting!
So this helps to avoid frustration and disappointment for your followers, too!
5. Posting to your Instagram feed
Think of your feed like a magazine for your brand. Everything has a similar aesthetic and feel.
When you look at your profile and scroll through the “quilt” or “grid” version of your feed, is there a pattern? Are you using a similar color scheme for your photos?
If design and aesthetic is part of what you do for your customers, it’s important your feed is aesthetically pleasing.
But maybe your followers are more interested in reading your captions, it might not be as big of a factor for your brand. Always ask yourself, “How can I make this account useful and pleasing to my ideal customer?”
On that note, just because you’re using Instagram to grow your business doesn’t mean you’re only allowed to post business related pictures! Some of the best accounts create a brand aesthetic around their business and personal life that’s very “on brand” and professional. It’s all about finding a balance between who you are and how your business helps people.
People buy from people they know, like, and trust. So showing your customers a sneak peek behind your business is a great way to develop the “know, like, and trust” factor for your brand.
Posting online can get overwhelming if you don’t have a consistent system. Which is why choosing five topics or themes to post about is a great place to start. These are the “big 5” things you can always talk about and have something more to say about.
Let’s say you’re a fitness coach, your big five might be:
Favorite exercises or results from clients
Why fitness matters in your life
Quirky love of Octopuses (who doesn’t love those!)
Passion for trying new food
The importance of responsible fashion
You might notice only two of these things are directly related to your work as a fitness coach. But it helps people really get to know the person behind the brand. They know when they work with you, they’re supporting an octopus-loving foodie who cares about fair trade business practices. That’s more impactful than just liking your work – they like YOU.
6. Posting on Instagram Stories
Your stories are a completely different ballgame. Since they disappear in 24 hours, you don’t have as much pressure to make them “perfect” like when you post to your feed. This gives you an opportunity to have more fun with your stories and show the personality of your brand.
Using features like polls, questions, and what we call the like-o-meter, you can interact with your followers and get really valuable feedback! Plus, if you share a story that gets lots of interaction, you can include that in a section of your highlights on your profile.
7. Using your DMs
Instagram marketing strategist, Tyler McCall talks about how he uses the direct message feature for the majority of his sales!
Inviting people to send you a direct message if they have questions or want access to a link you mention in a post is a less passive way to say “yes” to an offer. It makes them work for it, but at the same time it makes YOU work to give them what they need. You’re showing them you care enough to take time to personally deliver the link, offer, or coupon code.
Plus, you can use direct messages to connect with influencers in your industry to get exposure for your brand. Reaching out to people through their DM is a private way to offer help or invite them to participate in a workshop, interview series, etc.
8. Hashtag strategies
Hashtags allow your posts to be discovered by people who don’t follow you – yet! Think of them like an indexing feature. If you’re a graphic designer, you’d want to include hashtags like #graphicdesigner #smallbusiness and #creativebusinessowner to name a few.
There are also very niche hashtags that can really grow your following! Under the Instagram search tab, choose tags and type in something related to your industry and tap the hashtag you want to explore. You’ll see the top and recent posts with this hashtag.
Instagram also shows you related hashtags. This is where you can do some exploring and see if there’s a niche hashtag in your industry you can use!
Using hashtags with less than 10k posts is a good way to grow because there’s enough people using the tag without it being flooded with content.
Instagram recently included the option to follow hashtags – which is really great because you can easily connect with new people in your industry!
During your hashtag research, just remember to choose them carefully. You’re allowed to use 30 hashtags per post – including any hashtags in the comments on a post. You don’t want to use hashtags that have been banned or else no one will see your post other than your followers.
What’s a banned hashtag?
Well, there are a few bad apples that use innocent hashtags to post some pretty rotten things and Instagram banned some hashtags from being used. You can find a list of banned hashtags here.
9. Showing up in popular posts
When you’re using social media to grow your business, it’s always easier to join an existing conversation than start a new one. That’s where showing up in popular posts comes in. When you’re looking at the hashtags you regularly use, look at the top 9 posts.
Scroll through them and join the conversation happening on the post. Read their caption and leave a thoughtful response in their comments. Doing this every day, or even just once a week, for the 10 most relevant hashtags in your industry shows people you’re here and you have interesting things to say!
This grows your following with people who actually care about what you’re adding to the conversation. These are followers who won’t unfollow you in an hour or never read your posts. They took the time to read your comment, check out your profile, and decide, “yep, I like what this is all about”
Of all the strategies we just listed for using Instagram for your business, this one is going to get you the highest quality followers and results. It takes the most energy from you, but if you have a business you really care about, it should be fun to join a conversation about your industry!
Social media is about being social, so showing up in the popular posts each day is a great way to join the party.
How will you engage on your small business Instagram? What results have you seen?
*Note: People/brands mentioned in this post are not affiliated with MeetEdgar, we just think they’re doing a really awesome job and deserved a shout-out.