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Instagram For Small Business: Your Complete Success Guide

August 2, 2018
Patrick Swift

Your time is sparse and precious - but social media can have an unbeatable ROI. Here's how to get your small business thriving on Instagram.

When you’re super busy with all the different aspects of running a small business, how do you find the time to ace your Instagram marketing strategy? As a small or medium-sized business, there’s no denying that nailing your social media marketing (on top of everything else you’re doing) can be a challenge.

To help you get started with Instagram marketing for your small business, we’ve created a simple plan. This will help you set up your brand’s Instagram account properly and ensure you make the most of your marketing strategy. This plan will include integrating Sked Social into your social media marketing strategy so it’s working for you in the best way it possibly can.

Using Sked Social can save you a lot of time and will ensure you are giving your brand the push on Instagram that it needs. After all, Instagram is a competitive space and you want your SMB to stand out, right? Don’t forget: if you already have an Instagram account, opting for an Instagram Business account is a must for small businesses. A personal account simply doesn’t have the same functionality and analytics capabilities. Existing Instagram accounts can easily switch to a Business account with just a few clicks of a button.

In this small business Instagram guide, we’ll show you how to set up an optimized Instagram profile, how to create a cohesive aesthetic for authenticity, how to use personalization on Instagram, how to take good photos and how to create high-quality content that will keep your target audience coming back for more. Once you’ve nailed all that, we’ll show you how to streamline all your social media marketing processes and plan your feed in Sked Social so you can keep pumping out new types of content and ensure engagement levels stay strong.

Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know.

1. Setting up an optimized small business Instagram profile

Instagram now boasts over one billion active monthly users, who generate billions of photos and videos per day. Therefore, it’s vital to showcase your business properly on the social media platform. However, it’s also important to recognize just how competitive this landscape can be, particularly for small businesses that don’t have enormous budgets for Instagram ads.

If you want to make a lasting impression on Instagram you need to have a killer social media marketing strategy. But that all starts with ensuring that your Instagram business profile is optimized for success. This will guarantee that your small business is represented at its very best on social and will ensure you’re able to increase brand awareness and boost your engagement levels.

In turn, this means your social media following will continue to grow at a fast pace and you’ll find new audiences quickly.

A great place to start when looking at examples of great Instagram profiles is Letterfolk, a home décor brand. Letterfolk started as a small business run by a married couple in the US. The brand quickly grew on Instagram and has now amassed over 360,000 Instagram followers due to its creative content marketing strategy. But it also helps that their Instagram profile is fully optimized. It looks tidy, it’s concise, and it tells you everything you need to know about the company.

Check out their Instagram bio: Meaningful products inspired by simpler times 💌 #TileMat #Letterboard Proudly part of the @patternbrands family 🌳From reading this Instagram bio, the user immediately knows that Letterfolk is a humble business that cares about making products with meaning. Their approach is simple, honest, and forthcoming and clearly communicates the brand’s positioning.

Remember: your Instagram bio doesn’t have to state what you do if it’s obvious in other ways. In fact, to really make use of the social media platform, you should turn your bio into a call to action! This can be done through the use of emojis, hashtags, highlighting your website URL, or even including your email address. Your Instagram bio should also include a link so customers can head straight to your website.

Ideally, in your Instagram bio, you should use hashtags specifically related to your small business. But try to only use one or two, otherwise your bio can start to look spammy. We suggest using a branded hashtag and perhaps one more hashtag related specifically to your industry.

So, a natural skincare brand might use their branded hashtag as well as #OrganicSkincare.Another important aspect of your Instagram bio is the link you’re using. Ideally, you want an Instagram bio link that can direct users to different pages at different times. Sometimes you might want to promote your website.

Other times you might be promoting a competition or a landing page for lead generation. At other times, you might be promoting a specific campaign or even linking out to another website for, say, an event or brand collaboration. Either way, how can you achieve this without changing your Instagram bio every five minutes? The answer is Sked Link.

Sked Link is a customizable link you can add to your Instagram bio, which is free to use for all Sked Social subscribers. The link will take Instagram users to a menu, which can be fully customized with your branding and different menu options. Once there, you can add several links taking users to a number of different URLs of your choosing. Your branded Sked Link can also be changed anytime you like! Simple. Along with your Instagram bio is your Instagram profile picture.

Letterfolk simply uses its logo as its Instagram profile picture. It’s elegant, easily recognizable, and can stay the same all year round. Your profile picture is an important part of establishing yourself on Instagram as a reputable brand. You can use your logo, just like Letterfolk, or you can add another image that represents your brand. The choice is yours. Just remember – the image displays quite small, so it needs to be simple and easily recognizable. Create a stunning Instagram feed your followers will love. Sked Social is the ideal marketing tool for designing your feed, growing new Instagram followers, and telling your brand story. Start your free trial

2. Personalization is key on Instagram

When it comes to small business Instagram strategies, many brands try to pretend that they’re bigger than they really are. However, you don’t need to shy away from being a small business. Embrace it! Be proud of it. Shout about it. There are consumers out there that love to support independent businesses over huge corporations, as they can see where their money is going. Being a small business can even act as your unique selling point.

One thing that many large companies struggle with is being agile and responsive, but this poses a problem when it comes to social media. Large businesses cannot always action social media marketing ideas as quickly as SMBs can. Within large businesses there may be large teams collaborating – sometimes across global offices – and there is often a lengthy approvals process for concepts to get signed off.

Yet, as an SMB, you can use your size to your advantage and be agile and reactive on social. Your small business strategy for Instagram should have some immediacy to it, if possible. Some of the best social media content is based on localized events or trending pop culture references. If you can use content to tap into these trends and conversations, you’ll benefit from strong engagement. Be agile. Be lean. Make your size work to your advantage.

Remember: making the most of small business Instagram ideas means you should also be able to respond better to your customers – perhaps even on an individual basis. Customers love getting a personalized response to their queries. They like to know a real person is reading their correspondence and cares about their concerns. This personalization will also help in shaping your brand identity and will put a face to the brand name.

It is also a very important way to highlight what makes you stand out from the competition. Chances are there are lots of businesses doing the same thing as you all over the world. Ask yourself this: how are you doing things differently? You need to make your Instagram business profile appear fresh and new.

3. Create an aesthetic for your small business Instagram account

Small business Instagram marketing doesn’t have to cause a headache! When it comes to creating an aesthetic for your SMB, Tentsile can provide some much-needed inspiration. Tentsile specialize in eco-friendly, portable treehouses. As you can imagine, their aesthetic heavily relies on everything to do with the great outdoors, including nature, camping and greenery.

Similarly, you should be looking to demonstrate a clear point of view. This will help your brand become far more memorable. For a brand like Tentsile, the green-tinged “outdoors” visual aesthetic they’ve opted with for their Instagram profile fits the brand and makes them instantly memorable. But more than that; it establishes them as an authority within their industry. They live and breathe camping, and are speaking to customers who do, too. People want to invest in something that they can trust and believe in.

Tentsile’s Instagram aesthetic is adventurous and outdoorsy, with photos of their treehouses in stunning locations across the globe. Showing your products in action in different, real-life scenarios will help ignite your audience’s imagination.

This is where running a user-generated content campaign can also work well. Users upload content to do with your brand. Then, with their permission, you can repost their content and show that you are connecting with and appreciating your fans. Double whammy. You’ll get unique Instagram content to repost and you get to connect with your Instagram audience.

Tentsile wants you to know that they are passionate about what they do. This is seen through their slogan, “A Company Born from Passion”. This is the kind of message that you should aim to get across via your various social media marketing activities, but especially on Instagram. Another idea you can consider to help define your Instagram aesthetic is focusing on the people that make up your company and industry. This is probably why accounts like photo blog Humans of New York do so well. They focus on the humanity we find around us and the individual stories that everyone can tell.

Though not an SMB, Humans of New York clearly shows us how to tell a personal story. Therefore, you could aim to emulate this technique with your target audience, and with your employees. Give them a face. Show that there are real people behind your business. Chances are your employees will also appreciate the recognition that comes with being featured on your social networks. Tentsile also demonstrates this in their Instagram aesthetic. They are regularly posting content featuring real people using their treehouses, and their (cute) pets. This brings their products to life and helps them connect with Instagram audiences.

One thing that Tentsile really has going for them is that their product is unique. In that sense, they have a head-start when it comes to aesthetics. If a brand’s content features a product you have never seen before, it might grab your attention over something you’ve seen a million times. Work out what your unique selling point is and hammer that home using unique content. Your product might not be as exciting as a treehouse tent; however, you can still stand out using a unique aesthetic when it comes to your social content.

This could include coming up with a unique color scheme for your brand, or curating your Instagram posts so that they have a signature style. When you’re just starting out with your small business Instagram account, you want people to be able to recognize that it is you so that they keep coming back for more. We may all aspire to have Instagram accounts like Pantone one day, who are known for being experts on color and aesthetics.

Yet many SMBs are also doing an excellent job of creating color-themed and creatively consistent Instagram content that really works for their business. Coffee Table Mags is an SMB that focuses on independent magazines and is run by a freelance media designer from Germany with a passion for coffee, photography, and magazines. They have found great success on Instagram, thanks to beautiful imagery, a carefully selected theme, and a consistent color palette, style, and design throughout their account.

Building consistency in style and layout looks professional. Your Instagram audience will know just what to expect. This is an easy way to build long-term loyal Instagram followers. It showcases your product effectively and lifts your brand to a more professional level. As can be seen in Coffee Table Mags’ Instagram, the consistency in their image layouts with the coffee, plant, and background has become unmistakably theirs and their loyal audience can therefore clearly identify it.

We recommend finding a style that works for your brand and highlights your product in a recognizable way. That way, you can build trust and grow your brand on social media platforms quickly, from TikTok to Instagram to LinkedIn. Be sure to explore and consider all Instagram feed ideas carefully so you can make your profile stand out.

4. Create high-quality content for your small business Instagram account

It is imperative that when you are using Instagram for your small business, you know how to take good photos and come up with exciting video ideas. Instagram is a visual social media network, so your goal should be to achieve the highest quality images you can.

The Instagram algorithm is a tricky beast and you want to impress it by creating high-performing content that will garner lots of engagement.

Fashion houses like Gucci and professional photographers can make an impact quickly on Instagram by taking brilliant photographs. That makes sense – it’s what they do. However, these huge fashion houses will probably also have massive budgets for this kind of thing.

As an SMB, it’s likely that you won’t have the same budgets or access to talented photographers and video producers. You may also be short on time when you need to come up with creative content. After all, taking some simple product shots is not the same as consistently coming up with creative Instagram photoshoots. Therefore, it’s best to always create a clear plan, keep it focused, and always choose quality over quantity.If you are able, invest in a DSLR camera for your business. Some of the best Instagram accounts are often entrepreneurs and SMBs who produce all their content using just their iPhone. That said, the capabilities of a DSLR camera often mean that you have more scope when it comes time to edit. If you’re a lone entrepreneur or you’re just starting out, you can always outsource part (or all) of this process by getting someone to shoot and/or edit your content.

Always make sure that the quality of your imagery is as high as it can possibly be. Be sure to check the specifications for each social media platform – for example, Twitter has a file size limit of 5MB.Mobile devices and iPhones are great when the light is good, but can fall short when it comes to taking photos in dark conditions. A DSLR camera will take better photos in darker conditions because the lens is typically larger in comparison.An advantage of using a mobile device is that the process of taking photos and posting them is usually quick and easy. Using a DSLR camera can add more steps to your process. What you decide to use will depend on how much time you have and your technical knowledge about photography and videography.

An Instagram account that features good photos is small business owner Joanne Hawker, who creates cards, bags, and washi. Joanne has nailed taking photos in a point-of-view style as if you are looking down on the scene yourself.Joanne also sometimes arranges her photos so you can see the hands of somebody holding a greeting card she has designed. She also likes adding another dimension to her aesthetic by adding illustrations on top of her photos. This makes her content very distinctive and original.

Want to add an unusual element to your content? Don’t forget that you can use Sked Social’s powerful Photo Editor to get your photos popping. The Photo Editor allows you to add filters and stickers to your content much like Joanna does above. Playing around with different aesthetics can be fun and adds character to your content.When it comes to video, you don’t need to be a modern-day Scorsese. You also don’t need high-tech equipment to film video content. The best videos on Instagram are created by young aspiring influencers or brand ambassadors using very simple equipment such as:

  • A ring light – these can be purchased cheaply from Amazon
  • An iPhone tripod or stand
  • Lenses to add to an iPhone camera
  • Cheap reflectors
  • Simple backdrops that can be purchased from Amazon or craft stores
  • iPhone editing apps

These days, success on social media is more about the creative ideas you’re coming up with and how well you can connect with your audience. Alternatively, you could also mix high-quality campaign content with more ad-hoc Instagram Reels and Stories. It really depends on your brand, your budget, and your overall Instagram marketing strategy.

5. Review your small business Instagram strategy regularly

To really be able to assess the results of your efforts on Instagram, it’s essential that you report, review and refine your Instagram marketing strategy regularly. We recommend doing this at least every couple of months to ensure you’re on the right track.

First up, decide on your metrics. What are you using Instagram for specifically, and how does it fulfil your wider marketing goals? If Instagram is going to be acting as a higher-level brand awareness tool, you’ll want to use metrics like reach and engagement.

However, if you’re using Instagram to drive leads and sales, you’ll want to look at the above metrics as well as the number of clicks, leads, and sales you’re generating. You may also want to look at metrics like your average basket size, your cost-per-click, and more. To measure your social media marketing efforts on Instagram, you can use a number of different tools;

  • Instagram analytics. One of the benefits of having a business account on Instagram is that you’ll gain access to Instagram analytics for free. This data is all located within the Instagram app and can give you important information about your Instagram demographics, audience habits, and post data. Just note that while it can be helpful when you’re just starting out, it’s certainly not as in-depth as other analytics tools.
  • Sked Social. Sked has advanced Instagram analytics that can offer deeper insights into your social media efforts, including detailed post-performance data, audience insights, and competitor insights so you can keep an eye out for your competitors.
  • Other tools. There are plenty of other Instagram analytics tools out there, each with various strengths and weaknesses. Some are better for use with paid Instagram advertising, while others are better for tracking your competitors. It really depends on your small business and its objectives.

Now we might be biased, but we recommend going for an all-in-one tool that can do everything; scheduling, reporting, feed planning, and link optimization, especially as a time-poor small business owner. Not only is it easier to learn how to use one platform instead of three, but it will probably also work out cheaper for you this way instead of investing in multiple tools.

The bigger the role social media plays in your overall marketing strategy, the more you should focus on proper reporting tools. Otherwise, how will you ever improve?

6. Planning your feed in Sked Social

Now that you have some idea of what kind of content you are going to use and how you are going to go about it, it’s time to plan. Sked Social’s Visual Instagram Planner will prove invaluable here.

Using the Visual Feed Planner means you can organize your posts and see how your feed is going to look before you even post anything. You can see how your drafts, scheduled posts, and published Instagram posts will look together all as one. This is crucial because a consistent Instagram feed means that you look more professional and your followers will know just what to expect when it comes to seeing your content. This means you’ll gain new audiences more quickly.

This is especially useful if you are planning on doing any collage Instagram posts, or content where your feed uses more than one tile to create an image. These posts can be an effective means of making your Instagram profile stand out, especially for a product launch. It also gives your Instagram page a clean, next-level aesthetic. As you can see from the screenshot above, this is what Clash Magazine has done on their feed. All their posts have a structured look with different posts categorized using different colored templates, like orange, black, or a colored image post.

Using the Visual Planner will allow you to map this out before posts go live, avoiding any mistakes. That way, when new followers land on your page, they are more likely to appreciate the beauty of your Instagram page and turn into potential customers. If your Instagram page looks like a hot mess, this can be off-putting. It’s not only businesses that do this. Influencers like Tara Milk Tea also do this. Tara maintains a consistently cohesive Instagram feed, transitioning from one color to the next in a rainbow of similar colors. And it works – she now has over a million followers.

The Sked Social Visual Planner means you can have confidence in what you are scheduling and how it is going to turn out. If you’re collaborating with other team members you can also show them how a product launch will look ahead of time or show them how your feed will look across an entire month.

Over to you

Creating an Instagram strategy for your small business doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. As outlined in our small business Instagram guide, it’s as simple as having a clear plan in place, setting up your account properly, and ensuring you have regular high-quality content to share with your chosen target audience.

Sked Social can help you with all of this and more. It can help you to keep your posts consistent and look cohesive. Ultimately this will help you produce far greater results from your efforts.

Want to learn how to grow your business on Instagram? We’ve just launched a new powerful guide to help you – covering how to set up a successful Instagram profile, how to post engaging content, Instagram marketing tips, and more. Download our e-book on Instagram for Business: The Definitive Guide for Brands and Agencies.

Now that you know how to execute a killer Instagram strategy for your small business, why not start carving out hours in your social media workflow, by signing up for Sked’s 7-day trial? Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Instagram Stories, Reels, videos, and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save hours every week.

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