Did you know that the human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text?
Here’s another number: 1 billion. That’s the number of people using Instagram each month. And they keep signing up in droves.
With those two things in mind, there’s no question that increasing your business’ profile on a visual social media platform that almost one-in-seven of the world’s consumers regularly use is a solid marketing decision.
In fact, many of our coaching clients are seeing great results from their Instagram strategy – especially those in the trades. This is because there is a visual element to the results they achieve for their customers.
The greatest impact of image-based communication is the way they can quickly (yet subtly) tell a compelling story about the lifestyle transformation that your service or products delivers to your customers.
Sounds a bit ‘woo’? Stay with me…
Instagram is great for showing your customers what business you are really in
Take, for example, a kitchen installation company. Maybe their customer research has told them that their ideal customer avoids entertaining in their home (despite a love of cooking) because they’re painfully embarrassed by their old, worn-out kitchen. Are those customers looking to purchase the cabinets, the appliances or the kitchen company’s labour? Are they even looking to buy a new kitchen? Nope.
What that kitchen company is really selling is the customer’s ability to proudly host friends at their home. In terms of their Instagram strategy, they should focus on posting stunning images of beautiful island kitchens with people standing around laughing and socialising, while the host cooks a fancy meal.
For their customers, that picture really does say a thousand words; all about how this kitchen installation business can help them win at #livingtheirbestlife.
Five more reasons to get on the ‘gram
If you need more convincing that Instagram is worth the time investment, there are some pretty good reasons to set up an account and get posting. A well-executed Instagram strategy can:
- Increase awareness of your brand and business
- Drive traffic to your website
- Facilitate real time interaction with your audience
- Provide customer insights – Instagram offers good analytics which can shed some light on the demographics of those who engage most with your posts
- Help you network with complementary businesses
Instagram as a networking strategy
That last point has been a key benefit for many of our coaching clients. They have been able to build relationships with business owners who may be interested in engaging their services. For example, a plumber might build a rapport over Instagram with a larger building company (by commenting on their posts and sharing their content with their own followers). When it comes time for that building company to subcontract the plumbing portion of a project, that plumber could find themselves on the list of preferred suppliers.
7 steps to getting started on business Instagram marketing
If you are new to the platform, don’t worry – you’re just seven steps away from creating your first post:
Set up your account
It makes sense to choose a business account, rather than just use your personal one. Use your logo as the profile image and create a short, clear username (called a handle).
Fill in your ‘Account Name’
You only have 30 characters, so use them wisely. Rather than simply putting your business name in this space, try using keywords that describe what your business does. This will make you more ‘searchable’.
Make the most of your bio
Be sure to include:
- A short intro about your company
- Make a clear statement about what you do and who you serve
- Emphasise your unique selling point (your USP)
- Include a call to action to visit your website
- Include a hashtag to help you get ‘discovered’
- Your location
- Your contact details (eg email and phone number)
- A link to your website (use a link shortener like Bitly so it doesn’t use up so many characters)
Pro tip: Instagram won’t let you format your bio (ie create more white space by ‘stacking’ content on different lines etc). BUT if you create your bio in the notes app on your phone and then copy and paste it in… voila! Nicely formatted = much easier to read.
Set up your Instagram Local page
This is a new feature that’s a bit like Google My Business. To set yours up, find the location tag for your business and click on ‘claim’ button. You’ll then be stepped through the claiming process. Once verified, you can update your hours of operation, website, bricks and mortar address and more. (You can also link your Instagram account to your Instagram Local page.)
Start posting and engaging
It can be nerve-wracking putting yourself out there on social media for the first time. Start small; comment on other people’s posts and plan out a content strategy that you feel comfortable with. This way you won’t have to ‘come up with’ ideas on the fly. (Keep reading for more ideas on what to post.)
Add a Hashtag
Posts with a hashtag enjoy 12.6 % more engagement. They also make it easier for potential customers to ‘discover’ you. Think about keywords and phrases that relate to your business and choose ones that have a decent number of posts but aren’t so big that you will ‘disappear’. For example, if you are a roofing specialist, #roofingspecialist is a tough place to compete. You might try adding a location keyword eg #melbourneroofing, which is more specific to the audience you are trying to attract.
Be sure to tag your location on your posts – you’ll apparently enjoy around 79% more engagement than posts without a location tag. Plus, with the recent addition of Instagram Local pages, this step takes on even more importance. Use a broad tag (eg South-East Melbourne or Mornington Peninsula), as this will get your post in front of the most people in your service area.
What to post on your Instagram account?
Before we get started, there’s a few things we mentor our coaching clients to keep in mind when planning their Instagram content:
- Instagram is primarily about beautiful images, so brainstorm all the ways you can present your business visually. The best posts are often those that illustrate your customers’ success (ie the lifestyle they aspire to, the results they want to achieve etc).
- Use branding elements, such as your logo, brand colours and general brand ‘personality’ to keep your messaging consistent across your business.
- Try to avoid promoting your product or service in every post – this will soon hurt your engagement.
- Always keep your ideal customer in mind – you want to add value to their lives and build a connection. Before you post, ask yourself, “is this useful, interesting or entertaining?”
- Don’t forget your call to action (CTA) – if you want your customers to do something as a result of a post (eg visit your website) don’t forget to add that CTA to the post.
(NB: the only actual link Instagram facilitates is the one in your bio – which is why you’ll often see the phrase ‘link in bio’ on people’s posts.)
7 ideas for what to post on Instagram
- Make an announcement – post an image or video to promote any new products, services or promotions, or to introduce a new team member
- Show, don’t tell – create quick ‘how to’ or demonstration videos that offer short bite-sized nuggets of value for your customers
- Go local – share offers and content that other businesses in your local area are posting. This earns you ‘karma’ points and helps to position you as ‘the local [insert whatever you do]’. (bonus: the business whose content you repost may also give you a ‘shout out’ on their feed, which will get your business in front of their followers.)
- Before and after – whether you use a ‘carousel’, a collage of images or a short video, this is a great way to illustrate the positive impact your product or service has on your customers’ lives
- A peek behind the scenes – post images or videos of your team at work etc. (This is a chance to showcase your team culture and bring people inside your brand story.)
- Tips and tricks – try offering an actionable daily or weekly ‘tip’. This is a great way to genuinely help your customers while also positioning you as an expert in your field
- Holiday themed messages – in addition to the usual suspects, consider celebrating some of the less ‘serious’ days. For example, a fun “Talk like a Pirate Day” video could provide some entertaining and shareable content during a less ‘eventful’ period in your business. Here’s a list of less traditional ‘holidays’ to help you out.
A different kind of engagement party
The key to social media is the word ‘social’. You must remember to talk to people and not at them. It works on a ‘karma’ system – if you follow and engage with others on Instagram, they’ll return the favour.
To find people to follow, simply search by hashtag, location (ie for nearby businesses) or visit competitors accounts and follow people who regularly show up there. Then find ways to join in on the conversation.
Pro tip: try to add a genuine comment, rather than a single word or emoji. Believe it or not, there are now bots that follow and ‘comment’ in this fashion on people’s feeds. You don’t want to be mistaken for a non-human!
In terms of engagement with your posts, it is important to respond (as much as possible) to all customer enquiries, comments and concerns. People love to get the sense that there’s a real person behind the computer screen.
Your post creation ‘toolbox’
Here are a few tools you can use to make your posts more professional and appealing:
- VSCO is a free photo editing app that makes creating more ‘polished’ images super easy
- Lumen 5 – helps you quickly create video from images and text
- Magisto – is a video editing app that allows you to create, edit and upload video using your smartphone
- Canva is a fantastic free web-based design tool (it even includes free Instagram templates).
- Scheduling tools, like Buffer or Later, allow you to create a week’s worth (or more) of Instagram posts in one go, then set them up to publish at a later date and time. This kind of ‘batching’ can make posting less time consuming.
When to post (and how often)
The best times to post are weekdays at off-work times. That generally means 11am-1pm (lunchtime) and 6pm-8pm (evening commute).
How frequently you post depends on how much you enjoy using the platform, the time you have available to invest and (once you’ve given it a good try) how effective it seems to be for your business. While experts encourage daily posting, you can get away with as few as three posts per week, as long as you are delivering high-quality content that is really engaging.
How to know if it’s working
You can get a fair idea of your Insta-success via the number of likes and comments on your posts.
If, however, you like to get your eyes on the data, Instagram offers analytics through Instagram Insights which provides:
- Impressions – how many times your content was viewed
- Reach – total number of unique accounts that viewed a piece of content
- Website clicks – how many clicks the link in your business profile has received
- Follower activity – how often your followers are on Instagram
- Video views – how often your video content has been viewed
- Saves – how many people have saved your posts (ie to view later)
But numbers don’t mean much unless they tell you a story. The key here is to use this information to work out what your followers want to see from you. When you get a great response, this gives you a good idea of what to post in the future.
Beware the vanity metric
Of course, all the follows and likes in the world won’t help your business if they don’t convert to sales at some point. That is why understanding your audience is so important. You need to be attracting the right people to your Instagram account, so that you can then direct that traffic to your website. Once they are there, you can hopefully persuade them to sign up for your email marketing list and then nurture them towards the sale.
No longer just the land of the selfie, Instagram is now a must-do marketing strategy for any business looking to boost their profile online. If you are new to using social media in a business context, it can feel intimidating to put yourself out there, but armed with the information included in this guide, you’ll be off to a good start.