Instagram Marketing: Best Practices for Small Businesses

By Aleh Barysevich,
business.com writer
|
Aug 27, 2020
Image Credit: Chainarong Prasertthai / Getty Images

Instagram is the perfect platform for advertising. Here's how to make your ads stand out.

Instagram marketing has been a lifesaver for small businesses since the moment it came to existence. From the beginning, it was obvious that businesses can use the platform to showcase their products and gather followers who'll be happy to support a brand.

Unlike Twitter, where marketers have to be creative in how they write and what they write, Instagram doesn't require words. If the product is photogenic, all you have to do is post photos of it using different filters. People spend a lot of time on Instagram – it has the highest engagement among social media platforms – so they don't mind scrolling through photos of products they are interested in. As a result, Instagram users get exposed to relevant brands all the time. The engagement for brands is higher than anywhere else on social media platforms: 68% of users regularly engage with brands on Instagram while only 32% of users regularly engage with brands on Facebook.

Instagram isn't only about organic growth. It is also the perfect platform for advertising. Most marketers and small business owners know the main Instagram rule: Post great content, especially great images. In this article, I discuss everything that's beyond this rule. 

1. Use Instagram stories

Many shy away from Instagram stories. Ephemeral content seems outdated and takes a lot of effort for something that lasts 24 hours.

Yet, Instagram stories are one of the most effective social media marketing features. Stories contain links and texts, which can increase traffic to your website immediately. Features like hashtags and geotagging that are available in Stories make it easy for users to find you based on your location and interest. Stories imply urgency and calls to action. Stories appear on top of one's Instagram feed and play automatically one after the other, so the user is unlikely to miss it, even if they had no intention of watching the brand's Story. 

To create a Story, open (or download) Instagram and create an account for your brand, if you don't have one. You can take a photo or make a video and upload it to your Story straight away with a single click. Instagram makes it extremely easy – you don't need any knowledge or skill to create a Story.

2. Upgrade your customer service

The easiest and most rewarding way for a small business to stand out of the crowd is to perform excellent customer service. Large brands can't possibly achieve the same level of customer service. Large brands are bombarded with comments, complaints and questions. No matter how huge their sales and marketing and customer service teams are, it's impossible to deal with this many customers all talking online (and offline). 

Small businesses often make it their goal to provide personalized, friendly, caring and attentive customer service. This not only wins them new customers via word of mouth but also facilitates loyalty among old customers.

For Instagram, make it your goal to reply to comments (good ones as well as bad ones), answer questions and react to complaints in time. Not to miss any mentions of your brand (tagged and untagged), use social listening. Social listening tools collect mentions of your brand on major social media networks and bring them to you in real time. Monitoring and analyzing your mentions on social media helps you spot a social media crisis in time and manage your brand reputation.

3. Use influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is another practice that has proven to be effective for all businesses, big or small. The difference for small businesses is that while corporations often employ offline influencers (celebrities, sportspeople, etc.) and expensive online celebrities, small businesses target micro and macroinfluencers. And these microinfluencers are often no less, if not more, effective. Here's why: Celebrities are useful for brands mainly because they spread awareness among millions of their fans. Influencers with 2,000 or even 50,000 followers have online growth that is traceable. These smaller influencers value their reputation and may only advertise your product to their community if they genuinely like it.

Microinfluencers also have another benefit: They are usually more relevant to your product. Often, they've proven themselves to be an expert in a specific niche. All you have to do is find influencers in your niche. 

To find relevant influencers with small or medium levels of following, use an influencer marketing database or a social listening tool with the influencer marketing feature.

4. Look at your competitors

In marketing, as in everything else, most things have already been tried before you. To avoid experimenting yourself – for a small business, experimenting can be expensive and scary – look at your competitors and learn from their successes and mistakes. Use tools to analyze what has worked for them and what hasn't worked for them in terms of marketing campaigns.

Look at the posts that get the most engagement and at the posts that get the least. Observe how they talk to their followers and commentators, and how the latter react. 

Separately, pay attention to complaints and praises related to your competitors' products. You'll discover pain points and best features that you probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

5. Measure results

You'll need to outline metrics that are specific to Insta marketing and regularly check on them. These can be the number of followers, the level of engagement, share of voice, the number of brand mentions on social media. Calculating those every month will give you an idea of whether your marketing strategy is working. 

6. Create different types of content

Instagram has long been associated with images. While images, obviously, remain as the most important type of content for Instagram, other formats are making their way into the mix, which helps the businesses that are using them stand out. 

For example, long (thoughtful, funny, educational) posts with images attract and keep the users' attention. Long-form videos have recently been added to Instagram and are popular among brands and users. This isn't surprising, given the growing popularity of video content. While there is no universal content mix recipe, it's worth trying to use all of the available content types and see how they work for your brand.

You can upload pre-recorded videos or shoot one straight from the app. I recommend the first option. You can also trim videos that are too long straight in the app.

Instagram feed allows videos of up to 60 seconds. If your video is longer, the user will be able to watch it as IGTV. All videos have to be no more than 10 minutes long. You don't have to do anything special to upload either a short or long video: Just keep in mind that the user will have to do an extra click if your video is more than 60 seconds. 

7. Attract user-generated content

Instagram is perfect for encouraging user-generated content, and user-generated content is perfect for increasing engagement, spreading brand awareness, entertaining and inspiring your followers, and making them feel closer to your brand and your product. 

All methods that call for user-generated content have proven themselves to be effective: contests, viral hashtags, challenges. People who are encouraged to participate in product creation or product marketing feel like they are part of the community and are more likely to buy the product and become a loyal customer. 

Conclusion

Instagram is so much more than just a pretty platform. It's a space for real, creative, outstanding marketing, as well as for perfect customer service and unusual market research. Instagram is made for small businesses – it's all about individuality, connection and providing anyone with the opportunity to create professional-looking gorgeous content. 

Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. Digital Marketer & Speaker at SMX, BrightonSEO. Author at Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, & more.
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