Getting Started on Instagram: Tips for Small Businesses
This week I was helping my friend with his new website. I don’t know very much about building a website, but I knew more than he did and I realized while helping my friend that to help someone along you just need to know a little more than they do. You don’t have to be an expert to help someone, you just have to be one or two steps ahead.
When it comes to Instagram this post is for those of you just getting started on Instagram who want to use it to grow your business. This post is not for a small business with 10,000 followers. This is for those of you very new to Instagram who want to use it to for business and need a little help getting started with the basics.
- Photos – Instagram is a visual tool and the number one tip I have for Instagram is this: post great photos! Don’t post blurry, poorly lit or unrecognizable photos. Don’t post photos that your followers can’t identify (unless that is your thing?). Take great photos of your products, animals, process or whatever it is your Instagram is about. You don’t have to have the newest iPhone to do this well. You can use your best camera and transfer photos from your camera to computer to Instagram. I’ve posted about the tool Latergram that you can use for this.
- Frequency – Pick a frequency that you can handle with consistency. I try to post once or twice a day. I personally think anymore than that is too much. For sure please don’t post ten photos from your walk on the beach in one day and then not post for a month. Post one great photo from the beach and save the rest of your beach photos for another day when you are missing the beach. Posting consistently keeps your followers engaged.
- Profile – Updating your profile is easy and important for those just getting started on instagram! Make sure you have a great photo and be sure to link to your website or blog. There’s lots of articles on how to write a great profile- just do a quick search for more information. Search Instagram to discover how to update your profile (and MUCH more).
- Hashtags – Hashtags are the words you see with the # before them. They allow users to search for their interested on Insta. For example, you could search the hashtag #horses or #horselovers. You can’t post more than 30 hastags in one post, and you certainly don’t need that many. For those of you getting started on instagram, 10-15 hashtags per post is great. Use some of the same ones over and over and come up with new ones each time you post, but don’t be tricky and use a hashtag that has nothing to do with your post to try and get followers. I try to always use #shabbyalpaca and get others to do the same who post about us, but I try to use searchable variations of the same word. Like #scarf #alpacascarf #knitscarf #wrapscarf. Users utilize hashtags to find interesting things- and you can do the same. If you love #saturdayfarmersmarkets, use that hashtag to find other Instagrammers who also love #farmersmarkets.
- Description – Post a description with each photo. Never post just post a photo. Anything is better than nothing; your followers need to know why a photo is important. Don’t post a photo of a bag you are selling with no description. Is this a bag you just bought? A bag you think is hideous? A bag you stole from an old lady? WE DON’T KNOW! You must tell us. A short description is fine, but if you love writing, you can use your Instagram to tell all kinds of stories with one great image and a few words.
- Comments – if a legitimate follower comments on your post be sure to engage them back. There are so many ways to do this. You can reply to their comment, ‘like’ their comment, or go to their page and comment on something of theirs. Don’t ever ignore your followers! If you owned a brick and mortar store would you ignore a customer who walked in the door? Never! So don’t do it on Instagram.
- Importance- If you are getting started on Instagram, just know it’s really not that important. There are many tools for building your business, and Insta is one of them, but it’s not one to put all your energy into. Do your best, but if you only have a little time, building your website is more important than growing your Insta following. We have 1000 followers and probably less than 100 who are actively engaged. This percentage is probably the norm. We probably have 300 people who followed us only hoping for us to follow them back and I can say with confidence I’ve made probably only 10 sales through Instagram. But for me, 10 sales is better than 0 sales and we have a goal we are working towards that Instagram supports. I can have 999 people like something I post, if I don’t sell it, it doesn’t really matter.
- Spam – Spam is so lame and the only reason I am posting about it here is because I don’t want you to waste anytime with spam on Insta. Anyone that comments with anything like, “free followers”, “like for like”, “buy followers”- these things are obviously spam. Report the user if you have time or just ignore or block them.
- Who to Follow- Follow brands that you love and that inspire you and follow your friends. Instagram is a great place for inspiration. Discover companies that are like-minded. When people ‘like’ your photo or follow you, you can decide whether to follow them back or not. If I find that certain users consistently ‘like’ my photo or engage with us, I will usually follow them back. You don’t have to do this, but it certainly helps with engagement.
If you are just getting started on Instagram, remember that it is just one way to add a little color, light and clarity to your business. Instagram isn’t the main thing and in the end your Instagram numbers don’t mean anything if they don’t equate to sales.