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How to use Instagram for business

13/08/2020

Instagram is a photo-sharing app and one of the most popular social media networks, boasting more than a billion users in total and over 500 million users active every day. It’s particularly beloved by the under 35s and has a fairly even split of men and women using the service. This month we take a look at how to set your business up on Instagram and start using all the potential it can offer you.

Target Audience

First of all, you need to find out who your target audience is, if you don’t already. Knowing your target audience is vitally important if your business is going to be successful on Instagram, because it should inform and drive the type of content you publish, the tone of voice you use, the communities you engage with and when to post your content too. Ask yourself: what types of people buy from my business or are looking for my services? A great marketing tip is to create a fictional customer who you give a background story to - let's call him “Bob”. You can then write down what types of activities Bob enjoys, where he lives, other brands he may like and so on. From this information, you can start to paint a picture of who Bob is and what may appeal to him. This will then give you a good basis to figure out what content to create for your target audience.

Content

Once you have a clear idea of who your target audience is, the next thing to strategise is what content are you going to be posting. If your business sells tangible products, the obvious place to start is with product photography. Photographs should be taken in natural light, showing them in use or in real-life situations to reflect how they fit in with the customers' lifestyle - how it will make them feel, how it might look in their home, how it might benefit their life. Showing products in use will greatly help people relate to the image and be more inclined to engage with what you're posting.

If your business offers services rather than products, a good way to approach your content strategy is to communicate how your services improve your customers' lives. For example, this could be before and after shots of a haircut if you run a hair salon or images of beautiful homes and rooms if you're a property developer. Alternatively, you could take users behind-the-scenes of your workplace, whether it’s a shop, an office, warehouse or your work station at home. People like to be nosey, so showing the other side of your business gives a more personable view to your customers and makes them feel more included in your working world. If you are involved with the local community, sharing your experiences of how your business improves the lives around you can get people talking positively about you too.

Researching other businesses on Instagram accounts who are similar to you can give you an insight into what works well for them (and what doesn’t), giving you a head start and providing you with inspiration for content ideas too.

You’ll also need to think about the caption you’re going to write underneath the image. Asking a question can be an easy way to draw in users to engage with your posts, or you can use this space to talk about your products, any upcoming events and general information about your business; you could even talk about your personal life if this works for your business style. The most important thing to include is your hashtags which we will look into next.

Hashtags

You are likely to have seen #hashtags used online or spoken about in media even if you've never actually used one before. Hashtags are used across social media platforms as ways of tagging your post with keywords so they can easily be found by people with similar interests. You can use up to 28 hashtags in total in your post, however if you go over this limit your post may appear with no text at all as a form of spam prevention, so count them carefully.

When picking your hashtags, think about how someone would find these if they were searching for your content. For example, if you were advertising a new mug you have for sale in your shop, you could include obvious tags such as #mug #cup #ceramics or #mugshop. You can then look into related tags such as #homewares #teatime #cupofcoffee #relax or #kitchenaccessories. Research into other trending tags which maybe about a day of the week such as #mondaymotivation or #nationalcakeday. Finally, including hashtags relating to your location, such as #sevenoaks #kent, or something broader such as #shoplocal or #shopsmallbusiness could help draw in additional users who are browsing more generally.

Location

Adding your location is a quick and easy way to give your posts a boost. By tagging your location when uploading your post, whether it’s the specific location of your business or your town or city in general, it will help people who are local to you, or users who are interested in the area, to find you a lot easier. It could also mean that you may show up in someones "Explore" tab if they have an interest in the local area. Browing the local area yourself and connecting with other local businesses can be a great way to network and build relationships, and as an added bonus, you can support each other's posts which shows Instagram you are interacting with other accounts regularly.

Regular posting

This is one of the most important points to creating a successful Instagram account, to which there are a few parts to be aware of. Uploading content at least once a day will keep you on peoples radar, keeping your brand familiar, but not overwhelming them to a point where they start to blank out your content or even unfollow you. If possible, uploading more than one image in your posts can mean you appear on someones feed more than once, as Instagram will display the first image the first time they scroll past, and the next image the next time your post appears, which is an easy way to get spotted throughout the day.

Keeping an eye on your audience will help you determine who is interacting with your content by age, gender and location, and can also tell you when they are most active. You can find this information on your businesses Instagram account by going to your profile, tapping on the three dots, tap on Insights and here you can view your best performing content, general activity on your account and your audience stats.

The best time to post is different for every industry, for example, the education sector is more active at around 4 pm to 5 pm, whereas retail generally does well in the hours' people are on their lunch break from 11 am to 1 pm. Try looking at when similar, successful businesses post to gauge when to start posting and keep an eye on your insights to see when your account is engaged with the most from there.

Stories

Stories are another great way to interact with your followers on Instagram. These are images and videos that disappear after 24 hours, however, these can be engaged with in more interesting ways than your usual content. For example, you could add a quiz, poll or a question/answer box to your story posts to encourage users to interact with your content. You are also able to mention other accounts stories or posts which is a great way to network and build relationships with your customers and similar businesses. This is also a great place to post about your day to day life and show off the behind the scenes of your business, as well as promoting our services. Make sure to interact with other stories too to help the algorithm work in your favour too. Adding to your stories is another great opportunity to pop up on your followers feeds and remind them about your business.

Engage with others

As mentioned above, interacting and engaging with other users will show Instagram that you are an active member of their network, meaning they will favour showing your content to your users further up their timeline. Comment on other users content or start a discussion and like other users images too. If someone comments on your post, be sure to like it and reply to their comment as soon as you can to demonstrate your account is engaged in the community.

Going live

This isn't for everyone, however, going live is a great way to involve your followers in your business. You could chat with your followers in real-time about anything from day to day life, to a new product launch or big change coming to your brand. Seeing a face behind the business will make your company seem more approachable and help you connect with your followers. Another way to bring in people to your live stream is to conduct ask me anythings or quizzes to win prizes.

If you aren't keen on showing your face, you could try giving a tour of your workplace, or showing some behind the scenes of how you create your products, for example, which will satisfy your followers' natural curiosity and build a closer relationship with your followers. Alternatively, if you don't feel like going live you could record a video first and then upload this to your stories so you have more control over the content before it is seen.

Influencers

Influencers are users who have a large, loyal following, whose fans listen to their suggestions of products and services. This may not work for every business, however, if you have a business which could benefit from advertising in this manner, it could boost followers and engagement overall. You would usually have to pay the influencer or give them your products for free or at a reduced cost, which they would then advertise and recommend to their followers who are likely to be interested in your brand. Picking the right influencer is the real trick to making this a success, as their followers need to be your target audience and likely to be receptive to this type of advertising, which is typically a younger audience. Researching into this area will be key if you want to pursue this idea, to really analyse how the influencers posts are interacted with, and looking into other brands they have collaborated with to see how their pages are engaged with after being promoted.

Running an Instagram page for your business takes commitment and can take a while to become successful, however the payoff can be well worth it in the long run.

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