How can Instagram be good for your small business? There’s a perception out there that this visual-heavy social platform only benefits influencers traveling around the world.  Or, that the algorithm is too complicated to get any traction. Both of these are far from the truth.

Pair creativity with strategy and Instagram can be very helpful in building brand awareness. Yes, even small businesses can benefit. Digital strategist, Quinn Tempest calls IG, “a curated visual experience that showcases your brand.”

Here are four key points you need to understand to be successful with Instagram if you’re a small business.

  • Use hashtags to expand your reach
  • Offer free, useful content that inspires, adds value or educates. This builds trust with your audience
  • Post consistently
  • Use crisp, clear images

All points are useless without having a clear strategy that covers brand awareness, nurturing relationships, and lead generation. In other words, understand your goals and have a plan!

Finding Your Audience

Hashtags allow people to find your IG profile, so it only makes sense to use the maximum amount that works for you. The number isn’t an exact science, but IG won’t let you use more than 30. Choosing your hashtags is an essential part of reaching the right followers, so choose wisely.

First, come up with content buckets. These are 4 or 5 relevant topics about your ideal buyer. For example, if you’re a local clothing store, seasonality is probably important to you and your customers.

Once you have your content buckets, you can start researching hashtags. Head over to the Instagram app, and with your content topics in mind, start searching for a niche hashtag that you know your buyer would be interested in. IG will then offer hashtag suggestions and posts that are ranked highly.

There’s a system for how many hashtags to choose. You want to have a variety of popular (500K reach), moderately-popular (100K reach), niche (10K – 50K reach), and branded hashtags. This article from Carney does an excellent job of defining each.

One thing to keep in mind about picking your topics is that people aren’t always coming to Instagram with a buyer’s mindset and a credit card in hand. (Yes, shoppable tags are a feature of Instagram, but it’s not a norm, and people are still learning about it.) People come to Instagram to be social and be inspired. If you’re a local auto insurance dealer, content topics like “dream car,” or “new car” could be a good start but not “auto insurance.”

Providing Valuable Content

What provides value? Telling people about your sales? Is that valuable? Yes and no.

If you’re only showcasing products and pitching sales, no, that’s not valuable. Instagrammers are not coming to the social platform to be marketed to or to only see product photos.

Sharing information to promote a community-wide event where several shops are having sales (including yours) then yes, that’s valuable. Think strategically when creating posts about your products. Use lifestyle photos and get creative.

Both a business to business or business to consumer brand can succeed on Instagram by providing relevant, helpful, and educational content.

For example, a local interior designer could create a free guide/checklist of the latest house trends where followers can go to get the items for a bargain, locally. Then, they can use beautiful images to promote it on Instagram.

Keeping up with Instagram’s changing algorithm and using it to build brand awareness can be challenging. But one thing has always been true, helpful information builds trust, and that’s what you need to keep in mind when you’re creating your social strategy and content. Be sure to include high-quality images, hashtags, and a consistent cadence and you’re on your way to helping your business grow.

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