The small business guide to marketing on Instagram

November 12, 2018
5 minutes read

Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media platforms for small businesses; according to Instagram, there are 25 million business profiles and the stats explain why:

  • 80 percent of users follow a brand on Instagram.
  • 60 percent of people say they find new products on Instagram.
  • 1/3 of the most viewed stories are from a business.
  • 200 million users visit at least one business page each day.

That means, it may be time for you to move onto this popular social media platform. If you’re not sure where to start, this is the guide for you. Here’s what you need to know about getting started and making the most of your efforts.

Find your social media brand

Instagram is a visual platform and as such, your brand look and feel are important to driving followers and engagement. This is where you should start. As you build your Instagram brand look, consider your current website and assets:

  • What’s your font?
  • What are your brand colors?
  • Is your look clean, busy, bright?
  • Is your style professional or fun?

With that figured out, keep it going. Aesthetics isn’t where your clear and unique branding should end. Next, focus on the mission and values of your brand. How can you display those visually?

Carrie Green is a great example of this. Look at the screenshot of her grid below. You can see that she has a clear look and feel, and the quotes she shares clearly reflect her mission and values as the founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association.

Female Entrepreneur Association Instagram feed

Dress up your bio

Your bio is likely where the second impression of your business and brand is made. After someone browses your images, they’ll take a look at your profile to see what you offer, what you do, and what you stand for. Don’t waste this space, instead, build it out to display your unique brand value and business mission.

When writing your bio, don’t forget about your brand voice. If it’s fun and silly, that should come through in your bio as well. Be sure to include hashtags where appropriate, specifically branded hashtags and those related to your business:

“Adding branded hashtags or hashtags related to your interests makes your bio much more functional, allowing you to highlight branded content and share more of your interests with profile visitors,” suggests Later.

Most importantly, you need to make the most of the one link you can have on your profile, which is also in the bio.

Instead of using it to simply link to your website, check out, which allows you to link to multiple pages, projects, products—whatever you want users to see or do. This app is free to use with an upgrade available to add images and customize the look and feel. Below, you’ll see a screenshot of what the link looks like when it’s opened:

Linktree interface

Set your goals

Like any other aspect of your business, without goals, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not. That’s why it’s crucial that you set goals for your Instagram efforts at the start, and let them evolve as you go. As you start thinking about what you want to accomplish, consider the different types of social media goals:

  • Growth: follower count, likes, engagement rate, etc.
  • Traffic: to your site, to your products, to a specific landing page
  • Revenue: leads, purchases, new clients earned
  • Production: Goals for doing the work

Start by setting 3-4 specific goals for Instagram alone—you can set separate goals for your other social networks, like Facebook or LinkedIn. For example, your monthly goals might be:

  • Reach 500 followers
  • Drive 30 clicks to X landing page
  • Earn one new client
  • Reach 400 percent engagement rate, overall

Use these to be intentional about what you’re posting and doing. For example, if you want to reach 500 followers, and are at 400, you need to start engaging to drive those followers.

Identify content categories

Instagram is all about having a cohesive brand look and voice—and content categories ensure that you’re staying on-message and on-brand. For example, a meditation product retailer may have the following categories:

  • Inspirational
  • Product
  • Humorous
  • Spiritual

As they schedule, all of their content will need to fall into one of these four categories. When scheduling, they may even use these categories to make sure they’re getting a mix of content—so they’re not just posting inspirational quotes or pictures of their product.

To identify your content categories, consider your brand, the story you’re trying to tell and your voice. For example, is your voice silly, humorous or educational? If it’s not silly or playful, humor will likely not be a category for you.

Start scheduling

Scheduling will make your life easier and your efforts more effective. Using a tool to schedule your posts for the week is important for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to remember to post every single day.
  • It’s nearly impossible to manually post every day—at the right time—you might forget or be in the middle of a call.
  • You can focus on other areas of your business that are higher priority while your scheduled posts are published throughout the week.

There are many tools to choose from for Instagram scheduling, including Planoly and Hootsuite. I prefer a tool like Planoly, which allows you to see your grid. This makes it easy to plan what to post when based on the aesthetics—something that’s important on Instagram. See the screenshot below of the Planoly interface:

Planoly interface

Make time to engage

Don’t set it and forget it—that’s what any marketing expert will tell you. Just because your posts are scheduled, doesn’t mean you don’t need to engage. Quite the contrary, it’s critical that you comment and like other posts to drive new followers, make connections with users and try to engage with influencers. This is just one way people can discover you.

It’s important that you also reply to comments on your page. According to FounderU’s guide, How to Use Instagram to Boost Online Sales, this is a simple tactic to get followers coming back to your page:

“Instagram can be a transient place, so replying to a comment is effective in not only making your follower feel good and be even more connected to you, but also in bringing them back to the post to check out what you’ve said.”

If you can’t spend a lot of time engaging or replying to comments, set aside just 15 minutes each day to do so. While you’re having your morning coffee, between meetings, or when you need to give your brain a break.

Don’t miss new features

There are always new features being released on Instagram. These offer a new way to engage with your audience and tell your story, making them important to play with and test for your brand. For Instagram, there are two specific features that are important for small businesses right now.

Product tagging: This is a great way to draw attention to the products being highlighted in your posts. Before you can tag anything, you have to get approved on Instagram. Once approved, you simply tag products when uploading the new image. If you schedule ahead of time (which is recommended), you can add those tags after the post goes live.

Stories: This is one of the most talked about Instagram features in 2018. It’s also very popular, with 400 million accounts using stories each day, according to Instagram. Stories are a chance to show your authenticity and humanize your brand, two things consumers are looking for more and more.

Do your monthly reporting

Finally, how do you know if all of this is working? Without tracking your progress, you don’t, which is why monthly reporting is so important. You’ll want to report on your goals along with general KPIs that are important for your business and brand. A few data points you may want to look at, include:

  • Total followers
  • Clicks to your website
  • Conversions
  • Engagement rate
  • Top vie most popular posts of the month

Create a reporting spreadsheet to be updated each month. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns emerge that will dictate your social strategy and help you be more successful.

It’s time to get going on Instagram

If you’re not on Instagram yet, now is the time to create your business account, grow a following, and start engaging. Use this guide to make sure you have everything in place, allowing you to be more successful and effective with your efforts. And don’t forget to have fun, play with your brand voice, and drive connections that will boost your bottom line.

By Jessica Thiefels

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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