On the crest of the year 2017, social media has become one of the most integral channels for small business marketing, across all industries. Social media marketing allows your small business to interact with its audience directly and target your ads to segments of your audience, all while establishing brand identity.
At the NALA, we help your small business with social media management on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to lighten the load of your social media marketing strategy. We do this so your small business can go on with daily operations and focus on growing.
These days, Instagram has become one of the largest social media platforms for quality, visual content. Instagram stories give your small business the opportunity to share behind-the-scenes footage with your audience while carousel posts let your brand play to your customers’ curiosity.
Here are some tips the NALA’s team has compiled, so your small business can successfully market and monetize through this social media platform:
Step #1: Content strategy
The first step in building a house and any marketing strategy is laying the foundation. The first rule in being successful on Instagram is posting engaging content that is relevant to your target audience(s). When fleshing out what type of content your business wants to share on Instagram, consider the following categories:
- Product-centric: This means the bulk of your Instagram posts will be photos and videos mainly focused on showing off your products. This is the most straightforward approach for utilizing the social media platform. Keep in mind that with this simple method, your business will want to execute it creatively in order to captivate Instagram users.
- Culture-centric: If your small business’ offering is a service (and the product-centric approach doesn’t apply) or your business has a strong, established company culture, you might want to try using Instagram as a platform for just demonstrating your brand’s identity and values.
- Mixed Approach: Your small business can also choose to strike a healthy balance between the product and culture approaches. The overall goal is for your brand’s personal Instagram feed to remain consistent and cohesive, visually.
- User-generated: If your small business already has a loyal following and customer base on Instagram, another content strategy involves posting photos and videos submitted to you by your audience. This creates variety within your own feed while also engaging users on a personal level. However, this approach is not recommended for businesses just starting out.
Step #2: Scheduling content
After you’ve pinned down your content strategy, your small business will want to come up with a content schedule. This year, Instagram’s feed algorithm switched from following a chronological order to prioritizing posts that are receiving engagement.
With this in mind, your small business brand will want to be posting consistently on the Instagram platform to increase your chances of engagement. This will also position your brand as a resource for fresh content, which encourages users to keep following your business’ profile.
Platforms such as Buffer and Later can be used to schedule your Instagram posts in advance. This allows whoever creates your small business’ social media content to organize and work efficiently within their busy schedules.
Oftentimes, small businesses like yours do not have a designated social media manager who can spend a lot of time on Instagram content and activity, so these tools make the task more manageable, time-saving, and cost-effective. At the NALA, we use RecurPost for our social media strategies.
When setting up post-frequency, be aware of how much content you have for the month, then space it out accordingly. The key is to post consistently, but the frequency is ultimately up to you and your small business.
Another thing to think about is timing. Although timing matters less now that Instagram’s algorithm is no longer chronological, your business will want to schedule posts according to when your target audience will be active on the Instagram channel. This may vary depending on segments of your target market(s), so be sure to do your research and test until you find the specific hours that are optimized for engagement.
Step #3: Generate & edit content
When using Instagram, your small business will need to keep in mind that this particular social media platform is made for strategic digital content creation. Instagram users will engage with the media they find the most interesting, so your business will be rewarded for posting highly creative, visually compelling content. These are the practices that your small business brand will want to hone:
- Quality: With or without fancy equipment, your small business will need to focus on the quality of the photos and videos you’re posting on Instagram. These days, smartphones are more than capable of capturing quality snapshots. Make sure that your business’ images are well-lit and focused before sharing them.
- Editing: Apps like VSCO, Snapseed, and Enlight can help your small business with editing in order to maximize the appearance of its Instagram photos. The key is to make your small business brand’s photos look clean and professional, so use edits sparingly. You don’t want your images to appear over-the-top or rely on obvious filters. To lock in your brand’s theme, establish one or two exclusive filters to apply to your business’ Instagram photos.
- Captions: If your small business plans to promote its products on Instagram, you will want to write captions that encourage users to take a specific action. To do this, direct your followers to wherever they can purchase your products. Links to product landing pages or your online webstore can be added to your small business’ Instagram bio and referenced in the corresponding post.
- Hashtags: On Instagram, hashtags are useful for reaching new areas of your target audience and beyond. Instagram followers use hashtags to explore new content, so it will be very lucrative for your small business to incorporate hashtags in its posts to keep reaching new people. You can use a combination of popular hashtags (#love, #happy, #friends), product-related hashtags (#tacos, #apparel), and local hashtags (#losangelesfoodie, #sanfrancisco). Overall, using hashtags will increase your brand’s exposure and engagement. You can find a comprehensive list of useful Instagram hashtags here.
Step #4: Monetizing
If your small business is completely new to Instagram, it might be difficult to imagine that you can generate leads and derive money from a social media strategy. However, there are many ways your small business brand can optimize its Instagram profile for monetary results:
- Calls to action: Turning your Instagram followers into customers is as simple as letting them know exactly where to make a purchase. As iterated before, include a link to the appropriate web store or landing page in your business’ Instagram bio, then direct users to this link in your posts.
- Third-party monetization platforms: Websites like Have2Have.It and Like2Buy can help your small business generate a webpage that allows you to link the photos in your Instagram feed to products or other pages on your website. This helps Instagram followers through the sales funnel by reducing any possible barriers to making a purchase.
- Promotions and discounts: One way to ensure that your Instagram followers take action is by launching an Instagram-specific limited time offer. This can be delivered in the form of a coupon or discount code, but be sure to share the appropriate short link and encourage users to act fast in the CTA.
Step #5: Ads
Although Instagram is an effective marketing platform for building your small business’ brand identity and even generating sales, the best way to guarantee that you’re reaching your target markets is through Instagram ad campaigns. Out of all the social media platforms, Instagram ads are the best targeted and least interruptive for consumers. Here are a few good rules of thumb for your small business’ Instagram ad content:
- Eye-catching imagery: Because Instagram ads are native to the platform to optimize user experience, your small business’ content can be scrolled past just as easy as any other post. In order to grab your target audience’s attention, your brand will want to use visually unique imagery to catch their thumbs.
- Correct targeting: Depending on the ad and your small business’ offering, your brand will want to ensure that you target your advertisements to specific segments and/or sub-groups in order to maximize your ad’s performance. Instagram’s platform makes this easy--all your small business will need to do is make sure that ad content is not too general. You will want to also launch multiple ad campaigns for the varying groups you’re trying to target.
- Ad-specific landing pages: Sending users to your general website makes it easier for them to abandon the sales funnel and making a purchase. Instead, create specific landing pages that match your ads and direct potential customers to them in order to increase actual conversions.
- Choosing the right CTA: The advantage of Instagram ads over regular posts is that your small business can choose a call to action that links to the appropriate place to make the purchase. Choosing a CTA that’s in line with your brand’s objective will give users that extra push to take actions whether it’s ‘buying now,’ subscribing to a newsletter, or purchasing an ebook.
Overall, your small business will need to be active on social media in order to appeal to the large number of mobile users that are active on these platforms. By getting organized and outsourcing your other social media strategies, your small business can have some fun growing its reach and interacting with new audiences on this fun, visual social media channel.
Blog by Melissa McElhose, the NALA staff writer