Instagram is the great equalizer of social media platforms. There isn’t a ton of text, you don’t have to post all day long and great content from even the smallest users can gain lots of attention. That means Instagram is a lifeline for small businesses trying to reach current and future customers with compelling visual content.
But Instagram success is anything but easy, especially for small companies trying to build loyal followings. So follow these five suggestions to supercharge your Instagram engagement.
1. Encourage users to tag one another
In your caption, tell your audience how the photo of video relates to them, and ask them to tag others. Follow the lead of American Express. On a picture of a credit card held in the foreground of some exotic locale, the caption reads, “Tag your travel buddy. #MemberMoments.” This image got more than 1,300 likes and 41 comments, much more than the typical American Express post.
Run a restaurant? Invite your followers to tag their significant others so they can plan the next date night. Is your business a boutique? Invite followers to tag their shopping buddy. Run a small publishing house? Have users tag a friend who might like the new book you’re releasing.
Encouraging your audience to engage with one another will not only increase likes and comments but drive conversations between these people in real life.
2. Celebrate your employees and introduce them to your customers
Use Instagram to highlight your dedicated and talented staff. Going behind-the-scenes of your business can provide really interesting content. Plus it’s a good way to keep your employees engaged because they feel recognized — and that can engage users (potential and actual customers), too.
Have employees snap candid photos while they work, or have them share something fun or a little-known fact about how your small business works. Beaucoup Bakery shared a photo of Jaclyn Cobb, recipient of their 2016 Beaucoup Scholarship, and the gorgeous desserts she created. (Reminder: food porn is always a winner.)
3. Use filters to create unique content
Instagram made filters mainstream. All the sudden, your lunch looked like art and you selfie looked like a modeling shot. Now there are other apps you can use, like VSCO, to elevate your photography even further.
A 2013 study from Simply Measured found that the most popular filters used by brands were as follows: “Lo-fi is the filter of choice for 14 percent of brands’ filtered photos, followed by Valencia with 12 percent, Rise with 12 percent, Amaro with 11 percent, Hudson with 9 percent, Sierra with 9 percent, X-Pro II with 8 percent and Hefe with 7 percent.” For the most popular brands by vertical (like food or fashion) check out this article from Bustle.
Another benefit of using an additional app like VSCO to edit your imagery for Instagram is that you can choose to have those images appear publicly on your VSCO profile, which can expose your business to a new audience. It’s like a 2-for-1 deal; you get beautiful content which will draw new fans to your business on Instagram, and you get additional followers on the other app.
4. Sponsor and participate in a contest or giveaway
For years, brands have leveraged the power of contests and giveaways to grow their platforms. This can be done as a giveaway your small business offers on its own, or your business could participate in a loop giveaway, where you combine the power of multiple brands to grow your audience.
Divine Living Inc., a 7-figure coaching business founded by Gina DeVee, regularly participates in loop giveaways. One recent giveaway awarded the winner a MacBook Air & Kate Spade purse. The winner participated by going through the “loop” and following every brand participating in the giveaway and liking each photo that told them who to follow next.
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Go to next –> CLOSED Macbook Air + Kate Spade Giveaway ! One winner will take home a brand new 13.3" Macbook Air + Kate Spade tote bag! Open to international contestants. Follow these 3 steps to enter: (Follow, like, follow) 1. FOLLOW ME CLOSED 2. LIKE this post. 3. FOLLOW CLOSED Repeat the steps above in every photo until you make your way back here. You're not eligible to win if you don't complete the 3 steps above – follow-like-follow. All entries must be submitted by June 8. Winner will be announced on June 14 or 15. This is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 18+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram's term of use. The logos shown in the photo belong to the respective brands and no copyright infringement is intended. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. Friends/family/colleagues of sponsors are not eligible. Winner (international or local) will be responsible for shipping costs. Recent giveaway winners (hosted by this group or others) within 300 days of this giveaway are not eligible to enter. Prizes must be claimed within 48 hours or they will be forfeited. Fake or Giveaway-Only accounts will be disqualified. Profile must be public to be eligible to win. Product boxes may have been opened for giveaway photo purposes. Gold case, wallet, Instax, and sunglasses are for props only.
It’s most effective when you participate in a loop that features other businesses with the same ideal client or customer avatar as your business serves and by offering prizes that are specific to that customer avatar. Include a gift certificate or, if yours is a service business with no tangible product, offer a coaching or consulting session. Tangible prizes that you purchase for the giveaway are great, but giving away only these types of prizes opens your giveaway to people you’re not actively trying to reach.
Make sure any contest or giveaway you participate in is legal. We suggest you follow Instagram’s own guidelines for promotions.
5. Advertise on Instagram
Instagram has a community of over 500 million users, making it one of the world’s largest social media platforms. It’s also the platform most used by every age group. Given its integration into the Facebook Ads platform, advertising on Instagram shouldn’t require any extra skill (unless your business still has yet to advertise on Facebook) and gives you access to an unbelievably huge audience.
Use compelling imagery and video to promote your free offers or a discount (see above) to targeted groups. These ads display on the user’s mobile device between non-paid posts on their Instagram home feed. And users, according to research, recall ads they’ve seen on Instagram more than research has shown people to recall an average ad (Nielsen’s Norms for Advertising.)