Small businesses have to work hard to get the biggest bang out of their marketing buck. With over 300 million monthly active users and without any cost to open and operate an account, Instagram offers a lot of potential exposure for relatively little cost.
Gathering a following on Instagram isn’t a sprint; it’s more like a marathon. Let’s look at 10 key ways that small businesses can establish and grow an Instagram account.
- Post Only a Few Pictures Per Day
With over 3.5 million followers on Instagram, actress Anna Kendrick (@annakendrick47) knows a thing or two about how to use the app for business. She recommends only posting a max of two Instagram photos a day.
When using Instagram, nothing is more annoying than getting a barrage of posts from the same account. In fact, posting tons of photos every day is one of the easiest ways to get your business account unfollowed. Give your audience a small taste of your very best content and they’ll come back for more.
- Find Out Best Time of Day to Post
A 2015 study ran an analysis of over 61,000 posts and found that on average the best times to post are 2 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
If you’re targeting people located on the east coast, then you should plan to post at those times to maximize engagement. According to the same study, the very best time to post to maximize engagement is Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST. Use these times as guidelines and feel free to experiment to find the sweet spot that works best for your business.
- Ask Your Customers
If you have brick-and-mortar locations, the customers that come into your store to purchase your goods or services are a great focus group. Ask them if they use Instagram, and if they do, find out what they want to see your business post about.
While it’s awesome to receive 200 likes from random people, it’s even more awesome that those 200 likes are from local (paying!) customers.
- Build Your Own Hashtags
There are some well-known hashtags, such as #tbt (Throwback Thursday) and #wcw (Woman Crush Wednesday). It can be useful to jump on board with those tags when you have amazing content or you have a case of Instagram user’s block.
People are hungry for fresh hashtags that stand out from the crowd, so an even better way to build a following is to curate content through your own hashtag. Not only will it tell a better story about your business, but you will also minimize the chances of spammy, irrelevant pictures on your feed.
- Add Location to Posts
Location, location, location.
Another study by Simply Measured took a look at 6,075 posts by 80 brands and found out that posts tagged with a location receive 79 percent higher engagement that those without location.
In addition to hashtags, leverage location tagging on some of your posts to increase engagement. Do this in moderation, though. Even the brands that tag location don’t do it for every single post. Don’t use GPS coordinates that nobody can understand; search for actual places.
- Respond To Questions
When a customer calls, you pick up the phone. When a customer emails you, you email back. When a customer comes into your store, you talk to him/her. So why wouldn’t you respond to a question from an actual or potential customer on Instagram? According to Simply Measured, 50 percent of comments are posted in the first six hours and 75 percent in the first 48 hours, so be ready to respond in a timely manner.
- Incorporate Instagram into Recruiting Employees
In your next response, you may be answering a question from a potential employee! According to research from Forrester, Instagram has an engagement rate 50 times that of Facebook or Twitter. This trend has lead companies, such as Salesforce.com, to pay attention to questions from job applicants.
Nothing is more frustrating than having your resume fall into the HR “black hole”. Secure talent by standing out as a company that actually answers questions from applicants.
- Tag Other Accounts When Relevant
On average, posts that include another user handle (also known as an “@ mention”) have 56 percent more engagement than those without another user handle. This is a useful tactic, but don’t overdo it. Instagram frowns upon overusing @ mentions. A good rule of thumb is to tag other accounts in about one-third of your posts.
- Showcase Your Followers
Just like on Twitter, it’s fine to repost content from other users. Very often your followers can come up with amazing ways to feature your brand. Make sure to provide proper attribution even if it’s just a line of text or an idea.
For example, Starbucks reposted a neat stop motion video created by animator Rachel Ryle based on the question “#whatwouldyoudo if you won #StarbucksForLife?”
Resharing content is a snap through apps, such as Repost for Instagram and InstaRepost.
- Set Realistic Expectations
Despite its millions of users, Instagram isn’t a panacea for your business. Even the businesses that are killing it can only expect about 4.21 percent of their followers to interact with their Instagram posts. Assuming you have 2,000 followers, only around 85 people will interact with your posts.
Use 4 percent as a rule of thumb to evaluate whether or not your posts are working. If the person in charge of your account is hitting that goal, congratulate him or her because he or she is doing a great job.
What has helped you grow your Instagram account? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @KabbageInc!