How Small Businesses Are Winning on Instagram

April 1, 2020
5 min read

In 2020, Instagram marketing is a whole new ball game and small businesses stand to gain the most.  Did you know Instagram was ranked the 6th most popular social app in the world in 2019? That’s huge.

Fast Stats

  • 1 billion people use Instagram every month
  • 500 million people use Instagram stories everyday
  • ⅓ of most-viewed stories are from businesses
  • Instagram’s potential ad reach is 849.3 M users
  • Instagram users will spend an average of 28 minutes a day on the app

So how do small businesses take advantage of Instagram and its growing popularity?

While there are dozens of techniques that have proven to be incredibly successful in the past, 2020 has given marketers even more tools to grow their businesses and engage followers in a more meaningful way.

The trick is using the right tricks at the right time and engaging with audiences in a content-driven and authentic way. But more on that later.

Right now, let’s talk aesthetics.

girl holding cellphone

Create A Business Account

Download the Instagram app to your phone. To create a new account, click sign up.

There are two types of Instagram accounts: personal or business.

Choosing the business account option will allow you to view analytics, connect with Facebook and run advertising campaigns.

It also gives your business credibility and will let you execute higher level marketing initiatives down the road. We recommend setting up a Business Account right off the hop.

Build A Great Bio

Instagram allows users up to 150 characters in their bio, so use every last one of them strategically. We recommend using every tool at your disposal, but sparingly. Include your email, website, hashtags, emojis, and new promotional offers (if applicable).

But most importantly?

Use a CTA!!!!

This is the most important part of your Instagram bio and the first point of engagement with your followers. Direct people to your website or a custom landing page. Never forget to ask people to take action.

If you forget to include a CTA, you miss the mark altogether...

Develop a Look

In our opinion, Instagram is the most visually appealing app on the planet. That means your content needs to be beautiful. Even more importantly, it also needs to be congruent.

An Instagram user should be able to see your content and know it belongs to you because it “looks” like your content.

Most influencers use or have developed presets they use across all their content. This gives their Instagram profile a seamless and recognizable look.

There are other ways to brand yourself, too. Fonts, consistent angles, emojis and even the style of your captions can help you create a unique look.

You might want to consider upping your photo game, too. But more on that later…

Also Read: How To Take Better Instagram Photos in 2020

person holding cellphone open to Instagram

Check The Competition

Checking out what your competitors are doing is a great way to get some inspiration. But beyond that, it's an even better way to see how you can do what they’re doing, but better.

This is one thing we always stress to our clients. Knowing what your competition is doing on social media is absolutely essential to your success as a small- or medium-sized business.

Check on their engagement, audience size, what kind of hashtags are they using, etc.

What you don’t want to do is just copy and regurgitate the same old stuff. Browsing your competitors on Instagram should be used as a tool to give you an edge.

  • What can you do better?
  • How can you engage more?
girl standing in road way wearing stylish clothes

Remember: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, except on Instagram.

Be original. Be unique!

Create a Content Strategy

Now you need to figure out what kind of content you want to share with your audience and how often. We recommend posting once a day, every day, consistently. Taking a day off, here-and-there, is fine. Taking a few days off, in regular intervals, means your followers start forgetting about you.

We totally get it.

Most of the small businesses we work with are a 1- or 2-man operation, and they have a million things on the go. Owners don’t have time to create content, let alone craft a unique post across their different social channels.

Hire someone to manage your social content for you. An expert in content with a bit of internet savvy can take the pressure off your shoulders and work to build your audience while you focus on other things.

They do the planning, creating and posting for you, all the while engaging with your followers on your behalf.

5 Instagram Content Strategies

phone open to instagram beside a plant

#1 Use Instagram Stories

The Stories feature on Instagram has really taken off in the last year and more businesses, freelancers, artists and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to use it successfully.

On average, brands post around 2.5 stories a week -- we think, the more the better.

Stories appear at the top of your feed and they give users more options and add-ons than a regular post. For example, you can add Geotags, GIFs and text, create polls, and engage with followers in more dynamic ways.

Better yet, Instagram stories allow you to post multiple pieces of content without bombarding your followers’ feeds.

#2 Up Your Creative Assets Game

We cannot stress this enough…

High-quality photos are VERY important to your Instagram success. The better the photos, the more professional your business will appear.

Some of our clients hire professional photographers. Some don’t. While we always encourage the former route as it delivers the best quality assets, we understand budget constraints can be an issue. That being said, most smartphones can take great photos.

With the right software and a bit of editing, you can produce good-quality Instagram photos your followers will engage with.

Need some tips on how to take good Instagram photos? Check out our Online Guide To Instagram Photos which includes size dimensions, angles, software recommendations and tips on how to make your photos stand-out.  

#3 Write Unique Captions

When we say this, we really just mean “be yourself.” Tell your story in an authentic way through every caption you write. Then, go over it with a fine-tooth comb.

Avoid spelling errors and grammatical mistakes; Instagram is such a fun platform, but it doesn’t mean anything goes. People are quick to catch little mistakes and forever judge you for them.

Insider Tip: Write your content in your notes app on your phone. Be thorough and read it over multiple times. Space appropriately and include emojis to break-up large chunks of content.

Make sure the first line of content is attention-grabbing. Your main goal here is to have your followers hit the “more” button. Once you feel it’s ready, copy and paste to Instagram. Add your hashtags, and post!

neon sign that says GIVEAWAY

#4 Run a Giveaway

We always encourage our clients who are new to Instagram to get started with a bang, and contests are a great way to do that.

Everyone loves winning something. Contests can also be a great way to get your product in the hands of a new follower right away.

Tagging, commenting and sharing your content to their individual stories are all great ways to have users enter your giveaway.

Not only does this juice-up the algorithm, it gets your profile in front of more eyeballs -- and that’s the point, right?

#5 Encourage Engagement

Every marketing blog worth its salt is going to tell you that creating engaging content that compels your followers to take an action is the key to success.

And they’re not wrong. We’re just of the belief that a lot of people are doing it poorly and it looks terrible.

Here’s an example of a caption that tries to engage, but does so in an inauthentic way.

Instagram caption and photo

An example of a bad Instagram caption

This is an example of a brand writing great copy that naturally leads to engagement.

Instagram caption and photo

See what we mean?

Avoid cliches and simple questions. If you thought of it quickly, chances are it’s been done a million times before.

The average person follows 150 accounts.

With an average of 28 minutes being spent on the app daily, users are hyper-sensitive to lazy content written with the sole purpose of juicing the algorithm.

Stories are more fun and offer more tools for businesses to engage with their followers including quizzes, polls, questions and the emoji slider. This is where most small businesses are gaining initial engagement!

When Should I Post On Instagram?

Knowing when to post on Instagram will depend on your specific followers. Use analytics to see when your followers are online most, and post then.

Experiment with different times and days. Data is your best friend and will give you insight into what works best for your business.

Instagram Hack: Sprout Social says the most popular times to post on Instagram are on Wednesday at 11 am and Fridays between 10-11 am.

Person holding phone open to Instagram

Don't Forget About Hashtags?

Hashtags help put your content in front of people who aren’t already following you.  Instagram only allows you to use 30 hashtags per post.

Do your research and see which hashtags your competitors are using. Instagram also allows you to follow certain hashtags, so you can see which ones get the most traction and are relevant to your message.

Finally… (but maybe most importantly)

Instagram Insights

Using data to inform marketing decisions is what separates successful brands from the pack. This is something we stress to our clients on a weekly-basis.

Check your Instagram Insights as often as you can.

This holds all the data you need to make smart content decisions moving forward. It will help you learn what strategies epically failed and what your followers like seeing from you.

You can tell what times work best for posting and who is engaging with your content the most. These data points will help you grow. Ignoring them is like shooting a gun into the air and hoping to hit something.

Never works.

Person at desk with papers and cell phone

Are You a Small Business in Edmonton?

It can be really challenging starting a business on your own. You have a million decisions to make each day and a million more things to learn. Instagram feels low on the priority chain. And we get that.

But it can also be the key that unlocks thousands of potential customers and brand loyalists. It should definitely play a role in your marketing strategy.

We are happy to consult with local businesses on how to improve (or even just get started) on Instagram. This is your year; let’s do this!

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Edmonton is located within Treaty 6 Territory and within the Métis homelands and Otipemsiwak Métis Government Districts 9 & 10. We acknowledge this land as the traditional territories of many First Nations such as the Nehiyaw (Cree), Denesuliné (Dene), Nakota Sioux (Stoney), Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) and Niitsitapi (Blackfoot).
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