Your ultimate guide to Instagram marketing for small business – Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 or our Instagram marketing masterclass for self-employed professionals. After reading and following the steps in the first part of our series, hopefully, you’re comfortable with the basics. If you haven’t had a look at Part 1 yet, go back and join us again after.
If you’re ready for the next steps, though, here are essential truths to help motivate your efforts — 80% of IG users follow at least 1 business, and 60% of users discover new products and services on this platform.
This is excellent news – it means your business has serious potential to increase your visibility. But also consider this: there’s more competition than ever, so how will your self-employed business stand out?
Let’s take it to the next level with some more advanced strategies to help you get noticed, show off your skills, and grow your business. Here are some advanced best practices to ensure your self-employed business gets the most out of Instagram:
Post the right content at the right times
At this point, you’ve likely made at least a few posts on social media. Chances are you just posted a photo or video when you felt like it, right?
When using IG for your business, you want to be intentional. You need a strategy. A common mistake small businesses with social media is that they never make a conscious plan for content. They just put online what pops into their mind and hope for the best.
There’s an easy fix here. And don’t worry – it doesn’t take a ton of time. Here’s what to do:
Create a regular content schedule
Marketing experts suggest that small businesses post to Instagram once per business day. Posting more can turn off customers, especially if your content isn’t useful or interesting.
However, we know you’re likely very busy. If remembering to post each day sounds like too much work, once or twice per week is a great place to start.
Timing your posts is also key to your success. Ideally, post on days and at times when your followers are online. According to CoSchedule, between 8:00 am and 9:00 am are the best times since people are waking up, checking their phones, and getting ready for work.
Once you’ve been posting for a while, you can discover when your followers are active on your page. This is likely the best resource to learn the best days and times to share content.
Use the 80/20 social media promotion rule
You don’t want all your posts to be just ads promoting your services. You mainly want to post fun, sharable content that gets genuinely interested viewers.
We recommend the 80/20 social media rule here. 80% of your content should be informative, inspiring, and entertaining. 20% should more directly promote your company. This means if you post once a day Monday – Friday, you only directly sell your services once.
This mix helps you look respectable and authoritative – not like an annoying salesperson.
Take advantage of Instagram’s carousel album feature
If you want to share more than one photo at a time, use Instagram’s carousel album feature to display up to 10 images in a slideshow format. Consider this instead of making multiple posts in a day.
When you share multiple photos, make sure there is a variety of content. A great idea can be to post a detailed portfolio of a project or a series of images showing the development of your work.
Check out these useful social media scheduling tools
If you feel like you’re just too busy and want to schedule posts in advance, there are tools to help you. Hootsuite, CoSchedule, or Sprout Social are 3 popular sites that let you batch upload posts, then tell the application when you’d like them to go live.
This means in one sitting, you could upload your posts for the week or month, then get back to work without having to think about what you’re going to put online.
Keep in mind: All of these three services come with a monthly cost. If you’re just starting out with Instagram, it may be best to make a reminder in your calendar to post at least 1 excellent piece of content per week. Then work up to 3-5 posts per week as you get more ideas.
Get creative and post a variety of compelling content
Variety is vital. Chances are you’ll gain a much stronger following if you post different types of content. Here are a couple of great ideas your business can start using today:
Contests and giveaways
Contests and giveaways have enormous benefits for immediately generating a large audience for your business. They’re a fun way to build awareness about your business, increase sales, and engage your customers.
Decide the prize the customer might win. It could be a percentage off, discounted materials, free estimates, or something else you know they’ll be excited about.
Then, create a post with an eye-catching photo – maybe of you in action, or of your prize. Explain these details in the caption:
- The rules
- What people need to do to play
- Any restrictions
- The prize
- The deadline
- When you will announce the lucky winner
Here are some ideas on how your audience could join your contest. Have contestants:
- Post a photo or a video to Instagram with a specific hashtag and theme.
- Follow you in addition to creating a post.
- Tag your company in their post.
- Like or comment on one of your posts.
For some examples of great Instagram contests, take a look here.
This is an excellent opportunity to build trust with your followers. Provide useful advice related to your specialty and use the #TipTuesday hashtag. For example, if you work in the construction field, you could explain how to prepare for a remodel.
Or, if you notice a trend with your clients – that they’re having similar problems or making the same mistakes – make a post to help them. It may seem like you’re giving away your work for free, but this will make you look good and help build respect.
Memes are funny images, videos, and text that are copied and spread rapidly across the internet. Chances are you’re familiar with them – they all give us a great laugh from time to time.
They’re also a great addition to your Instagram content calendar. Just make sure to keep them professional. We recommend that you avoid any crude humor or images that could offend your followers. Always protect your reputation and ONLY post content that puts you in a positive light.
Want some meme ideas? Check out these here.
DIY ideas and posts
This is similar to #TipTuesday. Here you would teach your followers how to do a simple task or repair. You could make an example video or share a few photos and explain what to do in the caption.
Employees and workspace
Show you or your team hard at work. Snap photos of you on-site doing what you do best. These images often get high engagement, so don’t be shy.
Before and after
Snap photos of a project before you begin and after you finish. This is an incredible way to showcase your talent.
While you do this every day, most people are unaware of the intricacies of your business. Teach your followers what goes on behind the scenes. Explain your process – you’d be surprised how many people want to know more.
Collaborate with other established businesses on Instagram. Give each other shout-outs, recommending people to follow your account. Reach out to other companies in your community and see how you can help each other grow.
Use Instagram stories to engage your followers
This has become one of Instagram’s most popular features and has over 200 million people using it each day. Stories are a collection of photos and video clips added over a 24-hour period. You can easily access them by tapping on an account’s profile photo if it has an orange and purple ring around it.
A good mindset: Your regular Instagram posts are for polished photos and videos you want to share for the long term. Stories, on the other hand, are best for community building or a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your day-to-day operations.
Here’s how to share a photo or video to your story
Check out our complete guide on marketing your business with Instagram Stories. When you’re ready to try this feature, tap on the circled + button at the top left of your Instagram screen.
From here, use the icons at the bottom of your screen to configure flash settings, take a picture or video, or switch the camera. If you tap and hold the center button, you can record a 15-second video.
Once you finish taking your photo or video, you can add text or draw on it using the options at the top right of the screen. At the bottom, you can cancel, start over, or download the photo or video to your camera roll.
Always use stickers and hashtags
Stickers and hashtags may seem like they’re just for fun, but they also serve an important business purpose. To make your account more visible at the top of search lists, always add location stickers or hashtags to your stories.
When you’re happy with what you see, tap Your Stories to share with your followers.
Note: Stories disappear from your profile, Feed, and Direct inbox after 24 hours unless you save them as highlights.
Use other Instagram apps to create cool pictures and videos
Once you’ve mastered the Instagram app, there are a few other applications that can help you make pro-looking content.
Create eye-catching video loops of you at work. When you’re working on a project, consider using this to create some fun content to share later.
These sped-up videos are a great way to promote work and emphasize your progress. You can easily film professional-looking videos on your smartphone with this app.
Set up your phone before you start work – you may want to consider getting a phone tripod. Then use video editing software to cut it down to 60 seconds and upload it to IG. Here’s a great example that will show you how it works.
Check your analytics
Whatever you decide to post for content, take the time to see how it’s performing and what types of posts usually do best. Use this information to adapt and optimize your content over time.
To see your analytics, go to your Instagram profile. Tap the three horizontal bars on the upper right hand of the screen. Then tap Insights. You can also check Insights on each post you make.
Know how to use Instagram ads
Everything we’ve discussed so far is free to use. However, Instagram also has paid advertising – a service that more than one million businesses use each month. This is another way to directly promote your services and get your business in front of more people.
Instagram ads require a Facebook account. You can have ads placed as either photos or videos in users’ Home Feeds or Stories.
Ads can target users based on their interests, demographics, and location. They’re typically cheaper than putting an ad in the newspaper and will likely better connect you with customers who will love your services.
You also get access to detailed metrics to check your ad’s performance and cost per result!
To set up a Facebook ad account (assuming you already have a FB account), follow these steps:
- Open your Business Manager Settings. Under the People and Assets tab, click Ad Accounts.
- Then, on the right side of the page, select Add New Ad Accounts.
- Choose from these 3 options: Claim Ad Account, Request Access to an Ad Account, or Create a New Ad Account.
Here’s how to connect your Instagram to your Facebook advertising account:
- Go to Business Manager. Click Business Settings and then Instagram Accounts.
- Click your Instagram account and then Assign Ad Accounts.
Excellent work! You now know more about Instagram marketing than many self-employed professionals. While it will take time to build a strong following online and to master all these features, you’ve taken significant steps to help your business succeed over the long term.
Staying active on social media doesn’t have to be a pain – with consistency and strategy, you can connect with many customers here with very little money. Maybe you’ll even grow to enjoy it – we know many people who do.
Keep it up. These tools, now more than ever, can help your company continue moving forward – even when times are uncertain.
If you’re looking to connect with other self-employed businesses in the US like you, consider joining our Facebook community group for more tips and strategies.