If you’re anything like me, you remember a simpler time when “social media” consisted of passing a handwritten note in class and sharing a photo meant *gasp* having to pay the rush fee to have your film developed at the local pharmacy. For a concept that is still relatively young, social media and all its platforms pack a serious punch! We all know the power it possesses and what one simple like or share can do for a businesses brand and growth.
As a product based biz, Instagram is tailor made to help you tell your brand story. Here’s the thing though, for all the businesses that are getting it right there are many more who struggle with how to create content and deciding what to share. In today's post, I’m sharing 9 tips to help develop your Instagram strategy so you gain more exposure and grow your business.
Tip #1: Your biz should have its own home on Instagram
One of the most common questions I’ve seen popping up in threads and chats is “Do I need a separate Instagram account for my business?”
And the answer is….maybe.
Here’s the thing. While your cat, dog, and kids are totes adorbs, you need an account that focuses on your business. This is where you can engage with your customers and build know, like and trust. When people land on a profile that highlights your business they are much more likely take your biz more seriously. While it’s tempting to combine both personal and business I’ve learned (through experience!) that you inevitably turn off one group of followers. For instance, your friends and family follow because they want to keep in touch, but chances are after the zillionth product photo or biz promotion you share they will dial down their engagement. (except for mom, she’ll like everything. Thank you, mom!)
If your brand fans see too many backyard BBQ pics with a sprinkle of product here and there they will probably lose interest too because they showed up to see your products, not pics of perfectly styled hot dogs. While you can absolutely sprinkle in some images of your pet, kids and non-work life you should be doing so in a way that works within the context of your Instagram image strategy.
Here’s an awesome example from my girl Natalie of Freckles Creative studio. Whether she posts a selfie or a puppy pic her images always work with her brand colors and imagery.
Tip #2: You should be using a mix of styled photos and product shots
While you can absolutely use the images you’ve uploaded to Etsy and your online store, the images that help to tell your story are the styled lifestyle images. Whether it’s your planning sheets on a desk styled with a cup of coffee or your latest mug next to a plate of macaroons lifestyle images help the viewer to understand the experience and feeling of using your products which connect them to your brand on another level.
J.Lynn Designery’s feed is the perfect example of how a product based business can give you #AllTheFeels.
Within 30 seconds of landing on her profile, I instantly want to elevate my workspace game. And you know what? She’ll help me attain my goals for working hard in a beautiful space through the products she sells. And I also know what J.Lynn Designery is all about from the description in her profile, which brings me to….
Tip #3 Visitors should know exactly what you’re about when they land on your profile
Here’s your elevator pitch in 160 characters or less! Far too often business neglect this little space at the top of their page. People read what you’ve written here and will decide if it's worth taking the time to check out your feed. Create a compelling intro and folks will be much more likely to scroll down and become a follower.
Tip #4: Take advantage of Instagram Stories
Give your followers a glimpse behind the scenes of your business with Instagram stories. Have a new release in the works? Give them a peek. Prepping for a trade show? Give them a look at your booth, giveaway or new lines debuting at the show. Stories are meant to be unfiltered, raw and not as carefully curated as your feed. By pulling back the curtain and sharing the moments of hard work and imperfection you’re allowing your customers + followers to get to know your brand on a deeper level which, in turn, helps to develop their personal connection to your business.
Tip #5 Use Hashtags Wisely
It can take some time and effort to figure out who your ideal customer is and which hashtags they are searching. This can involve some trial and error (and what works this month may not next month) so keep a running list of your tags and change them up every once and awhile to keep things fresh and avoid the dreaded shadowban.
Tip #6 Encourage Engagement
Simply having a profile on Instagram isn’t going to help you grow your business. You should also focus on developing a strategy to engage your customers directly (this is in addition to responding to comments and questions!)
One of my favorites strategies I’ve seen small businesses use is to incorporate a business specific hashtag and ask customers to use that tag to be featured. Not only does this strategy encourage customer engagement but it boosts your business street cred. Like attracts like, and when a new customer finds your products and sees how much other people are enjoying them that potential customer will be much more inclined to take the next steps in becoming an actual customer.
Tip #7: Be Consistent
We’ve all heard time and time again that to grow your Instagram following consistency is key. As a product based business, you should strive to post something every day, especially in the early stages. If the thought of posting daily stresses you out consider batching your images and planning your posts in advance. Use an app like Later (it’s free if you post 30 images or less a month!) to schedule your complete post in advance (hashtags and all!)
Tip #8 Don’t get hung up on follower counts
So many people judge success based on the number of followers. In reality, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better and you don’t really know who you’re comparing yourself to. What if that similar company has been on Instagram since its inception? Maybe they’ve figured out the secret sauce for their biz and have grown exponentially in the past few months or perhaps the right influencer noticed them and it garnered tons of attention. There are so many reasons why an account grows. While you may think you’re comparing apples to apples behind the scenes it might be more like comparing apples to puppies--it just doesn’t make sense.
When you focus on the content + connecting you’re going to get the organic growth and gain followers who are more likely to become customers. Yes, this takes time. But when you love your followers HARD (whether that’s 50 or 500) you will get a much better return on your IG investment.
Tip #9 Track your progress
As you create content you’ll learn what types of posts resonate the most with your followers and garner the greatest responses. You can track which posts are the most liked or the ones that have the most comments and personal interaction. A word of warning for when you’re tracking comments though, beware of the bots! I’m sure you’ve received tons of “comments” that are a general emoji or something along the lines of “swell!” or “beautiful, keep it up” While these comments are nice, take a moment to see if are they within the context of your photo. As much as Instagram tries to crack down on automation people are still using half assed forms of commenting to try and boost their own engagement. You know you’ve got a true brand fan when someone takes an extra minute or two to type out a comment with actual sentences rather than a string of emojis.