Cover photo: using Instagram for business: about Instagram, what to post and how to get more likes and follows

Instagram for business: about Instagram, what to post and how to get more likes and follows

When it comes to social media marketing for your small business or freelance services, it often feels as though there are ‘rules’ that you should be sticking to.

But I’m just not feeling that.

Getting blogged down in when you’re supposed to post, what you’re supposed to post and how often you’re supposed to post is not actually helping you post anything!

Rather than becoming limited by the so-called ‘rules’ of social media marketing, it is far better to understand the platform you’re on and use it appropriately, keeping your brand in mind. Let’s get started.

Instagram: what you need to know

For a while, I didn’t ‘get’ Instagram.

Sure, it’s pretty. It’s creative. And no-one loves a flattering selfie filter more than me. But is there more to it? And can it really be used to market a business?

Firstly, Instagram is big. Very big. Chances are, your customers are on it. And if they’re not right now, they will be soon.

Instagram hit 600 million active users last December, and user growth is accelerating. It is second only to Facebook. (YouTube is bigger than Instagram, but I see the former as a search engine, not a social network. Feel free to argue with me in the comments at the very bottom of this page if you don’t agree 😊).

The envy effect

Social sites are regularly blasted for making us think that everyone else has a picture-perfect life. And, as the home of inspirational quotes and motivational hashtags, Instagram is a major contributor to the envy effect.

But when I listened to this podcast interview with Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, something clicked. Here’s what he said that gave me that lightbulb moment:

Because it’s so visual and there’s no links to any other sites, you don’t have a lot of the stuff that upsets people on Facebook, like politics, for example. It’s not there because it’s not designed to be able to allow you to link to news sites and stuff. It is actually a place that a lot of people love.

Finally, I understood!

How many times have you been so frustrated by dramas, tantrums, hard-selling and negativity on Facebook, that you’ve been close to closing your account? I thought so.

Whereas, positivity is part of the culture of Instagram. It’s inbuilt. That’s why so much of the content we share on it is aspirational.

So, with that piece of the puzzle in place, how can you make a start on using Instagram for your business?

Instagram tactics

What to post

If your business trades in something visually appealing – cakes, photography, handcrafted gifts – you’re halfway there. Start taking decent shots of your products, with the aim of representing what you do, not driving sales. Here’s a guide to taking great Instagram pictures.

If you’re selling services, it can be more difficult to know what to post. Gardening and graphic design are easy ones. But coaching? Or writing services, like mine? Not so much. You’re going to have to work on lifestyle and idea posts, and inspiring users with your core values and ethics.

How to get more likes and follows

All content marketing is based on providing something valuable to the audience – information, inspiration or entertainment, for example.

I find that when I work as carefully on the caption as I have done on the picture, my post will get more likes and comments than usual. This is probably because it’s showing a bit of personality and originality, or maybe it’s funny/interesting/dorky. The point is, a well-captioned post is less generic and more useful than something spammy, like a product shot.

A simple way to gain followers is to follow other people. Use hashtags to find users who might be interested in what you do, and people who are local to you (if relevant). Start engaging with the things you like on Instagram by liking and commenting.

Do this, and your numbers will go up. I gained 85 new followers while writing this post.

And finally…

Some great advice from my friend Marina Barcenilla of MBParfums taken from my interview with her:

The main thing is that you’re consistent. People should be able to see a picture and recognise the brand immediately.

I also think that Instagram is quite personal. People like to have a look behind the scenes. I’ll post pictures of the perfumes, yes. But sometimes it’ll be me working in the studio, or the ingredients. I use it to share the story of the perfumes.

If I were to give tips, they would be to post regularly and to learn to use hashtags.

I totally agree. And I would also add that you can and should post pictures of other people’s stuff that you love. It’s a social media network, after all. Just remember to tag companies and individuals in the shots, credit reposts and generally be as generous as possible.

Happy Instagramming!