Best practices series: Instagram small business marketing

Part IV of our Social Media Best Practices series focuses on Instagram. This series introduces best-practices for small business marketing using the top social media channels. If you missed last week’s focus on  LinkedIn or our earlier posts on Facebook and Pinterest, here are the links: FacebookPinterest and LinkedIn.



Our Gen Y or Millennial customers have been slipping away from Facebook and moving to Instagram and Twitter. Marketers speculate this is happening because Facebook is no longer a close network among friends and now includes too broad of an audience.  Other reasons include concerns about privacy, which inhibits their freedom of expression, and advertising on the Facebook platform is too invasive.  Instagram frees Gen Y of these nuisances and hopefully this won’t change too much with the recent acquisition of Instagram by Facebook. If you would like to add the Instagram channel to your small business marketing plan, here are a few best practices to follow.

  1.  Don’t market to this group. Traditional advertising doesn’t resonate with Instagram users.  Instagram offers a platform for self-expression.  The site is free of the advertising clutter that has taken over Facebook. Instagram pros recommend you identify a lifestyle that matches your product and post images and videos evoking that lifestyle.
  2. Follow engagers in your target audience.  Search Engine Journal shared a very creative 5-minute a day Instagram Marketing Plan recently.  One key takeaway from the plan was to follow engagers.  There’s still hype around how many fans or followers business pages have on social media channels.  However, having a million followers does you no good if they aren’t engaging with you.  The ideal followers are the ones you can move to action.  When you create an Instagram site and identify the lifestyle that most resonates with your product, follow Instagram users from this lifestyle who are engaging with others. This might be “liking” photos, or adding comments to posts.  This target group is most likely to follow you back and make a purchase when you launch a call-to-action.
  3. Limit your calls-to-action.  With a blog, it’s not uncommon to have a call-to-action in every post.  In the world of Instagram, that’s a huge turnoff. Marketers using the platform recommend including a call-to-action, once per month at most, and to focus on a call-to-action that creates urgency.  Examples might be the opportunity to be the first to buy a new product, or special Instagram discount.
  4. Present your brand as admirable.  Gen Y craves connections with people they admire. This Hootsuite blog shares about five brands who are using Instagram very well to appeal to specific lifestyles.
  5. Create content that is a natural extension of the brand.  In a recent blog post on Social Media Today, blogger Larry Weintraub offers tactics successful brands are using on Instagram. Weintraub advises brands to “share unique branded experiences, highlight brand advocates, co-create content with audiences, preview products, highlight a specific cause, extend the brands persona via video, preview upcoming events by adding visual context, share important news, drive promotional awareness, leverage Instagram video for promotion, and create videos that show fan appreciation.” The key is to create content that is a natural extension of the brand. One of the best videos I’ve found showing how a small business captured a lifestyle is the viral YouTube video by Vooray, an apparel retailer. This video is longer than the 15 seconds allowed on Instagram but the idea behind the video is perfect for reaching out to Gen Y.
  6. Use the #hashtags appropriately in your marketing.  Instagram is a channel that uses the hashtag.  Hashtags allow users to find content for a specific topic, so it’s important to precede important keywords, such as the lifestyle your product represents, with the hashtag.  Consider also including a hashtag before your brand name when posting pictures.

warby-parkerThe Business Insider published a Top 20 list of brands mastering the use of Instagram. Pictured to the left is an image from the brand Warby Parker. Read this recent Spin Sucks blog post, where blogger and Warby Parker fan Erica Moss wrote an excellent article about the story of the Warby Parker brand, and what this brand teaches us about brand loyalty. 

At myMarketing Cafe, our Social Grind section offers 15 ways to use Instagram with your small business marketing.  This list should help you brainstorm ideas that will work for your business.

Have you identified the best digital channels to use with your brand? If you are struggling, you aren’t alone.  Our team has helped many small business owners identify channels and strategies that work.  Reach out and let’s get you on the right track.