How to Create an Amazing Instagram Account for your Small Business

Virtually any small business, especially one focused on local customers, needs to put the perfect Instagram profile together. More than 400 million people share content on the site every single day in the form of photos, videos and stories (Stories are just photos and videos composed together in a sequence. Instagram may now be owned by Facebook, but the two mediums are different in many ways.

Facebook makes it easier to message friends and share longer, more detailed posts. Instagram on the other hand is more about bit-sized content. It’s a much more visual medium and more conducive to interaction on a mobile device. In fact, Instagram users can only send each other direct messages through the mobile version of Instagram, not the website. The user experience design of Instagram’s app makes engagement really easy and it allows users to move through content fast, interact with specific communities through trending hashtags. It also makes building a following really easy in comparison to Facebook.

For all these reasons and more, Instagram is a must for any small business owner. It’s a cost effective, easy to use platform that engages local audiences as long as there is a well-planned out content marketing strategy in place. Coupling social media and great content with search engine optimization and paid advertising is what makes an online marketing strategy complete.

Let’s learn about one of the most important parts of any small business’ social media marketing strategy.

Instagram for Small Businesses: Account Types

When Facebook first launched more than 15 years ago, the platform spawned an explosion of websites dedicated to connecting friends. It wasn’t the first social media site invented, but it quickly became the most popular. Back then, friends couldn’t even sign up unless they were affiliated with a college or university and had a corresponding email address to go with it. When the powers that be at Facebook decided to open up the site to all users, it was easy to navigate, but the average person and even many experienced marketers weren’t sure how to monetize or build brands using this new industry known as social media.

Social media is certainly about personal connection at its core, and it will always be that way. That said, it didn’t take that long after Facebook’s launch for marketers and business owners to realize that social media platforms were a great way to drive traffic to websites and offers and ultimately earn money.

That’s why today, Instagram offers three different account types: Individual, Business and Creator.

Let’s break down each.

Individual

It’s easy to sign up for a personal account on Instagram and get started publishing, following, commenting and sharing content. Individual users can send direct messages and they can make their accounts private. An individual account is great for learning how to use the platform and is clearly a perfect option for solopreneurs looking to brand themselves.

Business

A business profile allows Instagram users to focus on accomplishing the following three things:

  • Getting exposure.
  • Collecting data.
  • Generating new business.

Getting exposure is all about buying advertising and making sure that the appropriate content gets seen by the target audience. It also means having a clearly defined content strategy that targets that audience, embedding links and calls to action in the content and scheduling posts in advance. A business profile lets business owners do all of this and get ahead on creating great content. Individual accounts can be used for similar purposes, but a business profile offers more insight when it comes to digging deep into data.

Business profiles display more information related to engagement, who saw what and how they interacted with content. It’s not just valuable for planning out content. It’s also something advertisers want to see when they forge brand partnerships or advertise with influencers.

The best part about a business profile is that customers can get in touch with a business directly to ask questions, raise concerns or even enter the front end of a marketing funnel and become a customer.

A Creator Profile

Creator profiles are the only profiles that Instagram users can’t just simply sign up for. For now, a user news to have at least 10,000 followers to be considered a creator. If a business does have more than 10,000 followers, a creator profile can be advantageous. Like the label implies, a creator profile makes it easier to create content and scale a strategy. Creators get access to the following tools:

  • A desktop client for accessing Creator Studio, a tool for making content creation easier.
  • Enabling tagging for brands and products. This makes it easier to monetize a large following through advertising and sponsorship.
  • Data analytics tools that go in depth.
  • Advanced filtering tools for direct messages.

Creator profiles don’t allow the ability to connect to third-party apps.

With the proper account type registered, it’s time to optimize a profile.

Optimizing Instagram for Business

Optimizing an Instagram business profile:

  • Publishing a quality photo.
  • Using a link in the bio field.
  • Effectively using keywords.
  • Effectively using calls to action.
  • Interacting with others through tagging, replies and direct messaging.
  • Developing a style or brand.

Publishing a Quality Profile Photo

Instagram is all about appealing to the eyes. Especially on mobile devices. Accessing Instagram through a desktop computer is always more limiting as far as functionality goes, and Instagram is like that on purpose. The powers that be want people looking at their phones to interact. The reason the profile photo is so important is because it appears in the upper left corner of mobile devices when a profile is clicked. It also lights up when a new Instagram story is available for viewing.

A self-employed business owner should have a picture of themselves doing what they do best. Any user clicking on the profile or searching should be able to tell right away what the person does. A hair salon should display a great hairstyle. Even a large corporation catering to a relatively dry niche like finance can still spark excitement by connecting to the human element of money management through a photo (Side note: humans love to see faces in photos.) It goes without saying the photo should be good quality and centered.

Using a Link in the Bio

Influencers who have a Creator profile can put links directly in an Instagram story. They get the advantage of engaging people directly in content. For everyone else, the Instagram bio right below the profile photo is the only place a link can be published. This is definitely the most valuable piece of business real estate on a profile. A lead can drive traffic to a blog post, a landing page or a website. Literally anywhere. Having a business profile without a link in the bio is a big mistake (Tip: be sure to use emoticons in a bio to highlight the link and draw eyes to it.)

Effectively Using Keywords

Even novice Instagram user probably already knows that hashtagging keywords acts as a filter for looking up content in different niches or communities and also including or adding content from an Instagram account to those communities. What most users don’t do (and they should) is include keywords in a username. A username with a big keyword in it will allow traffic to come right to a profile organically. Organic traffic rules on any platform. Instagram is no exception.

Effectively Using Calls to Action

For every nine or 10 quality posts posted by a brand on Instagram, there should be a call to action that drives traffic to a website or offer, or at the very least encourages engagement. Why?

One of the biggest mistakes people made in the early days of social media is promoting too many products, services and contests. Social media marketing is about building a community around a specific niche. Building a sense of community takes time. Posting too many calls to action turns people off. Posting too much content and never asking for anything in return makes it difficult to monetize and make up for all of the time and money spent going into building an Instagram presence in the first place.

A call to action is exactly what it sounds like. Ask people to buy something. Ask them to share something. Just ask them to do anything. That’s it! Remember though, offer value first. Don’t ask for too much right away!

Interacting with Others through Tagging, Sharing and Direct Messaging

Posting content and calls to action isn’t enough. Remember, advancing a brand on social media platforms is ultimately about engaging with people and building a community. Tagging, replying, sharing and direct messaging users makes them part of the team. Softwares can automate this, but ultimately organic engagement is always the best way to turn followers into customers.

Developing an Online Style or Brand

There are so many factors that can go into branding a company both online and in the everyday world. A brand takes a lifetime to build and only one big misstep to destroy. From a content or technical standpoint, branding an Instagram account essentially means building out an extension of a company’s website, corporate values and ultimately understanding the customer’s journey from beginning to end.

On Instagram specifically, again, branding an account is all about attracting the eyes. This can be done by offering a consistent look and feel to a particular account using:

  • A distinct font type.
  • Copywriting that speaks to a specific audience.
  • A colour scheme that is consistent with the company brand or logo.
  • A variable mix of photos, video and stories.

A big corporation managing a business account will already have guidelines in place it can follow for how to be consistent, but even a small time solopreneur should develop a style guide for both their personal brand and their Instagram account.

Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

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