The Ultimate Guide to Instagram For Small Business 2023 

Content Writing & Strategy
Silvia Li Sam
Founder & CEO

During the pandemic, you might have tried to digitize your small business for Instagram or another platform to make up for lost in-person sales. When the world opened up again, you probably expected revenues to return to pre-COVID levels. But, if you’re like 88% of small businesses, you’re probably wondering why your sales are still down. Here are two reasons why things haven’t picked back up: 

First, while restrictions have opened up, people are shopping, working out, and doing other activities online more than they were pre-COVID. That means you need to develop more online customers to compensate for lost in-person sales. 

Second, while you may have tried to learn Instagram for small businesses, you have yet to see the results you hoped for. Let’s face it: you’re not a digital marketing pro-- and that’s okay! Digital marketing is not an easy skill to master. People like us have devoted many years to developing digital marketing skills (for websites, SEO, Instagram-- you name it!) through academia and doing the work in real life. 

While you could continue trying to learn Instagram marketing for your small business on your own, doing so will take a lot of time, and you might not get it right.

Want to know a secret? There’s an easier, quicker, and more effective route available. 

Partner with Slam Media Lab and use some of our resources (more to come in this article). We use content marketing (Instagram, TikTok, SEO) to help mission-driven small businesses like yours develop their online presence, grow their audience, and impact their local communities.

At Slam, we know how hard it is to grow small businesses online without experience. We've helped many small businesses grow their followings from 0. That’s why we’re here to help, providing small business Instagram marketing tips, strategies, and tools to set you up for success. 

If your target customer is Gen Z and below, you might want to try TikTok for small business instead-- or in addition to-- Instagram.

Here’s what this article covers:

  1. Is Instagram the Right Choice for my Small Business?
  2. Benefits of Instagram for Small Business Growth
  3. Setting up your Small Business Instagram for Success
  4. Small Business Instagram Marketing Strategies and Ideas For Growth
  5. Instagram Content Tips For Small Businesses 
  6. Best Instagram Marketing Tools
  7. Get Help With Small Business Instagram Marketing

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Is Instagram For Small Business the Right Choice for Me?

To decide how much of your social media efforts to devote to Instagram, you should compare Instagram’s user base with your target customer. If they don’t align, you might want to dedicate more time to other digital marketing efforts, like TikTok, SEO, or LinkedIn. 

Still, you should definitely set up an Instagram account for your small business. Not only do 80% of Instagram users follow at least one brand, but half of them have used it to find new small brands like yours. And, with the average business Instagram account seeing a 1.69% increase in followers every month, it isn’t an easy opportunity to disregard.

Demographics: Are Your Customers There?

Instagram gives you access to over 2 billion highly engaged consumers, with Gen Z and Millennial consumers of all genders making up the vast majority. But, it’s not a great place for reaching older users, who spend much less time on the app and tend to prefer Facebook

In addition, Instagram users are slightly more likely to come from higher-earning households (60% of user households make more than $100,000 per year), making it a perfect choice for higher-end goods and services. And Instagrammers tend to be highly educated, with only a third of users reporting high school as their highest level of education. 

Content Type

Photos and videos perform best on Instagram, though you can incorporate text into your pictures and captions. 

If you’re not planning on spending time taking high-quality photos and curating creative clips, Instagram might not be the best choice for your content. But, if you put in the work, it will pay off in the form of followers and in revenue. 

Also, if you tap into the hottest, most current video trends and sprinkle in a bit of spice from your brand, you could develop followers organically.

Interests

91% of people use Instagram to follow an interest. And some are more popular than others. 

If your small business perfectly aligns with one of these interests, that’s great! But if not-- don’t stress. With so many Instagram users, there’s a niche audience for any small business. 

Here are the top consumer interests on Instagram:

  • Travel
  • Music
  • Food and beverage
  • Beauty
  • Fashion
  • Health and fitness
  • Parenting
  • Business tips
  • Photography

Remember that your small business doesn’t need to seamlessly fit one of these categories to use them for content. A SaaS company with a mission to keep plastics out of our oceans could post high-quality pictures of beaches and garner followers who support its mission and enjoy stunning photography.

Instagram recently reported that 40% of young people use Instagram to join health-based communities, and at-home workouts are more popular among Instagram users than nonusers. If you’re a personal trainer, a therapist, a coach, a dietician, a fitness brand, or a mental health brand, then Instagram could be a great place to find followers. 

Social justice advocates are the most active Instagram users, with 52% following social justice accounts. And their involvement is expected to gain steam this year. 

The number of people donating to social causes will increase by 5% this year, and advocates plan to follow more social justice accounts. So, if social justice is at the heart of your small business’s mission,  and isn’t merely a marketing ploy or a way to fill your ‘about us’ page--, placing your mission as the focal point of your Instagram content could help you garner more followers. 

(By the way, if you’re a small business nonprofit, you should also check out our nonprofit Instagram guide for extra, nonprofit specific tips). 

Lastly, 44% use Instagram to shop every week, with the top categories being shoes, clothing, makeup, and jewelry. But people use Instagram’s shop to purchase pretty much anything that seems cool or intriguing, so don’t be daunted if your product doesn’t fit into these categories. Instagram is perfect for e-commerce.Customers don’t even need to leave the app to buy your product. How cool is that?!

5 Benefits of Instagram for Small Business Growth

If you’re small business owner looking to grow your business through social, Instagram is still the place to be. Here are five benefits of using Instagram for your small business:

  1. Build brand awareness quickly
  2. Narrow target market while expanding reach
  3. Develop and interact with your community by making your business relatable 
  4. Sell directly through Instagram
  5. Funnel traffic to your website

Build brand awareness quickly

Instagram users love finding new brands, with 44% of people associating Instagram with discovering small businesses. Mix some stellar content that follows Insta trends with the platform’s highly discoverable features, such as hashtags and Reels, and you’re extending brand reach. There are also a few easy tricks for generating organic growth, which we discuss below. 

Narrow Target Market While Expanding Reach

Instagram gives you the power to expand your customer base beyond your local community. Once you truly understand who your ideal customer is and what interests them, you’ll be able to target them nationally through organic content (Reels and hashtags). And, if you have some money to spend and want to grow as quickly as possible, you can use Instagram ads to target people based on their interests and demographics.

Develop and Interact With Your Community by Making your Business Relatable

Instagram provides a ton of opportunities to develop and engage with your community. For example, you can chat directly with customers through direct messages and the comments section on your posts, go Live to show them what you’re really like, and engage them with stimulating polls, Q&As, and quizzes on your stories. 

They’ll love you all the more if you reveal your authentic self in your content.

Sell Directly Through InstagramIt’s never been easier to get eyeballs on your product. In fact, 72% of users have made at least one purchase through Instagram. Using Instagram’s Shop feature, you can add your product catalog to Instagram, and users can make purchases without even leaving the app. And users can find your product even if they don’t follow your account. It will appear on a page as they scroll through your product’s overarching category on Instagram’s shop tab. 

Funnel Traffic to Your Website

Instagram can get more potential customers directly to your website. Not only have 50% of users followed a link from a brand’s Instagram story to its website, but they’ve also followed through to purchase a product or service. In addition, you can add a link to your website in your bio, link posts to blog content, and use stories to promote deals and offerings.   

How To Set Up Your Small Business Instagram Account For Success

Before we get into Instagram marketing strategies for small business growth, it's important that you set up your small business Instagram account correctly. This is because your account is the starting point on which your Instagram presence is built.

  1. Step 1: Choose An Authentic Username For Your Account
  2. Step 2: Decide On Your Brand's Instagram Personality
  3. Step 3: Promote Your Small Business Instagram Account To Current Customers
  4. Step 4: Follow Instagram Influencers Who Align With Your Small Business Brand
  5. Step 5: Establish Content Pillars To Organize Small Business Instagram Content

Step 1: Choose An Authentic Username For Your Account

Pick a username as close to your small business's name as possible. Doing so will ensure that customers can easily find you on the platform. 

But one of the over 2 billion existing Instagram accounts may have already used your business's name. Fear not! There are a few simple tricks to getting around this, like using underscores ("_") or periods (".") between or after words in your business's name, or finding a fun way to alter your account name while still expressing your brand.

Step 2: Decide On Your Brand's Instagram Personality

Your brand's personality will guide how you interact with your followers. Want to appear carefree and spirited? Try the excitement personality. Kind and thoughtful? Go with the sincerity personality. Tough, outdoorsy, and athletic? Then ruggedness is the personality for your brand. Successful and accomplished? The competence personality is right for you. Elegant and prestigious? Use the sophisticated personality.

But, at the end of the day, you must design your brand personality to appeal to your target customer. Consumers are more likely to buy products from brands whose personalities align with their own.

Regardless of how you present yourself, you must keep your persona consistent. Only post things that align with your brand identity (e.g. If you're a fashion brand, you probably shouldn't post about rising poverty levels… unless part of your mission has to do with fighting poverty). 

Step 3: Promote Your Small Business Instagram Account To Current Customers

Have you ever followed an account with zero followers? Probably not. That's why you should develop a small following before you launch your Instagram marketing efforts.

If it's not a new business, the odds are you already have customers who would follow your account. And, if you want to ensure they follow through with the follow, you can offer discounts or free items in exchange. 

Email and text are two great ways to promote the offer. But, if you don't store customer data (and, pro-tip: you should start an email list) and own a brick-and-mortar store, you could create a poster displaying the offer, along with a QR code that links to your account. 

If you want to maximize the impact of the offer, you could make your customers post a story tagging your account to participate in the promotion. 

If they're a returning customer, they like your brand and wouldn't think twice about sharing it with their following.

Step 4: Follow Instagram Influencers Who Align With Your Small Business Brand

This next step can set you up for success. By following Instagram influencers who align with your brand and the interests of your target customer, you'll stay informed on the latest consumer trends in your industry. 

You should follow some larger influencers, but focus more on micro-influencers (5-50K followers). The latter tend to forge highly engaged communities who hang onto every word they type and speak. Plus, they're usually more receptive and less focused on profiting. 

To draw in followers from their accounts, you should post meaningful, insightful, and authentic comments on influencer posts. Try to focus on encouraging a discussion. You should also reach out to the influencers through direct messaging and try to develop relationships. Tell them what you love about their brand and account, and explain why you think they'd love your brand's products or services. 

Maybe you'll get the highly sought but rarely seen free shout out! 

If not, you could try sending them free products in exchange for a review or a repost. Or, you could buy a shout out, which we'll discuss later.

Step 5: Establish Content Pillars To Organize Small Business Instagram Content

Lastly, before considering different Instagram marketing strategies for your small business, you should establish your content pillars. Content pillars are the foundation of your small business Instagram marketing strategy, and should be somewhat consistent across all marketing channels. These are a few main categories, themes, or topics that guide the content you post. When thinking about them, try to focus on appealing to the preferences of your target audience. 

If you already operate a blog or use other social media channels, you might have already selected content pillars. If not, take time to plan them out.

Analyze your target customer to figure out what kind of content they value the most. If you already have a few super loyal customers, reach out to them and ask questions about what types of content they love most. But if you're just starting, you can begin with these five general content pillars:

  1. Educational content: establish expertise in your niche with facts and knowledge-based posts.
  2. Motivational content: relatable and inspiring memes and quotes (sometimes humorous).
  3. Engaging content: ask questions and use polls to interact with your audience. 
  4. Conversion (or sales) content: post product or service offerings with a benefits-oriented CTA.
  5. Humanizing content: behind-the-scenes posts that focus on the people behind the brand.

Be sure to focus most on what your followers want to see, rather than just focusing on what you would want to see. 

After establishing solid content pillars, it's time to consider your small business Instagram marketing strategy.

Small Business Instagram Marketing Strategies And Tactics For Growth

Your goals and budget for Instagram will determine the strategies you use.

Though you don’t need any money to implement marketing strategies and start growing your following on Instagram, paid marketing strategies lead to faster growth with less effort.

In terms of goals, you should consider your resources/budget and what you want to achieve by using Instagram. Do you want to generate awareness? Convert viewers to customers? Develop a small but highly engaged community? 

Your Instagram goal will guide the rest of your online marketing efforts, like how you position your brand and which marketing strategies you decide to use. Considering your budget alongside your goal will also help to narrow down marketing strategies.

Strategy 1: Use Reels For Organic Small Business Growth 

Instagram Reels are 10-to-90-second video posts you can use to garner engagement from audiences beyond your followers. Not only are Reels posted to your followers' feeds, they're also added to Instagram's Explore page and the Reels tab,which is just an explore page that only shows Reels rather than a combination of post types. 

In a sense, the Reels tab is Instagram's version of TikTok. It enables the easy creation and sharing of bite-sized videos sent to users' Explore and Reels tabs when the content aligns with their interests and the types of accounts they interact with.

As such, a creative and engaging Reel geared towards your target customer could help you go viral, which is the best scenario for awareness and follower creation… all without you spending a dime!

Reels are essential for small businesses hoping to grow on Instagram because:

  • The Instagram Reels algorithm seems to favor accounts with smaller amounts of followers.
  • 91% of users watch Instagram videos (Reels and standard Instagram videos) every week.
  • Reels garner 67% more engagement than standard Instagram videos and are the platform's most popular video form.
  • Successful Reels are featured on Instagram's Explore Page, where half of all users find new accounts.
  • Reels are free!

Need a little Reel guidance? Here are a few content ideas:

  • Browse trending content TODAY, and create your version expressing your brand and its mission.
  • Start your trend by creating a humorous Reel that is brand-specific but highly relatable and replicable.
  • Create a "how-to" video on one of your most innovative products with a trending song in the background.
  • Create a compilation of videos that visualize your mission's impact (e.g. compilation of videos from a food drive or beach clean).
  • Show "behind the scenes" content from events, photo shoots, conferences, etc.
  • Piece together follower-created clips of them using your product or service.

Want to know a quick trick for maximizing the impact of your digital creation? Repost the same video on TikTok. But make sure you record the videos outside the apps to prevent a watermark (Instagram flags the TikTok watermark in Reels). 

Strategy 2: Use Stories And Instagram Insights To Learn Your Target Customers Favorite Content

Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to guess which types of content your target customer wants to see? Wouldn't it be nice if they could just tell you what they want to see? 

Guess what? They can! That's one of the secret values of Instagram's story feature. 

Instagram stories allow users to post short pictures and videos in slideshow format that disappear after 24 hours. And you can use stories to make polls and conduct online Q&As to get inside the minds of your customers. Use the question sticker on your story to ask your followers what types of content they most enjoyed seeing on your profile. 

When most of your followers have had a chance to respond, aggregate their responses into buckets. Then, use the poll sticker to encourage your followers to vote on content types. Here are two examples of questions you could ask along with the multiple-choice opptions provided: 

Which forms of content do you like best?

  1. IGTV
  2. Reels
  3. Pictures
  4. Livestreams
  5. Stories 

Which style of content do you like most?

  1. Humor and memes
  2. Company updates
  3. Mission-based posts
  4. Educational content
  5. I love it all!

Using the data gleaned through the exercise in tandem with Instagram Insights or another analytics tool (which we'll discuss soon) will allow you to cater your content to your target customer's preferences. 

Plus, people like to feel heard; acknowledging their suggestions and showing them that you're listening will lead to higher levels of community engagement.

Strategy 3: Use Stories To Foster Small Business Community Engagement

One good tactic is to use stories to encourage user-generated content. If done right, this tactic encourages customers to engage with your brand, while also acting as a promotional tool. Here's how to do it right:

Create an Instagram story asking your followers to post pictures or videos on their stories that illustrate how they interact with your product, service, or brand. Make sure you ask them to tag your account in the post, as doing so will enable their followers to find your profile and allow you to repost the content on your small businesses' story. 

If your followers don't seem to follow through, try offering them a discount as a reward.

Then the domino effect kicks in. 

When followers notice you reposted someone's story, many will follow suit and tag you in their own stories, especially if it's tied to a discount. And, since 58% of Instagrammers grow more interested in brands after seeing them in stories, you might gain new followers from the networks of your community members. 

What's more? You can save that user-generated content to your profile's highlights section and re-purpose it later in your Instagram marketing efforts. Content that displays real-life customers excited to use your product or service acts as a badge of credibility for potential customers visiting your Instagram page. 

Another tactic is to ask provocative questions in your stories to generate community discussion. These questions could relate to your mission or trending topics surrounding your brand's and customers' interests. 

You'll post your community's responses to your story and add a brief reply from your company to keep the conversation going. When they see how many like-minded people interact with your account, your followers will develop a sense of community that drives engagement. You might even engage with your followers in one-on-one discussions via direct messages. 

Once you've fostered them into loyal community members, your followers will act as advocates for your brand who spread the word to more people.

Strategy 4: Use Instagram Live To Humanize Your Small Business

Live-streams can create windows from your followers' phones directly into your business's day-to-day activities. Revealing the authentic faces and personalities behind your small business will make your business more relatable and stimulate community interaction.

Instagram Live is the key to engaging your followers, enabling you to interact with your audience in real-time. You can reply to their comments as soon as your followers post them, which creates an air of authenticity since your followers know that you didn't have time to prepare responses carefully. You can also directly address users by username as they enter your live-stream, further establishing a sense of community. 

There are many tactics you can use to maximize the impact of your Livestream. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Go live with an influencer to expand your reach.
  2. Host live tutorials or classes to engage followers.
  3. Stream with a loyal customer to establish credibility.

If you want to increase your audience, you might want to try teaming up with an influencer and going Live together. But, you need to choose an influencer who aligns with your brand and the interests of your followers. You can interview the influencer, allow viewers to ask questions, or just chat like good old pals.

Another idea is to host a Live tutorial or class, which is perfect for small businesses selling consumer products and services like workout classes. 

Strategy 5: Use Giveaways, Discounts, And Contests To Grow Your Small Business Instagram Following

One of the most tried and proven organic routes to growing your small business on Instagram is to offer promotions like giveaways, discounts, and contests in exchange for reposts, follows, or shares. 58% of social media users who follow brands are there primarily for deals and promotions, so periodic promotions are critical to your small business's growth and success on Instagram. 

The key is ensuring you receive something in exchange for the deals or giveaways. There are a lot of ways you can do this, but here are a few ideas:

  • Ask followers to share your post that includes details on the promotion in exchange for the discount or giveaway. Include steps needed for participation, like 1) follow [Instagram handle], 2) Repost this story. This method will encourage your community's followers to follow you and participate in the promotion.
  • Ask followers to post content of them using your product or service, or a brief review, and tag you in the post in exchange for a discount or giveaway or to enter a raffle. Though this method might limit participants to your current customers, it helps communicate the uses of your product or service to non-followers, establishing credibility. Plus, you can reuse user-generated content in other marketing efforts.
  • Another version of the above is to invite followers to tag you in a photo or video to enter a contest. Award the most creative (or top 3 most creative) posts with free products. This tactic limits the number of products you have to give away.
  • Make a post that invites followers to participate in a raffle for a free product or session by 1) following our [Instagram handle] and 2) tagging three friends who would love our product

Though giveaways are the most attractive promotional method for consumers, you should focus on competitions and discounts if you can't risk giving away a lot of products.

Strategy 6: Partner With Instagram Influencers To Gain Credibility And Grow Your Small Business Instagram Quickly

Influencer marketing can have a massive impact on the perception and growth of your brand. Influencers are online celebrities who have grown to notoriety through their content and the communities they develop.

80% of young people believe influencers affect culture more than traditional celebrities, like actors, athletes, and musicians. 

What's more? 60% say that influencer partnerships lead to better performance than branded posts in the form of engagement and conversions.

Though influencer partnerships can help you quickly generate growth and revenue, they require money and careful planning. While influencers with large followings (over 100,000 followers) can increase your reach the most, they're also the most expensive, costing between $1,000 and $10,000 per most. Plus, the interests of their followers are often too broad.

Since you're a small business with a limited budget, you probably want to keep costs low. That's why you should instead partner with micro-influencers, those who have 5,000 to 50,000 followers and cost between $100 (influencers closer to 1,000 followers) and $500 (influencers closer to 50,000 followers). 

Also, half of young people believe that smaller influencers with loyal followers are vital for creating trends and spreading information. These influencers will cost much less and often possess far more engaged follower communities who almost always trust what they say and do. Also, they are more niche-oriented than larger accounts. So, if your target market is narrow, selecting an influencer (or influencers) who aligns with your brand will lead to a greater return on investment (ROI). 

And, though not the preferred compensation, some smaller micro-influencers are open to being paid in product samples. And they'll be more open to it if they already like your product or service. This is where developing relationships and participating in their community before making a sales pitch comes into play. They'll likely develop a true affinity for your product if you send them free things without asking for something in exchange. 

However, though 34.5% of influencers have accepted samples as payment, it's unclear whether influencers take samples on top of monetary payment, for a discount in cost, or instead of monetary compensation.

Depending on your budget, you could compare the cost of buying promotions from many smaller micro-influencers (1,500-10,000 followers) against choosing one or two larger micro-influencers (10,000-100,000 followers). Of course, the decision also depends on which influencers most align with your small business's target market, as they generate the greatest return on investment.

There are a variety of methods you can use in partnering with influencers:

  • Purchase one-off posts
  • Temporary partnerships
  • Brand ambassadorships

One-off posts are the cheapest option and can help drive awareness. They're also great for experimenting with different influencers to see which ones create the most significant ROI. However, this method can make the influencer partnership seem unnatural and more like a paid ad than an influencer endorsement. 

Temporary partnerships are great for Instagram marketing campaigns. Though the total price will be higher than one-off posts, the influencer will probably give you a discount on each post when you buy posts in bulk. This method will make the partnership seem more like the influencer is endorsing the product or service because of its quality and uses.

Using influencers as brand ambassadors is the most expensive option, and might be more fitting for larger companies or those with extra funds in their marketing budget. However, if done right, it can lead to the most natural endorsement possible and convert a more significant portion of the influencer's following into your customers. Plus, developing a long-term relationship with the influencer will give you more control over how the influencer discusses and markets your business.

Strategy 7: Use Instagram Ads To Extend Reach, Generate Awareness, Increase Following, And Drive Conversions

Like influencer partnerships, you can use Instagram Ads to reach a highly targeted audience. And, like influencer marketing, Instagram Ads will cost you money. 

But… What's cheaper?

Well, it depends. Combining both strategies would produce the best results, but could cost a lot more money if you execute them properly. So, when you're just starting on a tight budget, choose to focus on one.

While influencer marketing is best for engaging an audience and developing an authentic relationship, Instagram ads allow you to track data and performance on a deeper level.

Many factors go into pricing Instagram ads, and it's a complex system since it's partly based on your click-through rate (CTR). CTR is the percentage of people who take action when viewing your ad. 

Including CTR, the cost of Instagram ads depends on the following factors:

  • The type of Instagram ad you use (e.g. photo, story, video, Instagram shopping, etc.).
  • The size of your target market (broader target markets = higher price per click).
  • Your advertising goal (engagement vs. conversions).
  • Instagram's assessment of the value of your ad.

Instagram uses a bidding system for its ads, which is how it determines the value of your ad. Since other companies are targeting audiences that overlap with your target audience, Instagram determines which ads it will show to each user based on:

  • The amount of money you are bidding.
  • The likelihood that the ad converts the target audience.
  • The quality and relevance of the advertisement to the target audience.

Keep in mind that you can adjust your ads bid at any given time.

Considering all this, we'd recommend that small businesses start with a budget of $500 per month, as that is enough for you to see the effectiveness of your ad and iterate on content and ad types as you determine what's most effective. 

Once you've landed on the most effective ad type and content, you should raise your budget to $750, as that's the price point where most of our small business partners begin to see ROI. Instagram Ads allow you to set a per-day budget. If your ad is doing well, you won't end up paying far more than you can afford.

5 Content Tips for Small Businesses on Instagram

We always tell our partners to keep their customers and Instagram’s algorithm in the front of their minds when creating content for Instagram. Doing so gives your content the best chance to organically reach new people within your target market. It also helps drive engagement from your current follower base.

Follow Best Instagram Practices For Your Small Business Account

Following the best practices for Instagram marketing means ensuring your content is built for the platform’s algorithms. 

And, no, the plural ‘algorithms’ was not a mistake; Instagram uses a different algorithm for each feature (feed posts, stories, reels, etc.). 

Instagram’s algorithms determine three things that affect who gets to see your content:

  1. Which non-followers will be able to find your post organically?
  2. The number of non-followers will be able to find your post organically.
  3. How far your current followers will have to scroll to see your content on their feeds.

Instagram’s algorithm aims to keep users engaged in the app for as long as possible. It does this by personalizing content based on each user’s past engagement with different content categories.

This is where post frequency, post timing, posts, and niche categories of posts enter the field. Though Instagram uses different algorithms for different features, a few aspects remain consistent regardless of which type of post you create. 

The bottom line is that Instagram prioritizes content that its algorithm thinks will cause users to take action in the form of likes, comments, saves, time spent on the post, and taps to your profile. That also means that Instagram prioritizes your posts to users who have already shown high engagement levels with your prior posts. 

Here are the main factors the algorithm considers when prioritizing content: 

  • Does the user favor photos or videos?
  • Does the user prefer interacting with more recent posts?
  • How many likes does the post have?
  • Does the post align with the user’s interests?
  • Has the user interacted with this account before?
  • Is the user predicted to like, comment, or save the post?

And here are some general best practices to follow when making posts suited for Instagram’s algorithm:

  • Only post high-quality photos and videos (not blurry or out of focus).
  • Never publish content that someone has already posted (unless it’s a story repost).
  • Avoid posting content, including watermarks from other apps AT ALL COSTS.
  • Read Instagram’s community guidelines and never break them. 
  • Don’t post content that could be reported (check the reasons that posts can be reported).
  • Try to include a CTA that encourages users to view your profile.
  • Post regularly and consistently.

Hashtags help you reach new audiences. Here are a few #tips to consider:

  • Include hashtags that align with your target audience and the post at hand.
  • Use 3-5 hashtags in each caption.
  • Steal the hashtags your followers use in their posts. 

Visually Communicate Brand Mission In Your Small Business Instagram Marketing Efforts 

If you have a mission guiding your small business, communicate the impact of that mission visually. Leverage your mission to forge buy-in from your followers.

Here are a few ideas of how you can communicate your mission on Instagram:

  • Put a concise version of your mission statement in your bio.
  • Use a story highlight titled “our mission” with a few photos detailing your mission and some videos of you acting on your mission. This content will always appear at the top of your account page.
  • Post infographics detailing the impact you’ve made (e.g. amount of trash removed from beaches, amount of meals donated to homeless shelters, amount of money donated to [xyz charity).
  • Post videos of you and your employees making a difference (e.g., picking up trash from a beach or before and after pictures of the beach).
  • Post a picture of one of the lives your mission has impacted with a caption describing who they are and how you helped them (e.g. someone suffering from a rare disease which lacks the resources needed to treat it).

Maintain Consistent Brand Voice And Message At All Times

Consistency is key. Always ensure you don’t contradict your brand’s message, and never break your brand’s voice. Once customers feel you’re off-brand, they will find it inauthentic, eroding their trust.

Use Geo-tagging If You’re targeting a Specific Region or City

You should geotag your posts if you’re a local small business or travel to conferences or events relevant to your niche. Geo-tagging adds the location of where you recorded your video or took your photo. You can geotag a city or town, or geotag your exact location at a store, restaurant, or street. 

Users can click on that location and view all the posts geotagged at that location. Plus, your followers might want to meet you in person if you’re visiting their area. Developing a real-life relationship with a few followers is a sure way to create loyal followers.

Focus On Producing Quality Content That Interests Your Small Business Instagram Target Audience

This is the most important thing to remember. Always consider your audience when creating content. Make sure it appeals to what interests them, not what interests you.

And, if you’re ever in doubt as to whether a post will drive engagement, take a day or two to think about it. Then, hopefully, you’ll be able to improve the post to the point where you’re comfortable sending it out to the masses. But if not… don’t post it. 

If you’re wondering how you can take a few days to think about the post, when we’ve already said that you should post frequently and consistently, here is the answer: editorial social media calendars

Though you should devote a portion of your posts to in-the-moment ideas, you should utilize content calendars (we made a free one at Slam – sign up here to get it soon) for most of your core content. Not only will doing so allow you to spend more time planning and perfecting each post, but it will also force you to adhere to a regular posting schedule. And, if you’re worried about forgetting to post, the software can automate your posts! More on this is below. 

Small Business Instagram Marketing Tools For Simplicity and Success

As you may have noticed, consistency and quality are the keys to success on Instagram. 

You have to post a lot of content regularly, and it isn’t easy to spontaneously create content that will engage your target audience. Sometimes, it might feel like Instagram is taking over your life. You don’t want to spend your vacation time brainstorming and posting. 

That’s where Instagram marketing tools come into play, such as: 

  • Content calendars
  • Post automation software
  • Analytics software

The best part? The best softwares can integrate with others, so they all work together! 

Use A Content Calendar To Plan And Perfect Your Small Business Instagram Posts 

Creating editorial calendars on your own can take a lot of time. Working on digital ideas with a team can make collaborating on ideas and iterations challenging, primarily if you use multiple channels. That’s why we use Airtable when creating social media content calendars for our small business partners. 

More upsides? 

  • It’s super easy to use and has a friendly interface. 
  • Your team can brainstorm, add content, and write copy collaboratively.
  • Nothing is added to the calendar until the boss signs off on them.
  • You can visualize how pieces of content connect.
  • It integrates with Zapier (read below).

Automate Your Small Business Instagram Posts To Simplify Your Life

No need to set reminders to publish posts. Automation software will save you the time and stress that goes into regular posts at consistent times. We choose Zapier, every time. 

It perfectly integrates with Airtable, so you don’t need to do all the grunt work of copying and pasting every post from your content calendar. 

Here are some of Zapier’s many applications:

  • Automate your posts to be published at specific times.
  • Automate your story, so you repost every time a user tags you.
  • Automatically share your posts to your other social media accounts. 

Analyze The Numbers To Improve Your Small Business Strategy on Instagram

Social media analytics tools can give you actionable insights to inform your strategy. They allow you to:

  • See which post times generate the most engagement.
  • Find out which followers engage with your content the most and what they have in common.
  • Know which Instagram features your audience interacts with the most.
  • See which types of content (video vs. photo; humor vs. sincerity) are most effective.

At Slam, we tell our friends and partners to use Iconosquare or Sproutsocial. Check them out to figure out which one works best for your company.

Get Help Growing Your Small Business With Instagram Marketing 

Still don’t think you’re prepared to grow on Instagram? Don’t panic! It can take some trial and error to get right… sometimes a lot of trial and error. Lucky for you, there’s an easier and faster way to grow your following.

We got you! We’re offering free resources and a course to run your small nonprofit business like a pro. Sign up to our newsletter to get access to:

  • Free small business Airtable content calendar
  • Deck templates to do your voice and brand discovery, and find your content pillars
  • Be the first to find out about our course

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