How to grow your creative business with Instagram

If you think Instagram is only meant for teenagers uploading their selfies, think again.

With 400 million monthly users, Instagram is a force to reckon with:

  • Instagrammers are sharing more than 80 million photos per day.
  • Instagram is projected to have more than 100 million US users by 2018.

But according to emarketer, just 23% of US brands had an account on Instagram, versus about 82% on Twitter, 80% on Facebook, 60% on YouTube and 37 % on Google+.

(Can you say untapped market?)

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Advantage Instagram

According to Forrester, Instagram posts have a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%, which is 58 times better engagement on Facebook and 120 times better than twitter. Brands on Instagram engage well and their followers grew 278% on average last year – the most on any platform.

Besides that:

  • It’s a great medium to showcase your products.
  • It has a lot of filters and editing tools.
  • Users can easily like and share your pictures.
  • You can use popular hashtags to make it easier to find your picture or jump on a trending topic.
  • The shelf life of content on Instagram is longer.
  • Engagement often continues for days and weeks after the post.

Case in point: Simply Measured found that Instagram posts take more than 19 hours to hit 50% of their total comments and about 10% of comments continue to come in by next 19 days.

So instead of having to churn out an unreasonable amount of posts that become somewhat obsolete over the next few hours, with Instagram, your posts last longer and have more impact.

Win-win!

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Here’s how:

Getting in touch and engaging with your customers on Instagram is easy. Here are the basics:

  • Mentioning: Similar to Twitter, affix the ‘@’ symbol in front of usernames to mention (and notify) them in your posts or comments.
  • Liking: To like a post, either click the heart-shaped icon under it, or double-click on the post itself.
  • Commenting: Click on the ‘Comment’ icon (next to the heart-shaped icon), and to see a string of comments and the ability to write your own.
  • Tagging: Like Facebook, you can tag people in your images or videos. Simply, click the ‘Tag People’ option before sharing the photo.
  • Direct Messaging: Instagram Direct enables users to communicate privately with other Instagram users. It can be accessed from the app’s home page by clicking the button in the top-right corner. The ‘+’ icon enables you to send images and videos by opening your camera, through which you can take photos and/or videos, upload and edit them, add filters, write a caption, choose users, and send it across.

Use hashtags liberally

“For the younger generation using hashtags is as natural and common as typing their query into the search box,” says Steve Cooper the co-founder and editor-in-chief of ‘Hitched’.

Pro tip! Posts with 11 or more hashtags receive nearly 80% interaction whereas posts with two hashtags receive 41% interactions, an infographic by Quicksprout shows. (But note that Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post.)

Try a contest

Have a decent following? You can use ‘Like-to-win’ contests which are easy to manage and are easier for the users to participate in.

Case in point: Restaurant Buffalo Jordan receives about 50 likes on average on each of their Instagram posts. To increase its visibility and reach, it hosted a series of ‘Like-Giveaways’ contest. When they held the contest – they received about 200 likes per post.

Also, if you try ‘Like’ contests, there is a chance to be discovered by the Instagram Discover page and that can give a big boost to your brand. You can also create a ‘Comment’ contest where users post comments to win goodies.

All contests can give you tons of valuable feedback and increase engagement, and you can ask followers to tag their friends in the comments to get organic traffic and new leads.

Share amazing imagery

One of the biggest myths related to marketing through Instagram is that you need to have a visually appealing physical product.

However, selling unglamorous products or being a service provider should in no way hinder your marketing efforts on Instagram. Instead, it should be used to let your creative juices flow.

Here’s what you can do:

Showcase your products / services

Browsing through products is enjoyable, so use Instagram to create your own online “window shopping” for your followers.

  • Show your latest collection or works-in-progress. Engage followers by asking them for their opinions or predicting trends for the upcoming season.
  • Share pictures of equipment and DIY tips. For example, photographers can share camera equipment and make lighting suggestions to help followers take better photographs.

Show them how it’s done

Keep your followers involved by showing them your process. Consider taking snapshots throughout your creative process and share them with your followers.

If the process is lengthy, you can also split it up as a series of related posts that chart the course from planning to delivery.

Create demand and convince

Invite your followers to submit their pictures with your product or using your services, and select the best one to post on your page.

And don’t forget to post before-and-after pictures of the effects of your work so customers can see the transformation themselves!

Pull back the curtain

Nothing works better than rewarding your followers for supporting you by making them feel special.

  • Take them behind the scenes and give them exclusive previews of your products/services.
  • Give them virtual tours of your stores, workshops and offices.
  • Post candid pictures of a typical workday in your office, and use captions to share fun insights.

Publish these posts to your Facebook and Twitter accounts via Instagram to increase the number of shares and reposts.

Share Your Experiences

As a small business owner, you’re bound to attend trade-shows and conferences, and sponsor events. Use Instagram to take your followers everywhere you go.

The Wrap

Instagram can help you scale your business to greater heights.

  • Your users can see your products, understand your personality and “get to know” you.
  • It helps you create more value and credibility.

And with an increasing number of people joining Instagram every day, it makes good business sense for small businesses to make Instagram an important part of their digital marketing strategy.

The message, in short, is – the happy, bright and shiny Instagram wagon is speeding on and delivering results. Small businesses should jump on board!

Have you? Share how you use Instagram in the comments below.

Happy Instagramming!


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  1. This is a great article! I was coming into this thinking about how I could expand my freelance design; but left with tons of ideas on how to grow my hobby! I am a Twitch broadcaster and recently decided not to use Instagram for my hobby; but this article has given me many ideas on what I could do for my Twitch stream! Thanks!

  2. This article has a lot of great information about what Instagram does, but I think the title is a little bit misleading. Clicking an article titled “HOW to grow your business” seems like you should offer tips beyond the {extremely} obvious.. This is more of a ‘what Instagram is all about for people that have never used it before’.. Just my two cents.

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