If you have a business, a social media profile can now be one of the first things people search for. It’s also a way for potential customers to find you, as well as being a way of showing there’s a person behind the brand. Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be providing an introduction to social media with a focus on building a business profile. This week, I’m starting with how to build Instagram for your small business. While right now it will only be a little seed, by following these steps you’ll soon grow into a big ol’ tree full of juicy fruit!

Next week, I’ll run through how to develop a business Twitter page. Week 3 will end with a summary and give some hints and tips to general social media strategy.

Instagram

This section aims to give an introduction to Instagram and assumes that you’re a complete novice. If you already feel like you know the basics, feel free to skip to the five steps a little further down the page.

So, let’s start with the basics. Instagram is a photo sharing site owned by Facebook. On it you add ‘posts’ (i.e. photos), have ‘followers’ (people who see your posts on their homepage) and ‘following’ (people whose posts you see on your own home page). You can ‘like’ posts and also comment on them. The way that people generally find posts to like is via hashtags (#). These are general themes where all the posts under this theme can be found together, e.g. searching for #nature will bring up lots of photos of trees and stuff.

close up of a mobile phone scrolling instagram

The Five Steps

1. Make a profile

To do this, register on the app on your phone/tablet or on the desktop website. Then you can select a username e.g. @craftycakes if you are a bakery that specialises in artisan cakes. You’ll need to set a profile photo which is what everyone will see when they go on your profile.

You can also set a bio which should be a short summary of your business. (Artisan bakery specialising in cakes based in Inverness, Scotland. For more info visit our website, call us, or visit the web-link below).

Pretty pink cake on a cake stand with flowers in the background

2. Build a following

Start following, liking and commenting on others’ posts to build up a following. People tend to click on the profiles that have followed them or those leaving comments. This can be a bit tricky to begin with, it’s a big ol’ world out there! Once you’ve found an account that you want to follow, you can look at the accounts they are following and use this as a suggestion for your own account.

3. Make your first post

Take a photo of something relevant to your business (e.g. a lovingly crafted artisan cake). Click the middle button on the app (+), select your photo and add a caption to explain the photo and add a little context (e.g. Pure indulgence with this double chocolate roulade with buttercream frosting).

You can also use apps like Canva to make beautiful graphics which merge text and photos. On Instagram you’re selling an idea more than anything, so take inspiration from the marketing of perfumes. It’s hard to describe what something smells like, so these adverts try to show you how you’ll feel or who you can be once you smell like Keira Knightley about to ride off on a motorbike.

What is the idea behind whatever you are trying to market with your small business? Obviously some things are more photogenic and easier to market than others, but whatever it is that you sell/service you offer, there’s likely to be a way of marketing it through images and graphics.

4. Start hashtagging like an expert

To get anyone beyond your followers seeing your post, you’ll need to add some hashtags. It’s useful to do a little research and make a list of possible hashtags relevant to your content.

You can do this using hashtagify, by typing in the over topic area and seeing linked tags, or otherwise by typing some into Instagram’s search function and looking at the ‘related’ tags, or otherwise looking at what other people posting under the tag have included. The more tags included, the greater the potential number of people who are likely to see your post. Thirty tags is suggested to be the optimum number, any more and Instagram thinks that you are spamming, any fewer and people might not find your post.

You can play about with this and see what works best for you. Some hashtags have a lot of people viewing them at all times of day, so you’ll get a lot of immediate likes after posting. Some tags aren’t viewed so often and you might get a more slow and steady response to your post.

5. Consistency

Post regularly and to begin with this will likely need to be every day until you’ve built up a profile. You can then post less often than this, as often as you can keep up. Although profiles that post daily tend to do better than those posting less than this.

So there you have it, the five short steps to building an Instagram profile for your business. Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

Some things to think about

Captions

Keep these engaging and professional. It may seem silly to say but don’t slag off your customer base in your captions. Try to keep them short and sweet but also show that you’re a person behind your brand.

Professionalism

Keep your personal Instagram personal and your business profile professional. Try to avoid including unrelated, personal pictures unless you can explain in the caption how this links in with your business.

Who are your audience?

Are they local or international? If it’s the latter then you might want to consider including some hashtags in different languages. Plus…

Timing is important

People won’t see your post if you put it up at a time when no one is likely to be searching the different hashtags. According to Hootsuite the best time is 12-1pm. Again, this is impacted by your target audience, are they national or international? – you might want to test out different times to see when you get most interest.  In general, the earlier part of the week is quieter in social media land, Fridays and weekends are more popular.  

That’s it! Easy enough, right?

So there we have it: five steps to growing Instagram for your small business. Let me know if you’re inspired to make your own account and how it goes, or if you have any problems.

Once you’ve set up your account, you can follow me on Instagram. Next week, I’ll be talking about growing a Twitter profile for your business.

Want to read more?

If you’re interested in reading more, you can read the psychology behind social influence online, or the reasons that bias may be stopping people’s attention translating into clicks on your website.