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  • Writer's pictureMike Hurst

Insta, Insta, on the wall

Small business social media marketing: Instagram

Last week I looked at the giant that is Facebook, and what the business page and paid advertising can do for your small business marketing strategy. This week, the visual side of the coin with Instagram. Also owned by Facebook, this provides some nice opportunities as we will see later.

Instagram in numbers

First of all, let’s look at the numbers:

For an app which started off as people sharing holiday snaps and plates of food, it’s not doing badly in terms of users. According to their own numbers, Over 1 billion people use Instagram across the world.

The wonderful Statista have looked specifically at UK Instagram user numbers. We have over 24m here in the UK, but how does that break down into age range?

Instagram is great for targeting lifestyle and visual products to young people

If you are looking to sell your products and services to people aged 25-34, then a whopping 32% of Instagram users are in that bracket, so you can certainly see why this is attractive. Gender is pretty evenly split too, according to a survey from Statista, Instagram, and Hootsuite. Lifestyle small businesses such as fitness, clothing, and cosmetics are in the marketing sweet spot here.

One more statistic that I found amazing was this; according to a survey by Impact, 72% of users make buying decisions influenced by what they see on Instagram!

By its nature, Instagram lends itself to images and videos. If your small business has a great visual element you can showcase in the marketing (fashion designer, beauty therapist, photographer, classic car dealer, anything animal, garden or outdoor related) then you can start to plan engaging content which speaks squarely to your target age range.

So, marketing, lifestyle and high end products which are visual, plus services which appeal to the same markets - no shortage of demand in London, Kent and Surrey - can further throw into the mix of whether you should get an account.

What can Instagram do for small business social media?

Easy, free storytelling: Instagram is great for giving your business a journey. Whether you are looking to get off the ground, or an established small business looking to expand your customer base, you can do it. All you need is a decent camera phone and you can really add something special to your marketing efforts.

The main account feed is great for building a long term picture (ho ho) of your brand. Imagine someone looking back in a year and scrolling through your page. You want them to see a nicely crafted set of images which shouts everything good about your business, and takes people through the longer term brand story.

Using relevant hashtags on your images also means that they are seen by others searching for them, getting you likes and growing your audience with people who buy into it. I use #smallbusinessmarketing #surreymarketingagency and the like on my mihu instagram. But if you were running a dog grooming service, you could use #DogsofInstagram or the #breed.

Location is also important - tagging your business in a post at your place of work or where you have done a job means that you will pop up in the feed of anyone that searches that hashtag. A great way to get seen by people you may not have otherwise.

There is also the Instagram story - a very powerful way of showing instant moments, or statistics, or offers. Let's say you have a flash sale or are live streaming an event, stories is the best place to do this and it stays there for 24 hours. This is also really great for engagement as you can post quizzes, questions, mini surveys and competitions.

All of your content can also be posted straight to your Facebook. Which will save you effort, time, and keep what you post consistent.

Paid promotions for small business marketing on Instagram

Speaking of sharing with Facebook, Instagram is tied into their advertising system. So, if you decide to create a paid Facebook Ad campaign, and you want to show those ads in people's feeds in Instagram, it's as simple as checking a box when you set the campaign up. This is great for any small business, and with WhatsApp ads rumoured to be arriving this year, and FB, Instagram in the same pot, you can bet that you'll soon be able to do all three at once.

Instagram Shopping is a fantastic feature for anyone with an inventory of products. This allows you to set up your product catalogue and show them on your stories or posts. People can see a product page with all products in one range on, click to view the price, then be taken straight to the checkout page on your website.

You can imagine how great this would be for sales and marketing for all the fantastic independent retailers that we have here in the UK.

It also has so much potential for make up, clothes and jewellery stores - they've got an augmented reality widget now where your customers can virtually try on products. So they can virtually try before they buy, but then presumably they will share that post to their own story and bang, free advertising for you to all their friends.

Paid partnership. Probably out of the reach of most of us mortals, but worth mentioning; If you are a celebrity, or an Influencer, or anyone else with LOTS of followers, Instagram will let you apply to post your own videos or images directly advertising brands that sponsor you (with a strict set of guidelines). This is a great way of brands getting in front of people who buy into their lifestyle.

The huge accounts with millions of followers may be out of reach for most products and services, but there is a rising trend of micro-influencers. These are people who post a lot about one particular area, and tend to have 2-20k followers. You're more likely to know one of these who can give you a fee or paid plug.

What are the positives of using Instagram in my local marketing plan?

Great for brand building, reaching people in a visual way without needing to be a fantastic copywriter. You can also create some great graphics yourself using programmes like Canva or Adobe spark. It's also fantastic for building a personal brand; if you are the service your provide and you have the images to back up that you do what you do well, then you can make yourself well known.

Adobe or Canva are social marketing tools for small business
Adobe Spark or Canva means anyone can produce eye catching graphics

I'm only speaking anecdotally, and they're everywhere, but I personally see a lot less vitriol and troll action on Instagram. I know it exists, but it seems less noticeable.

Instagram is a bit like curating a museum, you get the things you want to show off and you show them well to people who like it, and they in turn follow you, react to it and share it around themselves. It's a really easy tool for content marketing, which can bring great results, and you will only get better at it as you work on it.

What are the things to bear in mind when Instagram marketing?

Well there are some small businesses who it probably will not be of any use to.. For example if you have a primarily office based service, or your work is often quite repetitive, you may find that your energies are better spent with LinkedIn and/or Twitter.

Also, regardless of your product, it's a channel which needs the resource of time putting into it. There is no point setting it up and leaving it. You need your story to be populated daily, and your main feed at least twice a week. So make sure you have someone doing this. Or, you can always hire me to run your small business social media marketing for you.

One warning - never, ever buy followers or likes from companies claiming to improve your reach. You're buying spam. Like anything in marketing, slow, patient building of momentum will bring you results. Quick easy wins are never what they seem.

Choose Instagram for marketing your small business if…

You are a small business owner, you have a product or service to promote which has great visual appeal, your ideal customer is prepared to pay for quality, and you want to build a dedicated set of like minded followers.

Hope this helps,


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