Instagram was once considered a photo-sharing site for young people who had grown tired of Facebook. Today businesses have adopted the platform and many small business owners view it as one of their most essential revenue generating tools. In fact, Instagram has over 1 billion active monthly users and over 25 million business users. Of the social networks, only Facebook and YouTube have more people logging in.

If you haven’t already, now might be the time to consider adding Instagram to your social media marketing mix. Promoting your small business brand or product on Instagram doesn’t need to complicated. Here are five basic strategies and tactics to help you use the platform effectively without investing endless time and resources.

1 – Tailor your page to your audience.

Identifying your primary customer audience is critical to small business success. Understanding how and where to target this audience has the potential to increase your popularity and effectiveness on Instagram.

When setting up your company page, you will need to attract prospective customers with a clear statement of intent in your bio, followed by a link to your business website. There is no detailed “about us” page on Instagram, so take the time to craft a one-line summary that defines what your business stands for. Choose a profile picture that is recognizable, such as a signature product or service and your company logo.

Once you start creating posts on your page, focus on content that will appeal to target consumers while remaining relevant to your brand. Be sure you understand why they are on Instagram. This will help you nurture leads and build loyal followers by giving them meaningful content they will appreciate and continue to count on you to provide.

2 – Experiment with hashtags.

No matter how small your business is, you should create an Instagram hashtag to encourage sharing and promotion on behalf of your followers. Hashtags help consumers find more information about a product or service. Whether it’s a branded term, phrase, or call to action, your proprietary hashtag or hashtags will give you additional leverage toward building customer engagement and brand awareness.

A hashtag can also be a great marketing tool. It essentially gives Instagram users a way to engage in whatever conversation is happening around that topic or issue and connect with related brands on social media. Experiment with several of your own hashtags and try promoting your Instagram using more general hashtags specific to your industry, product, or service. Including related tags instantly increases your reach by making your posts searchable by tag-followers. While there are countless hashtags you can use, experts suggest that engagement peaks at approximately nine tags in a single post.

3 – Be consistent.

When it comes to marketing your small business, the single most important strategy is to be consistent. It is imperative that you develop a distinctive company or brand “voice” and maintain it across all of your promotion platforms, both off and online.

Consistency in the look and feel of your Instagram posts allows your followers to become comfortable in understanding your brand values. Your customers want to know that when they purchase a product or service, they will get exactly what you’ve promised.  They will come to expect a specific tone from your posts, and sustaining this will affirm their trust in you.

However, inconsistency in your brand persona or the frequency and content of your posts can result in the perception that your business is unreliable. Pre-planning your content and posting it on a regular schedule will help ensure that you maintain your value and integrity in the eyes of your followers.

4 – Post at the right times.

Understanding your target audience and their habits includes making sure you know when they are most likely to be online. This will allow you to post on Instagram when they are most likely to see and engage with your content. By curating your posts and scheduling them to be delivered at specific times, you are narrowing your focus to the groups you want to attract.

According to a study from CoSchedule, the ideal times to post on Instagram are generally between 8-9 a.m. and at 2 a.m. There are also online resources which have information regarding when it is best to post based on demographics such as the customer’s age and time zone. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as over-posting on Instagram: the optimal amount of times for a business to post per day is 1 to 2.

5 – Work with influencers to expand your reach.

Instagram has become a platform where influencer marketing now dominates a large part of the online community. Instagram influencers are akin to advertising in the sense that these individuals can be collaborated with to promote your products or services, often for a fee. Those who have a sizeable, engaged following can have a powerful impact on how a product is viewed, so finding the right influencers can be a cost-effective way to sell products and grow your following.

It is essential that you research which Instagram influencers are likely to have the most significant effect on your audience. While choosing the right people to develop a relationship with can be extremely beneficial, influencers can also cause controversy or otherwise damage the standing you have with your followers.

Look for Instagram influencers whose audiences mirror your own or allow you to tap into a new group of users you are trying to reach. Make sure the values of the influencer align with the values you hold as a company or brand. You can find influencers through hashtags and manual searching, and there are multiple analytics tools such as Tapifluence where you can research various influencers or search databases related to your business.

Make sure they have a following that engages with their content. For any small business promoting on Instagram, audience engagement is the single most important measure of marketing success.

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