How can you use Instagram to grow your business profile, with a view to increasing leads and ultimately, sales?
First up, just in case you’re on the fence… Instagram has millions of active users, and thanks to hashtagging you can put yourself and your product directly in front of those users whose interests align with your business. Quite simply, you can’t afford not to be on Instagram.
So exactly how can you grow your profile? It should be simple – post a photo, say a few words, hashtag the heck out of it. But I see a lot of women struggling to make the most of this fabulous platform, and as a business woman and a photographer, I can see where they’re going wrong.
So I’ve put together a marketing plan to help you elevate your brand and stand out online using Instagram.
Your goal for Instagram will be to increase brand awareness, grow your list, and increase website traffic. Knowing this will help you to formulate a plan for posting.
So how do you do this? By bringing together people with similar interests to create a community of loyal followers and engaging them.
Try to share at least once a day, preferably twice.
Build a photo library so that you’re always stocked up on images – plan photo days, or overshoot when you go out.
Look for interesting things to photograph when you’re out and about – maybe you see your brand colours pop up on a wall, or in a window display. Take those shots and stock them in your photo library so you always have fresh content to share even when you’re too busy to get out and shoot.
In order to engage your audience (and thereby retain them!), you need to be social.
So even when you’re using Instagram solely for business, being social is key regardless of what you’re selling. And Instagram is the perfect platform to do that.
Specifically, I mean having authentic conversations. You should be engaging every day. If your posts spark a conversation, that’s a big achievement – so join in!
But you’d be surprised how many people post and run (big mistake!). You won’t engage with anyone if you do this, and if you’re lucky enough to spark a conversation with a post, it will die off a lot quicker without you there interacting.
Monitor your feed for questions and comments so that you can answer them. The last thing you want to do is miss the opportunity to turn those questions and comments into a conversation.
Importantly, if you reply to comments quickly and the Instagram algorithms think your post is interesting and boosts it so more people see it too.
As you build your audience and community, don’t be afraid to share more of yourself. Photos are the perfect way to go to that next level of engagement and build a relationship with your audience.
So be brave, and share those bits of yourself and your personal life that you know your audience will find relatable, and that tell the story of you.
Someone who does this really well is Katie from @katiemakesadress. Through those posts, we now know that Katie has two boys, a husband, a couple of beloved pooches… and she wears her own products. This is particularly powerful for Katie’s business, because it’s visual evidence of her ethos that her dresses are to be worn every day, and not saved for special occasions.
Behind the scenes content will let your audience feel like they’re a part of the team, and really help them connect with your business.
Katie shares behind the scenes photos which include her tools of the trade, her work space, her materials, her processes.
Also, as well as using friends and models to display her clothing, Katie also includes photos of herself wearing her finished products. This is a really powerful way for her audience to connect with her.
Quotes can add interest, humour or inspiration to your feed, and spark conversation. They’re also a great way to inject your personality into your Instagram feed.
Someone who does this amazingly well (and makes me laugh every day when I pop into her feed) is Naomi Sherman, Click Love Grow graduate and professional food photographer, otherwise known as @naomisherman_foodcreative. Sometimes she writes her own quotes, sometimes she quotes others… but the overwhelming theme is they always align with Naomi’s personality, and her sense of humour.
This is no time to be modest… post about your awards and other achievements! Go on, you know you wanna… you deserve it!
This one is uber important!
Instagram is visual, and it’s choc full of gorgeous imagery. So unless you can share high quality photos, frankly you don’t stand a chance.
But don’t worry, we can help you with that! Read on…
Photography is all about light – and knowing a little about good light will ensure a beautiful looking feed.
Quantity of light is important. If you have too much or not enough, your photos will be too dark or too bright, they’ll look unprofessional and they won’t flatter your subject.
But the quality of light is equally important. Look for soft light, which can be found in open shade, in the doorways of your house, garage light, and window light.
Once you can recognise the difference between soft and hard light , you’ll always be able to produce beautiful photos that render your subject in the most appealing way.
Head here to discover where you can find soft natural light, and ways to use it…
Jumping all over the shop in terms of style will ensure your feed looks unprofessional, unappealing, and ultimately, no one will stick around once they land on your feed.
Choose colours, tones and backgrounds that are consistent in style and on brand. Incorporating your brand colours as often as possible in your photos, even if it’s just a little splash, is a great way to producing a feed that speaks your brand and looks consistent overall.
This goes for editing too… filters are fun, I know I know. But if you’re going to use them, stick to one and make sure it’s a subtle one!
Maddieson from @poppy_and_frankie has a highly consistent editing style in her feed which is immediately appealing and a pleasure to view.
A good photo has a balanced and harmonious composition. Avoid these common mistakes I see in bad photos:
I love Kayla from @mylovelylittlelunchbox for her fantastic lunchbox ideas for the kids! She isn’t a photographer, but she clearly knows the value of a well composed image and using a variety of perspectives to make the best of whatever she’s photographing. She’s all over it!
A common mistake I see is shooting everything from the photographer’s own height. When you do this, you miss out on taking a photo of your subject at a perspective that showcases it the best. Your feed will also look monotonous and lack interest.
Mix up your perspectives, get creative with your angles and look for interesting compositions that the viewer isn’t expecting to see.
Walk around your subject and look for different aspects you wouldn’t have noticed. Get down and shoot it at eye level, get underneath and shoot up, stand up and shoot directly overhead looking down. Try lots of different framings and just shoot, you might find a great shot you never would have thought to plan otherwise.
We couldn’t write a post about using Instagram for business without mentioning hashtags!
I see so many people hashtagging mindlessly – #love … #red… #cake…
At the time of first drafting this post, #cake had over 53 million posts. 53 million. But wait… I let this post sit in drafts for about 6 months… and now when I’m getting ready to pull the trigger and publish, #cake has increased in that short period of time by a whopping 10 million posts. Yes it’s popular… but it also means your #cake tagged photo is going to stay at the top of the #cake feed for 0.000001 seconds.
Sorry, but you’ll need to log some hours for this one.
Dive into Instagram and think like your potential client and consider her interests… where would she be hanging out? What’s important to her? What search terms would she use if she were specifically looking for what you offer?
Also seek out instagrammers that relate to your business and your potential client’s interests and engage authentically.
What do I mean when I say “engage authentically”? Liking an image or leaving an insincere, one worded comment for the sole intention of gaining followers, is the insta equivalent of a hit and run. Be real, mean it, stay a moment.
Ideally, a hashtag will have 15k to 500k images.
Much less than 15k and it’s not widely visited so your image is not going to be seen by many.
Over 500k and it’s moving so fast that your image will only be near the top of that hashtags feed for a nano second.
You have 30 hashtags at your disposal in any post… use them wisely! Create a list on your phone or your desktop if you’re using a desktop scheduling tool, so you can save time by doing a quick copy and paste for every post.
That said, you can’t set and forget your list of hashtags either.
A popular hashtag will eventually become clogged up with images and be almost useless to you, for the reason I mentioned above. Stay on top of it, be constantly aware of who and what is trending to replace any overused or tired hashtags.
Also, using too many hashtags in your original post is the Instagram equivalent of spam. Use only the important ones in your post (no more than say 6), then pop the rest further down in your post so that it’s not seen without scrolling down. Alternatively, pop them into the first comment. The first comment will disappear after the second or third, thus hiding your hashtags and you’ll avoid annoying your audience! The bonus of doing it this way is it gives you another 30 hashtags to use.
So what are the important hashttags I referred to? These are the ones you want people to see. These hashtags communicate what you do, where you’re located, and convey personality or mood, eg. #hatingonmonday#needcoffee
The important hashtags I use in our posts are #ClickLoveGrow (who we are) #CLGPhotographyCourses (what we sell) #LearnPhotography (what we deliver).
Hubs are a great way to get your images seen.
So what are hubs?
Hubs are Instagram accounts set up to specifically feature images taken from their own unique hashtag. So by using their hashtags on your images, there’s potential for your images to be reposted/featured, thereby putting you and your business in front of even more people.
Look for hubs that relate to your brand, business and product, including those that your target audience are interested in. You’ll need to put in a bit of time, and look for hubs that have a great following. Once you find and follow a hub, Instagram will suggest other hubs you can follow.
Hubs have their hashtags listed in their page bio, and a lot also have specific themes – so head to their pages regularly and keep your hashtag list updated. Then add their hashtag to your image and with the goal of getting featured!
Back to hashtags… I put all those in our first comment so as not to annoy our followers with them.
This addition to Instagram gives you the ability to feature ‘stories’ in addition to regular posts on your feed.
Whilst we’ve talked about the importance of a carefully curated and visually appealing Instagram feed, stories give you the freedom to relax. They’re a great way to express yourself and your personality.
They only appear for 24 hours, and can include photos, videos, and live streams. etc.
A great way to use them is to allow people into your behind the scenes a little more than what they get from your feed, for example:
Anything that helps your audience relate to you on a deeper level is perfect for stories.
Check out Spell & The Gypsy for someone who does stories really well.
If you have favourite stories that you want to remain available to your followers and potential clients after the 24 hour window, Instagram now allow you to add them to your account as ‘highlights’. These appear as buttons under your bio and details.
Highlights are a great place to save stories such as an about me video, any specials offers, testimonials, you talking to camera about yourself or what’s coming up. Stories are also searchable, so add your location and hashtags in your them too.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with stories and added one, head here to learn how to turn them into highlights.
Most of all, don’t overthink it, have fun!
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