Instagram was created for those that love to create.
The type of content that is expected and celebrated on Instagram is ideal for humanizing your brand, establishing credibility, building your authority and influence, and taking your tribe along on your journey.
I sell Instagram marketing courses and services, and I can’t even begin to count how many people have told me that they purchased my program over countless others because they have been following me on social media for a long time and chose to buy my course because they identified closely with who I was.
As a creator, this is your super power too. You may not be for everyone, but you are definitely the perfect coach, teacher, trainer or cheerleader for someone!
Well-produced Instagram content is the perfect way to differentiate yourself and showcase your most important asset… you! Let’s look at how you can leverage this to actually grow your business.
Grow your community with Instagram
One of the most important aspects of being a blogger and creator is to always grow our audience. Instagram is a great place to attract more people to your tribe, and there are many ways to do this.
Use hashtags to find your tribe
Communities have a wonderful way of organically springing up on Instagram. With the proper hashtags, you can find groups of like-minded people for any niche.
Start by identifying the thought leaders and influencers in your niche and check their posts to see what hashtags they are using. Search Instagram on some of those hashtags and see what results you get to find even more hashtags.
Often the top nine results for a given hashtag will reveal popular accounts in that niche. Use these hashtags to connect with others, and use them on your own posts to be found by like-minded folks. You can also use these hashtags to go out and engage with others that have similar passions to yours.
Once you have started to identify hashtags that allow you take part in conversations around your niche, you can get more strategic with how you use them on your own account.
There are a few key things to know about hashtags:
- You can use up to 30 per post. The more hashtags you use, the more opportunities you have to get found! You can put your hashtag groups at the end of your captions or you can paste them into a comment after your caption. They will work in either place, as long as you place them immediately after posting if putting them in a comment.
- Get specific. The most important thing to consider when choosing what hashtags to use on each post is relevance. Hashtags that contain 2-3 words are often more targeted than single-word hashtags. Think about the difference between something like #clothes and #womensdresses. Everyone wears clothes, but the hashtag #womensdresses will yield visitors that are specifically looking for what you have to offer.
The Explore tab
When you are on Instagram’s Explore tab, you are shown a collection of things Instagram believes you will be interested in. What you see here is determined by algorithm, but Instagram often shows you accounts that are similar to other accounts you follow, accounts that are followed by several of your friends, or have photos that you typically like or comment on.
So, while you can’t control whose Explore feed you show up on, we can take some lessons from what we see. It’s important to engage with the right people on Instagram!
People often ask me why they should engage with others in their niche or their perceived “competitors,” and this is why. Besides finding new friends and niche buddies to support you, it can also help you get found by people that are interested in what you offer.
Thinking outside of Instagram
While this article is focused on how to grow your business with Instagram, it would be a mistake not to think about ways outside of the app to leverage your audience as well. Here are two quick ways to do this:
Use the website traffic you are already getting to increase your Instagram followers. Many of the popular website content management systems like WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace offer simple plug-ins, blocks, or modules that make it easy to connect your Instagram account with your website. You can integrate the two together either by displaying your Instagram feed prominently on your website or by actually making your Instagram feed shoppable with product tags.
Check your other channels. Use your other social media channels, your email list, your product packaging, business cards, and whatever else you can think of to promote your account.
Creating written Instagram content
While Instagram is a visual platform, your words are just as important! Below you’ll find some guidance on what to show, what to say, and how to say it!
Tell your story
Use the 5 W’s to come up with content ideas: who, what, when, where, and why? This might sound like an Intro to Journalism or creative writing class, but honestly, these questions can help you create great story arcs about yourself and your brand. For example:
- Who: Who has been your biggest supporter in your business? Who inspires you? Who do you work with? Who do you serve?
- What: What have been some obstacles that you have overcome? What are you reading or listening to? What are your recent wins?
- When: When do you do your best work? When do you celebrate? When do you relax?
- Where: Where do you work, dream, think, or recharge? Where do you get inspiration from?
- Why: Why did you start your business? Why do you do things a certain way?
These are just scratching the surface of all the “W” questions you could answer for your audience. Remember that Instagram content is all about taking your tribe with you on your journey, and these questions can help you do just that.
To do: What “W” can you answer right now? Pick one that feels relevant to you today and take 5 minutes right now to create a post.
Repetition is your friend
There is no shame in having a repeat game! Having some kind of weekly feature that you can do each week on the same day is a great way to take the pressure off always having to come up with new ideas.
My friend, Suzi (@gurlgonegreen) has a #TuesdayTuneup feature where she shares some kind of quote, sentiment, or humorous relatable moment. Her tuneups are so relatable because they often provide some insight into her sense of humor or where she is at emotionally in life. Her audience loves these and has come to expect them.
Every Tuesday in my Stories I have “Instagram Tip Tuesday,” where I share 4-6 video segments explaining an Instagram tip or strategy. While I often share Instagram tips on my main feed as well, my audience loves that I can explain things “face to face” in my Stories. Sometimes it is more effective to verbally explain something instead of tediously describing the steps with the written word.
To do: Come up with a couple ideas of consistent weekly content you can create for your audience. Is it quick recipes, inspiring workspaces, or coffee shop thoughts? Just think about something your audience will love checking in on every week and start posting.
Planning your grid
For some, creating beautiful visuals that work and flow together seamlessly comes easily. But for the less visually-inclined, it can be a non-starter.
While Instagram is a visual platform, you can release the pressure to be perfect. Having a limited color scheme or an easily repeatable pattern is the simplest way to get started with a visually cohesive Instagram theme.
Remember my friend Suzi (@gurlgonegreen)? She has just a few background options that she takes the majority of her photos on, which creates a cohesive, themed look.
Another example is Kat Walters (@katwalters_) who again has a simple handful of elements that she repeats on her account. She uses a limited color palette of pinks, white, light blues and black, and cycles through floral elements, pictures of herself, and quotes.
To do: Make a short list of colors or elements that you want to include in your feed, and stick with them. It doesn’t have to be complicated!
Using Instagram content to grow your business
Once you have established your content flow and rhythm, you are ready to take things to the next level and accelerate your growth. The best way to grow your business with Instagram content is to invest in things like Instagram ads, paid placements and sponsorships, and working with influencers or brand reps.
I have had great success with Instagram advertising. You can choose to place images in the main feed with an image or video, or you can advertise in Stories.
When selecting images for the main feed, think of things that your target customer would love to see in their stream. When advertising on other social media platforms, the common advice is to choose an image or graphic that is jarring and attention-getting, but this doesn’t have the same effect on Instagram.
People are selectively curating their Instagram experience based on what is visually appealing to them, so your images should fit in, and also be scroll-stopping.
When advertising in Stories, I’ve had great success with either pretty images and a very simple text overlay, or with unpolished videos of myself (or clients) giving a 15-second explanation of what is being advertised.
Utilize feature accounts
There are many accounts on Instagram that exist for promoting other accounts to a niche audience. One way to get in front of your ideal audience is to appear on one of these feature accounts, also sometimes called “Shoutout Pages.”
Some feature accounts sell placement for a small fee, and some like to carefully curate who they share by searching a hashtag they ask you to use. For example, this is particularly popular in the handmade space where accounts like Craftsposure and Handmade Curator ask people to use their hashtags in exchange for an opportunity to get featured.
Working with brand reps and influencers
Another idea for growing your brand and finding new customers is to work with brand reps and/or influencers.
The title “Influencer” is somewhat broad and generic, but anyone with a sizeable, engaged audience can be considered an influencer. While these influencers must disclose a paid relationship with you, they have the attention and trust of their followers, so their reviews and recommendations hold great weight.
Depending on your niche and audience, you may be able to identify one or a few “super fans” that can work as brand reps for you. Brand reps usually promote a brand in exchange for discounts or free product, and include responsibilities like being required to mention and promote your brand a certain number of times over a defined time period.
Which of these strategies will you implement to begin growing your business with Instagram?
If you’re interested in building your business with Instagram, these steps and tips are just what you need to get up and running. You don’t need to do them all at once. Start with what you feel most comfortable with and then add on as you gain more and more confidence.
And don’t forget the most important aspect of using Instagram content for your business– authenticity. That’s what users of this platform are looking for, so stay true to yourself and your brand and you’ll win them over.