Articles - 4th June 2020

Is Instagram actually a good platform for your business?

Words by Jenna Farmer
Illustration by Will Francis

We all spend hours scrolling, but is Instagram simply a guilty pleasure or a savvy business move? With a staggering one billion users, it sometimes feels impossible to stand out from the crowd. However, with the right strategy, its size means that this social media form has the power to rocket your business overnight. We reveal the key questions to consider when deciding whether Instagram is right for you.

 

Can visuals best communicate your business?

Instagram can work for any business, but it works particularly well if you can easily communicate the benefits of your services or products through visuals. This doesn’t need to mean spending a fortune of professional shots. Laura Moore, co-founder of The Hub for social media managers, suggests that visuals from customers can be a really powerful form of testimonial. “Try and use as much user generated content as much as you can. Stories from actual paying customers are really powerful and that kind of social proof will build trust” she explains.

This strategy has been really effective for Cat Price, who runs Patie&Co (@pattiecokids on Instagram), an organic cotton muslin brand for babies and children. She explains that around a quarter of her sales comes through Instagram-with customer photographs being a particularly successful strategy. “I use a variety of strategies including hashtag, giftings, ads and giveaways to grow my engagement and followers, but I’m very lucky that lots of my customers share lots of photos of their babies using our muslins so I get lots of content that way too.”

Remember, this doesn’t have to mean photographs. Service based businesses might use Instagram’s IGTV tool to produce short snappy advice videos focused around their services, in the hope of reaching new clients.

It’s worth considering that the users of Instagram have pretty short attention spans when consuming content. If you find your product or service requires lots of information or descriptions, it might be worth experimenting with longer YouTube videos or in-depth blog posts instead.

 

Do you rely on word of mouth?  

Next up, it’s worth considering how your current customer base has evolved. Do you work closely with a small group of customers or are you constantly relying on word of mouth to keep business and sales coming in?

If it’s the latter, then working with influencers may be beneficial and nowhere are they more powerful than Instagram. This is particularly the case if your brand is relevant to the most popular topics on the platform: such as fashion, food and parenting.

Ellie Kime, who runs The Enthusiast (@theenthusiast.co on Instagram), can track her sales increasing to sending products to key influencers. “Last year, a prominent influencer posted about one of my badges and it sparked a wave of sales I’ve never seen before!” she explains.

Spending some time engaging and targeting specific influencers in your field can really help. If your product is niche, that can work better since users essentially use hashtags as search engines for inspiration. One emerging area is the gluten free market: the hashtag #glutenfreeuk has 85,000+ posts and is growing each day.

Catherine Sharman, who runs gluten-free restaurant Apres Food Co,(@apresfoodco on Instagram) has found the platform to be vital in diversifying her business in the current climate. “I simply do not know what we would have done without it-and we only have a small reach-we have launched a new business and found new customers in 7 weeks. We would not be able to do it without the gluten free Instagram community and lovely influencers.” she adds.

 

Do you enjoy using the platform? 

Of course, not all business activities are fun (hello, tax return) but the platforms we enjoy using are the ones we seem to grow naturally. If you much prefer the written word, try hanging out on Twitter and LinkedIn instead. You can always outsource your instagram to a social media expert if you feel your time could be better spent elsewhere.

 

Top Tips for Using Instagram: 

-Get to know your audience. Use your insights to get an idea of your audience: you can currently view location, age range and gender of your followers in the audience insights tab of business accounts. Use this to make sure your content speaks to them.

-Pay attention to the times of day you post. Although your post won’t necessarily show up on your followers’ feeds immediately, how many it eventually reaches can be determined by how well it does in the initial posting window (a post that attracts a flurry of initial engagement may well be seen by a bigger audience later on). You can use your insights to see when your audience is most active too but use common sense. For example, if you’re targeting busy mums, later in the evening when the kids are in bed may well do better than in the middle of family mealtimes.

Keep a sales mindset. Don’t get sucked into the Instagram aesthetic and forget what you’re trying to achieve. “Make it really easy for people to know how to buy/work with you,” advises Laura Moore. “Share the reasons why people need it and also make sure you tell them what you sell and how they can get it; don’t assume they know to swipe up or find a link-give clear directions,” she adds.

Finally, it’s worth reminding that whilst Instagram is a great business tool, it also is a way to make connections with fellow freelancers too. I recommend following freelance accounts such as @doingitforthekids_, @freelanceheroes, @freelancingfemales and @_worknotes. Searching freelance hashtags can be a great way to find people in a similar field to you too.

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