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As a visual-first social media app, Instagram offers a unique opportunity for small businesses to connect with a wider customer base. As new startups have sprung up in the UK as a result of the impact of Covid-19, here we run through some of the best tips and advice to grow your brand and followers in 2021.

Why Instagram?

The photo & video sharing app has over 32 million Instagram users in the UK as of April 2021 and is enjoying a surge in popularity over Facebook Business and it’s ever-increasing complexities and add-ons.

But it’s not just it’s reach that presents an opportunity for startups – it’s the fact that larger businesses are slower, less creative and have much more red-tape. This means that one-man-bands and startups can react faster, have meaningful connections and get ahead.

According to Instagram, 90% of their users follow a business on the platform, with 2 in 3 people surveyed saying that Instagram enables them to have interaction with brands.

Research conducted by Facebook, who have owned Instagram since 2012, highlighted that 83% of those surveyed believe that Instagram helps them discover new products and services.

With 150 million people on Instagram having a conversation with a business every month, the social media platform enables small businesses to directly connect with a customer base who they wouldn’t normally have access to.

Here are some of our top tips and tricks for startups and small businesses who are looking to access a new audience and harness the power of Instagram:

1. Use an Instagram professional business account

Using a professional business Instagram account will give you more access to your channel’s insights, where you will be able to track your performance.

You can switch your personal Instagram account to a professional Instagram for business account through your Instagram settings:

Profile > Menu > Settings > Account > Switch to Professional account

2. Know the purpose of your Instagram account

Do you know what the main focus of your Instagram will be? Will you use your Instagram account to promote your brand? Share tips? Educate followers?

Having an idea on what your Instagram will showcase will help you to be authentic to your audience.

3. Consider your Instagram identity

Your Instagram identity includes your profile image, name and @handle.

If it’s not possible to have your brand name as your @handle then utilise the name facility to list your full brand name and ensure your Instagram and brand identity aline.

4. Utilise your Instagram Bio

An Instagram Bio should be concise, easy to read and use the right tone for your business.

With only 150 characters available to play with, you should use all of them wisely and ensure to include a website link, location and any other necessary contact information.

5. Make your Instagram profile a portfolio of your work

If you think of your profile as a portfolio of your work, it will allow you to display the best elements of your brand.

For example, if you’re going to post a before and after shot, make sure the after shot is the first image seen, so that it showcases your business at it’s best.

6. Be consistent with posting

It’s important to post regularly to your Instagram, ideally daily and be consistent with the content you post.

Having a backlog of images to post before you begin will help you to keep momentum with regular posts.

7. Keep an authentic style

Try and keep an authentic style that is consistent with your brand.

While there are lots of Instagram filters and image altering tricks you could use, just being authentic to your brand’s style is one of the most effective ways to utilise Instagram for business.

8. Use captions

While Instagram is a visual-first platform, captions help to add context to your posts.

Keep your brand’s audience in mind when writing them, with concise posts that are well structured. Be sure to double check they read well and are without any errors before posting.

9. #Hashtag

Using hashtags on your posts help people who don’t follow you to find your posts.

There isn’t a limit on how many hashtags you can use in total, but using 5-10 hashtags per post is ideal.

10. Keep #Hashtags relevant

Hashtags should be relevant to each image you post.

But don’t just use the same hashtags each time you post, mix it up to help your posts be
seen by a wider audience.

11. Tag your posts

Tagging other relevant brands and products in your posts helps to increase brand awareness and provides more exposure.

When you tag another account, they will receive a separate notification and the tagged post will be stored on a separate feed on their Instagram profile, which their audience are able to access.

12. Use Instagram carousel posts

An Instagram carousel is a post with multiple images that the user can scroll through by swiping.

Instagram carousel posts help to increase engagement, as they enable viewers to look at your posts for longer.

13. Engagement is more important than followers

Instagram engagement is defined by the likes and comments on your posts. An engagement rate is calculated by dividing your interaction by your number of followers.

So an account with a small amount of dedicated followers will have higher engagement than an account with a large amount of followers that don’t interact.

14. Engage with your followers

Keep an eye on who is following you and if they fit in with your brand then follow them back and engage with them by liking and commenting on their posts.

Similarly, look at who is liking your posts and follow and engage with them if they fit in with your brand. This will help to increase awareness of your brand.

15. Reply to comments

Comments help to start a conversation, which allows you to express your brand’s personality.

Actively replying to your Instagram comments helps viewers of your page to see the value in engaging with you. And you can always manoeuvre conversations to direct messages for anything you prefer to discuss privately.

16. Search for similar companies

You can use the search function to find other small businesses who are similar to your own.

Similar companies don’t need to be seen as competition; you can engage with them to help build a community and take inspiration from their work.

17. Follow and engage with local businesses

If your location is important to your brand’s success, then following and engaging with local businesses can help to increase your brand’s exposure.

Even if the only thing you have in common is your location, by connecting with local businesses on Instagram you’re able to build a digital community that will increase your presence.

18. Utilise Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories help you to publish quicker, less curated content for your audience and Instagram users are becoming more reliant on this facility when they use the platform.

Data released by Instagram claims that 58% of people surveyed become more interested in a brand/product after seeing it in Stories.

19. Play around with Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels are a relatively new feature for Instagram, that allows users to produce 15 second multi clip videos with audio and creative effects to be shared on your feed.

Instagram Reels from public accounts can also be viewed in Explore, where Instagram sources content based on the users interests, which makes your content accessible to a much wider audience than just your own followers.


Our one final important tip

Don’t feel burdened by any technology, digital etiquette rules or what photo filters to use – More of us are seeking authentic and genuine content. It’s far better to take a poor photo of a good subject than a great photo of an uninteresting subject. Be yourself (or your brand) and don’t worry too much about trying to be ‘gram cool 😉

Ryan is a Freelance Digital Marketing & SEO Consultant based in Cambridge & Hertfordshire.

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