How to use Instagram for your local business
Victoria Islas, Founder & Digital Marketing
10 February 2018
We love Instagram! Instagram is a great platform to use as a small local business BUT we also have seen businesses fail to use it to the best of its potential. It’s not your fault! Today I am going to discuss who would benefit the best from this app, why I’d even recommend it to you and finally how to best use the app for your business. So that is the who, why and how. Let’s get started.

Setting up your Social Media Profiles

First off, let’s discuss social media in general. Let’s say you are a flower shop and you don’t know where to start with social media but you have heard how important it is to set it up for online marketing purposes. I am here to tell you that it is very important especially in these modern days to set your social media platforms up. Your competitors are online and you should be too. These platforms will allow you to get out there and be seen. You need to tell the story, you need to show who you are, and you need to show that you care about your community and your people (customers and employees). And let’s hope you are genuine about it too! I am not here to tell you to pretend to care because if you don’t care that can be seen a mile away, even through social media.

Not every platform is for you

The second thing I want to discuss is how NOT every platform will be for you. I don’t want you to set up every single social media profile out there. That is going to be hard to manage and your market or personas are NOT on every social media app out there. The two that I always recommend you set up, to begin with, is Facebook and Instagram (if your business will allow it and your photos are worthy enough). This is more easily manageable and they are the two most popular with a variety of people within them.

So let’s continue with the flower shop example, and now let’s give it a name just to make this more realistic, Maria’s Flower Shop. There! Okay so let me tell you why Instagram would work for Maria’s Flower Shop, Flowers are beautiful to look at in person, now imagine those flowers on the most VISUAL social media app on the planet. Get it? Instagram is all about visual photography. People go on there to see photos and if you can create some amazing content, you will kick ass on Instagram.

Now, this leads me to discuss how you can pretty much waste your time on Instagram as well. If you aren’t creating worthy enough content on a weekly basis than this app is not for you. I want you to look at profiles that inspire you on Instagram. Most likely they have a lot of followers and amazing content. There is a reason for that! If you can’t deliver, hire someone to help you or don’t do it at all. The worse thing I hate to see is a business setting up an Instagram account and seeing ONE really uninspiring photo on your account from ages ago.

Who should be using Instagram
IF you think you can create amazing content for your Instagram then Instagram is the platform for you. You can be a flower shop or an auto mechanic for all I care, you just have to blow away non-followers and keep your followers engaged. It’s all about engagement and interaction. But you must have the drive to do this, be disciplined and consistent to stay on top of your social media strategy. It’s not for those that are lazy or that “don’t have time”. Again, hire someone if you really don’t have time. Social media is FREE and social media management isn’t as expensive as you think it would be.

Social Media Branding
Okay, so I never said that creating amazing content for Instagram was easy and I am not here to tell you that. Everyone that I have seen that is successful with social media sit down and think about their strategy, plan it out and execute! Social media branding is another subject you must consider when thinking about Instagram or Facebook or any other social media platform you plan to use for your local business. What is branding? The brand will keep you cohesive throughout all the platforms and it’s like a visual cue for your people. They will recognize your content or posts a mile away. That’s what you want to create. You want them to know it’s you and you want to look fucking awesome online. Your online presence is as important as your local experience and both are considered branding. Match everything up, let it be cohesive no matter where people go to find you. Create an amazing experience both online and offline. Now, this small paragraph is not meant to tell you all there is about branding, I am only making it simple for you to understand as a local business. You must think of these things too if you want to thrive as a business. I have seen way too many awesome businesses close down because they didn’t work on their online marketing and branding. We’re all online! Remember that. Don’t lose sight of that.

Why should you be on Instagram?
Well, there isn’t one specific reason WHY you should be on Instagram but I am going to give you my honest opinion. Why not? If it makes your business thrive and grow, wouldn’t you opt in for it? And did I mention it’s FREE? I think I did. Also, I want you to go look up your competitors. Are they on Instagram? Most likely if they are, they are way ahead of you (even if they suck at it). But what if they aren’t?! Then you can beat them to it and start creating an amazing following online which will help increase your leads and sales as a business. But honestly, I think the best part of being on social media is being able to get to know your people and being able to somehow communicate with them! I know I am starting to sound really competitive, in reality, I am not as competitive as you think I am but it’s reality! If you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to be doing online, someone else will. Period. And then you are left behind and probably not doing as much as you should be doing for your business.

The Instagram platform will allow people to get to know your business, your story, your products and services and best of all gives you a place to communicate with your people and your community. But for god’s sake inspire them too! Give them something truly awesome to look at, to share and to be felt. SAY NO to an ugly image with no caption.

How to kick ass on Instagram
Now that I got all of those important details out of the way, I think we can now start to discuss how you can truly kick ass on Instagram. It won’t be easy but I have faith that as a small business you can do a magnificence job at it, no matter who you are or what skill level you have.

Get Creative
Learn to get a little more creative with your ideas. It’s fine to want to take a photo of your flowers but what if you can stage it a bit to make it look more appealing? Getting creative isn’t as hard as you think and I even recommend you go out on Instagram and take a look around to get inspired! Check out this photo as an example by @instagram:

Always use your own content
Don’t use someone else photos. For example: google images or stock images. This is not going to tell people your story. It’s going to tell someone else story or worse of all, NO STORY at all. Always use your own content. That means, always use the photos you took. Images that you find online are being used by everyone else, this is not going to help you and it will make you look like everyone else. Create your own content, please! If not you will just be a clone and your posts won’t be as engaging.

Utilize all the formats available on the Instagram App
Did you know you can do more than just post one photo as a part of your feed? You can now select up to 10 images, tile your images and even use the Boomerang, a free app that allows you to share really interesting mini videos (hint: an awesome way to get creative).

Master taking photos with your iPhone or DSLR
I recommend you master taking photos. Okay, you don’t have to be a “master” but I would recommend you follow some basic photography skills. Linda and Skillshare are great places to learn how to take photos better. In the end, Instagram is about photos so learning a little more about taking some really good ones will help you stand out from the crowd. I will create another post soon with some tips on how to accomplish this but for now, consider it and check out the websites I mentioned above.

Tagging and Mentions
Make sure you use the tag and mentions with every post that allows you to.
Keep in mind that tagging only works with photos, not videos. But if you have a great photo and someone is in it, tag em!
Another awesome thing to do is to give mentions. Mentioning someone happens within the caption area and all you have to do is this: @username. So you put the @ symbol and then the username of the Instagram user.
So why tag and mention? It’s a great way to connect people with your brand and business and is also an awesome networking tactic at a business level.

Use Stories and Live Video
I don’t see businesses using these Instagram features enough! Did you know that there is a “stories” and “live video” feature you can use? Yes, there is! And these will make you stand out because not everyone is doing it. I dare you to! And I dare you to think of an awesome way of using these features.
Stories are sorta like SnapChat but for Instagram and Live Video is sorta like Facebook Live. If you haven’t used any of those apps or features now would be a good time to start learning more about it if it interests you at all.
Here are some great articles to read besides mine on using these specific features that I know will help you on your Instagram journey:

How to use Instagram Stories like a pro
How to Use Instagram Live

I hope you found this blog article useful enough to get you started on Instagram. Remember our team is here to help you out when things get tough. We understand Social Media and understand you as the business owner. Sometimes as much as we would like to jump on social media, we really don’t have time when we are busy running our business every day. But overall we hope to see you kicking ass online especially on Instagram! Social media is sure to amp up your business.

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