6 months ago, social media juggernaut Instagram proudly announced that they surpassed 200 million followers and the numbers keep growing every day! Once a trendy photo-sharing platform, Instagram has grown into a powerful social media marketing tool that you can add to your arsenal. 

This mobile-based social media platform relies heavily on hashtags and strong graphic content and can be an excellent resource for small businesses looking to build a community of customers. Unlike more traditional media where selling is the name of the game, Instagram's quirky filters and infinite hashtag options offer users a myriad of creative opportunities to build a supportive community and a passionate fan base.

  1. Keep it Specific
    No one likes a scatter shot approach. Imagine receiving a present that's been re-gifted from someone else, doesn't feel good does it? Don't apply a strategy designed for a different customers or for a different social media platform all together. It rings false and can be easily detected. It's important to know what users specifically want from their experience before trying to sell anything!

    After observing your ideal customer's Instagram and the 'getting to know you' stage is out of the way, create a brand-specific strategy. Make sure you keep the focus of the platform on your company's individual world view. Let your customers see your business through your lens. 
  2. Spread the Love
    Focus on the culture surrounding your small business: Where are you located? What does your storefront look like? Who is your happiest customer? Starting from there, share images that best represent you and your customers. Remember the first day you started your business? Convey that in some of your Instagram photos to let others know exactly what they are buying into. Imbue life into the business you love so much and your followers will see the passion and quality behind your work.

  3. Use #Hashtags
    What sets Instagram apart from the pack is the particular use of #hashtags as a search function combined with a no-character limit. It's common for individuals to find new accounts by clicking on their favorite user's hashtags. Get in on the action by choosing general, yet applicable, hashtags, but don't get desperate and go overboard! I
    t's important to use hashtags that actually relate to your small business or the content you have posted, but there are general ones that can be just as effective! For instance, #tbt (Throwback Thursday) can be a great opportunity to share older content. It gives customers a sense of where you came from and where you are now.

    Chose a hashtag for your company and use it as an incentive! Encourage your customers to use it by creating a competition. For example, chose a user's #photooftheday to reward with a prize. The more times your company is mentioned, the more likely new customers will find it!

  4. Shine the Light on Your Customers
    Let them know how valuable they are to you! Share their photos, thoughts, and words, just like you expect them to share yours (while crediting them, of course!) You can also 'like' their photos and respond to their questions. Let them know you appreciate that they're there. Focus on creating a conversation to create an authentic atmosphere. Don't forget, you can @mention your followers by name in your post to directly address one of them. Also, build a community by reaching out to other leaders in your field in the same way!

  5. Tell Stories, Not Stock Photos
    The most effective images you can share are those which reflect positive experiences, organic interactions, and transparently introduce who you are to the outside world. Happy customers, smiling staff, and a great clean space are always more effective than a stock image. Behind the scenes moments captured candidly can give potential (and dedicated) customers a more intimate experience with your small business. Give an exclusive inside look at the world your company creates.

    In the end, it's all up to you! Instagram constantly proves to be one of the most personal and exciting resources out there for marketers. What you chose to share is up to you, just make sure to follow Likeable Local on Instagram too. We can't wait to see your pictures!

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