This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.

Why Small Businesses Need Instagram

See also: Writing Skills

While most small businesses recognize the value of Facebook to reach their target audiences, many have been slower to realize that Instagram can help them expand that audience, particularly when it comes to younger consumers.

According to a survey from Visual Objects, 28% of small businesses plan to increase investment in Instagram in 2019.

What small businesses need to understand is that Instagram blends the information targeting tools of Facebook with the creativity of a visual platform, and as such represents a lucrative opportunity.

Small businesses should increase investment in Instagram because:

  • Instagram appeals to younger audiences
  • Instagram’s visual content is engaging
  • Instagram includes interactive features

Instagram Appeals to Younger Generations

Instagram, which now has one billion monthly users worldwide, is also among the social media sites showing the most growth in the U.S. While the percentage of adults in the U.S. who say they use Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter has remained largely static since 2016, Instagram has shown continued growth, according to Pew Research.

This is particularly true among younger users of social media. The Pew survey shows that in the U.S., 67% of 18-to-29-year-olds say they use Instagram. The survey results are even more pronounced when looking at the youngest users, 18- to-24-year-olds, with 75% saying they use Instagram.

The young demographics of Instagram give companies an opportunity to reach consumers who are still forming brand loyalties and are willing to embrace new companies, a group that represents the next generation of purchasing power.

Instagram’s Visual Content Engages Users

Instagram’s reliance on visuals scares some businesses who fear it will be too challenging to convey nuances about their value proposition using only images. A little creativity, however, can go a long way and can pay off significantly.

The visual nature of Instagram makes it a platform that users want to engage with, and they expect attractive content. This means small businesses will see little value added if they stick with a static display of stock images or poorly-formatted graphics and do not engage with users.

One effective way to do that with Instagram is to use it as an extension of your customer service. This can be done by adding “stickers” to the images you post, which allow users to interact directly with you. These interactions can include:

  • Asking followers to share their thoughts with question stickers. Just make sure you respond in a welcoming way.
  • Adding poll stickers to welcome your followers’ opinions and make them feel invested in your company.

Through these features, your company can create a sense of community with its users in which their concerns feel heard and addressed.

Interactive Features Drive Engagement on Instagram

Much of the content on Instagram is short-lived. Instagram “Stories,” a feature that allows users to post photos that disappear in 24 hours, has become hugely popular, with about 500 million accounts using it every day. It also allows users to livestream video to followers that disappears at the conclusion.

“Stories” and other short-lived content such as livestreaming are a big part of Instagram’s appeal to younger users.

It may seem counterintuitive to business owners who might prefer that the material they post on Instagram remain available indefinitely, but Instagram’s short-lived content is a powerful marketing tool that small businesses should use to connect with their target audience, boost engagement, and drive sales.

Short-lived content posted in real time also presents a more authentic version of your brand. Don’t be afraid to show spontaneity, or to poke fun at your company with self-deprecating humor.

If your post reads like advertising copy, users will see it as advertising copy. Eyes will glaze over slogans. If users don’t get the sense that a real person is responding to their comments or concerns, you will lose them as followers.

Be sure to pay attention to user questions during livestreams. When you use short-lived content to listen to your followers’ problems and comments, your followers are more likely to trust your brand and become repeat customers. 

This level of content upkeep and engagement can be challenging for smaller teams, however.

Use Instagram to Convert Leads into Sales

Instagram now allows users to shop directly from its “Stories” by clicking on a shopping bag icon, allowing them to learn more about the product, with tags and clickable links. If they choose to do so, users can buy the product directly without having to leave the app.

Nearly three-quarters of Instagram users (72%) say that they have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases based on what they have seen on Instagram.

Influencer marketing is a tried and true method to gain followers and promote your brand. If you can recruit people with influence in your targeted market niche or geographic region to use your product and to post about their experiences, you could see a very positive impact for your brand.

The Visual Objects survey found that 25% of small businesses work with influencers, who can be less expensive than full service agencies. Consult with an influencer marketing agency to find an influencer that fits your business strategy.

Instagram can create value for your brand that can translate to later sales. Photographs highlighting quirky aspects of your company culture may help users identify with your employees and can help inspire brand loyalty. A posting that makes a statement of corporate social responsibility or shows your team taking part in community events can earn positive brand impressions.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and Running Your Own Business

The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and
Running Your Own Business

If you are thinking about running your own business, or already do so, but feel that you need some guidance, then this eBook is for you. It takes you through self-employment in easy steps, helping you to ensure that your business has more chance of success.

The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and Running Your Own Business is the guide no new or aspiring entrepreneur can afford to be without!

Based on our popular self-employment and entrepreneurship content.

Use Instagram to Connect with Clients and Build Your Brand

Small businesses should not shy away from Instagram. Instagram can be a gateway for your company to engage and develop relationships with younger audiences. Instagram can also help you demonstrate how your product or service can help clients.

To get started building a presence on Instagram, partner with a social media marketing company that can help explore how the platform can expand your business.

About the Author

Kelsey McKeon is a Content Developer and Marketer for Visual Objects, a B2B visual portfolio site that social media consultants, web designers, and development companies can use to showcase their former projects.