Instagram has only been around since 2010, but in that relatively short amount of time, it's gone from being a novel photo-sharing app to a marketing powerhouse used by businesses of all sizes.
But if you've been wondering, "How do I promote my small business on Instagram?" then you might be concerned that Instagram success is cost-prohibitive. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be.
Ahead, three experts and entrepreneurs explain how small businesses can upgrade their Instagram marketing strategy without breaking the bank.
Why Use Instagram Marketing?
Before we dive in, let's explore why you should bother marketing your LLC on Instagram to begin with.
The platform's sheer popularity is certainly a plus — more than one billion people use Instagram worldwide. Users are highly active, too, with one study finding that Americans spend 53 minutes on Instagram per day (that's almost 300 hours per year):
But most importantly for small business owners, Instagram users aren't just interested in seeing what their friends are posting. They also want to interact with and learn more about businesses like yours:
Perhaps that's why over 70 percent of businesses use Instagram: The platform has evolved beyond a social network to also become a branding, shopping and marketing network. And unlike more traditional marketing methods, it doesn't cost a dime to get started.
So once you've decided to learn how to market on Instagram, how can you generate results without spending a fortune on paid ads? That's where the advice of three seasoned experts comes in.
Build an Editorial Calendar and Use Stories
We wholeheartedly agreed with Cale Loken, CEO at 301 Madison Consulting, when he said that "the best thing about Instagram and other social media platforms is that it has leveled the playing field for big and small businesses."
So how can small businesses take advantage of the level playing field that Instagram has created? According to Loken, they can use the following tips to "grow, expand and generate more sales."
Build an editorial calendar. With the help of a calendar, you’ll be able to plan your posts, captions and hashtags rather than just going with the shotgun approach. With this, you’ll be able to manage your online presence and post in a more meaningful pattern. You can create content pillars and designs for the different types of posts for the future.
Make use of Stories. Stories are a great way to reach out to your customers without cluttering up their feed. There is a lot of room for innovation and interesting content. They are different from posts and have almost doubled their reach. The more interactive the stories, the more consumer engagements you will have.
Engage actively. In order to build engagements and interactions, you have to pay close attention to your customers and what they post. Try to reply and have a conversation with them whenever your business is mentioned. Personalized messages are [great ways] to make a connection with the customer.
Create content pillars. After conducting thorough Instagram marketing research, create content pillars and a plan for your future posts. Include templates, type of content, colors you would use and any other relevant elements in your plan. Doing so will make it easier for you to operate things on Instagram.
Use hashtags. After planning and creating content, it is time to identify potential keywords. Search some useful keywords for your post and use them strategically. Keywords are an important aspect of marketing, so try to generate as many relevant keywords as you can.
Embrace Instagram Stories. A significant portion of your audience may reach you through stories. Stories are an effective way to reach more people. So try to make your stories as engaging as you can because it will help you in getting more reach.
And when looking for hashtags to use in your Instagram posts, remember that more isn't always more. To get the exposure that hashtags can bring without hurting the user experience, try only using a couple of hashtags in your post's caption and reserving any additional ones for the comments.
Get Help from Friends and Create Varied Content
Linda Nguyen, COO at SOUPPLY, shared one of the most budget-friendly tips for low-cost Instagram marketing we've heard yet: Simply "include your Instagram handle on marketing materials and on your website."
She also shared a variety of other tactics small businesses can use to accomplish their Instagram marketing goals:
To grow your account, start by asking friends and family to follow your account as well as engage by commenting on and liking posts. Send products to influencers in exchange for a post in their Stories.
To create a community around your brand, ask friends and family to share your content that relates to them on their personal Instagram accounts. Be sure to maintain a consistent voice and personality in your posts to appeal to a particular niche of followers.
To create meaningful content your followers want to see, post a variety of content such as product shots, educational posts, behind-the-scenes shots, polls, staff-related content and the like.
Nguyen also points out that some of Instagram's recent changes "may impact how small businesses use the platform in 2022." Specifically, "people are engaging more through Instagram Reels, Stories and Live. Entertaining video content is getting more views than static content." So, you'd be wise to prioritize video content alongside more traditional photo posts.
So, how much should a small business spend on Instagram advertising? Based on the advice of the experts we consulted, the answer can be as little as $0. Rather than pouring tons of money into ad campaigns, Instagram-savvy small businesses succeed by staying up-to-date on trends and creating content tailored for their audience.
Whether that means filming more Stories, creating an in-depth editorial calendar or soliciting the help of friends and family, you don't need a big budget to build your brand, learn how to market on Instagram and start generating more sales.
Carrie Buchholz-Powers is a Colorado-based writer who’s been creating content since 2013. From digital marketing to ecommerce to land conservation, she has experience in a wide range of fields and loves learning about them all. Carrie is fond of history, animals and beauty in equal measure. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, playing video games and exploring Colorado's prairies and mountains with her husband.