Before the existence of smartphones a social network app such as Instagram, which is a visual social platform in which users share pictures and short videos, would not have been such an active social network. Smartphones and other portable digital devices have made sharing visual content easy, less time consuming and a necessity for many small businesses.
Instagram currently has more than 400M active users many of whom could be a part of your target audience, but many small business owners hesitate because they don’t know how to effectively use Instagram for business. Other than making sure you have a smartphone capable of 1) taking quality photos and 2) is able to install and run the Instagram app, here are 5 tips to capitalizing your business’ presence on Instagram:
- Create a professional profile: As with any social network, your profile is a visitor’s first impression of who you are and what your business is all about. Make sure your profile image represents your brand i.e., your logo or your face and that your username is recognizable i.e., your business name or closest to it depending if another user has that name.Your profile description should also represent your brand and have a call-to-action, such as a link to your website. For example, if you are a shoe store in Carleton Place then you should state that: “CP Shoes is a leader in footwear fashion in Carleton Place since 1984. Visit us at CPshoes.ca”
- Balance business-related images with more personal images: Loyal followers and those interested in your business niche will likely follow and engage with images from your business, but to attract new followers as well as to create a sense of community, you should share an equal balance of business and personal images. Using the shoe store example, they could easily share images of their latest rain boot arrival, but they could also personalize it by taking a fun picture of him or her self or another staff member wearing the rain boots while standing out in the rain.
- Mix videos with images: Some followers will prefer images over video and vice versa, so having a nice mix keeps everyone happy. Videos on Instagram are only 15-seconds long, which make them the perfect length for a new-product unveiling or launch, to share a quick tip or to just share something personal such as a beautiful sunrise. Videos help build community by telling your clients you care enough about them to take the time to share brief moments throughout your day.
- Engage with followers: Pay attention to who is following you and take some time each day or week to click on their profiles. If they live nearby, are a regular client or are in an area of business that is similar to or compliments your own then follow them back and engage with them by liking or commenting on their Instagram posts. This will help build your following and online community.
- Use hashtags: Hashtags play an important role on Instagram. Not only are hashtags a great way to organize your own posts, but to be found by potential followers. Again, using the shoe store as an example, if they regularly post when a new product arrives in store they could consistently use the hashtag #CPJulyArrivals and every month change the hashtag to coincide with that month’s new arrivals. This way customers could click on that hashtag to see all of the posts pertaining to new arrivals that month without having to scroll through the store’s entire Instagram feed. Similarly by using hashtags used by other footwear stores or manufacturers anyone searching those hashtags will come across their store’s Instagram account increasing their chances of finding new followers.
Like any social network it is important to post on Instagram on a regular basis. If you make Instagram a part of your social media marketing plan remember that building an audience takes time, but while you are building your audience take the time to explore how other like-minded businesses are using Instagram and engage with others – you may be surprised at how fast your Instagram community will grow.
Are you using Instagram for your business now? If so, what type of posts have worked well for you?
Believe it or not your customers started thinking about Christmas a month ago and although that may seem early to a lot of people – it isn’t. Small businesses have a lot of competition during the Christmas season; and it is often a boom or bust time of year for many, so maximizing your Christmas marketing campaign is your best chance to end the year on a high note.
First things first, review previous years’ Christmas marketing and review what you need to change. Ask yourself:
- What didn’t work?
- What can be improved?
- Was something missed or forgotten?
Answering these questions will enable you to work through the following five tips, each of which will prepare your marketing for the Christmas season:
- Determine your holiday audience – If you have a women’s apparel store, your target audience may change a bit during the Christmas season to include men shopping for their significant others or mothers. It is important to not only research who your target audience is during the Christmas season, but to determine the best methods to reach them.
- Optimise your mobile experience – Make sure your email marketing and online advertisements translate well onto mobile devices. More and more traffic is coming from smaller screens. You also want to make sure your website is mobile-friendly so if someone is out shopping they can easily find information regarding your business, such as hours and location, quickly and easily.
- Target key days – Target and maximize your marketing during the key days such as the American Black Friday and Cyber Monday by creating a marketing campaign that includes offering special promotions that are only valid on these days. Run Facebook ads or other advertising leading up to these days. Promote the benefits supporting local and remind people that by shopping locally they save on shipping and duty.
- Don’t always sell or promote yourself – When posting on social media or writing blog posts don’t always sell what it is you are trying to sell, be a resource! The Christmas season is stressful and overwhelming, so provide your customers with something they can actually use. For example, if you sell household products, share information on how to host a Christmas party successfully (and subtly promote some items you sell in-store) or if you are a restaurant share how hosting a party in a restaurant saves time during an already busy time of year.
- Remember what works – Not everything about marketing changes during the Christmas season. Hold to your best practices and be consistent in your email and social media marketing. Continue to engage with customers online and lastly – remember to thank them! Christmas is all about meaningful connections and good will. Take the time to thank your customers for their support with a personal Christmas card or small gift. You can even slip a special offer into every greeting you send or shopping bag after a purchase. Another great option is having an email promotion, to thank those on your email marketing list. Gestures like these take little effort but make a big impact.
The Christmas season can be a stressful and busy one for small businesses, so plan ahead and get started on your Christmas marketing as soon as possible. Remember – your customers are thinking about Christmas months before the actual date! Don’t lose your customers to box stores by waiting until December to get them into the holiday spirit – start now and beat the competition.
* Originally printed in the Smiths Falls Hometown news, November 2015 issue