How to use Instagram to build your business

How to use Instagram to build your business

Instagram is the new kid on the block when it comes to social media marketing and very soon there is going to be a whole lot more advertising on the platform no matter which profiles users choose to follow.

So what can you do to get your business’s message across to Instagram’s more than 200 million active monthly users? SmartCompany spoke to a handful of small business owners with successful social media accounts to glean their top ‘gramming tips.

Content is king at Showpo

Hot 30 Under 30 whizz Jane Lu, the founder of Sydney-based online fashion retailer Showpo, says Instagram is just like any other form of social media – you are what you post. As such, brands which post obvious advertisements will find it difficult to attract new followers.

Instead, Lu suggests businesses looking to use Instagram should focus on connecting with their audience by sharing content they will genuinely enjoy and using a “voice” they can connect with.

“I think when you know who your customer is, you need to give yourself a voice. That will lead you to finding the right content,” Lu says. “Big companies don’t give themselves a voice because they don’t want to alienate certain sections of their customer base – but then [the customers] can’t relate to anyone.”

“My rule of thumb is that if [the content] is something I would want to share on my wall or on my friend’s wall, then it’s good,” she says.  

And if you want the new breed of Instagram-obsessed young people to get behind your products – and then help you extend your brand’s reach by tagging your products in their posts – you need to come up with some high quality content.

“Instagram’s definitely not a place for you to directly sell – you don’t want [your posts] to look like advertising – you just want to give good content,” Lu says.

According to Lu, once you start Instagramming you need to stay committed to the platform, otherwise your followers might quickly forget all about you.

“We’ve got 355,000 followers and we post frequently – you need to post frequently. I think sometimes the longer you leave it, the less engagement you get,” she says.

However, Lu is quick to point out that Instagram ‘likes’ do not necessarily translate to sales, no matter how popular your brand’s profile.

“The thing about Instagram is that you get more engagement, but Facebook still converts [to sales] better… I think with our Instagram compared to similar accounts, our sales conversion is relatively low, but our engagement is significantly higher,” she says.

Mind you, Showpo’s sales conversion across social media platforms in general is through the roof – the company recently celebrated its first ever seven-digit month, after making more than $1 million from sales in May alone. Not bad for a company that turned over $2.6 million last year and does approximately 80% of its marketing on social media.

For I Quit Sugar’s Sarah Wilson, it’s all about community

Sarah Wilson, founder of the I Quit Sugar empire of e-books, blogs and physical book publications says Instagram is perfect for building strong connections between a brand and its customers.

“Basically, it’s a brand developer – a community connector, and it’s really good for promotions,” she told SmartCompany.

“It’s actually the most naïve and therefore kind of genuine form of social media because it’s all about giving out information, and sharing the love around.”

I Quit Sugar employs 13 people and is turning over $1.8 million annually – and although Instagram doesn’t drive much of those sales, Wilson still says it’s an indispensable business tool.

“It has limitations because it doesn’t allow you to link directly through to a sales site. So when you’re dealing with people who want instant results, it has limitations.”

“The way I see social media working is that it’s all about exactly that – social and connecting. And not getting too caught up in whether it’s profitable and drives sales,” she says.

“I prefer to operate in a way where you share a message – ‘I Quit Sugar’, not ‘you should quit sugar’ – so on Instagram we post pictures that kind of show what we’re up to and then people can make their own decisions in their own time.”

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