Instagram marketing for small businesses in 2022: The essential guide
Every picture tells a story, right? Well then, there must be millions of stories being told on Instagram. Every single day.
By celebrities and influencers. By ordinary members of the public. And by small businesses making a success of Instagram marketing.
According to Omnicore, Instagram has over 2 billion active users, including more than 200 million businesses. (Feeling slightly dizzy just typing those staggering numbers. 😵)
So whether your small business already has an account or you’re just thinking about signing up for one, how do you go about marketing on Instagram?
In this value-packed guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best marketing tips and tricks. So when it comes to using Instagram to promote and grow your small business, you’re really in the picture.
Table of contents
- Why marketing on Instagram makes sense for small businesses
- How to use Instagram marketing for small businesses
- Why have an Instagram business account?
- How to set up your Instagram business account
- Instagram branding tips
- Optimizing your Instagram business profile
- Creating a coherent look and feel
- Building an Instagram marketing strategy
- Types of content you can create
- Creating captivating content
- Influencer marketing
- Paid advertising
- Instagram marketing tips for small businesses
- Growing your small business with Instagram marketing
1. Why marketing on Instagram makes sense for small businesses
When Facebook has over 2.5 billion monthly users, why do you need to bother with Instagram?
Because it can help you grow your small business like no other social media platform.
Why? Because seeing is believing.
Instagram gives users an unparalleled opportunity to see your products or services in action. And, perhaps more importantly, to see and hear your small business’s stories.
It gives you a fantastic opportunity to get to know your audience, let them get to know you, and foster meaningful interactions with your brand.
And statistics show that Instagram has the best engagement levels and highest conversion rates of all social media channels.
2. How to use Instagram marketing for your small business
Why have an Instagram business account?
If you already have a personal Instagram account, you might be wondering whether you need to switch to a business account. Particularly if you’re an entrepreneur and your business is you.
But if you want to get the most out of Instagram marketing, setting up a business account is a must.
To give you a snapshot, here are 3 quick reasons why:
- You can tag products in your posts
- You can schedule your posts in advance
- And you can take advantage of Instagram advertising.
Still need convincing?
Let’s look at another 2 major reasons, this time with a wider lens.
1. A business profile gives you access to analytics
If you’re serious about Instagram marketing, then you need to get serious about measuring your engagement.
With a business account, you can access insights about your account, how it’s performing and who’s engaging with your brand on Instagram.
Instagram’s in-built analytics aren’t as extensive as those you might be used to seeing on Facebook. But you can gain audience insights and see how individual posts and different content types are performing. All valuable information.
2. A business account gives your profile a more professional look
A business account lets you display more information in your profile. That includes:
- Your industry sector/niche
- Your business address
- And a contact button to the right of the “Follow” and “Message” buttons.
These extra features give your profile a more professional look and offer your audience more ways to get in touch with you.
How to set up your Instagram business account
Hopefully, you’re now sold on why you should have an Instagram business account. So how do you go about getting one?
We’ll show you how to switch from a personal account and — if you’re new to Instagram — how to set up an account from scratch.
How to switch from a personal account
Switching to a business account is straightforward.
- Open the app and go to your profile page.
- Tap the hamburger menu (the “3 horizontal lines” symbol) in the top right-hand corner. Tap Settings, then tap on Account.
- Scrolling down, you’ll find a blue call-to-action option to “Switch to professional account”. Select this and then tap Continue.
- Pick a category that best describes your business and then tap Done, followed by OK to confirm.
- Tap Business, then Next.
- Add your contact details and tap Next.
- Tap X in the right-hand corner to return to your profile page.
If you have a Facebook business page, you can connect to that after step 6. Although not required, Instagram recommends you do this so you can get the most out of its business tools.
And for a step-by-step guide on how to set up a Facebook business page, see our article on Facebook marketing for small businesses in 2022: The ultimate guide.
How to set up an Instagram business account from scratch
If Instagram is completely new to you, it’s easy to create an account. Here’s how.
First, you should download the Instagram app on your phone.
Instagram was invented as a way for people to quickly share photos from their phones. And although it’s come a long way since those early days in 2010, it’s still a mobile-driven platform.
That’s because you can’t upload photos from your desktop. And while you can upload content from your mobile’s web browser, you don’t have access to all of Instagram’s features, such as adding a filter or editing your photos.
So if you have an iPhone or Android, you’ll want to use the Instagram app to get the most out of Instagram.
Once you have downloaded the app, follow these 3 easy steps.
- Open the app and sign up for an account. We would recommend signing up with a business email rather than logging in with your personal Facebook account.
- Under “Full Name”, enter your actual business name. The name here is what will be displayed on your profile page so make sure people can recognize you.
- Choose a username. Again, go for something that’s recognizable and easy to find. But don’t worry if you need to change this later as you can update it in your account settings.
3. Instagram branding tips
You’ve got your business account set up. Let’s make sure it’s showing your brand in the best possible light.
Optimizing your Instagram profile
Choose a recognizable profile picture
First impressions count — including on Instagram. For your profile picture, you want something that is consistent with your visual branding. Your logo or another familiar image are good options.
Write an engaging Instagram bio
In up to 150 characters, give your profile visitors a concise summary of who you are, what you do, and why they should follow you. Think about what unique skills or experiences might be of interest to your followers.
Keep your featured URL updated
Your bio is the only place where you can include a clickable link that takes people to another website. That doesn’t have to be your homepage and a lot of businesses will update their featured website link to tie in with their current campaign.
Use hashtag links
Highlight content and share more of your interests with your profile visitors by including branded hashtags in your bio.
Add Instagram Stories Highlights
Think you’ll struggle to say all you want about your business in a 150-character bio? Provide useful information about your business and showcase your products, services, and promotions by adding Instagram Stories Highlights to your profile.
They’re an excellent way to introduce your brand and turn profile visitors into profile followers.
Creating a coherent look and feel
Consistency, consistency, consistency.
It’s worth repeating that word because it plays such a key role in creating brand trust. After all, people do business with people they know, like, and trust.
So how do you create a consistent aesthetic on Instagram?
Here are a few tips:
- Think about your brand personality. Ask yourself: What are your brand beliefs and values? What’s your tone of voice? How do your customers – and your employees – see you?
- Once you’ve worked out your brand personality, pick and stick to a color scheme.
- Adopt a consistent approach to editing your photos and videos. You don’t have to stick to just one filter but limiting yourself to a few will give your Instagram feed a more cohesive feel.
4. Building an Instagram marketing strategy
Types of content you can create
Instagram began life as a photo-sharing app. And photo posts remain the most common type of content shared on the app.
Here are a few tips on taking brilliant photos and editing them on Instagram.
Capturing great photos
It helps to focus on one single subject. And by turning on your camera’s grid lines, you’ll be able to position your subject where a set of horizontal and vertical lines meet. This helps catch a user’s eye, particularly when the subject is slightly off-center.
Look for interesting perspectives. And try not to crowd your image. Remember, negative space is your friend. As is soft, natural light.
Editing your photos
Nowadays, most photo cameras come with a range of editing tools. But it was Instagram that really introduced the world to the benefits of adding a filter, adjusting your photo’s lux, and playing around with contrast, brightness, alignment, and structure.
Have fun. Just don’t go too crazy!
Videos tend to receive high levels of engagement and they’re a great format for driving sales.
You can upload professionally edited videos as well as ones you’ve made on your phone – so long as they last no more than 60 seconds. Play around with the length of your videos to see what gets the most interest from your audience.
And because Instagram videos default to playing without sound, make sure at least the first few seconds of your videos can be understood without needing the sound turned on.
What are two of the most popular ever words in the history of humankind?
So it’s no surprise that Instagram Stories are one of the most popular features on the platform. This is where you can share less-polished videos and images.
The beauty of Instagram Stories is that you can post at a higher frequency without overloading your followers’ feeds. And because of their short-lived nature – Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours unless added to your Instagram Stories Highlights – you can have fun and be more experimental with your content.
Again, authenticity is the name of the game here. Use Instagram Stories to give a behind-the-scenes look at your small business or to show a sillier side to your brand.
But as with ordinary posts, aim for a mix of educational, promotional, and fun content.
Instagram shopping posts are a scrummy way to showcase your products.
According to Omnicore, 70% of shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram to discover new products. So why not make it easier for them to buy your products by tagging them in shopping posts?
Every month around 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts to find out more about the products featured. Some of those 130 million users could soon be tapping to learn more about the products your small business sells.
Carousel posts let you share up to 10 photos and videos in one post.
Sharing a promotional video and several photos in a single post can do wonders for sparking interest in your products. But you could also use carousel posts to capture the buzz of your events.
Or why not use Instagram’s live video option to post footage from your event in real time?
Other great ways to use Instagram Live are to:
- Unveil new products
- Give a teaser of a future launch
- Create urgency by offering time-limited promotions
- Collect emails by hosting a Q&A, tutorial, or workshop.
If Instagram Stories are Instagram’s answer to Snapchat, then Instagram Reels are its answer to TikTok.
They let you create fun, attention-grabbing 15 or 30-second videos on loop. That might be to give your audience quick educational tips or to show your team taking part in the latest dance challenge.What’s that? You have an office dog who can dance? I need to see that Instagram Reel. 🐶🎶
Creating captivating content
Want your content to be super creative and attention-grabbing? VistaCreate has a range of tools and templates you can use to make fun and engaging posts, videos, ads, Instagram Stories, and Instagram Video Stories.
We’ve looked at different formats of content you can use for your marketing on Instagram. But one form of content we haven’t discussed yet is influencer marketing.
And on Instagram, it’s kind of a big deal.
Why? Because when you partner with the right influencer for your brand, their endorsement can come across as an authentic recommendation from one of your audience’s friends.
So how do you find the right influencer for your small business?
Rather than global superstars, think in terms of micro-influencers. The people who have highly engaged but not enormous followings. And who share a similar audience to your ideal customers.
The good news though is that not only are micro-influencers much more budget-friendly for small businesses, but they tend also to score higher engagement levels than influencers who have reached the dizzy heights of celebrity status. 😃
The bad news though is that you no longer have an excuse for messaging Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylie Jenner, or Selena Gomez. 😞
Find out more about virtual influencers in our article.
There are two ways you can use paid advertising on Instagram: through boosted posts and Instagram advertising.
Investing in boosted posts offers a simple way to add to your list of followers. All you do is create a post in the normal way and then tap the Promote button once you’ve posted it.
You can let Instagram promote your post to a similar audience to your current followers. Or you can create a custom audience in the app, selecting an interest, age range, and the genders you want to target.
Another option is to run an Instagram Ad campaign through Facebook’s advertising platform. This allows you to target people more specifically with an ad.
You’ll need a Facebook business page that’s linked to your Instagram business account.
For a super helpful guide to getting started with Facebook advertising, see our recent article: Facebook marketing for small businesses in 2022: The ultimate guide.
5. Instagram marketing tips for small businesses
What makes a good Instagram post for your small business?
The starting point is to think about what your users actually want to see. They’re looking for authenticity and genuine connection. Hit them with blatant advertising and you may as well press the unfollow button for them.
There’s nothing wrong with a few product shots from time to time. But focus more on revealing the personality of your team and the culture of your small business.
Why not offer a glimpse of those aspects of your business that people don’t usually see? Or show your followers interacting with your brand and products by sharing user-generated content?
Posts and videos that are popular with Instagram audiences include:
- Tips, tricks, and tutorials
- Behind-the-scenes posts
- Employee reposts
- Polls and quizzes
- Giveaways and contests
- Guest takeovers (particularly good for Instagram Stories)
- The occasional motivational quote
- And, of course, influencer posts.
We’ve come up with some effective Instagram content ideas for businesses in different industries in the following articles, make sure to check them out:
- Social media marketing for travel businesses: Best practices, tips, and ideas
- How to promote your event business on Instagram: Event social media marketing tips, tricks, and ideas
- Social media marketing for fitness businesses: How to promote your fitness business on Instagram
- How to promote your restaurant on Instagram: Practical tips and ideas for restaurant social media marketing
- How to promote your beauty business on social media: Best practices, ideas, and templates
How to boost your follower base
Once your Instagram business account is set up and your profile optimized, you can start taking steps to encourage engagement with your feed.
Clearly, you need to post frequently. But just as important is following and engaging with accounts that interest you or relate to your small business. Who you follow and what you comment on says as much about your brand as the content you produce yourself.
Interact in a natural way, but without overdoing it.
And try to make a point of responding to your followers’ comments and engaging with their posts.
But remember, while it’s good to grow the number of your followers, your main goal should be to boost engagement. That’s what increases the chances of your posts being seen.
6. Growing your small business with Instagram marketing
Running a small business, there are so many tasks to do. So many plates to spin. So many jobs to keep on top of.
But putting an Instagram marketing strategy in place could be one of the best decisions you ever make.
Not only does it give you an opportunity to foster meaningful relationships with your existing customers. But it can help you expand your reach and create a buzz around your brand.