Instagram Marketing for Small Businesses: The Complete Guide

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Seventy-one percent of US businesses use Instagram to market their products, services, and brand to more than one billion users on the app. With a variety of interactive features, Instagram marketing has become essential for small businesses.

Instagram marketing for small businesses through taking product pictures at a restaurant

Your team needs need to have an Instagram marketing strategy in place to harness the platform’s power. Read this guide to help you tackle the platform.

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Table of Contents:

Why Instagram Marketing Matters for Small Businesses

In our digital-first world, Instagram is one of the first places people go to learn about a small business. Today, 90% of people follow at least one business on Instagram. Further, 1 in 2 people use the app to discover new brands, products, and services.

As a small business owner, you need to use Instagram to get your business in front of customers and build brand loyalty. But without a clear Instagram marketing strategy in place, you may find yourself struggling to grow your audience, post content consistently, or generate quality engagement. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Over 90% of small businesses struggle with these common social media challenges.

Here’s the good news: Even if you have a small budget, limited resources, or a one-person team, there are several Instagram marketing strategies that small businesses can use to grow their presence and find success on the platform. Let’s dive in.

 

15 Instagram Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

1. Start with a goal.

There’s no doubt that Instagram is a powerful tool for small businesses. To get the most out of your Instagram marketing, there needs to be a clear goal in place for what you want to achieve on the platform.

Here are a few examples of goals you might choose for your Instagram marketing strategy:

  • Increase sales.
  • Drive website traffic.
  • Generate brand awareness.
  • Boost customer engagement.  

Once you have a goal in place, you can use that to guide the type of content you post, the people you want to reach, and the general messaging to use on your page.

2. Set up the basics of your profile.

A few basic elements of an Instagram business profile are a profile picture, business name, and business category. Your page should also include contact information like a phone number, email, and address (if you have a physical location).

Clothing brand Quince includes a contact email in its bio so customers can easily reach out to the brand for support.

instagram marketing for small business, the Instagram bio for small business Quince is an important element of its Instagram marketing strategy.

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Another way to get the most out of your Instagram profile is to make sure it’s search-friendly. Create a searchable username so people can easily find your business.

Your profile image should also be something recognizable like your logo so new followers instantly recognize your brand’s thumbnail as they scroll.

3. Optimize your bio.

Your Instagram bio is the first thing people see when they visit your profile — think of it like the homepage of your website.

If you only have a few seconds to capture a visitor’s attention, what are the main elements or pieces of information you want them to take away?

Use your bio to let new followers know who you are and what you do. Include your company’s tagline or put together a sentence or two that sum up the type of content people can expect to see by giving you a follow.  

You can also use your bio as an opportunity to share announcements, promotions, or product launches. Pet brand Wild One includes special offers in their bio.

instagram marketing for small business, pet brand Wild One uses its Instagram bio to promote its small business promotions.

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4. Be intentional with your bio link.

If one of your Instagram marketing goals is to drive more traffic to your small business’ website, then spend a little extra time optimizing the link section of your bio.

Because you can’t include clickable links in Instagram captions, the link in your bio is what users will click on to learn more about your brand, shop your products, or sign up for an email list.

Use the link section to direct people where you want them to go next.

If you have multiple pages or products you want to promote at once, use a tool like Linktree or Later’s Link in Bio. These tools turn your main link into a mini website, giving users multiple options to click on within one link.

Newsletter brand Girls’ Night In uses a link tool to make it easy for its followers to find and visit links for products and articles that were mentioned in their posts.

instagram marketing for small business, the link section from Girls’ Night In Club’s Instagram profile directs followers to several links in one place.

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5. Host a giveaway

Want to grow your audience on Instagram? Host a giveaway.

According to one study, giveaways help Instagram accounts grow 70% faster in just three months.

And it’s easy to see why. Instagram giveaways increase brand awareness, boost organic engagement, and drive more people to your profile by encouraging likes, comments, and shares for a chance to win.

To generate even more engagement for your giveaway, team up with another brand for a joint prize like Oat Haus and Califia Farms did below.

instagram marketing for small business, Califia Farms and Oat Haus collaborate on a giveaway as part of their Instagram marketing strategies.

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Not only does more than one prize incentivize people to enter, but teaming up with another brand doubles the audience that will see your content or be introduced to your brand for the first time.

6. Geotag your posts.

If you have a physical location for your small business, be sure to create a geotag so you can include it in your Instagram posts. A geotag provides location data which helps users pinpoint exactly where to find your small business.

Not only that, but Instagram also organizes posts that use a certain geotag under one searchable tab so users can see all of the posts from that location.

By contributing to the tag, you can show people what they can expect when visiting your business. For instance, if you have a restaurant, use your geotag to show off menu items or give people a glimpse at what the dining atmosphere is like.

instagram marketing for small business, the Instagram geotag results for Austin-based food truck small business, Patrizi’s

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7. Tap into user-generated content.

Content creation is at the heart of Instagram marketing, but it’s no small feat. From brainstorming creative ideas to shooting images or taking videos, there’s a lot that goes into a single post.

This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in handy.

UGC is content that’s been created and posted by Instagram users. It’s usually in the form of an image or video of someone using your product or visiting your business.

You can scope out UGC by checking out posts that you’re tagged in or browsing through content that uses your geotag.

Self-care brand Chillhouse regularly reposts customer photos that align with the rest of its Instagram content.

instagram marketing for small business, user-generated content is a part of Chillhouse’s Instagram marketing strategy for their small business.

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Not only is UGC a time-saver when it comes to content creation, but it also helps build social proof and brand credibility by showing followers authentic content from real people.

8. Offer exclusive promotions.

If you want to give people a reason to follow you on Instagram, offer exclusive promotions for followers.

Share a discount code that followers can mention if they visit your business in person or use at checkout when shopping online. To make the promotion even more exclusive, use Stories to share discount codes. Because Stories disappear after 24 hours, followers may feel a sense of FOMO if they don’t act on it quickly.

Promotions give your followers a reason to stay engaged and look forward to what and when you’ll post next, which helps build brand loyalty for your small business.

9.  Take advantage of hashtags.

Hashtags are essential for your small business’s Instagram marketing strategy. Hashtags can help you join in on a conversation or topic that’s relevant to your brand. They also help Instagram categorize your content. When users search or browse a hashtag they’re interested in, they may see your posts.

Not only are hashtags a tool for users to discover new brands and content on the platform, but they also allow your small business to build brand awareness and recognition.

Consider creating a branded hashtag and encourage followers to use it when they post about your brand. This helps build brand recognition and encourages people to share UGC.

Shoe brand Tecovas created a branded hashtag for an Instagram campaign that encouraged followers to share their game-day outfits using the hashtag #TecovasTailgate.

instagram marketing for small business, an Instagram post from boot brand Tecovas demonstrates how branded hashtags can be effective for Instagram marketing strategy for a small business.

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10. Engage with influencers.

Every industry has its influencers, from food to beauty to business. Influencers are highly effective at connecting with an audience and building trust with their followers. In fact, 37% of consumers trust social media influencers over brands.

If you have extra room in your marketing budget, consider partnering with an influencer for sponsored content.

As a small business, micro-influencers (influencers with around 10,000 followers or less) may be best to collaborate with or form a partnership with. Not only are they more relatable to your audience than a mega influencer or celebrity, but micro-influencers tend to generate more engagement than those with hundreds of thousands of followers.

11. Make your posts shoppable.

Each month, 130 million people use Instagram’s shopping features. If you operate an e-commerce business and want to reach even a fraction of these engaged shoppers, take advantage of Instagram’s commerce tools.

Instagram Shopping makes it easy for your followers to browse and purchase products directly through the app. After setting up your shop on your profile, you can add product tags to your posts like the outdoor brand Kammok does below.

instagram marketing for small business, a shoppable Instagram post from small business Kammok.

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12. Talk to your followers.

With all of the features that are available on Instagram these days, it can be easy to overlook one of the foundational elements of the platform: being social.

Engage with your audience wherever and whenever you can – in the comments section, in Stories replies, or even in DMs. By connecting with your audience on a personal level, you humanize your small business and build strong customer relationships.

You can start the conversation by directly asking for follower input. Use the interactive features on Stories, like polls and questions, to gather feedback and generate ideas from your audience.

Encouraging participation is another way to connect on a more personal level. Your followers will feel like they’re part of your community.

13. Experiment with Reels.

Instagram has rolled out several new features over the years including Stories, Lives, and now Reels.

Reels are short-form videos that can be creatively edited to form a compilation of clips that tell a story.

Here are a few ideas for Instagram Reels:

  • Show a day in the life of a small business owner.
  • Share a behind-the-scenes look at your process.
  • Tell the story behind the brand.
  • Introduce team members.
  • Give a tour of your space (office, storefront, restaurant, etc.).

Small businesses can also use Reels to share how-to videos that educate their followers. In the Reels below, P.F. Candle Co. demonstrates how to safely relight one of their candles.

instagram marketing for small business, an Instagram Reels from P.F. Candle Co. features a candle and text overlay that says “we’re going to show you how to safely relight your candle.”

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14. Get creative with your captions.

For small businesses, your Instagram captions are an opportunity to add personality to the brand.

Rather than directly promoting your product or service, you can use your captions to spark conversations with your audience, encourage engagement, or show off the human side of your business. Waterloo Sparkling Water keeps its tone fun and human in the post below.

instagram marketing for small business, an Instagram post from Waterloo Sparkling Water that uses a creative caption to humanize its small business as part of its Instagram marketing strategy.

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15. Analyze your metrics.

To understand how well your Instagram marketing strategy is performing, it’s essential to track and measure your metrics.

You can use Instagram’s native insights or one of the many free and paid Instagram analytics tools. Make sure you have a set of metrics you want to track and a process to evaluate their success.

The metrics you choose to measure should tie back to your goals. If the goal of your Instagram marketing strategy is to drive more people to your website, then you’ll want to track your Instagram link clicks to see how they correlate to your site traffic.

Getting Started

Instagram continues to be a powerful and effective way for small businesses to grow their brand. With a strong Instagram marketing strategy in place, small businesses can reach new customers, increase sales, and build loyal customer relationships through the app for years to come.

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