Gone are the days when you need a massive sales and marketing budget to get in front of a mass audience. Social media can be an effective and inexpensive way for small businesses to reach new and existing customers efficiently. However, many small businesses make the mistake of posting ineffective content that doesn’t drive engagement.
Interested in using social media as a sales tool?
One of the easiest channels to start with is Instagram. The platform now has more than 700 million users worldwide, and more than 10 times the engagement of Facebook according to Forrester.
One advantage of Instagram is that users dip in and out of their feeds frequently, mostly through the mobile app, and consume content in bite-sized chunks. That means you can start by posting a few pictures or short videos every now and then. In addition, research shows that consumers may be more likely to be influenced by pictures than words. Visual content is 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.
The mass adoption and simple, mobile-centric, visual nature of Instagram uniquely positions it as a great way for small businesses to showcase their brand and connect with a wide audience. When used correctly, Instagram can lead not only to greater brand awareness, but also to lead generation, conversion and loyalty. Follow these simple steps to maximize the potential for Instagram to serve as a sales tool for your business:
1. Create a compelling profile.
When you set up your business account, you’ll be asked to create a profile. This is your first opportunity to give people a sense of who you are and what you stand for. It also provides the opportunity to post relevant information such as opening hours, a link to your website, and contact details. Think of this as a business card and elevator pitch for your business.
2. Decide what you want to post.
The most successful brands put a creative spin on their content, and are consistent in their approach. For example, Staples takes on a playful tone on Instagram. Photos and videos of office products come alive and take on a personality of their own. Figure out what kind of images are consistent with your brand and how to give them a unique visual sense. In addition to photos and videos, consider posting stories (video content) which are more prominently displayed at the top of a user’s feed. Stories are a great way to capture unedited “behind-the-scenes” footage, so long as it is interesting, informative or entertaining.
Finally, to maximize the potential for Instagram to serve as a sales tool, each post should have a specific call to action, such as to visit your website, leave a comment or enter a contest. It’s a good idea to build up an arsenal of posts and setting a schedule before going live so you can keep refreshing content. Once a day is a good goal to aim for. Try to be consistent in the time of day you post.
3. Interact and build relationships.
Every post should be accompanied by a brief comment, 3-5 #hashtags and potentially an @mention. Hashtags can help you expand your reach and build a following. You can use trending hashtags such as #picoftheday or create your own. Mentioning others using @ and their user name (e.g.,@Staples) can also drive engagement and be used to share customer success stories or highlight partnerships. Follow any people or businesses relevant to your own, and like posts that fit your business interests. Following, liking and commenting on other people’s content is one of the fastest ways to get people to check out and follow your own. In addition, never underestimate the power of a direct message. To really start building relationships, try to thank every new follower with a direct message. You can even message profiles that you’re interested in to start a conversation.
4. Track and analyze.
You probably track and analyze your sales pipeline closely, so don’t treat social media any differently. Analyze which posts are getting the most engagement, which hashtags lead to the most followers, and which calls to action lead to the most conversions. Then adapt your content strategy accordingly. Instagram business accounts also give you insights into your followers and how they interact with your posts so you can mine that data and determine who your most active followers are, and then show them some love via direct messages, asking to them co-create content, or other creative approaches.