Using Instagram, small business owners can instantly put a face to their businesses’ name—and watch their customer relationships and sales flourish as a result.
Instagram’s developers describe it as a “quirky,” “fun” and “beautiful” way to share photos: You can snap a picture on your mobile device, apply a vintage-inspired filter, and then instantly push that content out to multiple social media channels simultaneously.
But beneath the app’s playful appeal is a powerful way to market your services and connect with customers. Using Instagram, small business owners can instantly put a face to their business —and watch their customer relationships and sales flourish as a result.
Three business owners explain how they have adopted Instagram as a marketing tool.
Build Your Brand
Michael Satterfield, owner of Morgan’s and Phillip’s, an automotive-inspired apparel retailer, uses Instagram as a window into his business as well as his life. Satterfield’s Instagram feed reflects what is important to him on a daily basis. For him, that includes his dog and grilled pork burgers as much as it includes the T-shirts he sells.
He insists that when people feel personally connected to a brand, they’re more likely to “follow” your business on Twitter and Instagram and “friend” you on Facebook. Each social media channel is another venue to advertise your product.
“We just posted new shirts for summer,” Satterfield says. “And we’ve already gotten ‘likes.’ It’s a great way to showcase things, especially if you’re a visual-based company.”
Valeen Parubchenko, director of Private Picassos, which provides private art lessons in New York City, uses Instagram to document her students’ art projects from start to finish. Many of her business leads come from parents sharing and commenting on the photos, as well as people who happened to stumble across them in a search.
“I don’t do any paid advertising, so it’s a way to encourage your client to do the marketing for you,” Parubchenko says.
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Harness the Power of Hashtags
Hashtags, which look like the pound symbol, corral search results into relevant categories and conversations on Instagram’s website. For instance, Satterfield may include the tags #classiccar or #hotrod along with the tag #morgansandphillips, so people who are searching for photos of classic cars will stumble across photos of his automotive-inspired apparel.
“Direct sales will come from using the correct hashtag,” Satterfield says. “When you log in, you’ll be notified if you have comments [on the photos]. Maybe people are asking when or where [the product] is available. Instantly reply to those and point people to your website, where they can buy the shirt.”
Meghan Ely, owner of OFD Consulting, a wedding consulting firm, uses hashtags to connect with her industry peers.
“I might be at an industry event or a conference and I’ll upload and tag a photo [from the event] with the appropriate hashtag,” Ely says. “That way, I can find clients and colleagues who are doing the same thing I am.” This type of real-time photo sharing can spark a conversation, deepen current colleague and client relationships and let potential clients know that you’re keeping up with trends in your industry.