Web Marketing Today

Instagram: 6 Content Tips for Small Businesses

Instagram, the popular photo-based social media platform, is not just for celebrities and tweens. It can help small businesses increase their exposure, and generate leads and sales.

Adding yet another social media channel to your marketing mix might seem daunting; you have to produce more unique content to provide real value for users. However, with Instagram, all you need is an iPhone or Android to get started. Instagram’s 100 million users and 4 billion photos make it a channel worth exploring. Here are six content keys for creating an effective Instagram presence.

1. Showcase Company Culture and History

Instagram is a good channel to showcase your company’s culture. It can be as easy as showing pictures from around the office, company celebrations, or spotlighting employees. Posting company images will provide your customers and prospects an idea of what it’s like to work for your company and do business with you.

Also, if your business has been around for a while, it’s fun for your customers or fans to see how times have changed. For example, retailer Target showcases images from what its stores looked like years ago.

Target showcases its history with a historic Instagram photo.

Target showcases its history on Instagram with a historic photo.

2. Promote Sales, Offers, Events

Like the other social media channels, Instagram can help promote sales, offers, and events. Providing users with an update on what’s going on will keep your business top-of-mind — your branded graphic will stand out in their Instagram feeds. Whether it’s a sale with a promo code, an upcoming event, or promotion, Instagram can help spread the word.

The Children’s Place, a clothing retailer, promotes its sales through branded graphics as a reminder to followers to stop in or shop online.

Children's Place stays relevant with branded sales promotions.

The Children’s Place stays relevant with branded sales promotions.

3. Host a Contest

Instagram has not published official guidelines — i.e., restrictions — around sweepstakes and contests. One of the most popular forms of Instagram contests is to ask users to post pictures and use a dedicated hashtag. Winners can then be selected at random by pulling all the images with the dedicated hashtag. Contests are a quick way to increase your followers. Make sure to promote your contest on your other social channels.

Gap, for example, recently ran a contest asking followers to show its best festival look — with the hashtag #styldby — for a chance to win a VIP experience to Sasquatch Festival, a music event.

Gap hosted a Instagram contest with the #styldby hashtag.

Gap hosted an Instagram contest with the #styldby hashtag.

4. Provide Insider Access

When adding a new social media channel to your marketing mix, it’s important to use unique content that people can’t obtain elsewhere. Providing followers with insider access or sneak peeks on what’s in store for your company, products, and services is a good way to make Instagram a unique channel. People are used to seeing visually abstract images on Instagram, so you don’t risk giving away too much.

J Crew, the clothing retailer, provides followers with images from upcoming collections, including color swatches that inspired them.

J Crew shows off upcoming styles with Instagram.

J Crew shows off upcoming styles with Instagram.

5. Feature Your Fans and Advocates

Getting people to post relevant images of your company will help attract more exposure. The more you can reward people for their efforts, the more likely they are to participate. Consider picking a photo of someone who has tagged your company each week and post it via your Instagram account. This simple nod to your fans will not only reward them for participating, it will also showcase how people feel about working with you, which is helpful for prospects to see.

Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, frequently post photos it has received from fans enjoying their ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's reposts images of fans on their Instagram profile.

Ben & Jerry’s posts photos of fans on its Instagram profile.

6. Leverage the Power of Hashtags

Instagram, like Twitter, allows users to search content, and find new profiles to follow, via hashtags, making hashtags critical to your strategy. It’s important to use a mix of brand-specific hashtags that you have created based on your name, products, services, and contests so that you can establish your unique branded categorization. However, generic hashtags are oftentimes even more important so that you can attach your content to popular categories and capitalize on the exposure around users searching or filtering by generic hashtags. Make sure to have a mix of both, and don’t overdo it. Too many hashtags will annoy people.

Clothing retailer Free People frequently uses a mix of branded and generic hashtags to build awareness.

Free People frequently uses hashtags to build brand exposure.

Free People frequently uses hashtags to build brand exposure.


Companies of all sizes can benefit from having an Instagram presence. With an iPhone or Android and a little time, you can be off and running. Test your content, find what resonates with your followers, and continually add new things to the mix.

Tina Kelly
Tina Kelly
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Comment ( 1 )

Have Something To Say ?

  1. Vincent Perro May 13, 2015 Reply

    Good article and sound advises, thanks for sharing ;) But there’s a thing that seem to be missing, you never mentioned third-party applications, but as it is known to me, every business uses apps very actively. It’s vital to know your followers interests, so a statistical app like iconosquare is an absolute must-have. Less important apps like postso.com (scheduling posts on different social media including facebook, twitter and many others) and fast-unfollow.com (bulk unfollowing up to 5k users per day) won’t do that much for improvement, but they save a lot of time that could’ve been spent on boring routine actions.

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