Instagram for Small Business: Three Master Marketers

Editor’s Note:  Amanda Jensen is a summer intern at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com.  She’s a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Since its release in October 2010, Instagram has gained popularity around the world. As of March 2014, there were nearly 200 million monthly active users, and about 13 percent of all internet users around the world were on Instagram.

Its simple interface and fun filters make it easy for people to chronicle their lives by sharing photos.

While many people have personal profiles on Instagram, it can also be extremely effective to market your small business. Not sure if Instagram is right for your business?

Here are three Instagrammers who have truly mastered the art of marketing their services with this amazing little app.

1. Real Estate By Sophie - Los Angeles, CA

If you're in the real estate business, you know a buyer's first impression of their dream home will be from a photo. Instagram's focus on posting photos with short captions, is PERFECT for real estate!

Sophie Mehtemetian is a real estate agent located in the greater Los Angeles area. Her Instagram profile (@realestate_bysophie) has about 2,300 followers.

Show your credibility

Sophie provides a short description of herself in her bio, as well as her website, Facebook page, and email address. In addition, she uses a headshot for her profile picture INSTEAD of her logo.

Provide as much information in your bio as possible, and use a headshot as your photo!

Keep it friendly

Sofie posted this photo of a family who had just purchased a new home. This helps her convey her friendly personality, and also shows her followers that she is successful. Your personality can get lost online, don't forget to let it shine through.

Happy client photos branded with Sophie’s hashtag “#keepingitrealestate”

Hashtags... Use them!

Sophie also does a fantastic job with hashtags. In almost every photo she posts, she includes the hashtag "#keepingitrealestate". Having a specific hashtag for your business can help increase your reach tremendously.

It also provides a history for people to view when they search the hashtag.

Promote others to gain followers

Another great way to expand your audience on Instagram is through shout outs or recommendations. In the image above, Sophie posted a screenshot of her friends' Instagram profile, telling all of her followers to check out their business!

Occasionally helping out your friends and colleagues by promoting their business is a great idea.

Promoting others pays it forward and shows your own generosity. It can be a great way to bring in more followers. If you promote someone's business, chances are they will either thank you or promote you as well, which will introduce you to their followers.

2. Cupcakes - Vancouver, BC

Heather White and Lori Joyce have been friends since they were 15 years old. In 2002, they opened Cupcakes in Vancouver, BC.

Though they have since expanded (they now have two corporate bakeries and six franchised locations across Vancouver’s lower mainland), their small and personal appeal has stayed the same.

With the help of their profile on Instagram (@theoriginalcupcakes), they are able to show the world their beautiful confections and promote their business.

Heather and Lori take time to photograph their process and their product. Lots of business owners who work with food are too busy MAKING it, and they forget to take time to photograph their work.  This is one thing that really sets them apart.

Photos are very important for your business… especially if it involves food.

Show your stuff... ALL of it!

Heather and Lori do a fantastic job of posting pictures of ALL their products, showing current and potential customers how versatile they are. They make cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops as well.

A free way to promote

Instagram is a great place to upload photos of your products, but it can also be a great place to advertise any promotions that your business has going on. Cupcakes uses Instagram to upload an ad for a promotion they had going on during Father's Day.

Fun, attractive coupons and ads are great on Instagram.

This is not only a great way to post ads for free, but also a fantastic way to bring people to your website or store.

3. Laura's Boutique - Southern California

Laura Mellado always dreamed of having her own store, but when she opened her small women's fashion boutique, she never thought it would be this successful. Laura's Boutique now has two locations; one in Whittier, CA, as well as a brand new store in Santa Ana, CA.

Laura's Boutique (@laurasboutique) has almost 79,000 followers on Instagram, and she uses the app perfectly!

Location, location, location

In her bio, Laura includes the addresses of both stores, as well as their hours. In addition, she lists her website.

Instagram doesn't give much space in your bio section, but if your business has a physical location, this is important information that MUST be included!

Laura’s Instagram bio uses the limited space perfectly.

Don't forget about comments

Even though she has over 78,000 followers, Laura always makes a conscious effort to reply to comments. When a customer commented on a picture of some rompers, wanting to know how much they cost, Laura's staff was quick to get back to them.

Laura’s staff does a fantastic job of responding to Instagram comments from clients.

Be sure to monitor your comments for questions about your products, and respond to them. (Always remember to mention the person with their "@ name" when you comment back to them, or they won't get a notification!)

mariapeagler

Maria Peagler is the founder of Maria Peagler Digital, a serial entrepreneur, and award-winning author/publisher of nine books. She is an award-winning artist in both watercolor and quilting. She is married to her husband of 30 years, mom to two adult sons, and enjoys hiking in the north Georgia mountains.