Of all the social platforms, Instagram is my personal favorite and a professional ‘must use’. Why? Personally, I like that the app is first and foremost about visual content and offers fewer options for inane or grumbling banter (Facebook, anyone?). I choose to follow accounts that make me happy—“dogs, design, funny, food, birds, words”—so that a scroll through Instagram is sure to inject smiles into my day. Professionally, I find it useful for telling compelling product stories, conveying brand personality, engaging targeted audiences, and supporting overall marketing goals.

Apparently, I’m not alone in Insta affection. According to recent stats, there are 800 million active monthly users and 500 million who access the app daily. 300 millions users engage in Stories, the tool that Instagram introduced in August 2016 and immediately surpassed Snapchat’s user base. The app has 25 million business profiles according to stats from late 2017; that’s up from 8 million biz profiles just a year prior—indicating Instagram’s rapid growth. And with more than 2 million advertisers who are seeing solid sales (one report says that 74% of Insta users who’ve viewed ads on the app have made purchases), all these numbers are on the grow.

Sure, Instagram has its challenges. While a majority of my friends love it, I consistently hear from business people who really just don’t get it and/or are unsure how to make it work for their brands. Even those of us who are fully in the Insta-for-biz mix are not immune to the platform’s algorithm quirks that affect organic reach of posts and rate of follower acquisition. Nonetheless—at the time of this writing, Instagram is holding strong as a solid way to connect with customers and potentials, and I recommend you give it time and effort as part of your overall marketing mix.

Here are some actionable tactics you can use to get some ‘Insta gratification’ with your Instagram business profile.

Curate a visually appealing feed: Instagram is all about the visual—and so is your flooring business! It’s a match made in social media heaven. Make sure each post you share is a positive and pretty representation of your brand and the products you sell. I know, I know—easier said than done! Having been in this biz for more than 20 years, I am well aware the acquisition of installation photos and/or creation of gorgeous images are not small feats; they’re ongoing quests. But y’all, it’s essential and completely worth the effort!

  • I find that real life installation photos get the best engagement and spark more likes and comments that marketing photos. Make it standard operating procedure to track down photos of installed products on every sale, even if you have to reward submitters with giveaways such as Starbucks gift cards. Installation photos are a lifeblood of social media content for the flooring (and, heck, just about any other type of) business.
  • Go for the story, not the sale, with your visuals. Images that are basically advertisements don’t work very well within Instagram feeds. If you have loads of pretty posts filling your feed, I’ll give you a pass to very occasionally post something with text in the images that’s salesy in nature. However, you must raise your hand and make an oath to not make that a common practice.
  • Be consistent in style and tone. Insta users respond positively when they see accounts that offer reliable looks in their posts. Even if you’re sharing customer-submitted images, consider using the same, square-shape cropping on every post or apply the same filter each time so there’s a defined look to your images.
  • Caption with good content, including the right hashtags to help people find your posts (see my previous article on this topic on the Floor Trends website).

Indie Biz Insider Tip: Use an automation tool to schedule your Instagram posts in advance. It makes life so much easier and empowers you to curate a better Insta-feed. I highly recommend ScheduGram. Click here to subscribe, and we’ll both get a $5 credit!

Max out your profile/bio: On Instagram, people are peeking at your business profile. They’re often doing so to determine if you’re follow-worthy or to see what other beautiful images you’ve shared. Be certain that profile tells the most full story possible.

  • With an Instagram business profile, you’re able to share pertinent contact information—so take advantage of that capability!
  • Also, make the website link work strategically for you. The standard profile allows for only one live website link, but there are ways to share more. For a little over a year now, I’ve been using linktr.ee, a service (with free and paid options) that empowers you to share up to five links with one click. This is a good way to make it simple to point people to different pages on your website instead of only to the home page.
  • Curate ‘Highlights’ that help tell your biz story. Highlights allow you to make Stories content viewable long term through your profile. All the details and how-to’s on this are too much to share in this article, so—please—take a look at how I manage this on my @tiletuesday Instagram account to understand the capability and potential for your own profile (then buzz me if you need more scoop on how to make it happen).

Start Stories-telling: Instagram Stories are extremely popular with users; they’re great for getting snippets in the moment that don’t clog the main feed. The content shared in Stories evaporates in 24 hours (unless you designate what you share in the aforementioned featured Highlights on your profile), so you can approach them differently than your standard Insta posts. You can share live video, images, text-on-screen—whatever! From geotagging, user tagging and hashtags to GIFs, live polls, graphics, and swipe-ups that allow you to share links, Stories are really feature-rich tools for businesses.

  • Consider ‘content pillars’ for your Stories, consistent types of content that you share regularly and that followers will find beneficial. This could be where you answer FAQs, share weekly deals, offer a weekly expert type, or show a quick video clip of new products.
  • On Stories, it’s okay to be a little rough around the edges. If you’re sharing video, don’t hold out for the highest product value. Shine a little light, and just start shooting.
  • Create Stories content that can feed into your Highlights categories on your Insta profile. That’s a great way to support your brand messaging and guide content creation.

Get moving—with video, that is: Instagram allows you to share live video, pre-recorded video, and now, there’s also IGTV for longer format content. One key here is that vertical video works best in the Insta-world. If you’ve been part of video production in other forms and mediums, you know that horizontal orientation has long been the accepted best practice, but times they are a-changing, and Instagram as a video platform is all about the vertical video.

  • Live video can be an excellent method for helping your followers feel they’re a part of what’s going on with your business. When you start a live video, your followers who are on the app will get a pop up alert, compelling them to click to watch; many people will do so out of curiosity.
  • Use live video for any number of happenings or occasions. Share when a new product shipment arrives. Broadcast when you’re hosting an in-store event or are out on a customer installation. Opt for video when you’re somewhere that offers visual inspiration—a trade show, the beach, a museum, the park—to convey to your followers the many dimensions to you and your business.
  • Recorded video can enhance your stories and standard newsfeed. Explore apps for your smartphone that allow you to create video content from still photos and graphic elements. Spark Video, PicFlow, Ripl…there are really just too many for me to mention here. Suffice to say, adding the visual of video will be effective in your brand/biz storytelling.
  • Check out IGTV as an alternative or supplement to other video content you may be creating. IGTV allows for longer format content, and creators can use the option almost like a YouTube channel in terms of the kind of video shared. You have to jump through a hoop or two to secure your IGTV channel (buzz me if you need more details on that). At the time of this writing IGTV is quite new and just getting its bearings in the Insta-world, but it must be mentioned as a viable video alternative.

Track your Insta activity: To make sure all your efforts on Instagram are paying off, actively track your stats. With a business profile, you are provided Insights directly from Instagram. This is a good place to start. If you want a deeper dive, consider third party solutions that will support your analysis; SocialBakers, Simply Measured, INK361, and Gabstats are just a few options that offer free data.

While any marketing success requires long term commitment, we can enjoy some immediate—or ‘Insta’—gratification through the latest digital and social media marketing strategies. With a smart approach to Instagram, you can assess rather quickly how to make the platform do its best work for your biz.

Happy posting!
Irene Williams head tilter and marketer