by Lisa McGrimmon
If you haven't jumped on the Instagram marketing bandwagon yet, and you're wondering if you should do it and how you'll get started, here's your introduction to the social media platform to help you make the right decisions for your own business.
Instagram has firmly placed itself alongside other big social media sites in terms of its importance for business owners. However, as a small business owner, your time and resources are limited. You can't possibly pursue every business building opportunity that comes along, so you need to be smart and choose ones that will have the most impact for you.
The simplest answer is, if your customers are on Instagram, then, yes, you should seriously consider Instagram marketing for your business. Of course, business-related decisions are rarely that clear cut and simple, so we'll take a closer look at this social media platform to help you decide if devoting time to Instagram marketing is right for you.
Specifically we'll look at whether:
Before we dive into Instagram specifically, I want to back up a bit to cover a more general principle about promoting your business online.
You should never, ever put all of your eggs in one basket.
What I mean by that is, it is extremely dangerous to rely solely on a single source of customers for your business.
While it's time consuming, it is important to cultivate customers from a variety of sources to protect your business.
I speak from experience when I give this warning. Many years ago, all of my readers, and a lot of my income came from Google. When Google made a series of changes, my own business was impacted, and I had to work hard to get it back on its feet.
Today, my income and my customers come from a wider variety of sources, which helps to protect my business from the whims of any single third party resource that I use.
If you already connect with customers in a variety of ways and your business wouldn't be seriously threatened if you lost one of those sources, then, perhaps, you don't need to add Instagram marketing to the mix. Particularly if your time commitments are already maxed out because you're working to bring in customers from a few other sources, then Instagram marketing might not be necessary.
However, if you can make the time to work on your brand's Instagram presence, particularly if you want to diversify your sources of customers, then Instagram might be right for you.
If your customers are on Instagram, it could be another place for you to connect with them. It could help you to diversify your own business to make you less vulnerable to the changes of other business building resources you use.
If you've decided you're interested in developing a new way to connect with customers, your next task is to decide if Instagram can help you meet that goal.
Before you decide to focus on Instagram to build your business, you first need to determine whether your target customers are on that platform.
There's no point in spending precious time trying to build an engaged audience on Instagram if your customers just aren't there.
Instagram is almost entirely visual. That attribute makes it a great fit for many craft businesses, which are also typically very visual in nature.
It's a great place to show off gorgeous photos of your crafts. You can connect with customers by sharing photos of your studio, or even show off your skills with videos of works in progress.
It's clear that Instagram is a good fit for the craft niche in general, but is it a good fit for your specific business?
According to Brandwatch data, Instagram users tend to be:
If you see your customers within that description, then Instagram might be right for your business.
Of all of the data about Instagram users I've reviewed, age of users is one factor that clearly distinguishes Instagram from other social media platforms, so it deserves a closer look.
While use of all social media platforms drops off with age, data from the Flint 2018 social media study confirms that Instagram is very clearly more popular among younger people.
If your customers are young, there's a very good chance you'll find them spending a lot of time on Instagram, and it would be worth your time to build a brand presence on this platform.
If your customers tend to be 35+, then (assuming you don't have time to actively engage on all of the social media platforms) your time might be better spent focusing on another platform like Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
Instagram is a primary communication tool for young people. Based on my observations of my teenaged son and his friends, I'd say, if you're under a certain age, you must be on Instagram or you'll be completely out of the loop socially.
I believe my son and his friends are typical. They don't email, and they rarely phone each other. They have little interest in Facebook, in fact, my son jokingly calls Facebook, "the place you go when you want to talk to old people."
They text, and they are on Snapchat and Instagram. On Instagram, they are not just commenting on each other's posts, but they are also posting in individual and group private messages about homework and their social lives.
If you're over 35, Instagram might not be on your radar. But if a lot of your customers are under 35, you need to be aware of Instagram and seriously consider using it to market your business.
You've decided you want to develop a new way to connect with customers, and you believe your customers are on Instagram. The next step in deciding whether Instagram marketing is right for your business is to consider your marketing goals and decide whether Instagram can help you meet those goals.
Unlike Pinterest, which is designed to get people to click through to other sites, Instagram is designed to keep people on Instagram.
This trait is made obvious in the fact that the only spot you can place a link on Instagram is in your bio. You cannot place active links in photo captions or in comments.
If your goal is to get people directly on to your website or Etsy shop, Pinterest is a better bet than Instagram. However, if you look beyond simple clicks to your site, Instagram can still bring a lot of value.
First, it is quite easy to build a community on Instagram compared with other social media platforms, and you can do it without investing a huge amount of time.
It takes some planning, research, and setup at the beginning, and occasional tweaking from time to time, but once you have a good system figured out, it doesn't have to take up a big part of your day. That's a big point in Instagram's favor. It is social media marketing that won't take over your life.
Instagram marketing is fantastic for building familiarity, trust, and connection with potential customers. One fundamental marketing concept you may have heard before is that you need to connect with a potential customer multiple times (7 is the number you hear often) before they will buy.
Instagram provides those multiple connections. Followers see your images in their feeds repeatedly. Over time, you communicate a story about your brand and build familiarity.
That familiarity can be tougher to track than clicks to your shop, but it can play an important role in boosting your sales.
You don't have to promote your craft business on all social media sites. There just isn't enough time in the day. So you need to choose wisely.
To determine if committing time to Instagram marketing is right for your business, consider the following:
Do I need another way to connect with customers?
The less you rely on a single source of customers, the more your business will be protected from the whims of third party resources. More sources of customers is better.
However, your time is limited, so more is better needs to be balanced with a realistic assessment of the time you have available to engage with people on Instagram.
Are my target customers on Instagram?
Compare Instagram's demographic data with what you know about your own customer to look for matches. If your customers are young, you should definitely take a close look at using Instagram marketing to promote your business
Can Instagram help me meet my goals?
If you're interested in a platform that can help you build connection with potential customers, Instagram can do that. If you just want to see clicks to your shop, you won't see as much of that with Instagram as you would with other platforms.
Next, find out how to build your Instagram following organically, without spammy tricks that could put your account at risk.
Get More Instagram Followers: Overall strategies for building your Instagram presence, plus the workflow I use to get everything done in a reasonable time frame
Smarter Instagram Hashtags: All about hashtags. Hashtags are so important, they deserve an article of their own. Here's how to grow your Instagram presence with the right hashtags.
Instagram Search: Learn how Instagram's search tool works, so you can maximize your exposure on this platform.