A woman stands next to a wooden table and looks at the smartphone in her hand. Her other hand rests on the keyboard of an open laptop on the table. On the other side of the table is a shelving unit filled with pottery. The table also holds some pots, including a small metallic gold pot filled with writing utensils. The windowsill next to the table is filled with potted plants.
Instagram isn't just for photos anymore. You can also create videos and multimedia stories to further showcase your products and services. — Getty Images/Rowan Jordan

With over 1 billion global users, Instagram is an incredible resource for small businesses to grow their brand and increase awareness and revenue. According to Omnicore, 70% of shoppers use Instagram to discover new products, making it a great place for retailers, restaurants and other businesses with highly visual offerings. But service-based businesses can use this popular platform for growth, too, by providing useful advice and educational content to their audience.

Whether you’re just investing in your Instagram presence or looking to grow an existing following, here are five tips for developing an effective small business Instagram strategy.

Work with influencers

An influencer is a user on Instagram who has a highly engaged follower base and collaborates with brands to grow their audience. In most cases, an influencer will post a photo or video of themselves using a company's product or service, and discuss their experience using it. Influencer marketing is similar to celebrity endorsements, with those endorsing the product being those who are social media famous.

When working with an Instagram influencer, it's better to partner with someone who has direct access to your target audience rather than someone who just has a high number of followers. Users follow influencers with whom they personally connect with, so you should target working with someone who is an influencer within your market space or industry.

[Read more: Top 5 Social Media Influencers in 9 Industries]

Respond to followers

When you get comments on a new Instagram post, Reel or Story, reply to your followers and start a conversation. The same goes for when followers send you a direct message (DM). If people are interested in engaging with you, it means they care about what you're posting and your brand. It's a great way to create loyalty among your customers and forge lasting relationships with them.

Engaging with your audience is especially important because Instagram’s Feed and Stories algorithm factors in user interactions when determining how to prioritize content in user feeds. This means users will see content more often from accounts they engage with regularly.

Create Reels

Users engage with video content over pictures or text often, so it's important that your small business varies its content output. Instagram’s Reels feature gives users the opportunity to create short engaging videos for followers that can be posted on a main feed or Story. Reels can be up to 60 seconds in length, and you have the option to feature them on your profile grid permanently for greater visibility and engagement.

Posting these fun, short video clips is a great way for a brand to showcase a more personality-driven side of their business. Reels can be used by small businesses in many different ways including showcasing new products or features, creating educational content about your business or just giving your followers a behind-the-scenes look into your company culture. Many who make TikToks also post to Instagram as Reels.

[Read more: 7 Businesses You Can Start and Grow on Instagram]

When you get comments on a new Instagram post, Reel or Story, reply to your followers and start a conversation.

Post frequent Story content

Instagram’s Story feature allows users to share a picture, video or another user's post on their Story feed for 24 hours. After those 24 hours, the Story will automatically disappear unless added to your profile as a Story Highlight.

Stories are a great way for small businesses to engage with their followers without necessarily having to generate new content. Small businesses can post funny memes or behind-the-scenes content, or share news and information relevant to their industry.

Stories are also a great way to learn more about your followers. You can create polls, ask open-ended or multiple-choice questions and direct users to specific posts or links from your Stories for richer engagement and deeper customer insights.

Share user-generated content

Your customers are a huge part of your brand and showcasing their loyalty not only gratifies them but attracts more new customers.

Ask your followers to share pictures and videos about your products (or services) and share their posts as testimonials (with permission) on your main feed or in your Story. Sharing user-generated content demonstrates that you value customer support, elevates your “brand champions” and opens your account to more new followers.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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Published February 11, 2022