So you’ve read my earlier post on how to decide if Instagram is right for your small business and you’ve decided you’re in!
Which means it must be time to set up your Instagram account. But guess what? I’m not actually going to discuss how to set up an Instagram account in this article – there are plenty of articles that explain that, including of course Instagram itself.
What I’m going to go through are some of the things to do before setting up your account and during the first few days (before you get all those wonderful people following, commenting on, and liking your posts).
If you do decide to set up your account before reading this article though, one word of caution – don’t link it to your personal Facebook account. Set it up as a separate account and don’t alert any of your personal Facebook or WhatsApp contacts that you’ve set up the account. I explain why at the end of the article…
Start with the research
Even if you’ve already used Instagram personally, I still recommend researching from a business perspective.
Style of posts from similar businesses.
Look up similar business to you and find out what they’re posting. What photos get the most engagement? What gets the least engagement? Are they doing Instagram Stories? If not, why not? Does it seem like there’d be interest from people if you did Instagram Stories?
To research hashtags:
- Open Instagram app
- Tap on the magnifying glass
- Type in the words of a business in your industry
- Tap on accounts to see Accounts that use those terms
Whilst you’re scoping out these businesses, look at the hashtags they are using. These are vital for people to find your posts, particularly as you start out.
For example, if you’re a vet and sharing photos of your patients then you may want to use #catsofinstagram; #dogsofinstagram #catsofyourtown; #yourdevotedcompanions; #adoptdontshop; etc.
If you’ve come up with some hashtags of your own that you think you’d like to use, research them and make sure they’re not being used for other purposes which may not be congruent with your business or which have been hijacked by spammers due to their popularity.
Time of day
When do most businesses in your industry post? If there’s a common time period then you might want to post at a different time period so you stand out a bit from the crowd.
Don’t post and run though! Make sure you post at a time when you (or the account owner) can respond to comments or questions if necessary.
Next – tools of the trade.
Obviously the actual Instagram app is the most important thing you’ll need. If you’re going to take photos for the account, then you’ll need a camera on your phone as well.
Image editing software
If you’ve decided you’ll create images rather than take photos then you’ll need some form of editing software. I’m partial to Australian company Canva.com which can be accessed via desktop as well as via mobile app for both iOS and Android.
As well as editing images you can add text, frames and different special effects via this program.
I personally am on the free program, and purchase images only when I need to use them rather than using the Pro version. I recommend starting on the free version and using the program for a few months before making the decision to upgrade to Pro or not.
Photo editing software
Instagram itself offers a number of pre-set filters when you post your photos and you may feel that is enough for you. Again, I recommend starting with those options to see how they work before trialling any other software.
Or, if you are already using photo editing software then you can continue to use that of course. If you’re not using photo editing software already then I recommend Snapseed. It is a totally free app offered by Google and has a number of pre-set filter options.
It also has a very in-depth editing suite that I personally don’t use simply because I find the pre-set filters work fine for me. But if you’re into that sort of thing, then Snapseed’s power and flexibility may be right up your alley.
In my post last week I briefly discussed obtaining stock images. My two preferred sites are UnSplash and Gratisography. Both sites are free and allow the use of their images for commercial purposes and in fact Gratisography allows you to adapt and modify the images .
Pixabay is another free site that allows commercial use for many of their images. However, they are all very American in their focus and if you’re wanting a more Australian vibe you may need to look elsewhere.
It’s a lot harder to find royalty free Australian specific images. One site that does offer Royalty Free images is StockOz.
For me personally I love the National Library of Australia’s Flickr site [link] which showcases historical images of Australia. They are part of Flickr Commons, which means the Library is unaware of any current copyright restrictions on these works.
They are black and white though which may not suit everyone and it isn’t often updated so once you’ve used all the suitable images you may need to find another site.
Avoid the trap of perfect
Finally, just get started! It can be very easy to get caught up in analysis paralysis and wanting everything to be perfect before you start. However, the best way to get good is to start posting and experimenting.
And that’s why I don’t recommend linking your Facebook account to this Instagram account. Take this opportunity to play, experiment, get things wrong (or right!) without the world (or at least your little part of it) watching.
After about 4 weeks of regular experimentation and once you’ve got a feel for where you want your Instagram presence to go then you can link it to your Facebook and WhatsApp accounts and put a link on your website.
Tell the world
In fact, go all out – tell everyone you know that you have an Instagram account via whatever means you’ve got. If you send out an email newsletter then make an announcement in the next edition and make sure there’s a link permanently in the newsletter from now on. In fact, add the link to your email signature block!
Make sure you promote it offline as well, by putting a sign at reception or somewhere similar; including it in your printed literature; and maybe even adding the printed link to your business cards.
If you’re on Instagram, shoot me a comment @thatonlinestuff on Instagram – I’d love to hear from you and see what you’re up to over there! (Full disclosure, I’ve had a reboot on the account so it is a bit sparse at the moment)
Got more questions about anything I’ve mentioned in this post? Get in touch to find out how I can help you safely go digital to drive better business outcomes.