How to Thrive as a Small Business on Instagram in 2018

Did you know?

 

  • 1 in 3 UK small businesses have built their business on Instagram
  • More than half of small/medium businesses in the UK using Instagram see the tool as a means to grow their business
  • 1 in 4 people discover and buy products they find on Instagram
  • 45% of UK small and medium-sized businesses have hired employees as a result of growth in demand since joining Instagram.

Isn't that just the most inspiring thing you've read all day?!  There has NEVER been a better time for your business to shine on Instagram! 



It's fair to say that their constant updates and algorithm changes keep us on our toes and as a Small Business Social Marketer, I make it my mission to stay ahead of the curve so that I can keep my clients in-the-know.

 

In 2018 there is going to be a BIG shake-up for all Instagram users and brands and I, for one, am excited, so what are my predicted trends for the platform?

 

1. Instagram Stories and Instagram Live's Are Going to Be Your Secret Weapons for Growth and Conversion!

In 2017 we all saw a downturn in engagement within the platform and started to question what was wrong with our content. Well, the truth is, it's not that people don't like it - they just haven't seen it. I ran a poll on all my social networks and asked my audience whether they spend more time scrolling their Instagram feeds, or watching Instagram Stories. 57% of respondents said that they spend more time watching Stories than browsing their feeds! 

With less than HALF of Instagram users even creating content for Instagram Stories; this is your opportunity to grow grow grow. Less competition and more eyes on your content. HELLO Brand Awareness. 

Instagram Stories are now available to view on desktop, and with the introduction of Polls last year, there is no doubt that Instagram is pushing us all towards utilising this addition and creating interactive content. Did you know that 1 in 5 Instagram Stories leads to a direct message? Giving you a prime opportunity to chat with your prospective customer and build a meaningful relationship one-to-one.

Instagram Live is equally as important to add to your marketing strategy in 2018. Still hugely underutilised by businesses and yet it propels you to the start of users Stories timelines when you're broadcasting! 2018 is going to be the year that you have to be brave and go live. You can dual broadcast now as well, which means you can invite a guest to broadcast with you split-screen and the possibilities of using this feature are endless!

Now you've read this you'll be in one of two camps; the excited camp that loves creating video loves chatting with their audience, and already enjoys watching and creating Instagram Stories and Live broadcasts (my camp!) or the other camp which is OH NO! I hate being on camera, I hate the sound of my voice, and my audience wouldn't be interested in what I have to say. Well, my friend, they would, and this brings me on to prediction number two.

 

2. Way Less Pressure On "Picture Perfect."

Honest, raw, personality-driven content is the name of the game for 2018. Instagram is moving us away from over stylised content and towards "real life" - where it orstarted. There will always be a place for genuinely artistic content created with passion and an expert level of Photoshop, and we all love to follow these accounts, but for the small business owner, there will be a lot less pressure on what image goes where and in what order and with what filter. HURRAH!

There have been rumours for a few months now that the gallery view is going to change from 3x3 to a 4x4 grid. Not so great for those who have spent years finetuning their accounts, collaging and whatnot but for those of us who have never been that bothered about their aesthetic; this is a welcome update that will showcase more of what we do, in the same size window. 

 

3. Shopping Within the App Will Become the Norm.

*update 20th March 2018, shoppable tags are now available in the UK, learn more here*

Throughout 2017, UK businesses have been waiting patiently for Shopify to rollout "shoppable" posts to the UK users (currently only available in beta to select U.S based Business accounts with a Shopify integration).

Shoppable content is a growing trend in the world of e-commerce, Facebook launched this a few years back, and it’s no surprise that Instagram will be joining too. There’s a massive demand from everyday users to be able to shop the products that brands and influencers advertise on their accounts, and with Instagram wanting users to stay in the app as long as possible; it makes perfect sense that this would be a natural addition.

As an official Shopify Partner, I am looking forward to supporting my clients when this rolls out to the UK.

 

4. Those Who Bend, or Break the Rules - Will Feel the Wrath of Instagram

In 2017 we saw the demise of numerous automated services that were liking, commenting, following and unfollowing on behalf of account owners. These bots have been operating outside the Instagram API, and the users of such services were breaking the Instagram TOU by engaging with them.

When Instagram closed down the largest of these automated services "Instagress", thousands upon thousands of users found themselves locked out of their accounts for breaking the terms of use. New bots are popping up all the time to serve this desperate requirement for more followers! As a small business, using an automated service is not only opening you up to the risk of being hacked or kicked off the platform (how embarrassing) but these tools are not that sophisticated, and you can only programme them to comment specific phrases; which could cause you a PR disaster! While I am talking about services that you shouldn't be using - another is apps that show you who unfollowed you! These are also going against Instagrams API which means that again, you are breaking Instagram's TOU and are opening yourself up to being hacked. These apps have been proven as the cause of accounts to be shadowbanned. Use them at your own risk - but quite frankly; playing the follow/unfollow game is SO 2016.

Talking of PR disasters, 2017 saw a real rise in backlash over brands using other users content on their feeds; even if they were crediting the original content creator. Facebook has gotten hot on copyright with an announcement in December stating "they removed nearly 3 million posts, including videos, ads and other forms of content, from its services during the first half of 2017 following complaints of counterfeiting and copyright and trademark infringement" and they have recently implemented Facebook’s Rights Manager program on Instagram, which allows publishers and creators to upload a library of their content to be monitored on Instagram. Publishers can then block their content if it’s being posted by an unapproved source, or monitor the video views.

Last year, a US-based photographer named Max Dubler wrote a blog post that went viral about his interaction with a brand that reposted his image without permission. In “No, You Can’t Use My Photos on Your Brand’s Instagram for Free,” he explained that he expected monetary compensation for the use of his images for advertising as although he had featured one of the brand's products he did not permit them to share the image on their feed.

You can read his blog post here, but to say it was a PR disaster for the brand is an understatement. However this shouldn't put you off sharing user-generated content, you just need to have a strategy and to ask for permission first.

I should also add, that taking photos off Pinterest or Google Images are also not OK and if you take time to read the TOU that you agreed to when you signed up to Instagram you'll see that you agreed not to do that. Again, you could find yourself kicked off the platform.


Ok, so these are my top 4 trend predictions, and we've ended on a somewhat scary and negative note; so I want to recap and give you some actions that you can go and do RIGHT NOW.

 

1. Put your face on your feed! I started to champion this in the summer of 2017, but people want to connect with you! When I say you, I don't mean an arty-farty photo of you looking away from the camera or running around the moors; and I also don't mean a selfie or a holiday snap with your hubby cropped out! I mean your smiling face and photos of you doing what you love. Book a professional photographer to capture you to help you achieve this objective. You can read more about my photoshoot and why this is an essential investment for your business here.

2. Start writing as you speak! Captions are hard; I get that, you don't know what to write. My biggest tip is to write from the heart and write how you speak. You can get 101 caption prompts here.

3. Create content your audience WANT to see and support your business goals.  Start making your Instagram about them and not about you. Learn more about what I mean here.

4. Learn how to be a master Storyteller. Commit to creating content for Instagram Stories and uploading at least three times a week; one clip per day is even better! Use this tool as an opportunity to share more about your brand and ask your audience questions using Polls as well as encourage them to comment by replying to direct message. If you have a business or verified account and over 10,000 followers, you will have the option to add links to your Story clips. These have proven to have a high clickthrough rate - so use this tool! Not sure where to start? I've got 58 ideas for you and lots more, learn here. You can also join in the April 2018 Stories Challenge with 30 prompts to get you confident on camera.

Come on over to Instagram and send me a DM and tell me what changes you'll be making to your social strategy in 2018.

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