Instagram for Small Businesses (Part 2)

A complete guide to using Instagram to find customers and increase sales.


How to Cultivate a Following

Note: This is Part 2 of a multi-part guide illustrating the most effective ways to use Instagram to find new customers and increase sales. Part 1 can be read here. We are using @RuggedMaterial as an example to illustrate our points.

In order to find customers and make sales, we must expose you business to a large base of highly-targeted followers.

Define your audience both geographically and by interest

Growing large numbers of followers is important — however they must be targeted followers! Define your niche. Define your audience. Research! It is well worth investing your time here. Build a list of other people who operate in your industry (who are also on Instagram). You can use this list as a basis to build your own followers.

For example, for @RuggedMaterial, I researched rucksacks, exploration, survival, outdoors, beard related products, rugged terrain and American patriotism. I also looked at the media outlets that Rugged Material had been featured in (such as Whisky Grade Lifestyle and Culture, Carryology, Silodrome and Gasoline Culture) to start compiling my lists.

Target your competitors’ followers

One of the best ways to find and attract new followers is to engage with the followers of your competitors’ accounts. The fact that these people follow your competitors means that they are highly likely to be interested in your products/services.

You can define your ‘competitors’ narrowly or widely. A wide definition will result in a far larger pool of people to work for. A narrow definition will result in a smaller pool of people, however all people within the pool are far more likely to be interested in your business (wide net or highly targeted approach).

In Rugged Materials case, it is the difference between focusing on the followers of backpack / bag manufacturers (or travel gear manufacturers) generally, or focusing on the smaller number of followers of artisan/handmade backpack manufacturers. Here is a list of some of Rugged Material’s competitors who have large number of followers (a total of 1.68 million people).

@HerschelSupply — 579,000 followers

@thenorthface — 790,000

@FjallravenOfficial — 23,100

@sandqvistbags — 18,000

@eastpak — 23,300

@JanSport — 63,900

@Oroton — 27,700

@TumiTravel — 31,200

@camelbak — 25,000

@kathmandu_live — 5,630

Here is a list of some smaller, artisan or handmade backpack manufacturers (a total of 71k people):

@noisegoods — 835 followers

@finnutility — 754 followers

@urbankraft — 3,421 followers

@haglofsscandinavia 10,500

@killspencer — 45,300

@boreasgear — 6,517

@Crumpler_HQ — 4,547

As you can see, we have very quickly built a list of over 1.5 million potential customers that Rugged Material can connect with. Rugged Material can engage with these users in three ways — following them, liking their photos or commenting on their photos. Engaging with a user will (by default) send a notification to that person (and is an opportunity to get your business in front of them).

If you have targeted the correct people, it is highly likely that they are someone who has an interest in your product/service, and therefore they have a much higher probability of following your account, liking your photos and — end goal — purchasing your products/services. The user will only look at your account very quickly — and if they are not interested they will move on. This is why it is very important to complete your bio correctly and to have engaging content that makes it clear what you are selling.

There are strictly enforced limits about how much a user can ‘engage’ with others on Instagram. There are both ‘hard’ limits (you can never follow more than 7,500 accounts at any one time) and ‘soft’ limits (most people suggest you should not follow more than around 60–100 accounts every hour). The ‘soft’ limits are variable, and are highly dependent on a number of factors (how old your account is, how many followers you have etc). I would highly suggest sticking below the 60 follows an hour guideline or you will risk having your account frozen or even banned. Using these techniques it is possible to build your number of followers by a few hundred every week.

Target the followers of ‘related’ accounts

As well as competitors you can also target followers of ‘related accounts’. The same ideas we looked at in relation to engagement with competitors also apply to related accounts.

For Rugged Material, related accounts include:

@carryology — 6,327

@silodrome — 34,900

@supremeoutdoors — 179,000 (hunting etc)

@huntingweekly 16,600 (hunting)

@holdfastgear 19,700

@travelandleisure — 723,000 (a leading travel magazine)

@mensfashionpost — 1,800,000 (a men’s fashion website)

@timberland — 617,000

@beardedvillains — 114,000 (beard community)

@whiskycollection — 15,900 (whisky community)

@theunderwaterhunter — 8,831 (freediving community)

@spearfishing_international — 70,600 (spearfishing community)

As you can see here — the sky is the limit. The better understanding you have of your target audiance, the better you can target such people on Instagram and the quicker you can build highly-targeted relevant followers who are all potential customers.

In Part 3 we will look at Connecting with Influencers: Finding and Recruiting the Best Influencers on Instagram.

Elevator Instagram Marketing

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