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small business instagram marketingLong gone are the times when Instagram was a platform for teenagers to publish images with pseudo-vintage filters. Businesses, especially small and creative companies, should definitely take Instagram into consideration when deciding where to spend their time and effort online.

The newly emerged Instagram is more sophisticated, which gears it perfectly toward businesses. Its quick, fun nature is highly visual and artistic. And the quality of content uploaded to the platform is only increasing.

Instagram’s demographics are expanding, too. Currently, 30- to 49-year-olds make up 28 percent of the platform’s user base. Another 11 percent of users fall in the 50 to 64 cohort.

The service caters to each of these age groups in a different way. Its unpolished, disappearing photos and videos appeal to teenagers and young adults. At the other end of the spectrum, exquisite content and product placement resonate with older users who typically have more discretionary income. Instagram makes them want to get out their wallets and buy up all of it.

If those aspects weren’t compelling enough to sway the user base, Instagram combines the comedy of Vine with Pinterest-worthy aesthetics and the immediacy of Periscope.

A close to an exponential growth of the network (and being owned by Facebook) makes Instagram a perfect social media platform to get your creative business discovered. So stop being one of those laggards who doesn’t know how to market on Instagram and employ the platform to its fullest!

Disclosure: I am not saying that you should abandon all other traditional and digital marketing channels. All I am saying is that, when done correctly, Instagram yields amazing ROI.

A close to an exponential growth of the network (and being owned by Facebook) makes Instagram a perfect social media platform to get your creative business discovered.

Why Instagram is the place to be for creatives

Instagram is very visual. It’s possibly the most visual of them all, because the bulk of the information comes through either pictures or videos. A majority of people are visual learners by nature, so it comes as no surprise that people indulge on Instagram all the time.

Being a creative person, you know how important the visuals are. But more than that, it’s the storytelling piece of the visual content that pulls it all together.


Instagram boasts more users than Pinterest and Twitter. It shows no signs of stopping either; the growth of the network is nearly exponential. This is why you need to learn how to market on Instagram now before you look like an outdated business.

In the last couple of years, Instagram has announced and rolled out new features with astounding frequency. Even though some of their most exciting features are straight-forward copycats, it doesn’t seem to negatively impact Insta.


While an introduction of an algorithm-based newsfeed made some major waves and struck legacy Instagrammers as a bad idea, it proved to be very smart. The algorithm-based feed is good for Instagram because it’s intuitive for followers and it levels the playing field for all.

Even if you’re relatively new to platform but post amazing content consistently, you have the same chances of being seen as bigger players who might not be as diligent and nimble as you are.

The cries for a chronological feed have hushed as more people realize they enjoy seeing the most relevant content, brought to them by the platform and the many artists on it.


Because Instagram is focusing on the quality of content first and foremost, it’s only up to you how much effort you’ll put in and what results you’ll see.

small business instagram marketing

“Explore” section became much less about famous bloggers and Internet celebrities and more about tailored suggestions from a variety of handles. Plus, the network allows searching by tags, making finding content easy and marketing on Instagram a piece of cake.

Stories organized by location or hashtags also simplify the goal of being discovered by the right people.


While Instagram is about beautiful imagery, it doesn’t always have to be perfectly orchestrated. In fact, Instagram started out as just that: instantaneous sharing of images. Later, when marketers and influencers took notice of the platform, it became much more polished. However, it’s becoming clear that Instagram users need to find balance between spontaneous and well-planned content.

In fact, the trend is such that people are drawn to handles that don’t shy away from honesty and truthful representation, whether it’d be weight loss, follower gain, or anything else. Because these updates are visual, they allow your followers to feel like they’re in this moment with you.

Because your followers should feel much more intimate connection with you, they gain this sense of exclusivity when it comes to your business updates.

It’s becoming clear that Instagram users need to find balance between spontaneous and well-planned content.

Scraping for content to publish to market a business on Instagram? An image of a new office space or a new product line is so much more impactful than a text or link update, so don’t be afraid to pull the curtain.

Ease of use

Instagram is probably one of the easiest platforms to use. We all can snap a photo of something as we go through our daily activities. It may be our desk, morning coffee, new cool office gadget, sticky note, a plant, beautiful weather, anything. It may be very short or it may be very long – the call is yours.

Snap a nice photo, upload it to the app, choose a filter, say a few words and you’re done. Your caption doesn’t have to be long either.

Advertising capabilities

This feature is not necessary for when you first start on the platform, but keep it in mind once you perfect organic strategies of marketing on Instagram.

If you decide to put some momentum behind your awesome content, try boosting your posts or truly advertising with Instagram. Because Instagram shared all of the targeting capabilities of Facebook, you are getting a really powerful tool on your side. Not only can you target specific ages or genders, but you can also target people based on their demographics, interests, and even purchasing stages. Plus, you get really in-depth analytics that will inform you and help you make better decisions moving forward.

How to market creative business on Instagram


As with any other network, first things first: if you decided to market on Instagram, take care of your profile. Upload a high-quality profile image, create a sweet snippet in the bio section. In your bio, give them the reason to follow you. Think of this as an introduction, as a short elevator speech, but steer away from sales pitches.

Although it’s preferable that you post on the platform every day, come up with a publishing schedule or frequency that will work for your business. You might take it slowly at first, getting comfortable with the network etiquette or polishing your images.

However, don’t post 3 images and disappear from the platform completely. You have to commit in order to see results.


Treat Instagram as a beautiful showcase of your brand. Some companies go as far as to turn their Instagram account into an actual online catalog of their products.

If you have a service-based business, don’t throw Instagram to the curb. You can find creative ways to market your services on Insta in a visual form.

small business instagram marketing

For example, if you are a graphic designer, photographer, florist, or a fashion designer, treat Instagram as your portfolio. Interior designers, seamstresses, and makeup artists can show the final creation or before-and-after images. Social media managers and health coaches can post testimonials and share their clients’ results (of course, with permission from said client).

Everyone can post behind-the-scenes moments into their everyday work, office celebrations, or a white board with product development ideas. Plus, there are quite a few tools that help you create beautiful graphics, so you could create tips or share inspirational quotes. In fact, here is another of my favorite Instagram marketing ideas: a little text on the graphic can be much catchier than a simple graphic alone.

Think about Instagram posting not as a collection of random images from your day, but as a mood board of your business. Through skillful storytelling, show them what it’s like to work with you or use your products. Showcase fulfilled needs and successes; showcase aspirational lifestyle that comes with your brand. Show them your shared beliefs and how you (or your offering) can elevate their lifestyle.

Think about Instagram posting not as a collection of random images from your day, but as a mood board of your business.


Be creative and think of a way to entice people to follow you beyond stating the obvious. Are you sharing your knowledge? Are you inspiring them with imagery? Are you helping them feel special by being a part of the community?

Encourage existing followers

Don’t forget to let your followers on other platforms know that you have an Instagram account too. An initial announcement, a reminder made next month, and an occasional Instagram post sharing should be enough for people to click the link and follow you on Instagram if they prefer.

However, you have to give them a reason to follow you on multiple platforms, so don’t just mindlessly share the same content everywhere. Have an interesting twist to your Instagram presence, like more of an insider look into your company or hosting fun giveaways. Creating an enticing offer will give you the initial boost in followers, so you don’t have to start at zero.

It also might be a good idea to follow a few handles yourself. Think of people and companies with whom you come into professional contact. Look for your partners, distributors, or vendors who are present on Instagram.


See what your most successful competitors are doing on Instagram, what hashtags they use and what kind of imagery they put out there. Research what hashtags are most prevalent in the industry. Pay attention to the kind of imagery that is popular with your audience. Identify room for improvement or a way to stand out.

small business instagram marketing

If you decide to convert your Instagram account to a Business account, you’ll get cool insights, like audience details, engagement rates, etc. You can also allow customers to contact you by a click of a single button, whether it’d be an email or a call (because, you know, they are on their phone). Encourage those as much as you can.

Spice it up

Take advantage of all the capabilities inside Instagram app itself. I am talking about Boomerang, Rewind, and Hands Free modes. Those can spice up your content and make it fun to follow you.

Share Stories

A sense of exclusivity is especially heightened with Stories. Because people only have 24 hours to watch them, they pay much more attention to the content shared through this ephemeral medium.

Plus, watching Stories is about choice. Unlike the newsfeed, where algorithm decides what you might see, Stories is all about deliberately clicking on the little colorful circle around the profile photo. So, people who are watching your Stories, really want to see them.

And, you don’t have to pace yourself anymore! I know it’s a constant struggle when you’re attending industry events or covering cool happenings and want to share photo after photo after photo.

Plus, because those are temporary, it allows more room for being personal and creative. You don’t have to be polished all the time to be interesting and exciting.

Go Live

Finally, go live on Instagram! It’s a great way to catch up with your followers and answer some questions.

First, because no replays are available, followers have a real incentive to pay attention to the message in the moment. They also can engage with broadcasts through Instagram’s comment and like tools, though the platform keeps control in the streamers’ hands. Those who livestream can disable comments during the broadcast or pin the best ideas to reinforce key ideas and feedback.

Second, users can create as many livestream events as they wish. If things didn’t go as planned, they can simply restart the stream.

If you’ve neglected to explore live-video marketing so far, this might be the perfect time to start practicing your skills. After you get comfortable in front of the camera, prepare how you’ll respond to questions that are likely to be asked in live mode. Know your material and your message so you’ll be able to improvise in the moment and effectively field unexpected comments.

When a user goes live, Instagram helpfully displays a “Live” label beneath his or her profile photo in the Stories bar. To help ensure greater exposure, the beloved “Explore” page evaluates top broadcasts taking place at that point in time. The “Top Live” section offers a compilation of live Stories Instagram deems relevant to users’ interests and activity, further putting focus on relevancy.

Instagram Live has the potential to make a big splash in social journalism, but it has huge implications for business owners, as they truly can take their followers behind the scenes to highlight company culture or host Q&A sessions to educate and entertain.

Because content is both live and ephemeral, it presents an intriguing opportunity for companies to connect with audiences on an authentic, deep level.

Again, show your spontaneous and personable side. People want to do business with people, not brands. Remember that and don’t be afraid to loosen up once in a while.

Your care, creativity, and knowledge will show through, and this is how you gain followers, brand ambassadors, and customers.

Focus on creating a true brand experience on the platform and the selling will do itself.

What do you think of marketing on Instagram? Do you know any other ideas on how to market on Instagram? Share in the comment section below or head over to Instagram @lesyaliu to continue the conversation.