The Internet and Social Media are the latest frontiers for business and business promotion. Thousands, if not millions of people are launching businesses online and some of them are launching businesses on Instagram alone. Whether you are a coffee roaster with a physical shop, or you want to promote and sell online alone, I’ve got some tips on how to go about it.
Books with pictures are jokingly relegated to the “For Children Only” category in our minds. To be honest, however, I don’t buy a recipe book unless it has photos of at least some of the recipes in it. First off, I want to know that the author actually made and tasted the recipes she’s swearing by. Second off, I need a guide for what my finished product should look like. In effect, visuals make me trust what someone is trying to sell me.
Even the most killer product description is not going to guarantee that people are going to want to invest. People want something to look at, they want to know that the product does exist and that it does live up to your creative marketing copy.
You can do this the old fashioned way with bench ads and magazine spreads, or you can keep up with the times and utilize the amazing advances in social media.
This post is specifically about how you can use Instagram to enhance your business or use Instagram alone to start and run a successful business.
Instagram, the picture and video version of Facebook, has incorporated business accounts for online entrepreneurs. A business account makes it easier for your followers to connect with you off of Instagram, or to buy/inquire about your products. It has algorithms set up to let you know what impressions your page gives so that you can continually work to optimize it, and it has options for you to promote your posts so that people who don’t follow you can see them.
When you make your business account, you have to know your audience. This is similar to knowing your customer. You should consider what your customers want, expect, love and look for–both in coffee and in their online communities. You also want to know the online communities; you want to know the online coffee community, you want to explore the Instagram-specific coffee community, and you want to know the Instagram community.
Your first strategy is to get familiar with the app. You or your team need to know how Instagram works, all of the intricacies and details, and all of the features it offers. You should be comfortable using the app so that you can use it to the utmost efficiency for your business. Open a personal account, make some posts, familiarize yourself with the filters (which you maybe won’t want to use for your products specifically, but that can give an air of professionalism and sophistication to your posts) the tagging options (location is vital, and sharing to your other social media platforms). You should look at what a variety of people are posting, how they use the app. Find people with large numbers of followers; while follower numbers do not necessarily guarantee engagement, it’s a good start. See what they do with their pages to make them so successful.
This is a part of your job, but you want to be so expert in it that it doesn’t feel like work. You also want to have the perspective of an everyday user, to know what’s annoying and spamming, what’s aesthetically appealing, what gets attention and what gets interaction and results.
Tags are important. They are not a guarantee of traffic, but if you use the right ones they can help garner traffic to your page. Tags (using the # symbol) provide a link to all other posts utilizing the same link. Tags serve you both to get your posts seen by people interested in the tags you utilize, and by creating tags about your business and products that will get traffic moving to your page and your site. There are websites that configure the most popular tags daily, the trending ones for Instagram and Twitter and so forth.
Following people is also a strategy for getting more attention and more followers. People follow back, generally. You can also clean out the list of people you follow periodically so that your feed doesn’t become neverending. You definitely want to follow and engage with your potential customers: people posting about coffee, people making and buying coffee, coffee businesses, coffee enthusiasts and bloggers, publications and blogs that write about small businesses and trends and anything having to do with your business. This is a part of networking, making those connections so that people will invest in your products, but also so that they will help you promote your products. Having an Instagram means that your customers can tag you with a picture of a bag of your beans or some beautiful latte art at your location. It also means that any blogger who covers you can tag your page so that its readers can find you directly.
When you start posting, you want to have a strong aesthetic, one that people will trust, one that will get them to stop at least long enough to like it, and one that makes you stand out among the thousands and millions of Instagram users out there. You also want one that appeals to the people who are going to buy your products. As a third-wave, specialty shop, for example, you’re going to be appealing to a “hipster” crowd a lot of the time. Your aesthetic could be rustic and minimalist, super retro and “strange,” modern and minimalist, and so forth. Your aesthetic should cohere with your shop’s and your brand’s overall aesthetic.
As a consumer, one thing that throws me off and makes me distrust Starbucks is their efforts to enter into this third-wave movement by adding rusticness to their shops. Knowing what I do about them, these visual efforts clash in my mind with what they are as a business. It is symbolic of their massive reach, of course; they have the scope to experiment and create variety based on where they are and who they are serving. Having a cohesive identity, however, is where they started and it’s only decades later that they’re able to branch out and test the waters.
For your posts, determine what type of captions/descriptions you want to use. Instagram is a place most people associate with friends and family, or with celebrities who feel close enough to be friends. Having a personable voice on your profile is a strong strategy; while the app has incorporated ads and business pages, it’s just like commercials with TiVo–people tend to keep scrolling when something seems too promotional (unless they’re very, very invested in it).
You can use long, prosey captions, or more succinct ones. You can use flowery vocabulary to talk about the sourcing of your beans and what makes them incredible, their unique flavor notes, and so forth. The online world is mostly populated by those at or around Millennial age, however, and that means Internet humor. This includes puns (which Chipotle has utilized to optimal success), quirky, strange, or somewhat dark/cynical humor, nostalgia, and references to current events. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, start by looking at the trend in sidewalk sign humor. Those are the types of captions that work best in that community.
You may be marketing your product for health, quality, price, or anything else. The key for online marketing is to stay “on brand.” This way, people will recognize your posts and your products eventually without even needing to see your logo. Reiteration helps people remember; if your posts feel like 10 different people are making them, they won’t come together in people’s minds as a single brand. Consistency and cohesion are vital.
Have fun with it. This is your baby. Remember all those VHS tapes of you crawling around and blowing saliva bubbles or the aging photos in your mom’s albums that seem to document every second of your life until you graduated high school? That’s what Instagram is; your business is your baby. Post about it like you’re proud, excited, and in love with it and like you want everyone else in the world to be in love with it.
On your account, make sure your name is as close to your business name as possible, not too long or complicated so that it sneaks into the low-attention-span mind. Pick a profile photo that is recognizable (remember that it’s going to be tiny, so your logo or something with strong colors is a good option); people scroll through Instagram idly and that picture is going to be seen peripherally for the most part. I have come to recognize a lot of people I follow without even looking directly at their profile photos; this is an important aspect of your branding. On your main page, link your website, Facebook, Twitter, have a catchy tagline to make it more human and put your address if you have space. Utilize emojis if you want to keep things fun and light. This is also the one-stop-shop world, so put the most useful information on that page without inundating your followers. They’ll get overwhelmed or bored if there’s too much, and frustrated if there’s too little.
When you take pictures, make sure they look purposeful. You can have a washed-out, grungy look that still seems professional and artistic. You can take pictures of your coffee bags on your shelves, or in random scenes (on the beach, in a tree) for whimsy or artistic effect, or on a solid or patterned background, depending on your aesthetic.
Your Instagram can also have features like “employee of the week,” which will draw in those people’s friends, and will further personalize your business. You can offer specials to Instagram followers. You can promote new products and old. You can post about events you’re going to host and post live updates when the events are going on. You can promote blog posts on your website and coverage by other people about your business.
Instagram is about networking and promotion; it’s an app that can make everyone feel like a photographer and that can turn strangers into instant friends! Whether your business is entirely online or you want to get as much attention for it as possible, Instagram is a strong tool to boost your business.