Ahh Instagram. Back in the day (can you believe it’s been around for 8 years?) Instagram was used primarily for its filters and borders that made any photo look like a magazine ad. Or maybe the photo was an untouched gem and it went right up #nofilter. No one cared about grid aesthetic, maintaining a following or whether the new algorithm was impacting their post visibility. Fast forward to today. Instagram is now a place where businesses spend considerable time and money creating an account with curated content and engaged following. Your Instagram profile might be your first impression to tell customers what you’re all about after all.

How can local Ontario businesses make an impact on the global Instagram scene without dedicating hours and money nurturing their account?

It’s not as scary as you may think! It just takes some thoughtful consideration about your ideal audience, a few useful apps, and most importantly – genuine engagement with your followers. We’ve boiled it down to three tips small businesses can use to grow their community online.

1. Find your niche and own it.

Wait. Let’s take it a step back, what IS your niche? We can’t be everything to everyone. Determine the type of content that’s relevant to your business that you can commit to posting consistently. Instagram is about lifestyle content, so ask yourself, how does your product or service fit into the lives of your ideal audience? Hone your style (and that doesn’t mean it has to be manicured or perfect!) to align with the story you want to tell. If you curate your Instagram images for your ideal customer then you will speak directly to the audience you WANT to attract.

TIP! Don’t limit your content to promoting your business or product. Find your unique differentiator (what you do best!) and own it. For example, beauty salons could post photos of inspirational locks, innovative colouring techniques, or celebrity hairstyles.

2. Use a grid planner app.

Let’s think about how a new follower might find your account. Maybe they searched a hashtag, by location or saw your post on the “discover” tab. You caught their attention with an image that brought them to your account (high five!) now you have the opportunity to tell followers what to expect from you. If the end goal is to find a tribe that will KNOW, LIKE and TRUST you, show them you are consistently posting content they want more of. Maintaining a cohesive aesthetic isn’t just important to have a “pretty grid” – it’s also key to attracting new followers who will actively engage with your posts.

TIP! Use a grid planner like Planoly to curate posts ahead of time. By using a planner tool you can save time, preview your grid before posting, and schedule an entire week of content in one sitting.

3. Don’t attract just anyone – attract the right followers.

Don’t be fooled by the numbers. Is it more valuable to have 100 engaged followers or 1k passive followers who just scroll by? Interact with your community by responding to comments promptly. Thank followers for kind words, follow-back and comment on their accounts. Once you create an engaged community that knows, trusts and will think of you when your product or service is needed, you have successfully mastered Instagram for business.

TIP! Focus on quality over quantity in your posts AND followers. Keep telling your authentic story, be consistent, and demonstrate your value and you will attract the right followers – the ones who will stay with you for the long haul. When you catch yourself saying “that would make a great Insta pic” you have arrived.

Follow Feather and Line on Instagram for inspiration and more great tips for marketing your small business.