Published on November 26th, 2014 | by Lisa Furgison1
How a Small Business Owner Turns Instagram Followers into Customers
Small businesses are flocking to Instagram to create an album of marketing eye candy. While this visual channel is a great engagement tool, can your social audience actually become paying customers? Yes.
Kate Marie Grinold Sigfusson, the owner of luxury baby brand Babies4Babies, says her small business gets more customer conversions through Instagram than any other channel, social media or otherwise.
“We actually don’t call our Instagram followers ‘followers’ because they are so much more than that. They are our community,” Sigfusson says.
So how did this relatively young Chicago-based business, which just opened in January, create such a profitable audience on Instagram? Here are her trade secrets:
1. Share your story
Most small businesses treat Instagram like a photo gallery. It’s a site that serves as a nice place to post a picture of your product or an employee working late on holiday orders, but owners rarely use the platform to tell their story. That’s what Sigfusson did
When she launched Babies4Babies, she was expecting. She took the opportunity to share pictures and information about her pregnancy. She posted everything from pictures of herself at 40 weeks pregnant, to her plans to launch a line of premium baby products like swaddles. The entire Instagram page chronicles her journey.
“By sharing the Babies4Babies story, specifically my journey as a new mother and entrepreneur, we have humanized the brand,” Sigfusson explains. “It makes the company more of a family rather than a product.”
Sigfusson says every business should treat Instagram in a similar fashion. As small business owners, show your audience the human side of your business. Show your audience pictures of you packing orders, heading to the post office, helping other customers and dealing with obstacles.
Get used to taking snapshots and “selfies” to populate your page with faces and images that tell your story, rather than just images of products. Use the platform to tell your business story one picture at a time.
2. Build a community
Once you share your story, you’ll probably find engagement goes up. When people can relate to your story, they are more apt to reach out, comment on posts and ask questions about your business.
If comments are piling up, it’s a good sign that you’re doing something right. However, your involvement shouldn’t end there. As with any social media channel, engagement is a big part of the conversion process.
Take the time to turn your posts into conversations, rather than just daily updates, Sigfusson says. On the Babies4Babies Instagram site, just about every picture has a stream of comments. Some are related to products, others are just friendly conversations between Sigfusson and other moms.
“By engaging in a dialogue in the comment section you will begin to know your followers and can learn what they want as customers,” she says.
These conversations become the foundation of a strong online community. With that kind of support, customers are compelled to learn more about your brand and eventually make their first purchase.
Instagram shouldn’t just be a place for you to interact with potential customers; it’s also a good place for you to network. Follow others in your industry and keep an eye on competitors. While it sounds a little like a spy mission, think of it more as an online business association. You can follow and converse with other like-minded industry folks, which usually has rewards.
“See what other brands are doing well on Instagram, learn from them, engage with them and partner with them,” Sigfusson suggests.
“By following other baby/mommy brands and communicating with them on Instagram, we have established many wonderful contacts and working relationships that have resulted in everything from successful giveaways that provide increased brand exposure to product design collaborations.”
Additional Instagram tips to keep in mind:
- Share quality photos. You don’t have to have a professional photographer follow you around, but you want to share quality images. You can certainly use your cell phone or tablet to take pictures, but keep the crooked, blurry images off your site.
- Get fancy with apps. If you want to up your Instagram game, there are photo editing apps that can help you create killer pics. Aviary, for example, can boost the quality of your image and Snapseed can help you create a more artsy shot.
- Upload video. Add some spice to your page by uploading videos. For example, when Sigfusson’s son started crawling, she posted a short video on her site.
- Post frequently. If you’re telling your brand’s story, you need to give your audience a piece of that story often. Figure out how frequently you can post and stick to it.
- Use hashtags. Hashtags allow your posts to come up in search results. New customers can find you by searching hashtags. You can also find others who are posting about similar topics.
Is your small business using Instagram to turn followers into customers? If so, how? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
© 2014, Lisa Furgison. All rights reserved.