TomorrowMakers

Small and medium businesses are seeing growth like never before in this digital era with Instagram. Here’s why you should join in and how to go about it.

Learn how Instagram is shaping SMBs, one hashtag at a time!

Small and medium businesses are selling on Instagram. And boy, are they selling big! Instagram is providing global exposure to small businesses, often run by one or two people. 

By way of example, Supreet Bhatia from Chandigarh earns a staggering Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore a year just by selling chikankari Indian suits on Instagram, often to clients in the Middle East and North America. And enterprising teenager Avi Natesan from Chennai earns Rs 10–12 lakh a year by selling slime on the discovery platform. 

These are just a couple of the many 'Insta success stories' in India. There are hundreds of thinking entrepreneurs who are capitalising on this trend and making a pile.

So how does it work?

Businesses are using social media platforms to reach out to customers they would otherwise have no access to. All they need to do is get a business account on Instagram, come up with clever hashtags, and start posting eye-catching pictures of their products and services. 

Getting followers right off the bat is not an easy task. However, there are numerous success stories of businesses turning a huge profit in a matter of months. Yes. ‘Instagram for Business’ is taking online mobile shopping to the next level. 

Instagram has gained tremendous popularity in the SMB space in the last year. According to a report by Merkle, there has been an increase of 114% in web referrals between Q1 2018 and Q1 2019. 

The social media platform is poised to see tremendous growth in the near future. Instagram is estimated to be a global market worth US$10 billion by 2021, as per Deutsche Bank.

Related: 8 Must-read books for female entrepreneurs

Types of businesses seeing the transformation

Quirky, unique, whimsical, local, artisanal – Instagram is home to some of the most distinctive sellers. Apparel, beauty and skincare, handicrafts, collectables, and accessories are some of the most popular e-shopping categories on the platform. From authentic silk sarees and handloom dupattas to organic beauty products and pop culture figurines, everything can be found on Instagram.

Sellers in these categories are able to increase their reach in the most non-intrusive way and grow their businesses multifold. Buyers, on the other hand, have fun shopping on the discovery-led platform without having to deal with unwanted ads and promotions. 

Features custom-made for businesses

Instagram’s business platform comes with some great features to help businesses become more efficient, increase sales, and engage better with customers.

It has a built-in analytics tool called Instagram Insights that gives a view into the account’s performance – the number of profile views, followers, reach, clicks, etc. Promoted Posts help businesses boost a post from within the app. The Contact button helps buyers get in touch with the business directly as it includes the phone number, store address, email ID, etc.

Businesses can add Shoppable tags in their regular posts and Insta stories. With this, a user can tap on a tag to buy the product directly from the seller’s website or the product page. There is also a Shop Now button that serves the same purpose. Explore lets users browse products across categories and brands as per their liking and make purchase decisions. 

The latest addition is the Checkout button. This facilitates businesses to sell directly within the Instagram app via mobile wallets. This feature was launched in the US in March 2019; it has not reached India yet.

Related: Tips for women entrepreneurs to fund their businesses

Tips for capitalising on Instagram features

Over a billion people use Instagram every month. Of this, nearly 80% follow a business account. The sheer volume of people shopping on Instagram is reason enough to get your business on it. Here are some tips for businesses to capitalise on the Insta trend:

Find, follow, and interact: Find your potential customers and follow them for a follow back. Check out businesses offering similar products to you and follow their followers; chances are they will follow you back and help you build your customer base. 

Create engaging content: Create content that is young, appealing, youthful, and whimsical. Use language and pop culture references that resonate with your audience and intrigues them to spend time on your posts.

Post high-quality photos: This is extremely important. Your phone camera can do the job. Take pictures in natural lighting and touch them up using an editing app to make them look professionally shot.

Use the right hashtags: Using the right hashtags is critical. They should be in sync with your products to make them discoverable. Research hashtags with the most reach and use them. Instagram suggests hashtags similar to the ones you use. Carefully choose from these.

Collaborate and tag others: Partnering can help you increase your reach organically and effectively. Find brands or influencers that align with your vision. Tag them on posts and grow together.

Post regularly: Continuous engagement is key. Ensure you are posting regularly with relevant content. This will help you hold the customer’s attention and nudge them into making a purchase.

Offer exciting discounts: Who doesn’t like discounts? Coming up with real discounts and offers will help push sales, attract new followers, and retain existing customers.

Take a look at these 5 Challenges faced by women entrepreneurs to tackle the pressure points with aplomb. Get your business on Instagram to become a #successstory like many other inspiring entrepreneurs around the world. 

Follow these tips to cash in on the Insta craze. Happy hashtagging!

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