With a large part of marketing resting in the social media space, it can be tough to know exactly how to best use the tools set before us by social networking giants like Instagram. Especially for the SMB owner who is already wearing thirteen hats. I sat down with Morgan Cornelius of Instagram's SMB team to find out what tools to use to reach your customers.

LM: Let's start with a snapshot of you and what you do for Instagram.

MC: I lead the SMB team at Instagram which means I get to meet, work with, and educate small and medium businesses every single day. I love working with entrepreneurs, and hearing how their businesses came to be.
LM: How did you come to join this team?
MC: Prior to Instagram, I worked at Yelp for five years as their Business Outreach Manager for North America. While there, I fell in love with the passion and drive small business owners put into growing their businesses. When Instagram started their SMB team, I knew I had to be part of it.

LM: What is your favorite part about working with the Instagram SMB team?

MC: There are so many incredible businesses that I've met over the years, and being able to have a front row seat to their success - whether that's starting their company from scratch, finding new customers, interacting with their biggest fans, or using new creative tools - is hugely satisfying.
LM: Tell me about the start of Instagram Stories. How did IG think of the concept and what was the inspiration?

MC: When our founders created Instagram, they wanted it to be a place where you can share all your moments. But as Instagram grew, so did the pressure around sharing. People felt like the feed was only for their highlights. Stories let people share all the personal moments from their day, not just the ones they want to keep on their profile. Since launch, we've seen people and businesses in the community sharing their behind-the-scenes moments, daily happenings, and personalities through stories.

LM: Why do you think it has become so successful?

MC: Instagram Stories is successful because businesses are able to take their customers and prospects places they otherwise wouldn't have been able to go. They are able to show BTS footage, create a sense of urgency with the products they are highlighting at given moment (like announcing a 24-hour sale), and in some cases, ask for real-time feedback from their audience on potential products. Instagram has always been a place for people and businesses to connect, and now businesses can do so in ways that feel real and personal.

LM: As a small business owner, what are the most effective tools that I could be using on IG to grow my business, but maybe don't know about?

MC: For starters, you'll want to make sure you've switched over to a business profile as it will allow you to enable a contact button (email, call, directions) should someone come across your account and want to get in touch with you. Beyond having a contact button on your profile, you'll also be able to access Business Insights which will help you understand your audience, including information like age, gender, and location, along with how your posts and Instagram Stories are performing.

In addition to switching over to a business profile, businesses should also consider engaging with Instagram Stories. Over 300 million people use Instagram Stories every day. Over half of the businesses on Instagram create stories each month, and the community is watching--with one-third of the most viewed stories coming from businesses.

LM: Is there anything that is an urban legend? Things that businesses are doing, but shouldn't or are doing incorrectly?

MC: I find that businesses tend to stick with what they're comfortable with, but diversifying your content can be really powerful. There are so many formats that you can use now on Instagram, so don't be afraid to shake things up! This doesn't have to be time-consuming, Instagram has a number of creative formats in Stories (like the recently introduced Type Mode, stickers and GIFs, and video features like Boomerang and SuperZoom) and feed which are easily accessible and simple to use.

LM: What is your take on the future of Instagram for business? What's next?

MC: We're doing a lot of work to help people discover and connect with their interests on Instagram. For example, we recently launched the ability for people to follow hashtags. This is a real opportunity for business of all sizes. People want to discover new business on Instagram, particularly those creating products which match their interests. You can find people where they spend the most time, where they are engaging in things that interest them the most - and insert your products into that experience.

LM: Any predictions about the rest of the internet world for the future?

MC: Speaking for Instagram specifically, we are committed to continuing to provide tools and features to help small business grow. For example, we will soon allow people around the world to shop directly from their Instagram feed, book an appointment, or make a reservation. These tools will give businesses even more ways to reach customers on Instagram, and we're excited to support the small business community with continued updates.

So start exploring the timeline and Instagram Stories. We can't wait to see what creative content you come up with.

Published on: Feb 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.