"If small businesses have a smartphone and an Instagram business profile, they have all the tools they need," says Jim Squires, Director of Market Operations at Instagram.
Here a few of the ways Instagram can help small business owners connect with current and potential customers in new and deeper ways.
Go Behind The Scenes
"On Instagram, small businesses will also continue to take customers behind the scenes to tell the world how the business operates," Squires says. With a camera and video recorder in your pocket, small business owners have the opportunity to show how their products are made and their ideas come to life, allowing customers to see the inner workings of the business in a way they might not otherwise get to see.
Give a tour of your facility, show the creation process of a product, document updates as they are made, and debut new offerings before they hit the shelves. These insider tidbits help customers feel connected to your business and give them a reason to keep checking your feed.
"This level of authenticity will help SMBs connect with current customers and attract new ones," Squires says.
Showcase Your Employees
People relate to other people, so showing off the personality of your employees is one way that Instagram lets you make your business profile seem more real and personal. Share photos taken by employees, or show them directly in your photos and videos. Let them share tips, favorites and recommendations, or talk about why they love the company in a video or in a photo caption. You can even allow your employees, partners or guests take over your account for a set period of time to help bring in their fans.
Strand Bookstore in NYC is one brand that does this well, giving employees a chance to share their favorite books and why, and featuring authors who visit the shop as well.
Create Real-Time Content With Instagram Stories
The rise of live video has been swift, with smartphones putting broadcast technology in the pockets of so many average people and Facebook and others offering a platform for real-time content distribution.
"Customers crave real-time engagement with brands - as do small businesses with their customers," Squires says. "With new features like live video on Instagram Stories, businesses can connect with customers in real time and take viewers behind the scenes of their business."
Live video content gives small business owners a chance to engage with their customers in real time, answering questions, explaining processes and doing instructional broadcasts to teach their customers how to achieve their goals, use their products and more.
Connect With Customers Across The Globe
The fact that Instagram is connected to Facebook, which has such rich customer data, allows small businesses with services and products that can be accessed and shipped internationally to connect with customers who might never stumble into their shop on the corner.
Creating photos and videos with international appeal, or that speak for themselves despite a language barrier, allows businesses to create targeted ads to appeal to customers they might not be able to connect with otherwise. This expands the customer base, but also invites international customers to create a relationship with the brand by submitting their own photos, too.
"On Facebook, more than one billion people are connected to at least one business in a foreign country. With tools to help SMBs connect with new customers in other countries that look like their best ones here, that number will only increase," Squires says.