Instagram is not just for selfies; it's also a great tool for small businesses to find customers and conduct business. 

About 80 percent of Instagram users opt to connect with businesses on the platform to discover their brands and shop, Instagram chief operating officer Marne Levine told the audience at Inc.'s GrowCo conference in New Orleans on Thursday.

"People are looking to follow businesses on the platform--there are 200 million Instagrammers who visit a business profile every day," Levine said. "Two-thirds of those are non-followers, someone who is looking around wanting to learn about new businesses. If businesses are looking for customers, they are here." 

But even though the platform provides a large and receptive audience, companies need to be smart to take advantage. Levine offered three tips every business should follow: "Be shorter, be faster, and be yourself." Here's what you need to know about each of them. 

1. Be Shorter
Companies should continually post photos, videos, and stories to see what works for the community and what doesn't, but don't spend a long time trying to make sure each post is perfect. Be sure to experiment with different formats. "Show different sides of yourself," Levine said. 

2. Be Faster
Once you learn that a certain technique or style works, quickly apply it to your next post. "If you post a story, you can see who watches your story and how they found you, and you can adjust your behavior to reach more," Levine advised. She gave the example of Mighty Good Undies, a maker of eco-friendly underwear based in Australia. The company discovered that its audience on Instagram was mostly coming from the U.S., so it immediately changed posting times to better attract American consumers.

3. Be Yourself
The community can sniff out a lack of authenticity on Instagram, Levine said. The best approach is to be real about who you are and what your company is about. Talk about how your products are made, where you source from, and the details of your entrepreneurial story. The consumer today has come to expect those kinds of personal interactions. "Once you turn the camera on yourself, as soon as you and your employees share your lives and what life is like inside, you get more customers," she said.

Published on: Jun 1, 2018