How to make your business Insta-worthy
At a glance
Here's a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:
- Take advantage of the data tools in Instagram to work out when your audience is most active.
- Once you start, be committed to posting regularly or you’ll lose your audience if you’re not consistent.
- Keep an eye on the algorithm to see how Instagram prioritises the posts your audience see, e.g. number of shares, likes, tags, etc.
- Be personable. Instagram is not the platform for formal business-speak.
Having a good Instagram presence is more than just posting a few pictures and responding to your followers’ comments. It can require an investment of your time to get to a place where you can successfully market your product or service to an engaged following of thousands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun along the way.
We spoke to two businesses that have carved out an influential presence on Instagram. From Annabelle Widyastuti’s mylittlepandakitchen, with 16.5K Instagram followers eating up their gorgeous vegan cakes, to Hazem Sedda’s redfern_convenience_store and its 25.1K loyal followers.
Here’s their Instagram marketing tips:
Leverage other peoples’ following
When Hazem Sedda threw in a career in aviation to devote himself to his family’s tiny corner shop in Redfern, Sydney, he was determined to make a splash.
To attract new business, he set about stocking his shelves with hard-to-find international snacks, lollies, cereals and drinks. Scorpion lollipops, anyone? But these unique snacks weren’t drawing in the crowds as much as he’d hoped.
Image: Popular UK Percy Pig sweet
As fate would have it, Sedda is good friends with celebrity journalist, Ben Fordham. Fordham advised him to start an Instagram business account and, on the spot, downloaded the app onto Sedda’s phone.
“We posted a photo of me and him and that’s how it all started,” says Sedda. Leveraging the social presence of someone with more followers than you by tagging them (Ben has over 80K followers) is a great way to start building up followers, Sedda adds.
Or why not join forces with another small business owner and tag each other to generate some buzz?
Image: Ben Fordham, left, and Hazem Sedda, right
From that humble first post, Sedda has become an Instagram sensation with people visiting him from far and wide in hopes of picking up interesting treats and being chosen as ‘Customer of the Day’ – a popular series that he runs on his Instagram page to entice customers. Sedda says his criteria for choosing these people are simply a great personal story or, even simpler, a great smile.
“Our community is really supportive and [are always] fighting to be Customer of the Day,” he laughs. “They tell all their friends about it and when my customers have visitors in Redfern, they say, ‘I want to take you to the greatest convenience store on earth’.”
Image: Sedda’s ‘Customer of the Day’ wearing his shop’s merch
What to post on Instagram
Widyastuti, known affectionately as ‘Panda’, says Instagram is so important for anyone wanting to showcase their products.
“What I do is so visual. Instagram is essentially my portfolio of work. But even if a business isn’t product-focussed, if you have a strong brand there are so many ways you can communicate your message. You might have to be more creative but it’s a good challenge.”
For example, instead of promoting shots of your product, you could include customer testimonials or re-post images from other accounts (ensuring they’re properly attributed with correct permissions, of course) that align with your brand’s style.
You could even focus on the app’s story function to share news, tips and updates about your business – as tax agent Diana Todd recently spoke about in this Prospa Blog article.
Image: Panda holding one of their delicious treats!
“It can be a bit same-same if you just post your products,” says Widyastuti.
Widyastuti believes that eye-catching imagery is key, but the supporting commentary in the captions is equally important.
“My cakes are bright and fun and always different. Also, social media is inherently social, and I find corporate-speak off-putting. I try to use a really personal tone and reflect back on what is happening in my life, so people get to know me. It’s also very important to ask questions of your audience and be interested in the answers.”
Sedda adds: “If you only care about selling products, you will never succeed. People want to feel happy to buy, not forced to buy.”
He combines pictures of products (e.g. one of his most recent products – Lady Gaga Oreos – of which he sold 150 units in just half an hour) with pictures of people buying the products, “so we can advertise the product but also talk about the people” – aka, the Customers of the Day.
Best time to post on Instagram
Sedda accesses audience data through Instagram to work out when his posts will achieve the most reach. His best times are from noon to 6pm.
“Usually I post [on my grid] once a day, but on average I post five Instagram stories a day. The less you post, the less the audience sees and the less chance you have to engage with them,” he says.
Widyastuti only posts once a day to allow plenty of time to respond to comments.
“It takes about 24 hours to get maximum engagement on Insta,” says Widyastuti, adding that it’s important to always keep an eye on the discussion.
How to build your audience
Widyastuti says collaborations are an awesome way to build your audience.
“I’ve collaborated with other vegan brands and we’ve been able to leverage off each other’s followings. That’s been really effective.”
Widyastuti also recommends giveaways and media partnerships.
“I’ve been asked to create content with Pedestrian and Vice, for example. When they share that content, I have big spikes.
“When my content started taking off, it was quite exciting. It was very strange because I got a bit of local celebrity-dom. Inner-west Sydney has a strong vegan culture, so it was funny to be at a restaurant and hear people saying, ‘That’s that Panda person!’”
Need to update your camera to take Insta-worthy shots? Or want to invest in getting your products professionally photographed? A Prospa Small Business Loan might be able to help you to get those marketing assets up to scratch.
Early in 2020, David King’s lolly shop Sticky was facing bankruptcy. Now, after generating a massive online following, the business has become an award-winning international brand.View more
Salmon farmer Ben Pyka shares the best (and challenging) parts of owning a small business with your family, as well as the advice he wishes he'd had when he first got started.View more
As a small business owner, you’re no doubt used to being run off your feet, but it’s important you know how to draw a clear line in the sand in order to protect your mental health.View more
Subscribe to the Prospa Blog
Be inspired! Sign up to Prospa’s newsletter to receive tips, tools and small business success stories straight to your inbox.