And the 1 you probably most certainly can!
Instagram gets a lot of traffic. A LOT. It is very hard to overstate their reach. In fact, 20% of the GLOBAL population can be reached via Instagram. 20% of the global population at the time of writing this blog is 7.9 Billion. Some quick scratchpad calculations with entirely too many zeros tells us that's 1.58 BILLION potential consumers Instagram can claim to help you reach- literally for free.
And for those of you small business owners - like me! - the case looks much the same. 90% of Instagram users (see scratchpad) follow at least one business account.
But wait there's more! 1 in 2 - like 50% of users - have used Instagram specifically to discover new brands!
Instagram is literally a small business owner's best friend. Its reach makes it ideal for most audiences and its rapid development and feature expansion keeps it at the top of everyone's app list. It is the 2nd most downloaded app in the world after all!
So how do you make the most of Instagram's reach? You stay consistent. You stay authentic. And you stay relevant by riding the trends. That's where we come in! We're breaking down the best, coolest and most valuable Instagram features for us #SmallBusinessOwners! So if Instagram is in your small business marketing strategy then this blog is for you!
Instagram Feature #1 The Link Tree!
Yes, you're right; a link tree is NOT an Instagram feature. HOWEVER; the link tree is the most common solution to an Instagram-specific problem! Instagram does not allow you to post links in posts and only allows one link to be featured in your description and this causes problems for those of us with more than one thing to say.
Enter Stage left the link tree. A link tree is a third-party software like lnk.bio (that's what I use) that allows you to create a tree of links - thus subverting the one-link problem.
Most link trees (including mine) are free but paid version is comparable to Pandora or Netflix circa 2010.
Instagram Feature #2: Stories
Stories aren't new! They've been available on Instagram since 2016!
If you have never seen a Story the quick rundown is its a temporary feed post that shows up in a separate stories feed at the top of the main Instagram feed. They appear as a series of circles across the top of your page and believe it or not they typically get more engagement and views than regular plain old feed posts.
Why? No one knows! I guess that makes 8 mysteries of the world!
Stories are really neat though mostly because of all the extra features they allow you to embed. Here are just a few of the fun things you can add to a story:
Polls & Questions
Gifs & emojis
Clickable Shop Link
A quick note on stories is that stories should NOT just be cropped versions of feed posts. Your audience craves new and interesting content.
Not sure what to post on stories? Hop on Instagram follow some cool people (preferably similar businesses to yours or US!) and see what they're posting to get some inspiration.
Keep in mind you don't have to be perfect. You have to take as many reshoots as you want and they disappear after 24 hours anyway! And while being consistent is so often preached showing up once in a while when you can find time is better than showing up never.
Have some fun with it!
Instagram Feature #3: Highlights
Highlights on Instagram are saved Stories. Why would you want to save stories? Because they are featured in such a cool way.
Highlights show up in cute little circles at the top of your profile feed. They can be sorted into categories and when done right can help your customers get to exactly what they want before they lose interest!
You can see our highlights right there under the description. (and also @theclevercatalyst IRL) They aren't perfect of course, but they are ours and they are beautiful!
Things like 'meet the team', 'core values' and 'behind the scenes' (what we have up) make wonderful highlights but 'service' and 'product' highlights would be even better!
Pro-tip: When starting out don't overthink it too much. If your vibe or content changes it's easy enough to remove and reorder highlights.
Highlights are awesome for plenty of reasons and not the least of which it helps your profile to look that much more bulked out, complete, and official.
In the game of small business every little bit matters!
Instagram Feature #4: Reels
I bet if I were to say right now that Reels are where it's at right now, I would NOT be the first person you would have heard that from. Luckily enough for you, I'm NOT going to say that.
The title of this blog is The Coolest Features on Instagram that your Small Business Can't Afford NOT to Utilize! and you - my friend - may very well be able to afford to skip Reels.
Reels are great. They can generate great engagement and can help you get found by larger groups of people faster than traditional methods. HOWEVER, Reels are just produced videos and produced videos require a great deal of creative energy/ideas, time, resources & money to produce.
Most small businesses don't directly benefit from Reels. In fact, most people just end up producing a copy + paste version of other people's content thus making the entire platform a cluttered borderline-unuseable platform like Netflix circa 2022.
If you're super creative and you want to - sure! If your product or service lends itself nicely to Reels AND you feel you can produce quality content on a semi-regular basis AND your budget allows, sure. Otherwise, focus on your energy where you can get a higher ROI.
Instagram Feature #5: Shopping
Instagram rolled out it's new and at-the-time-limited shopping feature in March of 2019. *cue the pre-pandemic flashback to better days* Initially it was very limited and Instagram (or big Daddy Facebook rather) would only authorize a few big brands like Nike to try it out. Luckily for the rest of us, it caught on.
Instagram shopping connects can connect with Facebook shopping or can be used alone, but you will need access to the Facebook (and possibly business. facebook ) platform to make the necessary calibrations.
Connecting and getting approved for Instagram shopping can definitely be a pain. Something about having to tie in the Meta-mess and all the unclear requirements and hidden checkboxes can easily make what was expected to be a quick project take literally weeks to get approved.
This is one of the rare cases it might just always make sense to loop in some qualified help or at the very least order a Trenta Starbucks Cold Brew, clear your afternoon, and queue up some good (and recent) walkthroughs.
So why bother? Remember the opening of this blog (it was a long time ago at this point #ChristiTalksTooMuch) when we went over the BILLIONS of active users? That's why! If you have products to offer (services and digital products are technically not approved products - although we've got digital products on our shop 🤫) you ABSOLUTELY should be using Instagram shopping.
With Instagram shopping, you can offer either in-app checkout - so users can buy within Instagram itself never having to leave the platform and thus less likely to fall (or jump) out of the funnel. You can also be tagged by people using your products which can be a literal game-changer, putting your brand in front of thousands of new potential customers.
Let's Double Tap This Recap
So there you have it the 4 coolest Instagram features your small business can't afford NOT to utilize and the 1 you probably most certainly can. Do you need to implement all of these? Of course not, but adding Instagram if it isn't already and any number of these awesome features to your overall strategy certainly can only help!
One final word to the wise: Make sure you don't get lost in the forest and miss the trees. These features and marketing in a larger sense can be very tantalizing but I have seen plenty of thousands of dollars wasted by small businesses pretending to be other small (or big) businesses. This strategy never works.
Take this advice and all advice by me or anyone like me with a grain of salt and always check it against what is authentic to you, your brand, and your audience.
Get Social on Insta This Summer for LESS
The Clever Catalyst is offering their Summer Social Sale once again! From Memorial day 2022 to Labor Day 2022, you could earn up to 2 weeks of free social media content! How you ask? Just by starting any social media weekly package (starting as low as $80/week.)
There are no start-up fees, no contracts, no pressure, and you can cancel or change plans at any time. If you sign up during the promotional period the first two invoices (billed every two weeks) will be half off with one paid week and one free week. Twice.