According to Instagram, 80% of users follow at least one business on the app. Richard Costello shares five tips to leverage Instagram successfully for your business.

Instagram currently has over 700 million monthly active users and counting. It’s owned by Facebook so it’s not going away anytime soon.

You should hopefully have a business Facebook page so you may be thinking why bother with Instagram too? Well, if used correctly, Instagram can help you grow your business and reach customers who would never have found you otherwise. It’s not as difficult as you may think and if appropriately planned then it won’t take up too much of your time either.

It’s perfect for tradesmen because our work is very visual and people are very much interested in seeing before, during and after pictures and videos of your work. I’m going to show you five ways you can exploit Instagram in order to grow your business.

Plan and create visual consistency

The first thing I’d recommend doing is to plan your Instagram account in terms of how it looks visually. Don’t just post random pictures and videos. The visual consistency of your Instagram account should reflect the professionalism of your business.

A strategy that many successful Instagrammers follow is posting a picture, then a video, then a picture, video, picture etc. This gives the Instagram page an eye catching ‘chequerboard’ visual effect and looks really good. Another strategy could be to post three pictures, then three videos, then three pictures etc.

Having visually consistent content lets your customers know what to expect and creates a visual representation of what your business embodies.

Show customers behind the scenes

The relatively new feature, Instagram Stories, has allowed brands to show their customers a look of what goes on in their business, quickly and easily, on a daily basis. You’d be surprised as to how much interest this generates. People are curious by nature and love seeing behind the scenes footage of their favourite celebrities, movies and even businesses.

It could be as simple as filming your journey to a customer's house or an electrician getting his tools out of his bag or a plumber firing up a newly installed boiler.

Thanks to Instagram Stories, brands can show their spontaneity and personality, as well as their involvement in the community, which customers appreciate.

Another perk of Instagram Stories is all stories feature at the top of the user’s Instagram feed meaning it is one of the most visible and easily accessed features on Instagram so people are very likely to click on them.

Create a branded hashtag

Make sure that you create a branded hashtag. It’s a great way for people to find you as a hashtag can reach a wide potential-customer base in seconds. A successful branded hashtag can help increase traffic towards, not only your Instagram account, but your company website (which you should already have!).

Questions to ask yourself when creating a branded hashtag:

  • Is it short and sweet? The longer a hashtag is, the more difficult it is to use (to spell correctly or even remember).

  • Is it consistent with your brand? If your business already has a tagline or slogan it may be a good idea to use it as your branded hashtag as it creates consistency and allows customers to easily identify your brand through the hashtag.

  • Is it already in use? It’s no use having a branded hashtag that’s already taken. Some people use other people’ hashtags to increase their own exposure but I’d recommend to sticking to your own unique ones and concentrate on growing them.

@Mention your customers

The perfect way to build a stronger, more transparent customer rapport is to @mention them on your Instagram feed. I’d recommend getting the Instagram accounts of your customers and posting a picture of the work that you’ve done at their house and mentioning them in the post. It would probably be a good idea to ask for their permission first but most people are happy for you to do so.

You can also @mention customers when you reply to their comments on your posts. If you come across a photo (generally because they have used your branded hashtag) posted by a customer that you believe perfectly fits the style of your business’s account, then get in contact with that user and ask their permission to repost their photo on your feed. If they allow you to, then do, but don’t forget to @mention them in the repost – give credit where credit is due!

Remember @mentioning isn’t the only way to build relationships with your customers, ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’ on customers’ posts related to your brand is another way of doing so. This shows the appreciation you have for your customers and allows you to directly engage directly with them.

Advertise on Instagram

Paying to have your own adverts on Instagram is a brilliant way to reach more people. They’re relatively cost effective and you can laser target your audience so that it’s shown only in front of your target audience in your geographical area. The benefits of Instagram adverts are that they look like normal Instagram posts and so are much less invasive than conventional adverts.

In addition, Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons are available for use, such as ‘call now’ or ‘find out more’, which makes your brand that much more accessible. When creating your ad, you can decide on a daily budget and or a lifetime budget.

So, there you have it. Five ways in which you can use Instagram to get more customers and improve your brand's image.

Richard Costello is owner of MultiPlumb.