Why Independent Retailers Need to Be on Instagram

by : 

Megy Karydes

January 4, 2016
Marketing Mondays - Why Independent Retailers Need to Be on Instagram

Instagram launched on October 2010 and is quickly rising the statistics ranks among social media platforms. Today, more than 400 million people are active on Instagram, and 80 million photos are shared a day. While it’s still not as popular as Facebook, attracting only 28 percent of the adult Internet population compared to Facebook’s 72 percent, Instagram is narrowing the gap.

Consider this: According to the Pew Research Center (March 17 – April 12, 2015), 59 percent of Instagram users are on the platform daily and 35 percent visit several times—a 10-point increase from September 2014. Facebook’s engaged users, 70 percent of whom log on daily and 43 percent of whom log on several times a day, is unchanged from the 70 percent who used Facebook daily in 2014.

Among the reasons for Instagram's popularity is its simplicity. It’s basically a photo album and great for sharing and viewing photos and short (15-second) videos.

Why does a simple photo album matter for independent retailers? Two main reasons:

  1. You sell products your customers want and this is an easy way to share what you offer.
  2. Your customers have Instagram accounts, too, and can post images of products you offer—thereby amplifying your marketing reach.

Convinced you need a presence on “Insta,” as the kids call it? This week we’re going to help you get started. Next week we’ll discuss how to engage with customers and partners to help you drive sales. The following week we’ll share how one small business is building her business using Instagram as a marketing tool.

How To Get Started on Instagram

  1. If you’re not already on Instagram, consider what username you’ll want to use. As with Twitter and Facebook, try to keep it as short as possible and memorable. You don’t need an Instagram account to check out other accounts so take some time checking out some how some other shops name their account and the kinds of images they’re posting and getting engagement.
  2. Before you start your account, consider your bio. You’re restricted by characters so be thoughtful about what you want people to read about you. Keep in mind your target audience—what do you want them to know about your business and what can they expect to see in images so they can decide whether or not to follow you. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you might want to add your address. Definitely include your URL because this is the ONLY place on Instagram where your URL will be a live link (as of right now, Instagram allows URLs to be included in image descriptions but they’re not live links).
  3. Have about half a dozen images ready to upload so you can give your followers a taste of what’s to come. For each image, include a short sentence or two about the image. If you’re familiar with hashtags, include one or two hashtags in your description. Don’t go crazy with the hashtags, though. People get turned off by too many tags because it makes the text too busy to read.
  4. Once you’re ready with a name, bio, images and their descriptions, download the free app and register your username (you’ll need an email) and create a password. The thing I don’t love about Instagram is that you have to upload pictures through your smartphone and through the app. You cannot (as of right now, anyway), upload the images and add your text via a desktop. I’ll share some tricks next week on how to make this process a little easier but suffice to say, you’ll need to use your phone for Instagram to work.
  5. Once you have an account, follow accounts like yours as well as shops and businesses near yours in proximity but don’t forget to follow real people, too. We do business with people, not businesses, after all. Add your personal friends and family. Ask them to follow you, too, and to re-gram some of your images so their followers will see your account and follow you, too.

Now that you have an Instagram account, we’ll need to build our follower base. Make sure to bookmark our Marketing Mondays page and check in next week when we discuss how to make your Instagram account shine and drive traffic to your business.


Megy Karydes helps small businesses harness their marketing power. She’s also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic’s CityLab, Midwest Living magazine and Chicago Tribune, among others. Find her at MegyKarydes.com.