How To Utilize Instagram For Your Small Business

DISCLAIMER – I do not claim to be an Instagram professional or an expert at handling social media for small businesses. I am just sharing what I have done and learned over the past 5 months of running my own Instagram account for my small business and what has helped me grow to 1,000 followers today.

I started my company Snuggly Duck Crafts in October of 2020 and alongside that, I started my Instagram. In the beginning without Etsy, I was solely selling via Instagram DMs which was good for awhile but then I found myself to start becoming very disorganised.

With that, I couldn’t do technical small business things like print automatically generated invoices, calculate sales tax for certain countries, or have a system keep track of my customers and what they’ve purchased.

Instagram is a big part of me growing my small business and it is the driving platform for my growth. Most of my stats on Etsy show that they are redirected to my store via Instagram.

I will be chatting all things Instagram x Small Business today, so grab a cuppa and let’s begin!

Set up your Instagram account with a clear brand name

This was something I planned before starting my account and even I’ll admit my planning wasn’t the best. I started off as Snuggly Duckling Crafts (an ode to the pub from the film Tangled), and 4 months in I realised it was a tongue twister of a name, no matter how cute it was, also a tad too long for my Etsy store link and a potential copyright infringement.

I changed it to Snuggly Duck Crafts just a few weeks ago and had my logos and cards redone by the lovely Laurel from LaurelMaeArt – she’s the best! She’s currently not taking in anymore commissions.

Basically, have a clear brand name that’s easy to read, unique and also something that describes what you do. If you’re into the cute, soft and colourful aesthetic like I am, pick words that also describe that. For myself I chose ‘snuggly’ as it is such a cute word, and ‘duck’ because ducks are adorable.

If your name is Katie and you do portraits, KatieDraws is perfect but also maybe very common and highly likely already taken – you could go for KatiesArtStudio, or KatiesPaintBox.

The reason why I chose the word ‘crafts’ instead of ‘lather’, or ‘soap’, or ‘bath’, was because I always knew I wanted to branch out and do more things – which I have done, like wax melts and lotion bars and hopefully even more in the future!

Follow fellow small businesses before you publish your first Instagram post

I created my Instagram account and started following people even before my first post was up. This way, you get people to notice your username before you’ve even begun.

If I recall correctly, I had about 20 followers before I had even published anything but Instagram stories.

I followed a bunch of soap accounts, art accounts by people I already knew and I also promoted my own small business Instagram account on my main account. This helped me notice that the soap-making community in Singapore was actually quite small and niche, which I liked because it made my art form a bit more unique.

It also helped me realise that the jewellery-making community in Singapore is very competitive. So many good jewellery-makers exist here!

Talk about what your small business is about in your bio

Another important thing when starting off is to make it clear what you do so that people who like what products or services you sell will follow you.

My bio says –

Being someone who does only 3 products at this time, I can fit all of them into the first line of my bio. However, I do know that I’ll eventually change it to something along the lines of self-care products – as that’s what I aim to be doing!

What are your unique selling points?

Mention them in your bio! For my business, it was that all my products are cruelty free, which means nothing is tested on animals – something I like to promote and encourage other people to move towards. Paraben-free is also a selling point for me, albeit not that important to some people as lots of consumers don’t actually care about parabens and SLS in products (they are sometimes even counted as myths!), but still something worth mentioning.

Lastly, you have to provide a link in your profile bio. I used to link my Etsy page but now I’ve created a Carrd account, which helps me direct people to multiple platforms. I’ve linked my Etsy, Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook page and email address.

Take good photos – VERY IMPORTANT!

You don’t really need an expensive DSLR or high end camera to be able to take good photos. A good phone is all you need!

I went from using my Samsung Galaxy S9 to my current iPhone 11 Pro Max for photos. No expensive equipment needed either! I don’t own a ring light nor do I own a tech-y tripod. I actually just use a $5 phone stand.

This is the exact one I use for filming and for photo taking. I do a lot of flatlays but I’m trying to move on to different photography styles. I’m not the best at taking photos but I think composing your image is actually the most important part.

I personally like to ‘fill’ my photos so they don’t look empty.

Once glance at my Instagram feed and the first thing many people think is – Wow it’s so colourful! That’s the kind of aesthetic I like – bright, colourful, vibrant, happy, eye catching. It might not be everyone’s thing as some people have said my photos are too colourful.. but I like it!

You’ll notice I also own a lot of props. Flowers, wooden boards, coasters, backdrops.. they’re all from the dollar store! I bought a few vinyl backdrops online for $10 for 4 pieces, incredibly worth it as you can see in my Healing Incantation photo, the wooden rustic background is actually just a vinyl backdrop.

I have flowers in almost every colour and I take multiple photos of each soap with a different colour combination of flowers and backdrops to see which suits me best. I’ve also gotten some props like fake acorns, dried oranges, fake berries, wooden stump boards, etc. They’re all so pretty!

Taking good photos takes a lot of practice. I am not even that good at that yet! It sometimes takes me an entire morning to take one good photo that I’m satisfied with. Sometimes I dedicate one entire day to taking photos and if I don’t get a good one at the end of the day, I just won’t upload. Part of it is definitely my perfectionism and also not wanting to commit to uploading a photo I am not completely satisfied with, which I think is a good thing as it shows you want things to be nice and presentable.

Natural light is also something very important. Being someone who works until 10.30pm at night 5 days a week, I can only take photos on my days off when I can catch the sun. It makes a lot of difference!

Publish a post every time you launch a new product

We all know that Instagram stories are much easier to publish than an actual post that stays on your feed forever, but people tend to miss stories a lot of the time.

Be sure to let people know the name of your product, what it’s about and maybe add a few relevant emojis in there to catch people’s eye.

Let people know in the caption of your post that this is a new product. If you have any ongoing promotions during the time of publishing, mention that as well! If you gained a few new followers before posting, let them know the platform you sell on.

Host giveaways

I have only ever hosted 1 giveaway on my account but it gained me about 200 followers in the span of the 2 weeks that the giveaway was on. It was also a Christmas giveaway with seasonal products, making it a bit more special and more people would want to participate.

Giveaways that are open worldwide will obviously reach more people but do keep in mind your own budget as you’ll have to pay for everything including the shipping, which can be hefty sometimes!

Most already know, but in a giveaway, it is important to ask users who want to enter it to do the following –

  • Post your giveaway on their stories
  • Follow you
  • Tag friends
  • Save the photo

This automatically increases engagement and you will reach a much wider audience.

Using the right hashtags

Hashtags are a weird thing aren’t they! Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t but that’s alright! You should always leave some hashtags on your posts, but make sure they’re relevant. Don’t use #likeforlike if you’re posting a picture of some jewellery you’ve just released, as that will lead to very illegitimate likers and you don’t want that!

Organic reach is the most important. The number of likes you get does not equate to how organic your reach is. If people are liking your posts because they want to receive likes back, it isn’t always authentic.

For small businesses, here are the most popular hashtags that I’ve discovered –

  • #smallbusiness
  • #shopsmall
  • #smallbiz
  • #etsyshop (if you own one)
  • #etsyuk (if you’re in the UK or are targeting a UK-based audience)
  • #supportlocal
  • #supportlocalsg (or #supportlocal followed by the initials of your country works as well!)
  • #handmadewithlove
  • #shoplocal
  • #smallbusinessowner

I use these a lot in my posts but of course, you can get even more detailed. For my soaps, I also use the following hashtags –

  • #soapmaking
  • #mpsoap
  • #crueltyfree
  • #parabenfree
  • #vegan (where appropriate)
  • #meltandpour
  • #ecofriendly

The reach is very up and down. Sometimes you can use all the best hashtags but also not reach a wide audience, it could be because of many things. From the photo to the time you posted, it could affect how the post performs. Instagram is getting a lot harder to figure out these days, with many posts going around saying that ‘saving’ a photo rather than ‘liking’ a photo helps that post more. Who knows!

These are my stats from 2 posts that did relatively well and got over 100 likes each. One has the hashtag reach at 157 whilst the other has 180, but yet the impressions has almost doubled on one! How strange.

If only someone from Instagram could come out and do a whole course on how to ace this thing – I’m sure we would all benefit!

Engage with and support other creators

Commenting on your fellow artist pals’ posts is very important! You’re forming relationships with other small businesses which is honestly half of the fun of what running a small business is about! I’ve met so many wonderful and kind creators who have helped me along my journey and I’ve also been able to extend a helping hand to many. It is a very fulfilling thing to do.

Replying and reacting to Instagram stories is also a good move to make. You may end up in their DM’s and start a conversation, or if they asked a question about suggestions, chip in! Everyone needs a little bit of help sometimes. You never know when you might as well!

Supporting other creators is another very crucial thing. I’ve bought from so many small businesses since starting my own and I will continue to do so for as long as I can! I’ve bought so much wonderful jewellery, homeware, hair accessories, stickers and even soaps amongst other things from fellow indie businesses and I do not regret it one bit. Post about them on your Instagram story! It can and will help them out.

Knowing that someone does a happy dance every time I make a purchase makes me very very glad. I do that a lot too! Every time I see a purchase notification from Etsy, my entire day gets slightly better.

Make use of Instagram features such as countdowns, polls, the slider voting and question box

Many sources have stated that putting at least 1 Instagram feature (such as countdowns, YES/NO polls, slider voting and/or a question box) a day can boost your engagement. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it – adding a button that people can interact with will boost involvement.

For me personally, I like using the countdown widget for whenever I’m about to have a sale or a new product launching. In the photo above you can see a countdown for the 24th of February 2021 which is my birthday, but also the start of my Payday Week sale that I plan on having every month!

Sharing is caring

If you post something on your Instagram story, be it a packaging material or resource, and someone asks you where you get it from, try as much as possible to share. We all start somewhere, and you would’ve needed that help some time in your journey to growing your business too.

However, be careful of people who ask but are ungrateful and impolite. I’ve seen friends talk about other accounts who ask them where they get their clay from, for example, and my friends have sent them links to help them out, only to be blocked later on after getting be help they needed.

Granted, it is hard to figure out who is going to use you for personal gain. You learn as you go along. I’ve thankfully never had the experience of someone taking advantage of me whilst asking questions about materials, supplies or packaging. And honestly, it doesn’t bother me that much because we are all small businesses here to make a tiny living. But I also understand when people are afraid to share because of being taken advantage of in the past.

It is solely up to you and what you think is best for your business.

Show that you are excited about your business

Share every milestone, every little thing that makes you happy about running your shop and every thing that makes you excited. I like filming packing videos the most, especially if it’s quiet and I can do a bit of ASMR. I also like hyping up my new launches, I usually post videos of my new soaps on IG Stories.

I even like sharing new cute packaging I get! Packaging is honestly.. my favourite thing.

Showing excitement to your audience also shows that you love what you do and honestly that’s all that matters! Hyping yourself gets other people hyped and if your community is full of small business owners, they should understand as well. You get the odd jealous/petty business owner, but they’re rare!

I hope this post has helped some of you if you were feeling lost about which direction to take with Instagram and/or where to begin.

I am in no way telling anyone that I’m a small business aficionado because I’m not someone who manages a sale a day, or even a sale a week! Instagram is just one way to help you grow your small business, and definitely one of the better ways. My goal one day in the future is to get at least 1 sale a day, which is kinda far-fetched for now, but I hope it can happen. At the moment I’m getting at least 1 sale a week, which makes me incredibly happy.

I hope to one day turn this into a full time thing and I hope your fingers are crossed for me as well!

If you have an Instagram account for your small business and would like some advice or just to talk to your friendly POC indie business owner (me..!), do drop me a DM on my Instagram account SnugglyDuckCrafts and we can have a lil chat!

In the meantime, do consider making a purchase from my small business SnugglyDuckCrafts on Etsy where I make handmade soaps, lotion bars and wax melts! If these products aren’t your type of thing, a Tip The Artist listing is also available if you would like to show some support in a different way. 

26 responses to “How To Utilize Instagram For Your Small Business”

  1. Loved all these tips. I’m about to launch a store based on feedback from my FB followers asking to buy the shoes and shirts I use in quotes. I’ve even pinned this on Pinterest to use as a reference. Thank you!!!!

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  2. Excellent tips here! I don’t run this kind of small business, but I am a blogger and social media manager and I work to incorporate these elements into my own Instagram as well! Your feed is amazing. Definitely eye-catching and fun. Plus, I LOVE your name – so adorable that you went with that reference from Tangled!

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    • Thank you for the lovely compliment! I’m glad my blog post could help an array of people. I love my feed too – always looking to improve it as well! Tangled is definitely one of my favourite Disney films.

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  3. Thank you for this post! I haven’t had much luck with my shop on Instagram. I’ll admit that I haven’t made as much an effort because I have a job and often neglect my shop. I will definitely try some of these tips hopefully they can help my small business.

    On another note, It’s been amazing to see your soap business grow. I can still remember the first time you shared on Instagram that you were making soap. Congratulations on your success! I can’t wait to see how your shop expands in the future. ♥

    http://www.mooeyandfriends.com

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  4. […] Cons Of Online Therapy/ Counselling SessionsThe Secret Power Behind Not Knowing What You’re DoingHow To Utilize Instagram For Your Small BusinessThe 15 Best Vegan Deodorants To Keep You Smelling Fresh All Day12 Brilliant Crochet Artists to […]

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  5. […] way to end my day. What are you currently reading? – This post by my friend Marissa on ‘How To Utilize Instagram For Your Small Business’. She started a small soap business last year and it’s been so inspiring to see how her shop […]

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