7 tips to make your small business an Instagram star

By Rhonda Abrams, USA TODAY

Get out your pink paint. Or your coral, or yellow or teal. By the time you finish reading this column, you’re going to be painting one wall of your small business a color that will “pop” on Instagram.

Why? Because Instagram is today’s powerhouse social media site for consumer businesses. And if you give customers an inviting way to post to Instagram, they'll advertise your business for free.

A few years ago, if you wanted to reach retail consumers, the social media site of choice was Facebook. While it may still work for reaching certain demographics, many consumers – especially female Millennials – love Instagram. If the stuff they’re looking at is really eye-popping they’ll be more likely to engage with you on Instagram and eventually buy from you.

Some businesses are actually formed just for Instagram. The “Museum of Ice Cream”  for instance is not actually a museum, but an extended Instagram backdrop. This installation, with a permanent location in San Francisco and a travelling exhibit that appeared in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, has lines around the block. Folks pay $38 to get in and take their Instagram pics in ice cream-themed settings.

There’s also a Color Factory and Museum of Pizza and Rose Mansion – all basically giant Instagram photo booths, with settings (and lighting) that make Instagram photos irresistible. In fact, the picture I currently use on my Instagram account was taken at the Museum of Ice Cream.  

What’s an inviting way to get customers to use your location as an Instagram backdrop? How about love? For example, Liz Lambert, founder of Jo’s Coffee in Austin, painted an outside wall at her small cafe with the company’s slogan “I love you so much.” Couples, friends, parents, dog owners, all eagerly post their Instagrams tagging JosCoffee.

Make it easy for customers to take great pictures to post, such as PaintBox Nails in New York City. They installed an Instagram camera space in their Soho nail art salon and obviously did other things right on their way to a whopping 172,000 Instagram followers.

So how can you get your small business to gather followers and engagement on Instagram and, ideally, increase sales?

If your business has a physical location, take a cue from the examples above:

1. Paint a wall or portion of a wall a bright, clean color that "pops." on Instagram. 
2. Create an enticing design on a wall, like Jo’s Coffee did.

3. Create an Instagram “booth” with a cool background and good lighting for close-ups.

4. Make sure your @CompanyName is painted or printed on everything you create as an Instagram background.  

5. Put a “stand here” indicator such as put footprints on the floor to make sure people don’t cover your name in the photos.

6. Invent an “Instagram pic of the day” with a suggestion of something visual and invite customers to take a photo and tag your business.  

7. Design your napkins, furniture, plates to be Instagrammable.

Making your company Instagram-worthy is harder for small businesses without physical locations. But here are a few things to try:

If your business doesn't have a physical location, the Instagram buzz you create will have to be generated by yourself:

1. Create a template for your posts – using the same colors and fonts so you become quickly recognizable.

2. Use inspiring quotes and messages – people like to feel good!

3. Create (good clean) fun posts that give followers a lift.

4.  Make your photos as beautiful as possible.

5. Make your posts pretty using a tool like Canva or Over or Adobe Photoshop Express.

6. Use Instagram Stories to show followers a “behind-the-scenes” look at your business.

7. Post multiple pics to make viewers swipe, which increases engagement.

Remember, hashtags are important! Use them to help your posts go viral.

Rhonda Abrams is the author of “Six-Week Start-Up”, just released in its fourth edition and other books for small business owners.  Connect with Rhonda on Facebook and Twitter: @RhondaAbrams. Register for Rhonda’s free business tips newsletter at

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Finance Magazine: 7 tips to make your small business an Instagram star
7 tips to make your small business an Instagram star
Give customers an inviting way to post to Instagram, and they'll advertise your business for free.
Finance Magazine
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