How to Turn Instagram Into a Money Making Machine:
The Ultimate Guide for Small Business Owners
Author: Kristin Jerome
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Jerome
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Why Instagram?
Chapter 2: Defining Your Target Audience
Chapter 3: Creating Meaningful Content
Chapter 4: Using Hashtags
Chapter 5: What Are People Up To?
Chapter 7: Asking Others to Promote For You
10 Quick Tips to Remember
10 Mistakes That You Want to Avoid
Popular Daily Hashtags
About the Author
I can only assume that you chose to read this book because you already have an idea of the amazing benefits of using Instagram to get the word out about your business, and reach over 700 million potential customers. Maybe you are brand new to Instagram, or maybe you already have a good following but want to learn how to turn those followers into actual customers. This book will help to show you how to use this free app to enhance the future of your business and earn money with minimal effort. When you first start a new business, whether it is a small home or online based business, or a large store with multiple employees, one of the toughest hurdles to get over, is making the public aware of your existence. People cannot buy what you are selling if they don’t know that you exist. So, the big question is: How do I get the word out and start getting customers? The answer is simple, Instagram.
Instagram is not just for young kids wanting to post silly pictures for their friends, there are people of all ages who use Instagram, and there are many businesses that are already using Instagram to promote their products or services. People use it as a way to connect with others, to express themselves, and most importantly to us as business owners, to find goods and services. If you are not on Instagram, these people may end up going somewhere else and you will be missing out on growing your business exponentially. Of course there are countless other ways to advertise and promote your business other than Instagram, but personally I have found this app to have the biggest return on investment of any advertising method I have used.
Everything I am going to talk about in this book is something that I have personally tried and found effective. I learned how to use Instagram by true trial and error, and I want to share with you some of the keys to success that I was able to figure out and use to gain new customers, and a steady source of income.
I am in charge of marketing, and managing the front office, for a small auto repair shop that started from ground zero. They opened up the doors with no customer base (other than their friends and family), so it was up to me to figure out how to turn the millions of people around the shop into loyal customers. The doors may have been open and a sign may have been up on the building, but all of the people passing by each day had no idea that the shop existed. I thought I had tried everything, but Instagram was not even on my radar, I had no idea of the many benefits of using this app and how profitable it could be, and not to mention, how fun it could be.
I began with advertising avenues such as: Yelp, Craigslist, and business cards. These are all good low cost, or free, options of advertising, but the amount of customers the business gained from these methods was just not enough. Once I realized that these ways of getting the word out just weren’t working like I would have liked, I sat down at my computer and began to do a lot of research. I spent countless hours trying to find the secret key that would unlock the door to a constant flow of new customers and solid income, little did I know, that the answer was right in the palm of my hand all along.
I had used Instagram for a couple of years for personal use, but I had never thought of the possibility of using it to make money. One day, while casually swiping through pictures of friends and family, I saw an ad for Chipotle, when I first saw this I thought, “Oh wow, that burrito looks amazing,” and I clicked the like button. Then, the light bulb came on. If Chipotle has an ad on Instagram then it must be a good source of income for them, it sure worked on me; I wanted a burrito that whole day because of that tasty looking ad.
The next day I decided to give it a shot and created a business Instagram account for the auto shop that I work for. I played around with the app for hours on end. I spent a lot of time posting new photos, tweaking descriptions and hashtags, and searching for new followers. Only two days after starting the account, people started liking pictures, commenting, and asking for quotes on repairs. Less than one week after I created the account, customers started coming in, one after another, and spending money. I knew I had finally found something that worked. Who knew that people actually searched for goods and services on Instagram, well if you didn’t know that you are not alone, I had no idea.
One thing I think is really important to point out, is that there was a noticeable difference between the Instagram customers and the customers gained through other methods of advertising. The difference was that they had trust and confidence in the shop before they had ever even set foot in the door. I have been told by many of the customers that found the shop through Instagram, that they felt like they had a personal connection with the shop because of the pictures they saw on the account; they felt like they knew the owner before they even met him and they even knew the shop dog by name. This is the key! A business Instagram should give potential customers an insight into the daily workings of the business through behind the scenes sneak peaks. The content you post should make potential customers feel like they know you; like you are an old friend.
In this book, I will outline exactly how to earn money through establishing this type of personal relationship with people through the use of Instagram, and also some tips and tricks on seeking out your own target audience and keeping them engaged for years to come.
Every business has a specific group of people that their product or service will sell best to. For example, let’s say you own a shop that sells earrings, necklaces, and hair accessories; your target audience would most likely be women, maybe between the ages of 25-40, perhaps you sell high end jewelry so your target audience would be upper to middle class women. Once you know your target audience you can begin to paint the picture of who you are looking for. If you tried to just sell to anyone, you may not have as good of luck; a single man in his 20s probably doesn’t have as great of a desire to buy a necklace as a woman would, not to say that everyone can’t be a potential customer, but figuring out who your products sell best to and marketing directly to them is a sure fire way to increase sales.
After you have figured out who your products or services would sell best to, there are some important questions to answer. Where would this person shop? What do they do for fun? Where do they live? The answers to these questions, as well as others, will be very different for each individual business and are essential when trying to seek out potential customers on Instagram, or any other platform as well. It would be great if the customers were the ones that searched for you, but in the beginning, at least, it will be critical for you to be proactive in finding them. So, let’s go back to the example of the jewelry shop. This mid to upper class woman, between the ages of 25-40, maybe she shops at Tiffany’s, maybe for fun she goes golfing, and perhaps she lives nearby you in a nice part of town. Now that we have painted some fine details on to the picture of our target audience we can begin to find them and turn them into real customers.
How do you take this picture that we made of a person and find them on Instagram? Well, hashtags of course! For the purpose of this book, I will assume that you already know what hashtags are. So, continuing on with our previous example, we will start by searching for golf related words. You can search for actual golf courses, brand names, famous golfers, etc. Let’s say you search for “#Taylormade”, you would search for women that used that hashtag, that seem to fit into your target audience, and click follow.
It is important, albeit time consuming, to go into each person’s profile once you discover if they fit your target audience, because chances are high that the people they follow will also fit the mold, plus the profile picture can be very hard to see if you are not actually on their profile page. By going into their profile you can see their bio and pictures, by doing this you might be able to find out more details like their age, location and many other things. You have to delve into a person’s account deeper than just their name and profile picture, and be a bit of an investigator to find your perfect customers.
Another good idea when seeking out your target audience is finding other businesses with the same target audience and following their account, as well as their followers. Let’s say you sell custom pet collars, you may want to do some research and find a few local pet stores, and follow their account as well as their followers. This is almost like cheating, because a list of potential customers, that you already know have an interest in the type of products you sell, is now right at your fingertips for very little effort. It can be exciting to follow a lot of people quickly, especially when you start having those people follow you back, and just like I did, you can probably spend hours upon hours searching for different hashtags and following potential customers. Use caution when doing this because Instagram has a rule in place that says if you are a new account you can only make about 500 actions per day, this includes: follows, unfollows, likes, and comments. In addition, you can only make an action every 36-48 seconds, so take a few moments in between your furious clicking so you don’t break the rules. Over time the amount of actions and the time in between actions does go up, so don’t worry, it’s not forever.
One of the ways I found that works well to keep track of your actions so you don’t end up running into the Instagram police, is to first, before ever searching, make a list of hashtags that you would like to search for, then go through a few of them a day. Making a list will not only help keep you and your account out of trouble, but it will help keep track of which hashtags you have already searched for and when you did so.
One other Instagram rule, which is one that I find particularly annoying, is that you cannot follow more than 7,500 accounts at one time, and once you reach that limit, you just simply cannot follow anyone else until you unfollow people first. Such a bummer! That amount of people may seem like an insane number, but trust me when I say, it’s not nearly enough. These rules are in place to prevent spam, which is completely understandable, but frustrating from the business side of things.
If, and when, you reach the 7,500 follow limit, I highly recommend taking some time to go through the accounts of the people you already follow to make sure they fit into your target audience. If they do not, or they never use their account, or for some reason they wouldn’t be able to purchase what you are selling, then you can (and should) unfollow them to make room for fresh new potential customers. The goal is to let as many people as possible know who you are and what you have to offer.
Some people get their accounts established, put in a lot of effort, and then just stop. This is a huge mistake to make because your account will be forgotten. You want to make sure that if someone follows you, you follow them back. Doing this lets you see what they post and allows you to like and comment on their posts, which helps to establish a relationship of give and take. Be sure to pay special attention to who likes and comments on other’s posts as well, these too may be potential customers. Customers can be hiding in a variety of places on Instagram; it is your job to seek them out.
It may sound simple, you take some pictures and you post them to Instagram. Well, technically it is that simple, but when you’re posting for a business it’s important to create meaningful content that will engage the viewer and entice them to want to know more, and in this chapter I am going to explain exactly how to accomplish that.
When you first start your business account you won’t have many followers, if any. To kick start your account, I recommend posting three pictures right away. One picture should include your store front, if you have one, or workspace if you have a home-based or online business. The second picture should be of you and/or your family or pets. The third picture should include an action shot of either a product being made or a service being performed.
By posting the picture of your store front or workspace, you are letting your followers see that you are a real and legitimate business, and it gives them a confidence in you as a professional. The picture of you and/or your family lets them see a personal side of you, and creates trust in your brand. The last picture, the action shot, shows them an exclusive behind the scenes look at how you do what you do. These three pictures will help people decide if they want to follow you or ignore you, and in my own personal experience, posting these three types of pictures first is a recipe for success.
Once you post your first three pictures, you don’t want to let your page go stale and think that your work is done. You will have to keep your profile up to date and therefore relevant in the social media world. I personally will post once a day or once every other day, so long as there is interesting content to post, I strongly suggest not posting if you have absolutely nothing you can think of that is worth posting because you will just end up with junk most of the time. How often you decide to post is up to you, just make sure you don’t leave too many days in between posts or you may start to lose followers.
The pictures that you post should be about 80% business related and 20% personal/other. For the business pictures you want to highlight the products or aspects of your business that others might find interesting, such as, a new product you are starting to sell, or for the business account that I run for the auto repair shop, it’s when a really nice or fancy car comes in for repairs, because it is fun for followers to look at. The other 20% of your pictures should be about who you are as a person, and what you enjoy doing outside of work. These can be pictures of you and your friends going out to a baseball game, a picture of you walking your dog around the neighborhood, or just you relaxing with a good book. I have found that the personal, non-business, posts tend to get the most attention. It is posts like these that will begin to establish a trusting relationship with the millions of potential Instagram customers that are sitting right at your fingertips. They will see you as a person and not just a faceless business.
When posting these pictures you have an immense amount of options to customize them. Just putting up a simple snapshot straight from your phone is absolutely fine, however, if you spice up your photos with some filters, stickers, or the occasional Boomerang, you will be more likely to catch someone’s attention. Think of it like fishing, the classic hook and worm may catch a few fish here and there, but the brightly colored flashy lure has the potential to catch a lot more. Some of my absolute favorite free picture and video editing apps are: Collagebale, Aviary, Boomerang, and Instagram itself.
Collageable, as you may have guessed, is an app that lets you create collages out of the pictures on your phone. It gives you a lot of different options as far as how many pictures you can put into the collage and how they are oriented. Aviary is my personal favorite picture editing app. It lets you adjust a wide variety of settings such as lighting, contrast, shadows, etc. It also has a blur tool, drawing tool, word tool, stickers, and frames, just try not to go overboard because it would be easy to do. This app is a must have for anyone wanting to give their Instagram a professional look, using it makes you feel like some sort of professional picture editor. Boomerang takes about 3-5 second videos and makes them down right hilarious, I could spend hours just using this app alone. For example, let’s say you take a video with boomerang of someone simply walking past you; the app would then work its magic, and the final product would be a video of that person going forward and backward in no particular order, almost making the person seem like they were dancing. This app is very popular on Instagram right now, a lot of people use this and it gains a lot of attention. Last, but not least, Instagram has its own way of editing images by offering a moderate amount of nice looking filters. So, take your time and play around with these apps and try to create lots of fun and meaningful content.
Hashtags (#) are a business owner’s best friend; they make it possible for people to find you, who are already looking for something related to what you posted. Using them correctly is important because they can be the sole reason a post gets no attention, if used incorrectly. Once you take a picture and edit it to your liking, you will need to write a description. Let’s say I am an artist and I sell my paintings online, I could make my description say, “Sunset Over Calm Seas- Beautiful acrylic painting 24x36- Would make a great addition to any home.” Then once I have described the picture and given a one line sales pitch, I would need to include some hashtags, they would go right after the description. For this example I could use hashtags such as:
These hashtags become clickable links that will lead people to your post, which means that if any person in the world searches for one of these hashtags, your picture would come up. You can use a total of 30 hashtags in a single description, but in my opinion that is a lot to cram in to one paragraph. The typical amount used in one post is about five, this keeps your viewer satisfied because they don’t have this cluttered mess of hashtags to look though. Try to use very specific and targeted hashtags so you know that whoever searches for those hashtags will already be interested in finding your post. Stay clear of very broad words such as #pretty #art #Monday #hello, these will bring up a never ending sea of random pictures. If someone is actually interested in buying, or at least, searching for your type of product or service, then they will look for very specific keywords in order to find it.
In the Instagram world, there are certain hashtags that everyone knows and uses on certain days of the week such as: #tbt, #mcm, #transformationtuesday, or #selfiesunday, just to name a few! It is good to get familiar with the different hashtag trends because then you get to not only fit in with the rest of the Instagram die hards, but it is fun for your followers and keeps your content relevant. I have provided a list of daily hashtags at the end of this book. One that I try to never miss is #tbt (throwback Thursday), this is when you post an old photo on Thursdays. I will post pictures for the auto shop back when they were at their very first location, back when they first opened up before they had uniforms, etc. It’s like a little game that you get to join in on, but don’t forget to post the right hashtags on the right days.
Another great way to tag your photos is by location, there is an option when you are in the process of posting your picture, to add the location that the picture was taken at. This can be a great way to let people actually see where you are located, especially if you own a brick and mortar store, that way they will know if it is close to where they are at.
Do you like to be nosy? Well that may benefit you, because once you follow an account you have the ability to see everything that they do on Instagram; remember I mentioned that you may have to play the part of a private investigator at times. You can view this information by going to your notifications page on your account (the button at the bottom that is shaped like a heart), and swipe the whole page to the right, this will allow you to see what people are doing on Instagram that you follow. You can see what pictures they like, who they follow, and what comments they make. Remember that others can see this information about you and want you do as well, so behave like someone is watching because chances are, someone is.
This information can be very useful for a business, it is the same as large companies like google keeping track of what you buy online or what you search for, they can use this information to show you ads based on what you typically purchase and what your interests are. On Instagram, you can take a look at what people are doing to determine if they are actually someone that would purchase what you have to offer. If you have a business that sells workout equipment and someone you follow likes an account called “exerciseIS4chumps”, and they comment on their pictures saying how much they hate exercise, well maybe that isn’t the right person for you to be following. You may not always get a whole lot of useful information from seeing what others are doing, most of the time it will just let you know that so and so liked a picture of their family or friends, but at times it can be very helpful in cutting down the people you follow to make sure they are the right people.
A really great aspect to Instagram, is that while it may look like just a bunch of random pictures thrown together to some, to others it is a major source of income that can be achieved with minimal effort. We have covered how to establish your Instagram business account and how to find customers in your target audience, but what about later on, once you have gained a respectable following and are starting to get comfortable, what do you do then? This is where running promotions, playing fun games, and creating ads comes into play.
Let’s start with sales promotions, which any business type can benefit from. Sales will attract not only new customers, but entice existing ones to keep coming back for those sweet deals. For example, let’s say you own a carpet cleaning service in California, you could post a picture with the description: “This month only, buy carpet cleaning for one room and get another room FREE! Exclusive offer for Instagram followers only #carpetcleaningCA #Instagramoffer #buyonegetonefree #bogo #Californiacarpetcleaning #CAcarpetservice.” Offers like this, that are exclusive to your followers, will increase your follower count and your customer count.
Next, we have games, which are a personal favorite of mine, because they encourage a lot of participation from followers. One game that I really enjoy playing with the auto repair shop’s Instagram followers is a guessing game. I post a picture of a small portion of a car, like one headlight, and I ask people to guess the year, make, and model of the car. This is a great, no pressure, game that lets people see a fun side to your business. Now, of course, you have the option of turning this into a prize winning game as well, and advertise in the description that the winner will receive a free product or a discount, but that’s up to you.
Another type of promotion that I have found to actually be the most financially beneficial, especially on a tight budget, is Instagram paid ads. You can start an ad campaign, for very cheap, by going to your profile and clicking ‘promote’, once you do that it will have you chose a picture from your account that you want to be in the ad, chose wisely because a whole lot of people will see this ad, and you cannot go back and change the picture after the ad has been made. The very first ad that I ran on Instagram was before we even hit 500 followers, and the ad had over 3,000 likes and a lot of comments. We brought in quite a bit of business because of that ad. Instagram ads can also be linked with your Facebook account, so you can set up one campaign and it will be displayed on both platforms.
One more type of promotion that people absolutely love is giveaways, I mean, who doesn’t love free stuff! This option may not be appealing to everyone, but for some it can really generate buzz about their business. On Instagram, a common way to see a giveaway set up, is the business will post a picture of the item or items they will be giving away, and in the description they will describe the item and mention that you must be a follower to be eligible, you must like the picture, and you must tag at least 2 people in the comment section. This ensures that the maximum amount of people will see your post, a lot of new potential customers will follow you, and you will more than likely see some new sales from it. Free is always an attractive offer. Customers are no different than you or me, they all want a good product or service for a good price, and good customer service. Your Instagram account can provide all of that and more, if done correctly.
Don’t be shy about talking to your customers, they can be amazing walking billboards if you seize your opportunity and ask for their help. Most customers, if they are happy with their experience at your business, will be more than happy to help spread the word for you. A great way for them to do this is to have them share a picture of something related to your business and tag you in it. They could take a picture of a product that they purchased and in the description write a review on it and tag your business account at the end. This is an excellent way to spread the word to others about your business and to create hype over your products or services. If someone buys a handmade wooden sculpture from a business and they think it’s the best thing ever, then they will be excited to share that with their friends, and their friends will be getting a recommendation to buy your product from someone that they trust. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Getting good reviews is so important to the survival of your business, and with Instagram, not only can people read the amazing reviews that others write about you, they can actually see a picture of what they are talking about, and then go directly to your account for more information. With review sites like Yelp and Google, you can read the reviews that people write, but a lot of times they won’t add a picture to their review, on Instagram you don’t have a choice, there has to be a picture.
If you are anything like me, it is hard to put the phone down and stop checking your social media accounts, but even after all that time on my accounts I might fall back into the shadows unless I do things that will cause people to remember me and my business.
Although aimlessly swiping through your followers many pictures can be fun, you have to remember to be active. You should like pictures, comment on them, and continue to look for new people to follow. When liking photos it is important to remember that you are doing so as a business, so whatever you do can, and most likely will, have an effect on your business. If you like a strong and/or offensive political picture, others can see this and may unfollow you if it happens to go against their beliefs. In general, you should refrain from being active on any posts or accounts that may offend someone. Every customer is important so you want to try your best not to upset them, because without customers, you would be out of business. If you want to like political, religious or any type of potentially inappropriate posts, I highly recommend doing so on your own personal account so long as the two are completely separate.
Another way to make people remember your business is your profile page, username, and profile picture. I recommend using a business related photo such as your company logo or your store front, but it could also be your best selling product, or employees wearing their uniforms, so long as it has something to do with the business. Your username on Instagram is very important, because along with your picture, it is the first thing that potential customers will see; it is your first impression. If you don’t like the name you pick, remember that you can always go back and change your username later.
If your profile picture and name succeed at drawing people into your profile, you will then need to have good solid information for them in your bio. For the auto repair shop’s Instagram I wrote, “Auto repair in [city’s name] you can afford! Give us a call for a quote at [phone #]. Honest repairs for all makes and models.” This bio lets people know that the price is good, where the shop is located, what number to call, and what types of cars they work on. You can pack a lot of useful information into a very small amount of space if you choose your words carefully.
People appreciate good customer service, especially if they have experienced the opposite. There is nothing worse than going into a store excited to make a purchase, and hearing a very unhappy employee rudely asking, “What?” Maybe you decide to overlook the attitude being dished out and buy the item anyway, and at the end when you would expect a thank you, there is silence and you can just feel that you are bothering them by even being there. Not a fun experience and definitely not one you would want to have again. Customers want to feel like they are the most important person that has ever shopped with you. This is where saying thank you comes in.
At the auto shop I work for, every time we have a customer come in that follows us on Instagram, we always take at least one picture of their car (with the license plate blurred of course) and post it the next day to say thank you. I also tag their username in the description so that they are notified of the post and are sure to see it. They are always very appreciative and almost always leave a comment saying something nice about the shop, which is just like getting a 5 star review. Doing this shows other users that their fellow Instagramers are coming to your business, which hopefully plants the seed that they should too. Never underestimate the power of just simply being nice to your customers and giving them a little Instagram shout out.
Searching for customers on Instagram is one of the best ways I have found to gain a quick following of potential customers and spread the word about your business, but what about telling your customers that didn’t find you through Instagram that you have an account? You can grab the Instagram icon off of the internet and use it everywhere. You can put it in the signature line of your email, on your letterhead, and on your business cards. This is will let your customers know that you have an Instagram and they may get on and follow you. Having your existing customer base, or even just new customers that weren’t aware of your account, follow you on Instagram will help to ensure they become repeat customers, because you will be on the forefront of their mind every time they see a post from you. You can’t advertise your business or your social media accounts enough. Having an online presence in today’s world is a make or break situation, just opening up shop and hanging a sign doesn’t do the trick anymore. If you hate social media and can only stand to have just one account, make it Instagram, you won’t be sorry.
Once you have these important steps all taken care of and done well, you can be confident that the new customers and the new source of revenue will start to show. Good luck to you in growing your business, and congratulations on taking a great step towards advancing the future of your business.
There is a lot of information to take in when you are starting a business account or trying to grow one, so I have provided some quick tips that I think are important to read:
These mistakes are things that I have personally seen businesses doing on their accounts and highly recommend staying away from, they come off as unprofessional and can drive customers away. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and so you may disagree with some of the items on this list, but this is the list that I have put together based on my own experiences with using Instagram for business purposes.
Even if you don’t use them, you should still know what they are so that when you see them, you are informed. Some of the ones I am going to mention here, I wouldn’t recommend using for a business account, but you should still be familiar with them, in case you see others using them.
These are just a few of the popular daily hashtags that others use on Instagram, some of these can be great for a business to use, and others probably not so great. It is up to each individual business to decide what will work best for them.
About the Author
I want to start out by saying thank you so much for reading my book, I appreciate it more than you will ever know, and I truly hope that what I have written will help you with your social media presence and help to grow your business.
A little bit about me: I live in sunny California, and I have a ridiculously long list of interests such as: writing (obviously), entrepreneurial endeavors, exercise, animals, crocheting, reading, video games, any outdoor activity you can think of, and the list goes on. I have enjoyed writing ever since I was a little girl, I could always be found sitting off in a corner of the playground with my notebook and pen furiously writing stories & poetry until the bell called me back inside. Writing for me is a way to create an alternate universe from scratch where I call the shots. I am actually very shy about my writing; it was always something that was very personal for me, so this is the first work I have ever had the urge to publish, but it definitely won’t be the last.
There are lots of different genres I enjoy writing in, some of which include: Business/How to Guides, Mystery & Crime Fiction, and Poetry. This is my first eBook, but be on the lookout for more in the future.
If you enjoyed this book I would really appreciate hearing your thoughts and feedback, so feel free to leave a review, it is so helpful to hear what you have to say. Also, you can keep up to date on any upcoming books by following me on Facebook and/or my blog:
If you own a business you know how difficult it can be to spread the word about your products or services. You open the doors, or launch the new website, and all you hear are crickets. This is where Instagram comes in! Instagram is a easy and fast way to reach over 700 million potential customers and the best part is, it's so simple that absolutely anyone can do it. In this book I outline exactly how to gain a large number of new customers quickly and earn more money for your business. I discuss how to find your target audience through the use of a little investigative work, how to post pictures and videos that will really draw a crowd, and how to turn the millions of people on Instagram into loyal repeat customers. Everything that I have written in this book I have tried personally on my own business Instagram account. I have spent hours and hours experimenting with different techniques to try and find what works for businesses and what doesn't. After a lot of trial and error, I think I have finally unlocked the answers to some many unasnwered questions that business owners have. Social media marketing can be daunting at first, which is why I wrote this book. After reading this book you will have the knowledge and the skills to grow your business and excel in the world of social media.