Small business Instagram guide to rock the grid

So many small business owners I work with feel overwhelmed by Instagram. As a small business, you definitely need to be on Instagram. It’s an instant, cost-effective, very valuable way to reach your customers.

Carving out your own piece of Insta real estate can be like hunting for a hashtag in a haystack. Finding traction with your audience – heck, finding any audience – can be TOUGH.

But how do you start? And what’s with all those perfectly preened Instagram accounts you’ve discovered? Find out with my Instagram guide packed with top tips to help you rock the grid!

#Tip 1 Be purpose driven

Before you post anything, be clear about your social media goals. Is your purpose to build your tribe? Is it to drive website traffic? Is it to show customers how to use your product? Or are you driving conversions with the Instagram Shop feature? Whatever your purpose, your content must add value and give people reason to follow you.

For my Instagram account, every post must either showcase my work, share a copywriting tip/tool or give insight into why I do what I do.

Small business Instagram guide  Indoor slide_Sydney property writer Small business copywriter_Instagram tips

All of my content aims to share personality and above all – connect. My goal is to show my audience that I am like them and they are like me, with shared interests, struggles and desires.

#Tip 2 Let your branding lead the way

Instagram is a visual tool. Images draw us in – copy captivates. Your Instagram look should flow from your branding to keep it consistent. Your feed should be inspired by your vibe, with copy that communicates your brand values.

Most accounts have a visual theme or style that reflects their branding. When you see their post in your news feed, you immediately recognise their look unique to that business. Bec at  Social.Conxn (formerly known as Social Status Management) does this brilliantly. Her logo is candy pink with lots of spark. Minimalist pop is Bec’s signature look, supported by captions that invite interaction. She’s clear about her use of pink in her feed, mixing pastel with striking fuchsia in image choices that reflect her biz style.

Instagram grid example for small business Instagram grid example for small business

Every post aims to give insight, share personality and above all – connect. I am to show my audience that I am like them and they are like me – the mumpreneurs, the property agents, freelancers and my peers. We’re all in the same boat, with shared interests, struggles and desires.

#Tip 3 Connect

Engagement is what social media is all about. It’s the holy grail of Instagram and how you build your followers. Instagram will show your posts to more people based on the level of engagement you receive, as social media savant, Tracy Harris, points out.

Post about interesting topics related to your product or service. Tag people, repost complementary images, give kudos to those you admire, follow and comment on accounts you’re genuinely interested in. When people comment on your posts, respond to each one with more than a “Thank you”. Ask a question or give a reply that keeps the conversation going. Engagement generates exposure which leads to more followers, and ultimately, conversions.

#Tip 4 Work your hashtags

Hashtags are social media search terms. Your customers are searching for what you offer right now, using hashtags. Hashtags are statistically proven to increase engagement, so you’d be nuts not to use them.

Hashtag on pink plate_small business Instagram guide

Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags per post. Use all 30, EVERY.SINGLE.POST. This will maximise your chances of being found by your ideal customers.

Invest time in hashtag research so you can reach all segments of your market. Try and think what your user might be typing into the search box when they’re looking for your product. Mix them up – try different hashtags with different content. Using the same ones all the time will reach the same people, so get creative.

Hashtag tools can help analyse which ones are working best for you. I recommend Instagram scheduler app, Plann. It was created by an Aussie fempreneur and has absolutely transformed my Instagram game. Built-in metrics, a grid planner and hashtag groups are just the start of this incredible tool.

Post your hashtags in the first comment. This keeps your posts clean so there’s nothing to detract from your message.

BONUS TIP – Give your posts a second life. Once engagement has dropped off, delete the hashtags you first used and replace them with a second round in the comments.

#Tip 5 To grid or not to grid

Decision time – is your biz bursting with visual assets? Then using a grid style feed might be effective. i.e you post three images at a time, that are all part of one panorama or that have a unifying colour theme for each row like Pantone or Danes Specialty Coffee.

Small business Instagram grid example_Pantone   

This works well for businesses who are floating in quality images like event stylists, cake makers, stationery designers and those who work on eye-poppingly creative projects where scale is to their advantage.

Or you could take a patterned approach, where every second or third post is text or a particular colour like The Mother’s Den. Whatever you choose, pick your theme and keep it tight. You’ll need to be super structured and plan well in advance. It can be a lot of work and restrictive in that you can’t spontaneously post an awesome shot you take, but it can give you excellent focus on your Insta game.

Instagram grid example for small business

As Bek from Bekonstructive Marketing points out, “If you’re going to go with a pattern or colour scheme, make sure it is maintainable! If you restrict yourself to just two or three colours then make sure you have a lot of content in those colours to maintain it, otherwise you’ll be struggling after just a couple of weeks.”

Either of these grid styles will keep you focused and create a beautifully crafted feed with an alluring palette.

It’s absolutely fine to steer clear of these approaches. Set yourself some guidelines for the images you do choose to share though, so there is some sense of unification and you stay on brand. Consider colour, filter, perspective and subject in your decision.

#Tip 6 Be authentic

Let’s face it, Instagram is a superficial world. Flatlays and stacklays abound, styled shots dominate and sponsored posts by influencers get all the heart eyes.? If that’s not you, don’t play that game.

There is plenty of room on Insta for raw grit and emotion. Whatever you post, be real and talk naturally about your product or service. This is the key to quality over quantity. Talk about your business like you’d tell a friend what you’re up to. After all, your followers are your friends – they’re your customers and who better to keep close and up to date? Anyone can see through a sales pitch – invite us to discover your brand with insights about what you do and how you make a difference for your customers.

If you can be true to yourself in finding your Insta voice, you’ll also figure out how regularly you are comfortable posting. Consistency is important, so test out how frequently you want to post and stick to it. There’s no right formula, as Natalie at Adore Marketing Collective points out. “I post when I can with quality content. I have stuck with my brand colours and add in personal images so my followers get to know me. Consistency is key!”

Above all, have FUN! You’re going to discover amazing businesses, support networks, peers who can teach you a thing or two – and you, them – and an unfathomable amount of talent. Ride the wave!

Got any more tips? Comment below with your Instagram small biz essentials and share the love.


Want more Instagram tips and copywriting goodies to help your business shine? Follow me on Instagram or Facebook here.

SEO copy for brands with meaning

Hey there! I’m Rachel Green, an SEO copywriter who gets meaningful businesses found online. I work with handmade brands, eco-focused business and small biz to create readworthy, Google-friendly websites that tell your customers you’ve got what they need. I write copy that connects with your audience and that targets the key words for which you want to be found.