It’s been an unusual few weeks in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, but there’s still money out there to be spent – PR agencies are doing well, Amazon workers are earning a fortune, many local farm shops are thriving and so on. It’s still possible to make sales right now, and it’s a good time to plan for the future. Getting social is key, and Instagram is the ideal platform.
Meet Elizabeth Stiles, a fashion brand consultant who loves to share useful ideas for all small businesses, not just the fashion world. You can follow Elizabeth’s Instagram for her insightful IG Live chats for more useful tips and ideas.
Today we’re talking to Elizabeth about moving forward with your business, the best way to put your brand ‘out there’, all things Instagram and the right way to go for you.
Nicki: Is it ok to push business right now?
Elizabeth: It’s important to do what’s right for you – most people are just shopping for the essentials right now, but life still goes on. Birthdays, anniversaries and so on are still happening, and people will be looking to spend money online, so it’s important to still have products available. There may be a slow down right now but in a few weeks people will start spending again. There’s so much worry in the world right now, that a little distraction will be welcome. Positivity is key!
Elizabeth, what are your 3 top ways to increase engagement on Instagram?
Giving more engagement is key – go and comment on other people’s pictures, share, save and like them. Click ‘view insights’ underneath a post and it’ll show you all the ways you can engage and interact. Add stories to your account, do an IG Live – use all of the tools that Instagram gives you, and interact with as many people as possible.
You can end up in a loop – break the algorithm you’re in by engaging more, and in turn Instagram will show you to more people. A good tip is to scroll right to the end of your stories and watch them backwards, then the people you havn’t engaged with in a long time will see. If you click the ‘following’ button, you can see the top 50 accounts that you’re least engaged with. Instead of unfollowing them, why not go and find out what they’re doing? Engage with them more – and they’ll engage with you.
Think of Instagram like a telephone conversation with your friends, not just speaking to a camera or a blank screen. Ask them questions but treat the conversation naturally – take it in turns to engage instead of just announcing what you’re doing or working on. This will in turn force engagement back from others.
Don’t post if you’re feeling ‘meh’ – Post with passion or not at all! Posts perform much better when you’re enthusiastic about them – wait until inspiration strikes and be fizzing with ideas for content and engagement. You can always tell when people love what they’re doing, and people connect with that.
Consistency is key! If you say you’re going to share self-care tips every Sunday or maybe every Monday you offer Monday motivation, stick with it! ALWAYS show up for your fans – if you had 100 people gathering in a room to talk about your business, you’d show up for them, whereas if you have 100 followers on Instagram, it may feel lacking. However, engaging with them and showing up for them is just as important as if they were physically there. If you show up, it will spiral – they’ll tell their friends, and you’ll get a reputation for doing the things you say you will.
What tone of voice is best for posts right now?
In turbulent times, it can feel insensitive to push your business – but we all need a dose of good news and some positivity right now. People will also welcome a distraction, so finding out about an amazing small business is less worrying than reading BBC news!
Lots of people are worried about asking their audience, but it’s always good to ask what kind of vibe they’re on. Elizabeth suggests doing a split screen on Instagram, and ask what kind of mood your followers are in, e.g. “do you want some light-hearted relief” or “should we be addressing the current situation”. This will both engage your audience, and you’ll stop worrying about the tone they want. Highlight the answer, then if a week later people check your page, they’ll see why you’re posting about certain things.
Keep things regular so that people know what to expect. If you’ve always shared cute dog pictures or injected humour into your posts, carry on – people love you for a reason, show up for them.
Is it OK to keep my online shop open?
Government guidelines right now are actively encouraging online shopping to keep the economy flowing. However, some people, including Pedddle members, are closing their online shops. If you feel you need to take a step back, of course that is fine, and the people that have are using this time to step back from their business and either rest or spend time with their children and families, and devote their time to homeschooling.
Don’t feel any pressure to shut your shop – do what’s right for you. If you need a break, take a break, but if you want to craft, continue making and selling. Pedddle your passions!
Can you do a version of any of your products that are more affordable, to keep people buying? During the war lipstick sales went through the roof – small things keep people going even in hard times, so think about changing up your strategy.
Elizabeth, what are your favourite Insta accounts and why?
There are several people I love who are really pro small business. It’s so important to not have anyone on your news feed that makes you feel rubbish. Fill your Instagram with positivity!
Buro 155 – Phoebe does mini masterclasses for £10 e.g. how to uplevel your Insta/LinkedIn game – her account is cool to look at & her advice is snappy.
Cheeky zebra (Sasha) – good memes, fun & positivity
What are your thoughts on IG Live?
Lots of people are taking to IG Live & IGTV – if it’s there, use it! Instagram wants you to engage with all of its offerings, and the more you engage with the platform the more they’ll show your account to people.
Don’t ‘post and ghost’! Engagement is vital when you first post especially – don’t just write a post then wander off and make tea, make sure you engage fully with the platform.
What are the cheapest ways of promoting your Insta?
Bitly links on your Insta stories are great – Bitly shortens URLs and words to give people an easy thing to type to find you quickly.
Don’t sell constantly – break it up like a magazine. In magazines, they give little snippets of content and pop ads in between. Make your Instagram this way too – in every 4 posts, make 3 ‘value posts’ and make 1 a ‘sales post’. The value posts can offer any kind of value to your audience – perhaps tell them a bit about your making process, give a link to an interesting blog or just tell them about your day with something light-hearted – anything they can engage with that makes them want to give something back in return.
A quick way to get people to engage is by getting them to drop an emoji in your comment box on a post. You can ask any kind of question but it’s a good way to get them to sign up to your mailing list (e.g. ‘drop an emoji if you want to join our mailing list’), and then you can send them a DM with further info and links. If people are browsing Instagram they don’t want to leave the platform to go and sign up for something elsewhere – make it as easy as possible for your audience.
Should I continue to post – is it relevant currently?
At Pedddle, we took a little posting break to get our head around the news, but now are becoming more active again on our Facebook and Instagram.
It’s OK to show that you’re a small business trying to make a living – not profiting from the situation. Be genuine and authentic, keep a consistent tone of voice, and your audience will relate.
If you don’t know what to post, focus on your bestsellers. Avoid flash sales – it can add to the panic.
If you don’t want to keep posting, focus on your behind-the-scenes work for when you get back up and running. Perhaps do an inventory check, stock checks, photograph your products or plan posts for the future. Reach out to your suppliers too and show them support, as they’ll be struggling right now.
Reach out to press – offer commentary on how small businesses are coping, and try and promote your business via channels that people will read. Perhaps send a press release to your local newspaper, or some websites that your audience would browse. There’s so much content to fill at the moment, and with everybody turning online during isolation, now is the time to get word out. Check out PR Dispatch to find out more about their services.
How can you show your personality through a professional account?
Personality and professionalism are not mutually exclusive. Look at Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson – even the world’s biggest companies put a face and a name to their brand! It offers personalisation and is part of your storytelling process. People engage with authenticity, so don’t be afraid of injecting some personality and this is what your audience will love. Give value, so that by the time you do put in sales promotions it’s more easy to get people to buy.
Given the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have had to adapt quickly and can’t advertise what they do (such as market organisers who can no longer run events). What can we do to continue our business and ensure people know who we are?
If your business needs to stop or shut down, you can still post to have content going out, to keep you in mind for future. If you run markets, you could highlight locations you’ve used previously, and offer fun facts about them, or a history of the markets there. For other businesses, take the chance to highlight your brand values and inject some positivity or humour. Give people something interesting to read.
For Instagram, you could go back over your stories archive and ask people why they liked a certain thing, or reflect on your brand values and what inspired them.
Think about what your brand values are and how you can execute them in different ways, e.g. if you make colourful silk scarves, think about how you can inject colour into people’s still and work it into talking about your product.
Think of alternative ways to sell – if you’re an artist you could do a painting video, a tutorial or a timelapse – people want content to watch and it’s often a welcome distraction. If you’re not an artist yourself it’s super interesting too.
We’re all in this together, we can work together and support one another to help our small businesses thrive. Why not team up with some other small businesses and share each other’s products on your social media? It doesn’t have to be sales, you could mention using a product that day, or talk about the making process of it and why it’s interesting.
Pedddle’s Random Act of Kindness Market is coming on 19th April, so watch out! You can buy something little to post to somebody you care about, say hello or just make them smile, and it’ll be gift wrapped with a hand written note.
Stay positive, stay you, and be kind.