5 Ways To Use Instagram To Create A Booming Online Business

by Dani Watson

Recently, my Instagram hit 10k in just under six months. Although having that many followers has been a bit of an ego boost, it's also having some serious impact on my bank balance.

Why? Because I have turned my Instagram feed into the main marketing tool for my business.

Not too long ago, I was just your average Instagram user. I couldn't go into a restaurant without snapping a shot of my dinner, I scrolled through endless photos of dogs in outfits (a dachshund dressed as a hot dog never gets dull) and I was partial to the odd shameless selfie.

Then, as I got serious about my online business and blog coaching practice, I knew I was going to have to pull out all the stops to bring in new clients. Instagram could be a powerful tool in which to do so.

I started to get super strategic about the ways in which I used the platform to take my Instagram game to the next level. Let me tell you one thing: Instagram for business is all about engagement.

No, not the "he put a ring on it" type of engagement. I mean engagement in the sense of connecting with your audience and building a relationship in order to turn them into loyal fans who are ready to buy whatever it is you have to sell.

Here are some of the strategies I've used (that you can, too) in order to increase engagement on your Instagram. Ultimately, you will be able to convert followers into paying customers and clients.

1. Define your niche.

If you're using your Instagram feed as a way to promote your business, your feed needs to clearly define what that business is.

When people scroll through your feed, you want them to be able to quickly identify who your target audience is and what it is that you offer.

In this way, they can decide whether or not your business is of interest to them. As much as you want to attract the right kind of followers to your feed -- followers who will ultimately buy from you -- you also want to weed out those who aren't in your target audience.

As such, you shouldn't be posting to attract the masses and appeal to anyone and everyone. You want to focus on attracting your core target market. Figure out who these people are and what they want to see in your feed. Forget about the rest.

Post content that is consistent with the things your business and brand offer. Don't just sell yourself short for the sake of getting a few likes.

2. Generate conversation.

Although Instagram is a visual platform, don't underestimate the power conversations and discussions can have. With many of the images I post, I either tell a story, ask a question or invite discussion. All of these things get eyes on my feed, and therefore on my business and brand.

Don't be the sh*t first date who only talks about him or herself. Be both interesting and interested. Show your audience that you care by asking them questions about themselves.

However, rather than asking any old question, you have to think about what your audience will respond to. What is going to get them commenting? Ask them for their opinions, invite feedback on your business and make them feel like they're with you on the journey.

3. Brand your feed.

Branding is ultimately the major factor that locks most people into buying. No matter whether you offer a service or product, people tend to buy after they've gotten sucked into the brand itself, and what that brand represents.

Branding is one of the first things you think about when you're building a website (or at least it should be). So, why wouldn't you give it thought while building your presence on Instagram?

How is a brand built on Instagram? Well, by having a clear brand message and consistent theme. When people see your feed, they should pretty much instantly recognize it as yours.

A clear brand message can be cultivated by creating consistency with your images via fonts, color schemes and filters. It can also be done by the tone of your writing and the messages you post.

Branding your images with a watermark (like your logo or web address) is another good idea. This way, your business identity is stamped throughout your feed.

4. Give your followers a call to action.

Spoiler alert: The aim of your Instagram is not to see how many likes or followers you get. If you are using Instagram for business, it is all about converting those followers into paying customers and clients. In order to do so, you have to give them some direction regarding what you want them to do next.

Ideally, you want to generate enough interest from your feed that they want to discover more about you and your business. This will cause them to hop on over to your site. The best way to encourage them to do this is by just asking. Tell them they can find out more about the products you sell and the services you provide over on your site, and that the link to the site can be found in your bio.

Email marketing is still a biggie when it comes promoting your business as well, so think about the ways in which you can use Instagram to encourage your audience to sign up to your mailing list. Instagram competitions often work well for this, as you could make subscribing to your list a competition entry requirement.

5. Collaborate with other Instagram users.

Instagram is a heavily saturated platform, and everyone is trying to shout above the noise. As such, it's easy to view other businesses within your niche as a threat.

However, rather than working against the competition, seek to work together. Collaborating with other entrepreneurs within my niche has become a huge part of my marketing strategy. Thanks to the partnerships I've formed, I have seen my Instagram following and client base sky rocket.

Think about it: If you're in the same industry, you are likely to have a very similar audience. It makes sense to be able to promote each other. Both your audiences will grow.

There are so many ways you can collaborate with other entrepreneurs. You could organize an event together, guest blog for each other, interview each other, host a webinar together or launch a product together. The options are endless, and mutually publicizing this collaboration on Instagram is a great way to see both your businesses boom.

Instagram will continue to be my platform of choice for building my business and brand. If you want to see my feed in action and get a heavy dose of daily inspiration, follow me @we_are_the_clique.