A Beginners Guide to Instagram

instagram poppy sparkles

What is Instagram?

Instagram “…a fast, beautiful way to share your photos with friends and family.” but also increasingly being used by brands and businesses from Neal’s Yard Remedies to Debenhams and a whole host of independent businesses and brands.

Available as an app on mobile devices (iOS and Android), it’s a popular way to share images ‘on the go’.

It’s great for sharing ‘behind the scenes’ images of your business, as well as a bit of ‘you’.

I’ve found it more personal than twitter and less ‘hard sell’ – there’s not the endless links and ‘me, me, me’ tweets. It’s more marketing than advertising and it’s lovely to scroll through pretty images.

Getting started

Like twitter you will need a user name. Try to choose the same user name as on twitter as this will make it easier for people to tag and share things via twitter (IG allows instant sharing on twitter and your Facebook page when you post an image). I’ve had to go for poppysparkle as poppysparkles was taken which annoys me a little!

When creating your profile be sure to upload a profile picture and also include your website url so people can easily check you out. It still amazes me how many people fail to include their URL in their online profiles making it impossible to go check out their website!

What do you do?

Take a photograph on your mobile (this can be done directly in Instagram) or upload an image from your camera roll.

Edit it with filters and a few other tools (such as blur) if you choose, add a caption and then share it.

People can then ‘like’ and comment on your image.

pretty packaging copy

Social Media and promoting your brand

As a small business you are your brand. Everything that you say and do is a reflection on your business and brand. Social media is so quick, easy and immediate it is important to take some time to consider how you wish to be perceived and the qualities you wish people to see in you and your business.

It can be really tempting to share photographs of everything and anything. Firstly, there’s the quality over quantity issue. Far better to post a few images that are attractive than clog your followers’ feed with blurry, out of focus or dull images. Good quality images will attract greater engagement and numbers of followers.

As a business you need to consider your target market and their interests and connect with them through the images you post. You don’t just have to post images of your business.

instagram montage copy

I share my jewellery of course, but there also my kids and family life, a bit of fashion, cooking and baking as well as random things that happen. Some things are pretty universal – pretty flowers, chocolate, cake, cute things and moments that others can understand such as the devastation caused by young children whilst playing help people connect and relate. It adds personality and makes others laugh, smile or nod their head in agreement.

It can be so easy to slip into ‘over sharing’ and it’s worth setting yourself some boundaries at the start – it’s also good practice to have a social media policy anyway. The images you share will help others form an opinion of you and your business. Posting pictures of glasses of wine every night will not send out the right message.

Security and Safety

As with anything online you need to be aware of security and safety. IG makes it so easy to snap a photo and post it for the world to see, but you need to be careful about what you share. I love to post images of jewellery wrapped and ready to post as well as stacks of mailing envelopes ready for a trip to the Post Office, but I am careful not to share the recipients’ address in those images.

If you have children you will also need to decide how much of them you are willing to share. I have decided to share my children online, but not so that they can be recognised. If you look at my images you will notice that I do not share full face shots and I am picky about the images I do share.

privacy copy

Don’t forget to be social!

Instagram , like all social media, is a two way street. You need to interact and engage. You don’t have to follow everyone, but it can be a great way to get to know some of your customers and other small businesses. Be sure to tag (@username) in your comments to ensure the person you are talking to receives a notification and sees it! Take time to respond to comments as this will encourage people to comment more often. It’s also good manners.

I love how Instagram lets me share the everyday and ‘behind the scenes’ at Poppy Sparkles. But, how has it helped my business?

  • I’ve sold pieces as a direct result of posting images on Instagram. Christmas and Mother’s Day were particularly good for this.
  • Instagram lets me show what I do. An image is worth a thousand words and sells your brand so much more effectively.
  • I’ve been able to share a little more of ‘me’ which helps people connect with me – something that I think is important for small businesses especially handmade ones.
  • I’ve been inspired by the images of others and it’s helping me develop my photography – something that is of benefit for me personally as well as for my blog and business.
  • Even when I’ve struggled to find time for blogging, I’ve been able to keep up with Instagram. This was particularly great at Christmas when I was busy with orders. Direct sharing to Facebook (personal page) and twitter enabled me to reach more than just my Instagram followers in one quick step.

Viv Smith 

I struggled for a few days to get my iPad to sync Facebook and Instagram … no problem with Twitter it was driving me mad.  I tried everything even deleted the apps 3 times after a quick google search I found this article (how to really connect Facebook to Instagram) and it sorted all my issues out. Don’t forget to follow me too charliemoos.

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  1. Viv Smith
    April 8, 2013 / 12:05 pm

    A pleasure to guest post for you Joanne. Just to clarify, I’ve only recently been able to share instagram directly to my business facebook page and until the last week shared to my personal page and then used the photo saved to my camera roll to share to my biz page. I think a recent update to the Instagram app has enabled you link up with a facebook biz page – although this isn’t always easy to do as Joanne discovered.

    I have another post or two on Instagram to share via here, but in the meantime if you have any questions or would like to open a discussion, I’ll check back and reply.

    Viv xo

    • April 8, 2013 / 3:47 pm

      I couldn’t even get it to load to my personal page was totally making me crazy! Thank god for google and bloggers

  2. April 8, 2013 / 3:44 pm

    Instagram sf on the to do list for us. Images and photographs are an important way of us getting our message across so makes sense to join. Plus now if we can’t figure out what we’re doing we can ask you to sort us out Joanne! 😉

    • April 8, 2013 / 3:47 pm

      Would defo work we’ll throughout the baby show

  3. April 11, 2013 / 3:53 pm

    Some great info here as always Joanne, right I must remember my instragram login, to give it a go 🙂

    • April 11, 2013 / 5:30 pm

      Hehe you should I tagged you in a picture the other day lol

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  5. Erica Martyn
    July 31, 2013 / 11:10 am

    Thank you so much for this post Viv and Joanne, I wasn’t really sure what Instagram was or how to use it! I have just joined and now trying to figure a few things out before posting my first picture, thanks again ladies x

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