With the onset of the pandemic, small businesses have been severely impacted across the globe. Shelter-in-place policies have put many at risk of permanently closing their doors, if they haven’t already done so. In Facebook’s most recent Global State of Small Business Report, about 25% of the 30,000 small businesses surveyed said they had shut down between January and May of this year, and about two-thirds of businesses still open have reported that sales are significantly down in comparison to last year.
Image source: Time Magazine
Morale is low, so I’ve decided to put together a list of inspiring small business Instagram accounts from an array of verticals for you to view, follow, and gather ideas from for your own posts. I will:
- Share real examples of posts from small businesses in finance, health, restaurants, the arts, and more.
- Extract key takeaways for effective Instagram marketing.
- Provide tips on how to incorporate safety and positivity into your own marketing messaging.
See what captivates you about these particular accounts, and even if they aren’t in your industry, see if there are ways you can apply similar concepts when it comes to content and creative for your own business.
Why Instagram for SMB inspiration?
Businesses that are still operating are being forced to re-strategize, pivot offerings, explore new channels, take more creative risks, and share different types of engaging content in order to stay afloat. Due to its versatility and array of features, Instagram is one such platform to facilitate these shifts, and can be used to:
- Keep your customers and fans informed amidst the rollercoaster of a year it has been.
- Drive more business through organic and paid advertising efforts.
- Promote your business within your community.
Small business Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration
The above goals (and more) can be accomplished through regular posts, Instagram Stories, longer-form IGTV videos, and Instagram Live events. Let’s take a look at various IG content that has proven successful for small businesses and inspirational for customers and fellow business owners alike.
1. BlackRock (finance)
I can’t say I’ve seen any Instagram account, let alone in finance, have such well-crafted, diverse, and engaging content like BlackRock. They truly embody their company culture through their content and if I were to put myself in the shoes of a job applicant or a customer, I would be in support of what this brand is accomplishing by genuinely portraying itself as a trusted, employee- and community-driven, diverse, and accomplished business. Their quality posts showcase employee stories, events they partake in and ways that give back to others. It’s an inspiring account to say the least. Check out the engagement on each post. It speaks for itself.
2. Kristin Damstetter (wellness)
When it comes to our mental well-being, mindfulness, and meditation, our client Kristin Damstetter’s Instagram feed is a delight to frequent. As we can see below, it’s calming, on-brand, and seamlessly complements her website. She also does an excellent job of saving her Instagram Stories in their respective categories so that new users and existing followers can refer to her Stories on meditation, journaling, and more. She has a great story to share with others as she is a former art teacher and intertwines her mindfulness practice with those in education.
3. WORK (fitness)
Among some of the hardest pandemic-hit businesses are gyms and fitness centers. While they are making a comeback by using COVID-safe measures, it’s inspiring to see what some are doing to keep their business going, and what better way to see than to watch videos of the action. WORK in Orange County does a fantastic job of sharing video content on their Instagram account, which will help get you pumped up to work out and then hopefully to sign up for video workouts online.
4. Tradesman (coffee)
As an avid coffee consumer, this next inspiring Instagram account—Tradesman in Boston—immediately caught my attention. They are a terrific example of exceptional photography and strategic curation. Just take a peek at their aesthetically-pleasing feed and delectable-looking, unique menu of treats. They do a really great job strategically placing various photos to entice users to view more of their feed as it varies from larger multi-photo posts to individual ones. My Boston friend Casie Gillette says that she saw the account and the photos of their pastries (and red velvet croissants) made her go out of my way to find them. Hint: it was worth it. See for yourself:
5. Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
It was challenging to select just one example here, so in addition, I have to also give a Dark Horse Coffee Roasters a mention in San Diego as they have excellent coffee and their customer service, even on Instagram, is matched. They update their account with real-time information, which is crucial during this challenging year for service businesses.
6. Rabecca Onassis Boutique
Rabecca Onassis Boutique in Seattle curates a beautiful feed that is not only visually appealing but also successful in driving business. My friend Hannah Glazko, a frequent shopper, raves about this boutique. The combination of both static images and videos where new arrivals are tried on, styled, and shared by a variety of people, is beautiful. It’s a fun, colorful, and relatable account given the diverse yet on-brand approach they take. If your product can be seen by a variety of people and feel relatable, it will drive more business and expand your on and offline reach.
7. El Arroyo (restaurant)
For restaurant marketing during COVID-19, showcase your best-looking dishes and drinks. Share videos of your space, your smiling staff, the ambiance, the feel, take out options if those have changed, and be sure to include mention of the COVID-safe measures you are taking to make people feel comfortable in visiting your establishment.
While many of us enjoy seeing drool-worthy dishes in our feed and become patrons, you don’t always have to share food photos to find success on Instagram and beyond. Chances are, you have seen a photo of an El Arroyo sign at some point while browsing the web. Their signs have gained them so much popularity that this popular Mexican restaurant in Austin has found a way to drive engagement, followers, and business by entertaining people with their sign, near and far.
8. Squee Club (restaurant)
Another effective strategy to implement on your Instagram account is to post your COVID-19 protocols at your dining establishment. Share Stories with easy-to-explain, step-by-step details, and save it to your profile, so it is quick to locate and simple to understand for your potential customers, as seen here on Squee Club’s account:
9. Future’s Past (the arts)
If you are in the photography, film, music, or arts business, Future’s Past Instagram account is impressive in terms of creative content curation, and they do some really great stuff such as highlighting local acts with their Unfiltered Fridays posts on their Feed and IGTV.
10. Fox and Plume (photography)
With many events postponed or cancelled this year, photographers were put in quite a predicament as well. On the upside, many are still in business and thriving, using bigger lenses and being able to still do socially-distanced shoots. If you have a particular style, showcase it in your feed as seen here, with Fox and Plume. She shoots a variety of people across all life events, you can tell by her style that glows through her feed.
11. Stacie Larsen (photography)
Utah photographer, Stacie Larsen, follows a visually appealing pattern of posting in sets of three through the week on her feed. Patterns make things memorable for people, especially in groups of three.
12. Ruby and Revolver (jewelry)
There are small business owners, and then there are small business owners who are one-person shops, using their craft to make unique pieces. Carefully crafted, visual content for these types of business owners is crucial as it helps sell their pieces. The better the photography, the greater the desire for people to engage, share, and purchase their work, as seen here by the stunning and unique jewelry made by Ruby and Revolver. She sells out of all inventory each time she creates a product and posts about it on Instagram. Put your best foot forward when it comes to the images, videos, and accompanying text you post. In addition, if you have limited inventory, take into account what is popular based on engagement and sales and bring it back to drive more sales.
13. 1502 Candle Co.
Another creative and inspiring Instagram account is from 1502 Candle Co as she does tutorials on where you can learn a variety of things, such as how to clean a candle container properly instead of destroying your nails attempting to remove the wax. Create tutorials using Stories and IGTV and save your Stories to your profile so people can later reference them when the timing is better suited. They will remember you and possibly become a customer because you provided something helpful to them and didn’t necessarily push a product on them.
14. Cute Nail Studio
When it comes to hair salons, nail parlors, barbershops, lash extension places, and other beauty-related businesses, there are plenty of ways you can use this visual platform to showcase beauty as it relates to your services. Cute Nail Studio is a profile worth visiting as they have a vibrant Feed and helpful, business-driven saved Stories. Another great thing to take note of here is that they have reviews, which can help with bringing in new prospective clients and customers to their location in case they are on the fence about the services they provide and want a real customer’s take.
What we can learn from these SMB Instagram accounts
We can certainly learn quite a bit from what other brands and small businesses are doing and use it as inspiration for our own accounts. Let’s recap what the accounts in this post have taught us:
- Showcase employee stories, events you partake in and ways you give back to others.
- Save your Stories to their respective categories so followers can quickly reference them.
- Strategically place photos to entice users to view more of your feed.
- Display your product in relatable ways to drive more business and expand your reach.
- You don’t always have to share photos of your product. Share videos of your space, your smiling staff, the ambiance, the feel, and more.
- Share your COVID-19 protocols with easy-to-explain details to make people feel comfortable visiting your establishment.
- Use patterns to make things memorable for people, especially in groups of three.
- Share customer reviews to help bring in new clients and customers.
Get inspired and implement
This is the time to be creative in your efforts to stand out, keep your followers and customers informed about the state of your business, and to continue not only surviving, but thriving, as we move forward. Use these examples and others you see in your Instagram Feed, Stories, and IGTV to leverage the platform to benefit your business and attract customers in an authentic way.