Michelle Halford is the interior stylist and writer behind The Design Chaser blog, which she founded in 2012. A year later she started The Design Chaser feed on Instagram, which now has 135,000 followers.
Here she shares her advice for small business owners wanting to build an audience on the platform:
• Instagram is such a visual tool and first impressions count. Often you'll make a snap decision as to whether you want to follow someone by scanning their overall feed, so it's important you hone in on how you want to portray your brand, and a vision for the overall look and feel of that. You want to create a look that's consistent and attractive. For example, my focus is on Scandinavian interiors and design, a monochromatic palette and high quality imagery, so when anyone who loves all things Scandinavian looks at my feed it will be a no brainer for them to follow me.
• Find your voice. The communication style on each social media platform is slightly different and on Instagram, I liken it to talking with my friends. You want your tone to be natural, authentic, and never feel forced. Even though you might be promoting a product in a post, you still want to show a bit of your personality and something about yourself so you're relatable and likeable; people want to know the person behind the brand.
In that vein I'd say don't delegate the running of your Instagram account to someone else. If it's your brand you will know it better than anyone else, so you should be the voice of that brand and it's connection to the outside world.
• Although I primarily use my camera and Photoshop for the images I produce, smartphones nowadays can take really good images, and they're an easy tool for practising and honing your photography skills. There are a lot of really good apps you can use on your phone to help you create great photos. Some that I'd recommend are Afterlight, VSCO and Snapseed, which is really good for adjusting and sharpening images.
• Regular posting is really important. I aim to post once a day, but probably not more than twice daily. Also, don't spam people with a whole heap of photos in row, which can be annoying because they clog up followers' feeds. It's really about quality not quantity. I might drop the ball every now and then in terms of that frequency, but even when I'm on holiday I'll still try to look for things to post to inspire my followers.
• Make sure you're staying engaged. Success on Instagram is not just about how many followers you have but how engaged they are. I'm always analysing my numbers - looking at how many likes my photos are getting to see what kind of content is connecting with my audience. That's something I look at on other people's feeds as well, for the same reason. And although it becomes harder as your following grows, I keep up with comments and always aim to answer people's questions. Likewise it's important to regularly check in on your feed, and like and comment on other people's work. That's all part of the being in the community. You get out what you put in.
• Be prepared. I always have a backlog of design work that I can post for those days when I get really busy doing other things.