Instagram is well on the way to becoming the go-to marketing tool for many businesses. The photo- and video-sharing social-media platform has at least 25 million business profiles, and more than 200 million Instagrammers visit at least one business profile daily. “It’s the best and cheapest form of advertising and marketing,” says Mindy Ortiz, former owner of Twinkle Me Pretty in South Jordan, UT, which has a four-year-old Instagram feed @twinklemepretty with 2,700 followers. (In recent posts, the store advertised a fitness program for tots it was launching and dancewear pieces offered at 30 percent off.)
If you’re like most dance retailers, you turned to Instagram to reach the young dancers who are your core customers. Victoria Lyman’s impetus to get on the social-media platform will sound familiar to many storeowners: “An 18-year-old said to me, ‘Facebook is for old people.’ And old people was anyone over 25!” says Lyman, owner of Allegro Dance Boutique. In 2013, she opened an Instagram account for her store, which has locations in Evanston and Barrington, IL; @allegroboutique now has 2,300+ followers.
Instagram is where storeowners also reach many of the studios and dance teachers who send customers their way. For a new store, Instagram can shorten the time it takes to become known in the local dance community. Bellissimo Dance Boutique in Franklin, TN, a suburb of Nashville, opened in June 2016, within two miles of six studios. “All our studios
are on Instagram, and many of our dance teachers,” says Patrice Powell, who owns the store with Kelley Descher. Bellissimo opened its Instagram account, @bellissimodanceboutique, three months before the store opened. “That’s how we launched—we did a contest to find the store. And I think Instagram has played a huge role in how quickly our store has taken off,” she says. Bellissimo already has more than 1,200 followers on Instagram. “It built a lot of excitement.”
As an independent storeowner who wears many hats, your time is at a premium, and you want to be sure that your social-media efforts are getting the biggest payoff possible. As spring approaches, what better time for an Instagram tuneup? DRN talked to experts and storeowners for tips on what works best, and how to take advantage of some of the newer features on Instagram.
Use a business account. If you still have a personal account, “switch to a business account,” says Jill Tirone, owner of DanceFit Marketing. A business profile has lots of features that are extremely useful to storeowners, she says. It’s easy to switch: In Instagram settings, click “switch to business profile” and follow the steps, which include connecting your Instagram page to your business’ Facebook page.
With a business profile, you’ll get insights and data on your followers and posts, which can help you shape your content so it’s most effective and appealing to your followers. “I had a personal account and was on the fence, but then I decided the analytics are so valuable that it was worth switching,” says Lyman. Some insights she’s gained for her posts: photos of feet in pointe shoes always get top ratings; images of leotards do surprisingly well; a video of a girl jumping in a leotard by the water got more than 3,500 views; anything that looks like an ad—even just adding the logo over the image—doesn’t do as well.
A business profile also gives you the ability to promote (boost) certain posts, as on Facebook, and create ad campaigns.
Make yourself immediately findable. Business profiles also let you add contact information. Depending on the information you add, Get Directions, Text, Call and Email buttons will appear just below your profile. A fully populated business profile, with the store address, will make your business more findable in local Google searches, too, and drive traffic to the store.
Use the bio copy cleverly. Promote your brand by adding the store’s tag line. Some stores make it easy to shop by adding up-to-date store hours and the street address, or a phone emoji with the contact number. Always include the store’s website address, since this is the only place on Instagram where you can put a clickable link. (When you have a special promotion, consider swapping in a specific URL, instead of the home page.) If you think the same customers on Instagram will want to find you on Snapchat, add your Snapchat handle. Putting each marketing point or call-to-action on a separate line makes the copy block more readable.
Promote your brand consistently. Are you clear which market, specifically, you are targeting on Instagram? (The demographic info on your followers will help you sort out who’s the most likely target, and what approaches work best with them.) Tell your store’s brand story with high-quality photos that have a “look” you’ve decided works for you: That will reinforce your brand more than a mish-mash of disparate posts.
Consider the grid of photos that Instagrammers will see when they arrive at your page, and post regularly enough to keep people engaged. In its Instagram bio, The Pointe Shop in Santa Ana, CA, describes itself as a “professional fitting company to help you find your perfect pointe shoes.” The grid reveals a regular rotation of three types of posts that reinforce that branding statement: a before-and-after shot of a pointe shoe fitting issue; a beauty shot of a dancer in pointe shoes; and a Dancer Problems quote, often with a wry or whimsical touch: “Graceful onstage. Then trips over own feet walking down the street.” Or “One more time. Really means 15 more times.” The approach works well: @thepointeshop has strong engagement—likes and comments—for posts among its 18,600 followers.
Create Instagram Stories. Stories—a series of photos or videos that disappear after 24 hours—are a great way to share in real time what’s going on at your store, says Tirone. Unlike the carefully curated photos on your feed, “images don’t have to be perfect, so they can be fun,” she says. Stories show up at the top of people’s feeds, so it’s almost the first thing you see when you’re browsing. “It will keep your store top of mind.”
Stories are perfect for behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at a new product coming in—Allegro did one when new Yumikos were being unboxed (they come in only twice a year). It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight employees. Doing simple how-to tutorials, showing the parts of a pointe shoe or tips on fitting, or videoing live store events—a summer trunk show, say, or a pointe shoe fitting—also works well. “You can add a location sticker to a story, so say you’re near a big shopping center or park, you can tag that location to pull in the larger community,” says Tirone. One frustration has been that the stories do disappear, so there is no lingering buzz from a story about a busy Small Business Saturday. But now Instagram has introduced archive and highlights features: Stories can be saved in a private archive, which you can pull from to create a highlight. Once you’ve given the highlight a name and a cover, it will appear as a circle on your profile that plays as a stand-alone story when someone taps it—a great way to revive that buzz.
Spotlight your local dancers. “The most successful posts are when we show customers in their new outfits, shopping at our store,” says Ortiz. “We can tag customers in posts they’re in. They love it! They share with all their friends and family.” Powell, who also says her best posts are probably the ones with local dancers, has built a successful strategy around that. She does regular photo shoots with local dancers, showing off the “different and cutting-edge leos” her store specializes in, and an annual fashion show for the community. “When we use local dancers, they’ll always repost on their own Instagram,” says Powell. “For the fashion show, I ask the studios to pick the models, so that brings the studios in. The dancers come and model with each other. Waiting in line they meet each other. It builds so much excitement. All the pictures we post, they tag and repost.” Sales were brisk in the two hours after the fashion show, all helped by the buzz created on Instagram.
Look for social influencers. They don’t need to be super-celebrities. “Think of hometown dancers who have gone on to do great things,” says Tirone. “Next time they’re in town, ask if they want to come by the store and do a quick interview,” which you can video and post or do as a story in snippets. “Micro-influencers can be your own customers,” she says. If a customer with a following on Instagram is excited about the new fashion leo they just bought, see if they’ll post a photo and mention your shop. While there are rules about disclosing endorsements on social media (see: ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking), you could consider offering a tradeoff: a small sample or a special discount. Powell gives the fashion show models a Bellissimo swag bag filled with goodies, and the photo shoot models usually receive a Bellissimo gift certificate.
Engagement means just that. Don’t forget the basic principle: This is social media. Be sure you respond promptly and positively to questions and comments on your posts, and write your own comments on the posts of dancers and brands you follow. Monitoring your feed should be as much a priority as publishing new posts. “It’s more the quality of followers that counts, rather than the number,” says Tirone. “Nice reciprocal relations are what will help your business succeed.”
This Is My Instagram Time
“You’ll get more engagement with a strategy,” says Jill Tirone, owner of DanceFit Marketing. “And it doesn’t have to be huge and time-consuming.” She suggests:
Block off a weekly time as your “Instagram time” for planning and prepping.
Look at the calendar and figure out some fun hashtags, like #motivationalmonday, for regular posts. Research hashtags your competitors and studio partners use. Think about possible stories.
Look ahead to big dance events, which are a perfect opportunity to get attention.
Create graphics for these posts ahead of time (Canva and PicMonkey are good; have fun with stickers—little dancers, whimsical hearts, something seasonal).
Queue up some regular posts; you’ll keep up more easily. That frees you up to do fun stuff on the fly at the store—impromptu events, memorable moments.
Use the Repost for Instagram app to share favorite photos and videos (with permission) from dancers and dancewear companies you follow. —BH
Photos courtesy of the retailers