If you haven’t yet read part one in this series on Social Media for Chocolate Businesses, then I suggest you head back and read through it carefully before beginning Lesson Two. Read Part One here.
I can wait.
I’m very patient.
Okay! Let’s begin with Instagram for chocolate businesses.
Why Should I Use Instagram?
If you’ve done any prior research on social media platforms, then you know that Instagram is one of the largest networks with over 800 million registered users. This large base alone is not enough to justify the time Instagram demands in order to utilize the platform to its fullest potential, but the expectations of its users is. Instagram users are just like you: when they log in, they want to see beautiful images and learn more about the story behind them. It’s that simple. So if you’re crafting both a good story & a beautiful product (physical or otherwise), then Instagram is the right social media platform for you.
What you’re building on all these social media sites is primarily a community. But it’s also an online presence and portfolio, and to a certain extent, an advertisement.
If you’re not a visual person, but you’re the only employee in your company at the moment, consider outsourcing the Instagramming to a high school or college student you could hire to do your social media. Millions of teenagers would jump on the opportunity to take some nice pictures after school, and earn money by spending time on Instagram.
This is especially true with how much time they’ve been spending living online the last few years. Unfortunately, as integral as you are to the company, your biggest strength as a business owner is acknowledging your weaknesses and knowing when to outsource certain systems. Social media is a system, whether the creative being in us wants to see it that way or not, and as such it can be approach systemically.
First Step to Instagram Success
One of the first steps to becoming a professional Instagram user is to start a business account. Depending on your role in the chocolate industry, it may make sense to simply switch your account from personal to business, which itself is a matter of changing your settings within the app. First, go to “Settings” in the app (the three little vertical dots in the upper righthand corner of your screen). Under the “Account” section, click “Switch to Business Account” and follow the instructions. For more information on how to start a business account on Instagram, click here.
Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, in order to switch to a business profile you must have a Facebook page to connect to. You can either make one or connect an existing one, but this is one of those requirements you can’t get around. Also, you can only connect one page (which also needs to be a Facebook Business Page). I believe you can only make this switch from your phone, as well (though you may now be able to do so on a desktop through your Facebook Creator Studio).
Even if you’re not looking to start completely from scratch, still consider getting a business account for Instagram. It’s completely free, though you still see the ads that all users do, and they’ll encourage you to do a paid boost for well-performing posts (those with lots of likes in a short time). You can also connect your Twitter profile to your Instagram, and subsequently choose to post the same photos there, as well.
The aforementioned benefits of making this switch highly outweigh the cons (you can only link to one Facebook account, and some people have noted that fewer people like their posts when they make the switch).
Immediately you’ll see analytics, meaning the data behind your followers. For all posts shared after the switch, you can see demographics on your followers, like gender, age bracket, location, and when they’re online. Beyond this, Instagram gives you information on how your posts are doing: how many people have seen it, how many liked it, how they found it, how it compares to your previous posts, and more. This is also the key to creating “boosted posts,” the Instagram equivalent to paid promotion, which we’ll get into in future posts.
Basic Instagram Vocabulary
Much of this jargon can be learned after just playing around with the app for an hour or so. But to save you time and avoid the possibility of you posting something you don’t want to, here are the basics.
IG, Insta, the ‘gram: all of these are slang for “Instagram,” the platform which this entire post is about.
Analytics: data about your followers’ demographics and habits within the app.
Content: any picture you put up on Instagram, whether it has a description or not.
Stories: pictures you add to your profile which disappear after exactly 24 hours, making them popular for making short-term announcements.
Algorithm: the secret formula used by Instagram to decide who sees your content.
Engagement: interaction with your content.
Organic Engagement: natural interaction with your content, unprompted by a promoted post or a like/comment exchange with another account.
Bio: the 150-characters or less which appear below your photo and the “Follow” button on your profile; most people use this space to tell visitors about their business and its goals.
Hashtag: a word, acronym, or number preceded by the pound sign (#), used both to describe a picture or assign it a place within a certain community or movement.
Now that you know what algorithm I’m referring to, I feel compelled to warn you that most people loathe it. They abhor the constant changes without warning, many of which seem to decrease organic engagement (by showing your content to fewer people). These infamous algorithm changes— wherein the network decides that it can improve user experience by drastically altering an aspect of the platform without warning— can be infuriating.
One day, as soon as you feel like you’ve finally gotten a hang of it, something changes and only 10 people have seen your picture. What’s up with that?!
I say this not to scare you off, but to warn you that not every post you share will be well-received. Social media is as much an experiment for the platforms as it is for the businesses utilizing them. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to hate these changes! Your best bet in terms of effectively utilizing an ever-changing platform is to roll with the punches. Stay updated on big changes here. Constantly test what kind of stuff your audience likes by posting a wide range of things, at first. Go with the flow of Instagram changes, because I guarantee that it will push you further towards your goals.
Use Instagram Stories
Speaking of algorithm changes, IG Stories is now a well-established option on the platform, along with Instagram Live and using hashtags in your bio. People expect you to use these at least every once in awhile, and now to also save your Stories & previous Lives as highlights just above your main feed of pictures. Using hashtags in your bio as a chocolate company is a statement to customers. It tells them what communities you participate in & value, while Instagram Live allows you to stream live video to your followers of what you are doing at the moment.
But Instagram stories can be a much more impactful message. Stories are a way of letting loyal customers know the specials of the day, show off how a pastry is made, or give a virtual factory tour. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to community on social media, and sharing the who, what, why, and how behind your brand is a major part of that. Instagram is just the tool. An Instagram Story is a picture or video you add to your profile picture; when a profile has stories that people can watch, they have a pink ring around their profile picture.
These Stories are not just pictures and videos, but they can have words, gifs, other pictures, emoticons, polls, and more. They’re a great way to keep followers updated on an ongoing project, tell them about shop closings, sales, and giveaways, or even to just put a voice to the images. Hashtags are nice if people visit your profile, and Live is useful if people are already online, but stories are a way to stay at the top of people’s feeds and keep them coming back for more.
If you’ve decided that Instagram is your best way to connect with your customers, and that you really want to become adept at using the platform, then utilize Stories. Post a story to your feed every day, around the same time if you can manage it.
Craft an Effective Bio
I could easily write an entire post on this one subject alone, but I’ll keep this one straightforward. As I said in my first post on chocolate social media— you must have three things in your Instagram bio: your location, product focus, and your website. It makes me want to slap my forehead, or someone else’s for that matter, when I think of the thousands of chocolate companies whose bare bios I’ve born witness to. At best they have all three of those things, plus a branded hashtag, catchy slogan or joke, and the hours for their physical store. There are many chocolate businesses out there doing social media right.
The problem is simply that there could be more, but people have no idea where to start. So to you, unsure of how to begin completing the laundry list of things needed to start or grow your chocolate business, I’m here to take the burden of social media off your shoulders. Imagine your Instagram bio is the twenty seconds you have to impress a stranger in an elevator.
You probably already have your elevator pitch down, so why not write it down, as well? Simply include your location (country AND city), product focus (craft chocolate, bonbons, chocolate pastries, etc.), and a link to where people can buy your products. If you include that, you’ve already gotten ahead of the crowd. You’d be amazed at how far you can go by just giving people the information they’re looking for. I promise, we really do want to buy your products and we’re stunned when we can’t figure out how to do that.
Post Good Content
Only post stuff you’re proud of.
This is the number one rule on Instagram, and so many brands violate this. If you’re truly passionate about what you do, then you’re doing something interesting every day. So why not share a beautiful story about those interesting activities a few times a week? Or even just once a week? Remember that people choose to follow you because they like what you post, and the more interesting the stuff you post is, the more likely people are to follow you.
So don’t just post a picture of chocolate in the refiner; add in a hand holding a finished bar and a story in the caption. A picture of a single truffle is pretty, but a picture of that same truffle cut in half with the rest of the batch in a long row behind it can be beautiful. There are so many other ways to show your daily wins and struggles in an eye-catching way. Find the beauty in your daily, life, and share it with us.
An inactive IG account is good for no one, but it doesn’t mean that you have to post every morning and every night. Make a schedule and stick to it. If you can take one good photo with a little story behind it just once a week, then that’s all you need to do. Add 5 hashtags, click post, and you’re technically done. Try to remember the “social” part of social media, however, and scroll down liking others’ photos after you share your post.
Even if you’re just starting out on social media, the odds are good that you have friends and family already on those platforms, willing to follow you and give you feedback on your profile. If you already have some customers, as well, this is a great place to connect with and follow them, getting their feedback on what they want from you. A large portion of running a business is understanding your customer base, and IG is a great (free!) way to do so.
Even if you have no willing friends, family, or customers, however, you always have a community out there whom you can connect with. Use the search box to look for craft chocolate, bonbons, tempering, or other common chocolate phrases in chocolate. IG will show you profiles and pictures related to the terms. So like & comment on the pictures you like. Follow the accounts you like. Be social with the media!
When you’re looking for ways for people to find you, study a few of the top people in chocolate and see what hashtags they’re using. It will vary depending on your business; chocolatiers will connect with different communities from chocolate makers. But in the end, we’re all just looking to connect, and Instagram offers an unmissable opportunity to do so.
Now that you have some idea as to what will get you started on Instagram, follow me on IG at @damecacao, and don’t forget to share this post if you found it helpful! Those with further questions of comments, feel free to send me a message or leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.
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