Looking for ways to make Instagram work for you?
In this article, you’ll discover how to plan and construct Instagram posts to help your service-based businesses establish a strong visual presence.
#1: Outline Your Content Mix
Social media for service-based business is all about creating connections. You want to help, provide value, and deliver your brand story in a way that encourages the right people to relate to you, trust you, and want to do business with you.
To achieve those goals, tell a story with every set of nine squares on your Instagram feed. A good rule of thumb when planning content is the 4:3:2 rule:
- Four posts should add value and help your ideal client.
- Three posts should create connections with your ideal client.
- Two posts should promote or sell your service.
This content mix helps you develop a good relationship with your followers and allows them to get to know you, rather than simply pushing your services at them.
Service-based businesses need to think creatively when putting ideas together for each of these overarching Instagram content themes. Here’s how to plan your posts, assemble quality visuals, and write engaging captions.
#2: Plan Four Posts That Provide Value
To provide value, these posts should educate, entertain, and/or inform your audience.
Educate With Tips
If you’re a service-based business that sells your expertise, share tips that help your ideal clients with their problems. Don’t be afraid to give away your best advice or specialized knowledge for fear that it will hurt your business. People will need additional context for their own unique circumstances, which is where your business opportunities lie.
By giving away helpful tips, you can establish authority as an expert in your field, so when your followers need a service like yours, you’re the obvious choice.
Investing platform Ellevest is one business that does this well. They regularly post short videos that give clients answers to some of the commonly asked investment questions they receive.
Entertain With Humor
If it fits your brand, entertain your audience by injecting humor into your content. This tactic can be incredibly effective for businesses that might otherwise be considered boring and that don’t have an obvious visual element to them.
Inspire With Quotes
There’s a good reason that so many businesses post inspirational quotes on Instagram: They work. This is related to the psychology behind why people buy.
When a potential client usually comes to your business with a need (such as business coaching, social media services, or a legal document), it often stems from an underlying dream or fear.
If you’re a virtual assistant, for instance, your client’s immediate need is to outsource some of their administrative work. But digging deeper, they dream of having more time to work on, rather than in, their business. What would that time give them? Possibly the opportunity to build an empire, and ultimately be financially set and have more time to spend with their kids.
Crafting inspirational quotes that relate to time would likely be a highly effective strategy for this business type. Inspirational quotes have the added benefit of being highly shareable, meaning you can reach wider audiences and grow your brand.
One service-based business that does this very well on Instagram is the League of Extraordinary Women. A networking group for early-stage female entrepreneurs, they’ve grown their Instagram account to almost 100K followers by posting inspirational content aligned with the dreams of their target audience.
#3: Plan Three Posts That Connect With Your Audience
Three posts in your Instagram content plan should help your audience relate to your service-based business and showcase your brand personality. Here are some examples of how to do it.
Showcase Company Culture
What makes you and your business tick? What’s the culture like? What’s happening behind the scenes that might make people relate a little more to your business? Documenting your company culture allows you to inject life into your Instagram account and create a connection with your ideal client.
For instance, Hootsuite’s Instagram account often will share behind-the-scenes snippets of what it’s like working for the company.
This is a great tactic if you’re in a service-based industry that’s sensitive in nature (say, funeral services) because you can concentrate on your staff and values other than the day to day.
Tell a Story
Digital storytelling allows your business to express its brand personality. So how does it work? If you’re in finance, for instance, you could tell stories about your customers, who you’re passionate about working with, why you do what you do, and more.
Just Digital People, a digital recruitment company, creatively tells stories about their staff and the adventures of their recruitment team as a way of expressing their unique brand personality.
#4: Plan Two Posts That Sell Your Service
Two of the posts in your Instagram content theme can be dedicated to promotion. Why just two? Because Instagram isn’t a sales platform at heart. It’s a brand platform, and particularly for service-based businesses, it’s important to develop a relationship before going in for the sell.
TruGreen’s Instagram posts regularly provide value and create connections, which earns them the right to promote their services to warmer audiences every now and then.
#5: Develop Your Visual Assets
Now that you have your Instagram content themes ready, let’s dive into ways that non-visual service-based businesses can create and curate appealing imagery to complement their organization.
Invest in Professional Photography
Investing in high-quality images to showcase your staff, tools of your trade, business premises, and day-to-day life helps you create a connection with your audience and provides a gallery of images to draw on.
Don’t cut corners and use blurry photos taken in low light on your smartphone. If the photos you share are poor-quality and unprofessional, what does that say about your business and your services?
It comes back to brand. Every touchpoint counts and photography in particular is very important.
Neesh Property uses good-quality photography to showcase their otherwise non-visual property management business, accompanied by helpful tips in the captions.
Design Custom Graphics
A graphic design tool like Canva makes it easy to produce high-quality Instagram images and more with little technical skill or expertise. Best of all, personal accounts are free.
Canva is great for creating custom branded quotes for Instagram. Once you’ve signed up and logged in, you’ll be presented with a wide range of template designs to choose from. Select the Social Media graphic design type, which is optimized for Instagram’s design specs.
Next, choose a template or design your own from scratch. Canva provides hundreds of layout templates that you can adapt to your tastes and preferences.
When you’re finished with your design, simply download it and you’re ready to use it on Instagram.
Curate Stock Images
If you need stock photography for Instagram, there are a number of free stock sites you can visit to download imagery that best suits your brand and its aesthetic.
One of the best is Pexels. Simply head to the website and search for the type of imagery you’re looking for. You’ll then see a gallery of images that relate to your search.
Another cool Pexels feature is the ability to search by color. Simply click Browse in the top navigation bar and select Browse by Color to sort photos based on your color preference.
#6: Compose Captions That Connect With and Convert Your Ideal Audience
For service-based businesses that aren’t inherently visual, well-crafted Instagram captions are essential. When created thoughtfully, captions allow you to tell your business’s story; build familiarity and trust with your followers; and invite them to engage, interact, and do business with you.
There are three essential elements to a great caption that connects and converts.
Tell a Story
As a service-based business, you need to flex your wordsmithing muscles to give people insights into what you bring to the table in terms of your personality, business, and services.
There’s nothing worse than a wooden caption that doesn’t complement the accompanying image.
Know your clients inside and out, and write your captions in a way that endears them to you and the services you provide. Be honest, open, and conversational. Pretend you’re writing to just one person instead of blasting an impersonal message out to many.
Include a Call to Action
No caption is complete without inviting your followers to take an action at the end of it, also known as a call to action. There are two types of call to action (or “asks”), each with a different objective.
Small asks are when you directly invite your followers to like, comment, save, mention, and so on. There are two benefits to small asks.
First, they improve your algorithm ranking if people take your desired action because good engagement is one of the factors that Instagram considers when ranking posts and accounts. Second, they condition your followers to interact with you (which leads them to take action on your bigger asks).
Here are some examples of small asks:
- Tag someone who should see this!
- Introduce yourself in the comments.
- Double-tap if you agree.
- What’s your…?
- Who else loves X…?
This is an example of a small ask on the Planoly Instagram account, which invites engagement on the post.
Big asks involve asking your followers to do something that gets them one step closer to doing business with you, without necessarily directly asking for a sale. Here are some examples:
- Want to know more? Read the blog post, link in bio!
- Sign up for our newsletter to…
- Head over to X… for X…
- Click over to my website (link in bio) to… X.
This is an example of a big ask on the Think BOLD business mentoring Instagram account. They invite followers to visit their website, taking a step closer to a sale.
To market your non-visual service-based business effectively, it’s important that you make full use of your captions. By including these essential elements in your posts, you’ll create powerful captions that connect and convert.
One of the biggest challenges for service-based businesses is how to build a social media presence without the luxury of a tangible physical product to feature or highlight. It’s especially difficult for businesses in fields such as professional services, where visual imagery isn’t something naturally associated with it.
By establishing content themes, creating quality visual content, and writing captions that connect and convert, non-visual service-based businesses can overcome these challenges and reap the benefits of a strong presence on Instagram.
What do you think? Do you use some of these tactics to market your service-based business on Instagram? What tips can you offer? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.