How To Set Up A Startup Business On Instagram, Grow Your Followers, And Earn Money

How To Set Up A Startup Business On Instagram, Grow Your Followers, And Earn Money
Image by @jcomp / Freepik

Instagram is not only an online photo album where you can share your travels and daily stories with your followers, it can also be an effective platform to earn money. Whether it’s food, apparel, or makeup, you can find a plethora of successful online businesses on this app. And if you’re looking for a side hustle too, take this as your sign and read on to know what you need to prepare before kickstarting an Instagram shop!

Know the ins and outs of Instagram.

Zechariah, 22, established The Urban Vibe in July 2020 with the help of her sister. The online concept store caters to young women who love to collect trendy pieces. “Our products vary from small trinkets to home decors, and to our very own makeup line,” she says.

Instagram is a good platform for businesses in general, she adds. “It has a user-friendly interface and millions of people are on this app every single day.” However, she suggests venturing out into different platforms to reach a more engaged audience, so that your branding is not entirely dependent on Instagram.

To be an effective IG business owner, you have to familiarize yourself with the features that the platform can offer: Instagram stories, highlights, feed, bio, website, etc. Ask yourself, how can these features benefit you?

Choose a product you’re knowledgeable about.

In 2015, 22-year-old Lindsay established Sugar Treats, an online desserts shop specializing in cookies and sweet pastries. “At that time, I was thinking about how I can use that vacation for something meaningful and that's when I decided to pursue my passion—baking--and eventually turned it into a small online business.”

Aira, 22, and Aika, 27, on the other hand, established their online thrift store Aa Apparel because of their penchant for ukay-ukay and DIY. “I started back in July 2020 when my sister asked me to declutter my clothes because I already had so much in our closet,” says Aira. “I’ve been selling my clothes online during my undergraduate years to help sustain my daily expenses.”

Lindsay, Aira, and Aika have already found their respective niches before they started monetizing their products. When establishing a business, it’s important that you know everything about what you’re going to sell. It will be difficult to sell clothes if you know nothing about fashion, and it would be difficult to sell baked goods if you have no idea how to bake.

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Know your competitors.

Instagram is highly saturated with thousands of online shops, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be effective for you. “You just really have to be able to set yourself apart from the thousands of online shops who use this platform as well,” says Zechariah.

Why should customers purchase from you, and not from other businesses offering the same product? Answering this question will make you establish what your shop’s strengths and priorities are. Zechariah shares, “My dad would always tell me to build a story around the brand/product, because that’s how people remember you. You are not only getting rid of these products, you’re also promoting the experience and the luxury your customers will feel when they purchase from you. So even though you’re offering the same thing the other shop is selling, you are able to get the consumer’s buy-in and support.”

Focus on your branding.

Branding starts from as early as choosing your product, business name, logo, and captions. This is important because it sets a memorable impression, and what consumers can expect from you.

Six years ago, Lindsay started with a different business name initially, changing it twice until she eventually settled for “Sugar Treats.”

“My shop's name doesn't really have a significant meaning. I just want how the name tells it all --- that it is a dessert shop.” This way, potential consumers will know exactly what you sell at first glance.

If you’re struggling with your shop’s branding, do know that it’s a process. Aira says, “Aa Apparel suffered from existential crisis, finding out what her niche really is and that’s totally normal. Being clear about your branding doesn’t happen overnight. We became aware of Aa’s branding after a few more releases and when our customers already gave feedback [on] their purchases.”

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Grow your reach.

Now this is another challenging part, especially with Instagram’s algorithm in the way.

“Instagram favors accounts with the most number of followers and likes, and this was a huge challenge for us,” says Zechariah. However, online sellers were able to overcome this by implementing the following tips:

Post teasers on all platforms.

“Firstly, I reached out to my friends by posting teasers to let them know I’m up to something. It helped me a lot to grow my followers especially when I was just starting out,” shares Aira. Your family and friends are your first potential customers, especially for new businesses. Posting teasers on every social media platform can reach family and friends, who can share it with their family and friends too.

Participate in SFS (Shoutout for shoutout).

If you want to reach a wider market, you can participate in an SFS with other online sellers. “This allowed me to promote my teasers and reach a wider market. All I have to do is exchange publicity materials/ads [with] other online shops and feature it on my IG stories,” Aira says.

Interact with your followers.

Zechariah learned the importance of investing in her shop’s community. “At first, we tried to invest in PR packages for influencers but to be frank, that didn’t really do so much for our shop,” she shares. “When we started to invest in people who genuinely liked our products, that’s when our followers and buyers increased.” They came up with discounted packages for people who wanted to represent their brand. “We launched the urban vibe crew – gals and girls who truly believed in our concept. We focused on authentic content.”

Maximize Instagram’s features.

To boost their shop’s followers, Zechariah created an Instagram filter that embraces her shop’s vibe. “We created Instagram story filters for our shop that actually helped us reach over 150,000 people!” 

Be consistent.

Nobody’s going to buy from a shop that seems inactive. To avoid this, make sure that you are consistent in posting aesthetically pleasing photos and beautifully written captions. “Schedule your post regularly. This is something that I've been doing before and it’s really helpful because your online visibility is crucial in this business,” Lindsay suggests. This also helped Aa Apparel’s growth. “It allows my followers to see that my shop is always active and visible. I always update them on what I’m up to next. Having teasers for your next collection is also a good idea.”

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