Even by social media standards, Instagram is growing at a stupendous rate. In two years, the number of Instagram accounts has doubled, and the platform now attracts an estimated 800 million users. That’s well over twice the size of Twitter’s userbase.

With those sorts of numbers, Instagram offers huge opportunities for any small business.

But of course, there’s a catch. Your Instagram presence is in competition with a gazillion other companies. And the rules of the game keep changing, as Instagram rapidly evolves. If you want to make the most of this platform, you’ll need to be constantly watching and adapting.

With that in mind, let’s look at three 2018 trends for Instagram that small businesses can use.

1. Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories is a relatively new feature that lets users post ephemeral content — photos or videos that disappear after 24 hours. Borrowed from Snapchat, it’s quickly become wildly popular. In 2018, all the signs are that it will grow even more, and smart small businesses will be responding.

Why would businesses create content, only to see it vanish a day later? There are several solid reasons. For one thing, it’s a great vehicle for live marketing. Posting just before a webinar, or during a sale, can reach a wider audience at precisely the right time. Also, the spontaneity encourages engagement with your company. There simply isn’t the time to produce manicured, perfect photos — and that means your audience gets to see a more natural, authentic side to your business.

In our view, any Instagram strategy for 2018 should be taking account of Instagram Stories.

2. Live streaming

Instagram’s live streaming feature has been around since 2016, and the company continues to refine and develop the feature. Like stories, live streaming taps into the current trend toward spontaneous content. As such, it’s going to be more relevant in 2018 and beyond.

Combined with Instagram’s ‘live guests’ option – allowing you to stream with another user – live streaming gives businesses another opportunity to gain exposure. Of course, being live has its risks, but some small businesses have been brave enough to take the plunge. They’ve discovered that it’s an excellent way to use interviews with satisfied customers or host question-and-answer discussions.

Live streaming is definitely something for SMEs to watch in 2018.

3. The rise of the micro-infuencer

Influencer marketing, essentially using endorsements from well-known individuals, is nothing new. And while the stars of social media aren’t always on the front pages of the newspapers, leveraging their influence can be spectacularly successful.

However, bigger isn’t always better, and recently smaller companies are waking up to the potential of micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are social media users that have attracted a smaller number — perhaps a thousand or two — of highly engaged followers. Often, they have a narrow focus of interest on particular consumer products.

Paradoxically, it’s the fact that micro-influencers are less famous that makes them so attractive for small businesses. The micro-influencers’ more ‘ordinary’ status makes their followers connect with them more strongly, and their more limited focus means that their opinions carry weight. For small businesses, this means that investing in the right micro-infuencers can yield a much higher marketing ROI.

We see the budding romance between small businesses and micro-influencers blossoming in 2018, and savvy business owners will want to be part of that.

Can’t keep up with Instagram?

At MV Marketing, we understand the challenge that small businesses face in marketing through Instagram (and other social media platforms!) Smaller businesses often just don’t have the resources to keep up with the latest trends.

We’re confident we can help. We specialise in working flexibly with small and medium-size businesses, offering just as much help as you need. We can help you produce a strategy or simply manage your social media. To find out what’s possible, give us a call today.