Small Business Saturday Blog

How to harness the power of Instagram and drive your business forward - the GB Labels way

Friday, April 26 at 10:34

Standing out online as a small business is becoming trickier to do. But by showcasing your unique brand personality (and a little creative flair), it is possible to carve out your own little corner of the internet and fill it with your raving fans.
No one knows this better than Derbyshire-based woven label specialists GB Labels. Just three years ago, GB Labels didn’t have any social accounts. Now their feeds are bustling communities of designers and makers, thousands strong - and sales have soared.
How do I know? Because they’re one of my many small biz clients using social media to successfully tell their story. And rather than keep our findings to ourselves, we’re super-excited to share them so more small businesses can thrive online. Here’s exactly how we made it happen…
Tailoring social media to suit your needs
Three years ago GB Labels was in a bit of a conundrum. As designer manufacturers of niche branding products, they were struggling to make social media work for them.
GB Labels’ director Jason Gregory explains: “We make high-quality branding solutions such as ribbon, swing tickets and garment labels. Because our products are so niche and typically sold to designers and makers, we worried that publishing social posts out to a wider audience would be pointless. And while we’re really proud of what we make, we wondered who’d actually be interested in our content.”
“The funny thing is, we make clothing labels for some of the biggest brands in the world, so there’s a wealth of awesome stories to tell. Unfortunately, when working for exciting household names, there’s always a confidentiality agreement that comes into play. This left us stuck on what to actually talk about on social media.”
But GB Labels didn’t want to give up. They’d noticed that bigger label companies based abroad couldn’t match the quality or personal service they offered, meaning smaller brands, indie businesses and student designers often flocked to GB Labels after having a bad experience elsewhere.
Advertising online would give them a platform to showcase their quality and prevent newbie designers getting it wrong - which is why it’s so important for them to get their social media right.
Why Instagram?
Home to over one billion users worldwide, Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social channels around. Popular with the 18-34 demographic, it’s an effective way to reach out to a range of different types of people - and encourage them to follow your brand’s journey.
Instagram works for small businesses because it’s inherently visual and can act like a catalogue for prospective customers.
But even if your business isn’t visual, there’s always something to show. Authenticity and provenance are the biggest marketing trends around right now - two things small businesses have in bucket loads. With Instagram, these two aspects can be tied together perfectly.
For example, GB Labels can support and nurture new designers with behind-the-scenes and Q&A Instagram Story videos (showing authenticity) and use photos of their products to demonstrate their decades of expertise (sharing their provenance story as a family business).
This made Instagram the natural fit for GB Labels and why it might be perfect for you too.
Instagram photography made simple
The first thing I worked on with GB Labels was their photography. But while Instagram is all about being aesthetically pleasing, there was no need to spend lots on fancy equipment - we kept things simple. Want to know how we got those really good snaps? This is the advice I give to all small businesses:
Get inspired
What colours do you associate with your brand? Pick three or four and stick with them for backgrounds. You’ll also need to consider what your competition is doing (and if you can do it better).
Even if it’s a completely unrelated industry, think of your favourite accounts and bloggers and what you like about their Instagram posts. Perhaps it’s their style of lighting or location that floats your boat? Take some snaps in that style and add your own twist.
Keep standards high
Good lighting in natural daylight is super-important - and make sure your set or background is clean and neat before taking a photo. This is essential to make sure photos look high quality, particularly if you’re working with a small budget.
A crisp, white background always looks great and laying products out flat (known as a ‘flat lay’) is a hugely popular style of post. And don’t forget to look around you - brick walls, quiet streets and rural areas provide stunning backdrops for free!
Customers also love getting a sneak peak at what you do so make close up ‘details’ shots, candid team photos and that gorgeous view from your work space a priority.
Reach out to customers
What’s one of the first things you do when you purchase an awesome product? Share it on social media of course. Why not create a special hashtag and encourage your customers to share snaps of them using your product or service? You’ll be surprised just how many people respond - and there’s nothing like positive feedback to boost team morale!
For GB Labels I created the hashtag #ShareYourLabel which has now been used over 200 times (and counting). It’s been an effective way to create an online ‘portfolio’ of their products. And it’s been lovely for the GB Labels team to see where their labels end up.
Hashtags are your friend
And speaking of hashtags. Don’t forget to use a few under each post. Think of hashtags as a ‘filing system’ that puts your photo in the same category as other similar posts, helping more people to see it.
That means not hashtagging elements of the photo (because no one’s going to search #Chair #Window or #Office) but using hashtags that your target market are using. GB Labels use hashtags such as #MakersMovement, #HandmadeParade and #DesignersOfInstagram, because that’s exactly who they want to reach out to.
Look at what hashtags are used in your industry and start using them to measure which get you the most engagement. Stuck for ideas? Tap a hashtag and Instagram will show you suggestions of other hashtags to use. You could then create a ‘bundle’ of hashtags you like, save it in your phone and pop them under each post. Easy-peasy.
Spark a conversation
Because small businesses are passionate about what they do, they’re often friendlier and up for a natter about their products than their larger counterparts. Again, this is where you can use Instagram to your advantage.
The best way to build a following is to engage with as many accounts as possible. If you like someone’s product - tell them by commenting on their post. Want to know which trade fairs are best for your brand? Message a fellow maker and ask. Think someone might like your product? Tag them in a snap. If you join in enough, you’ll find you become part of the small biz community in no time - and there really is no friendlier, more inspiring group to be a part of.
What GB Labels say
Finding a niche on Instagram has been vital for GB Labels in lots of different ways.
Jason says: “We now have over 2,400 followers on Instagram, nearly all of whom are designers that love the things we make. Not only can we market directly to them, we can support and guide them through their branding journey, which is very rewarding.”
“Deciding to shift our marketing towards championing the smaller maker or designer was important to us, because it’s what we’re all about as a family business ourselves. Instagram is the best place to do that - and we love seeing all the weird and wonderful places our labels end up. I’d recommend Instagram to any small business - it’s easily our most powerful marketing tool.”
This handy guide to Instagram shows being a niche business isn’t a barrier to building an online community. In fact, it’s your superpower. If you’ve been inspired to seize Instagram success, I’d love to hear your stories - over on Instagram, of course.
Author bio
Abi Rose is a marketing consultant from the Peak District. She works with inspiring independent businesses - helping them to tell their story through social media. Follow Abi on Instagram or take a look at her website.
Small biz bio
GB Labels is a family-run business, born and bred in Derbyshire. Known for its signature woven labels, its entire range of branding solutions is made right here in the UK - using only the highest quality materials.To browse the range or order a sample pack, head to the website. And of course, they’d love you to follow them on Instagram.

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