4 Secrets To Building A Successful Business On Instagram

For small businesses with limited marketing budgets, the key to Instagram success goes beyond just posting pretty pictures, says this platform exec.

4 Secrets To Building A Successful Business On Instagram
[Photo: Daisy Korpics]

Does launching a business on Instagram seem daunting? It doesn’t have to be, says Kay Hsu, the global Instagram lead at Facebook’s Creative Shop.


Hsu, in a workshop on fashioning fast and engaging company stories on the platform, shared some key insights into enhancing both your brand and sales without breaking the bank on marketing.

“I found that small businesses were really interesting,” said Hsu at the event, which was part of The Fast Company Innovation Festival. They generally had fewer resources and more constraints, but nonetheless are still able “to create thriving businesses on Instagram.”

Hsu, who has been with Facebook for four years, said she has identified four qualities in the companies enjoying the most financial success on Instagram:

  • Agility. Small businesses need to think quick and find what works and ditch what doesn’t. She saw that in a popular fish market that “took their phone and experimented” and ended up making dead fish seem sexy to a voracious following of seafood lovers.
  • Flexibility.  Experiment with visual techniques, says Hsu. There are tools both on Instagram and outside the app that make images more interesting. Accounts that play around with diverse ways to show their content had the best success. One business that sells kitchen spiralizers used camera tricks (effects like Boomerang), and cheap set design (read: cardboard and contact paper) to create addictive videos of vegetables being prepared. The spiralizing videos, said Hsu, helped the business sell out of its product within days. It turns out that people love watching videos of vegetables.

Kay Hsu [Photo: Daisy Korpics]

  • Prolificity. The best accounts, says Hsu, post a lot. The best way to get more eyeballs isn’t to be sparing with content, but to figure out ways to be both innovative and consistent. Businesses that do this “develop muscle memory.”
  • Ability to multitask. It’s more than just about building a persona or brand. It’s about thinking how each post ties into sales, and making it easy for your fans to get in on what they’re seeing.  One Australian personal trainer, for instance, has an account of workout videos and leveraged her following into a $20 million fitness business. While following her fitness journey and routines, fans were also being exposed to her product line, which they snapped up. 

About the author

Cale is a Brooklyn-based reporter. He writes about business, technology, leadership, and anything else that piques his interest.