How to use Instagram for your business

instagram posts

About 90% of the over 1 billion Instagram users follow at least one business. Because of this, using Instagram to market your business should be a top priority.

The Instagram app has morphed from a photo-sharing social media platform to an important part of many big and small businesses in the past 10 years.

Instagram has made several changes which make it using Instagram more friendly for brands in almost every industry.

Those who use Instagram marketing have several tools at their disposal to reach their audience and grow their following.

From live broadcasts to fundraisers, open shops to reservation booking, Instagram is an essential part of every day business.

Using Instagram can be a lot to handle though, especially if you have multiple things on your plate.

That’s why we’ve put most everything you need to know on how to use Instagram for business. From how to create an Instagram account, to how to keep it going, together in one article. You lucky duck.

Let’s get started!

6 Steps to Use Instagram for Business

Set up an Instagram for business account

You can either create an Instagram profile, or switch an existing Instagram personal account to an Instagram business profile.

We’ll walk you through both scenarios.

How to set up a new Instagram business account:

  1. Download the Instagram app for Android, iOS, or Windows.
  2. Open Instagram and tap “Sign up”
  3. Enter your email address
  4. Fill in your desired username and password, as well as your business profile info. If you decided to use Facebook to log in, you may be asked to sign into your Facebook account.
  5. Tap “Next”

**Note: If you are planning on giving access to this Instagram business account to multiple people, make sure you are using a general admin email address to sign up. Or you can select “Log in with Facebook” to use your business’ Facebook profile.

That’s it! You now have a personal Instagram account. Next we’ll go over how to switch this account to an Instagram business account.

Switching a personal Instagram account to an Instagram for business account

  1. Go to your Instagram profile and tap the hamburger menu in the upper-right corner. (This is the menu with 3 stacked lines)
  2. Select “Settings”. Some Instagram accounts may see an option that says, “Switch to Professional Account”. If you do, select that option. If you don’t see the option “Switch to Professional Account”, you’ll go to the next step.
  3. Select “Account”.
  4. Select “Business” (another option is to choose Creator, which is more for public figures, artists, influencers, and content producers)
  5. If you are planning to sync your Instagram business profile and Facebook page, go through the steps to link your Facebook page.
  6. Select the category your business falls under, and add contact details such as your phone number, email address, etc.
  7. Hit “Done”.

2. Work on Your Instagram Strategy

Determine Your Target Audience

visit your profile

When you use Instagram for business, it’s good to know how to form your Instagram marketing strategy, and the most important thing to keep in mind when doing so, is your target audience.

For example, while Instagram is used by people of all ages, 25-34 year olds are the largest audience on Instagram when it comes to ads.

When creating your Instagram marketing strategy, pay attention to key details about your audience to help you reach more people like them.

You can also identify niches on Instagram that your business can fit into.

If you are a small business just starting out on Instagram, and looking to identify who your target audience is, consider asking yourself these questions:

  • Who buys from you?
  • When looking at the analytics info on other social media platforms, what can you learn about them? This can include ages, locations, ect.
  • Take a look at your competitors, and see how your audiences differ.

When you know your audience, you can learn how to use Instagram and how to create content that grabs their attention when they see it in their Instagram feed.

Take a look at your customers and see what kind of things they are posting about.

What kind of Instagram posts are they engaging with?

This will give you a lot of insight as to how to reach them and increase brand awareness.

Goals and Objectives

Your Instagram marketing strategy should be focused around what you are hoping to achieve on the platform.

What are your business objectives?

How can Instagram marketing help you accomplish these objectives?

When thinking of your goals, it’s a good idea to use the SMART framework. You’ll want to make sure your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant 
  • Timely

app best practices

Tracking Performance Metrics

When you have clearly defined goals in your Instagram marketing strategy, you can easily identify the right social media metrics for you to monitor for your business.

These will be different for each business, but the key takeaway is to focus on the metrics that are related to the social funnel.

You’ll want to make sure your goals are aligned with one of these four stages in the customer journey:

Brand Awareness: This includes metrics such as post impressions, the amount of accounts reached, and growth rate.

Engagement: This includes metrics such as engagement rate(likes and comments) and amplification rate (shares)

Conversion: Conversion rates include metrics like click-through rates, and bounce rates. This also includes CPM and CPC if you are using ads.

Customer: Customer metrics are based on the actions the customers take. This includes repeat customer rates, retention, etc.

Schedule a Content Calendar

Instagram content

Once you have your goals and audience defined, you can begin working on your Instagram posts.

Take your time to create a well thought out posts on a social media calendar so you don’t miss important dates, and will also allow you to make sure you have enough time to be creative.

A good place to start is to take a look to see if there are any important upcoming events.

This includes things like major holidays, or important times of the year such as back to school season, tax season, Black History Month, or secondary holidays such as International Cat Day.

You can also take a look at your previous sales data to help you determine when your customers start planning for certain occasions.

Another great method when it comes to creating content on the Instagram platform is to look for ways you can develop themes or create Instagram posts around a center topic that you can develop into a series.

If you plan properly ahead of time, you’ll be able to post content regularly, while also adding in any last minute posts, such as flash sales, etc.

When setting up your Instagram calendar, it’s also important to post on days and times when your followers are most active.

This is the best way to improve your reach, and ensure engagement is organic.

This is because the algorithms for the Instagram feed rank posts by recency.

When you have an Instagram business account, you’ll be able to see the days and times that your audience is most active.

  1. Go to your profile. Tap the hamburger menu, and select “Insights”
  2. Select “Audience”
  3. Scroll down to the bottom to see “Most Active Times”
  4. You can switch between hours and days, to see what information stands out.

download the instagram app

3. Optimizing Your Instagram Profile for Business

Your Instagram business profile lets other users know about your brand and how to interact with you. You can add options for users to visit your website, book an appointment, shop, etc.

phone number

Construct a good bio

When writing your bio for your business’ Instagram, it’s important to keep in mind that the users who are reading it are already curious about your brand.

Pull them in with a well constructed and well written bio, showing them why they should become followers of your brand.

Your Instagram bio can be up to 150 characters in length. Use this space to briefly describe your brand, and set the tone by showing your brand voice.

Here are some tips to creating a stellar bio:

  • Get to the point. Make it short and sweet.
  • Include emoji. A picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes the proper emoji can convey an idea or add context without you spelling it out.
  • Use line breaks. Line breaks can be useful to organize a bio that may include different kinds of information.
  • Add a CTA. You can use this space to create a call to action. Want people to visit your website? Let them know why they should. Maybe give them a discount code for their first order!

Get your profile photo right

When creating your Instagram account for your business, it’s a good idea to use the same photo that your other social media accounts use. Most businesses use their logo as their profile picture.

Keep in mind that your profile photo is stored at 320 x 320 pixels, but displays as 110 x 110 pixels. And with other profiles, your photo will be framed by a circle, so you’ll want to account for that.

You get one link in bio

If your Instagram account has less than 10,000 followers, a link in bio will be the only spot where you can post a clickable link. Make sure to take advantage of it!

You can have it link to your website, a current campaign, your latest blog post, or a special Instagram landing page.

Include relevant contact information

contact information

It’s important for your Instagram business profile to include information on how users can contact you directly. Include an email address, phone number, or a physical address.

When you add contact information to your Instagram business profile, Instagram creates buttons for this info (Call, Text, Email, ect) to your Instagram profile.

Create action buttons

instagram offers

Instagram also creates buttons for Instagram business accounts to allow customers to book appointments. To take advantage of this feature, you will need an account with one of Instagram’s partners.

While on your Instagram business profile page, select “Edit Profile” then select “Action Buttons”.

Story Highlights and Highlight Covers

You can organize Stories into collections on your Instagram page called Story Highlights.

For example, let’s say you run a business that sells products, you can create a Story Highlights section on your Instagram profile that focuses on hair tutorials.

After compiling your like-stories into one Story Highlights, add a bit of spice by adding a Highlight cover.

4. Create Quality Content

color palette

What is your aesthetic?

Instagram is a platform that focuses on visual content. So it’s important to be recognizable to your potential and current customers.

It’s a great idea to try to establish recurring themes that you can alternate.

Some of the themes will be rather obvious such as a clothing line showcasing seasonal selections, etc. If your business is more service based, you can showcase things like customer stories, or go behind the scenes to give your followers an insight into what it’s like to work at your company, and let them see the faces behind the operations.

If you’re looking to get inspired, take a look at what other businesses are doing on Instagram. Even those that are not a part of your industry.

After you’ve made a plan and decided on your themes, you’ll consider what your look should be.

You’ll want to remain consistent with your overall aesthetic, choosing a color palette that is consistent throughout your posts, and perhaps a filter that you use for every photo, that lends a certain feel to your photos, making them recognizable as “yours”.

Take Stellar Photos

THE MOST IMPORTANT thing needed for a business on Instagram to succeed is to have good photos and videos.

Hiring a professional photographer is always a great idea, but it’s not necessary if you follow a few rules.

behind the scenes

 

Mobile phones have come a long way in recent years when it comes to taking great photos. And as a bonus, you can post straight from your device!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when taking photos:

  1. Natural light is best. The flash is not your friend. I can’t think of a single great photo that was taken using a flash. Odd shadows, unwanted shine, unnatural eye color. It’s just a no. The same is true when it comes to product shots. Natural light is always best. Colors are richer, shadows are softer, and the photos are just plain better. 
  2. No harsh light. Even without a flash, there are times when natural light is a bit too harsh. Late afternoon and early evening are the best times to take great photos. The golden hour is real folks. Cloudy days are also great for mid-day shots. Try out different locations and lighting, have fun with it. You may surprise yourself!
  3. Rule of thirds. Your camera on your phone has a built in grid to help you line up your subject. Perfect center is not always best! Most often, interesting photos are taken when your subject is centered where grid lines meet, and off-center, while still balanced.
  4. Experiment with angles. Practice your yoga skills or stationary parkour skills to try out different angles! An interesting angle can make all the difference.
  5. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple! Your image should be easy to take in at a glance. You don’t need a lot of substance for great photography.
  6. Have some contrast. Having a simple background is a great way to automatically provide contrast in most cases. This allows for a cleaner shot that focuses on your subject.

Check out our article that dives deeper into these tips and tricks to show you how to take great photos for Instagram.

If all of this seems daunting, or you don’t have the time, you can always support your local photographer!

Tools of the trade

photo post

Even if you take great photos, you’ll still need to edit them.

By editing your photos you ensure that your aesthetic is maintained. You can also add frames, logos, or even create graphics and other original content.

When it comes to editing your photos, Instagram has some great built-in tools.

If you’re looking for something different though, there are tons of editing apps out there for your mobile phone, many of these are free, or low cost.

Captions on point

brand hashtags

While the main focus of an Instagram post is photography, captions are important as well.

Instagram captions can add something special to your posts by telling a story that makes the photo meaningful.

Good copy can move your audience. It can build empathy, trust, and a sense of community. It can also be a great way for everyone to laugh together!

It’s also important to develop a clear brand voice so you are able to stay consistent.

Is there a style that your brand follows? Certain emojis that appear in a lot of your captions? What hashtags do you use?

Having a clear set of guidelines will help you to keep your captions on brand.

Instagram Stories is best used for casual content

mobile app

Instagram Stories boasts over 500 million viewers every day.

To put that in perspective, Twitter averages about 192 million users each day. This means Instagram Stories, a feature on one platform, has over 2.5 times the audience that Twitter, an entire platform, does.

That’s pretty impressive if you ask us.

Users really like the casual aspect of Instagram Stories, where content disappears after 24 hours.

A survey performed in 2018 by Facebook found that 58% of users became interested in a brand or product after seeing it in an Instagram Story.

Given the name, you can of course count on this feature to be a great tool for storytelling.

Use Instagram Stories to tell authentic brand stories.

Engage your audience with stickers that allow Instagram users to interact with your brand and tell you what they like to see.

This will provide more value to your Instagram Stories and followers will be excited to see your Stories in the future.

Also, if you have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, your Instagram Stories can include links!

Experiment with formats

When Instagram first started, it was a simple photo-sharing app.

The platform has since expanded to include features such as live broadcasts, reels, and Stories as we mentioned earlier.

Here are a few formats that are popular on the app that we think you should try.

  • Instagram Live: Broadcast live to your followers! You can broadcast with others as well. Up to 4 users can share a live broadcast.
  • IGTV: This feature is a long-form video format, great for recurring series.
  • Instagram Reels: Similar to TikTok, this is for short videos, and has a separate tab on your profile.
  • Instagram Carousels: This feature allows you to include up to 10 photos in a post. These are great for engagement.
  • Instagram Guides: This is a great way for brands to show company news, products, and how-to’s.

Work on Inclusivity

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When you make your content inclusive, more people can imagine themselves using your product or service. If people don’t feel represented, you’re most likely going to miss out on their business. Celebrate everyone, but PLEASE avoid stereotypes. You want your business to feel naturally accessible to everyone.

Consistency is key

If you want to fully take advantage of an Instagram account for your business, you need to show you are serious by posting frequently. No matter how good your content is, if you only post every once in a while, your audience will forget about you. Not something you want when running a business. You want your followers to check in with you on a regular basis.

Of course, you can’t be expected to run an Instagram account for your business a few hours a day. You want to make sure you are taking time to take care of the myriad of other things your business needs, as well as taking time for yourself! That’s why scheduling your post in advance is always a good move. You’ll ensure you are posting consistently, and it will give you time to make sure your content is always on point, not rushed.

5. Grow and engage your audience

small businesses

Respond to engagement

By responding to comments as well as tagged posts and Stories on Instagram, users will be more likely to continue to interact and tag you in their own content.

You can even share the posts and Stories you are tagged in to your own Stories as a quick and easy way to generate content. It’s a great way to scratch each other’s backs.

Whatever you do, don’t automate your engagement. You want your responses to be genuine. Dedicate some time each day to go through and interact with the community.

When assigning this role to someone else, make sure there are clear guidelines for them to follow for how to answer questions, handle trolls, and also take into account their mental health. Social media can be a brutal place. You don’t want someone to suffer for the sake of your business. Having all of this set in place will help not only the person assuming this role, but the community as a whole.

Get your hashtags right

popular hashtags

Hashtags will expand the reach of your Instagram, making it easier to find.

User’s aren’t able to search captions, but they can search hashtags. When a user clicks on, or searches for a hashtag, they will see content associated with that hashtag. It’s a great way to expand your reach.

Another great option is to create your own branded hashtags. You and your followers can use hashtags unique to your business to share photos and videos that fit into your brand. It’s an invaluable source for user-generated content, and a wonderful way to support community engagement.

Promote your Instagram business account on other platforms

facebook platform

If you are already established on other social media platforms, let them know about your Instagram business account.

Let them know what kind of content you’ll share to your Instagram, and why they should follow you!

If you have a blog for your business, it’s a great opportunity to embed Instagram posts directly into your articles so you can showcase your amazing content. You can also include your Instagram handle in your email signature, newsletters, business cards, event signage, really anything that other people will see.

Instagram influencer collaborations

photo sharing

Working with an influencer can be a fantastic way to increase your own audience, attracting users who are both engaged and loyal followers.

When choosing who to work with, you’ll want to seek out influencers who create content that garners interest from those in your target audience. If you already have someone or a list of someones in mind, reach out! Even if you don’t get to work with all of them, you will find someone who is willing to work with your brand.

It’s also important when working with influencers to make sure your interaction with them is as genuine as possible. While it may at heart be a business transaction, don’t treat it that way. Build a relationship with the influencers you work with. It will make working with them in the future more likely, and more enjoyable.

Even if you are a small brand with a limited budget, you can use influencer Instagram marketing by working with micro-influencers. These are people with small, but dedicated followers.

While they may have a smaller audience than the most famous influencers, they can still hold a lot of sway in their communities. Big brands like to work with small influencers as well.

For more info on working with influencers, check out: How Small Businesses Can Work With Influencers

Use Instagram ads

Organic reach on Instagram has been declining for quite some time. The best way to ensure you are being seen by users who will be interested in your products or services is by investing in Instagram ads.

Instagram ads not only extend your reach, but include call-to-action buttons that allow your target audience to take action right away. This makes it much easier to improve your conversions, because it’s convenient for the user.

Get all the information you need on how to run a successful Instagram ad campaign.

Instagram-specific campaigns

Instagram campaigns will help you meet specific goals.

While it’s true that campaigns often involve ads, they are not just about paid content. You can run campaigns that focus on specific goals for a set period of time, for both organic and paid posts.

Here are some ideas when it comes to creating Instagram campaigns. You can:

  • Increase your visibility on Instagram
  • Increase engagement by using an Instagram contest
  • Promote a sale by using shoppable Instagram posts
  • Collect user-generated content by using a branded hashtag

Track your success and adjust as needed

brand color palette

Use analytics tools to track your results

When you are using Instagram as a business tool, it’s important that you track your progress on the goals you set out to achieve.

With your Instagram business profile, you have access to Instagram’s built-in analytics tool. Keep in mind that this will only track your data for the last 30 days.

There are other analytics tools available that will track longer timeframes and make it easier to compare your success on Instagram vs other platforms.

A/B testing

facebook app users

Test different types of content to see how they perform. This is a great way to improve your Instagram marketing results long-term. As you look into what works best for your specific goals and your audience, you’ll be able to experiment with different elements of your posts and refine your strategy.

So how do you run an A/B test on Instagram?

  1. Decide what element you wish to test (image, hashtag, caption, etc.)
  2. Create two versions of the element. So, let’s say you are making a post, and want to test hashtags, you’ll create both posts the exact same EXCEPT for the hashtags.
  3. Track and analyze the results of each post.
  4. Select the winner.
  5. Test again with another small variation to see if you can improve your previous results.
  6. Share your results and what you have learned throughout the process so you can build a library of best practices for others who may be running Instagram in the future.
  7. Repetition for emphasis.

Experiment with other tools and tactics

Don’t let this method of Instagram marketing be the end all be all. Social media has always involved experimenting and learning as you go. It’s important to keep an open mind and don’t pass up opportunities to grow and learn new formats of Instagram’s ever changing platform.

If you feel like something you’re doing is working, or something you want to do SHOULD work, it’s a good idea to do some research and analyze data so you can understand why.

As always, we are here to help guide you to learn how to make the most out of Instagram marketing or marketing on another social media platform. Never hesitate to reach out to us!

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