I was at a restaurant for breakfast recently and a friend of mine was trying to decide if she wanted to get the pancakes or the poached eggs. To help her decide, she did something that I never would have even thought of. She took out her phone, opened Instagram and looked at all the posts that the restaurant had been tagged in by customers. Sure enough, in the digital age we live in, there were hundreds of pictures of just about everything on the menu. (She went with the pancakes in case you’re wondering.)
This got me thinking about how powerful of a marketing tool Instagram really is. I decided to find out how other people are using Instagram for business in ways that I hadn’t ever thought of, so I asked professionals from a range of different industries to share their strategies for using Instagram for business. They gave some really great advice and practical ways that you can optimize your Instagram strategy. I took a look at all the different elements of Instagram as well as compiled some general strategic advice for businesses wondering how to use Instagram for business. But before we get into it, let’s take a look at the features that make up Instagram.
The Anatomy of Instagram
Each functionality that makes up Instagram can be optimized to greatly improve your marketing efforts, and when all of those optimizations are combined you’ll have a really powerful strategy for using Instagram for business. Let’s start from the top and work our way down.
How To Optimize Each Instagram Feature
Let’s start with the story feature. This feature was only introduced in August 2016, but since then it’s been really useful for marketers. Since Instagram stories appear at the very top of the screen on the main Instagram feed followers are very likely to see and engage with your story. It has the functionality to add emojis, locations, drawings and more but the challenge is knowing as a business how to use this feature for marketing. Tyler Sprunk, CMO of Simplestrat, told us how he utilizes Instagram stories for marketing.
Tease your recent posts in your Story. Since Stories show up at the top of the Instagram feed, people are more likely to see what you post there. One great way to do this is to screenshot your most recent post, upload it to your story, then use the draw tool to scribble over part of the photo. This tactic plus some text can make your audience curious and drive them to your profile page. – Tyler Sprunk CMO at Simplestrat
Presuming your story is successful in driving viewers to your profile, the next thing you want to make sure you’ve optimized is your profile picture. You want to make sure that it’s representative of your business and the graphics are of a high quality. Instagram is a platform that is based on images- so good graphics are a must. Lauren Mallet, Head of Social at FireCask, details how you can make high-quality images without a big budget.
For smaller businesses who don’t have huge amounts of budget to dedicate to designers, Canva is a game changer. It’s a simplified graphic designs tool that you use in your browser, with predefined image sizes, fonts, and layouts. Anyone can create professional looking graphics for Instagram without any design qualifications, but a good eye helps! – Lauren Mallet, Head of Social @ FireCask
While Instagram is all about images, it’s a definite mistake to forget your bio. It can give you credibility and is an amazing opportunity to showcase your brand name. Your bio is also the only place where you can link back to your main website since Instagram doesn’t allow links in individual posts at present. This makes it the star of the show when using Instagram for Business. Since this really is our area of expertise I’m going to throw my own two cents in on this one.
Rather than just simply linking your home page in your Instagram Bio you should link to your latest promotions or blog posts depending on your business. Put a branded link in your bio and you can change the destination of this link from your Rebrandly dashboard without having to edit your Instagram Bio every day. This way you can track the number of link clicks your Instagram bio link gets, showcase your brand name on your links and carry out advanced marketing techniques like dropping a retargeting pixel on your visitors browser.
Nothing guarantees that you’re going to start losing followers more than posting boring stock images that everyone’s seen before. You need to remember why they’re following you in the first place and keep the quality of your content high. We’ve already discussed some ways you can create beautiful graphics, but Ksenia Newton, Digital Marketing Manager at Crosscap, has explained how you can get inventive with your images.
Break your image into six squares and make it a huge Instagram poster but don’t forget to say in the caption: “Click on the profile to see the whole image.” I personally use the 9square app for Android, but I’m sure there are plenty of other free apps out there. Images that cover more Instagram real estate, have more impact on the user, plus you can better depict the details of your product for example.- Ksenia Newton @ Crosscap
Here’s an example of one I made using an iPhone app called Pic Splitter. You simply upload an image and are given your choice of 4, 6 or 9 images to upload in order that will appear like this on your Instagram page. When someone comes across one of the pieces on their timeline they’ll be directed to your Instagram page to view the full image.
How often you should be posting is a common topic of debate across all social media platforms. CoSchedule compiled research from 13 studies on the optimum frequency of posting on social media and found that 1-2 times a day was the preferred posting frequency for Instagram with 3 posts a day being quite high. They also revealed that one post at 8:00 am – 9:00 am and another at 2:00 am were the optimum posting times. Elena Collins Director at Warschawski let us know more about how you can use your timing effectively by creating a content buckets as part of a content strategy
Have a content strategy – consistency, both from a frequency of posting and brand standpoint, is key on social media. That’s why creating an overarching content strategy that outlines at least 4-5 “content buckets” is very helpful in not only planning ahead, but ensuring your posts are reinforcing your brand values, key messages and points, and meeting your business goals. If you’re a software company, for example, your content buckets could be 1) Culture/team photos 2) Clients engaging with product and showing positive impact 3) How your software is made 4) Educational info that explains the problems your software solves. – Eleana Collins, Director @ Warschawski
By following Eleana’s advice of creating an effective content plan alongside Coschedule’s research for timing and frequency you can easily optimize your posting plan.
Direct messages seem to be the most forgotten feature of Instagram that has huge potential. They can be helpful for building relationships and generating leads. Caitlin Thayer, Project Manager and Social Media Strategist at UCSA International gave us her thoughts on what’s worked for her when using the DM function of Instagram.
DMs are a great way to connect through Instagram, but not with an auto-DM. While auto-DMs are an easy way to “connect” with someone, it’s a big turn off for a lot of users. They see it as spam. No one said social media wasn’t going to take time, so actually take the time to write a personal, thoughtful note to someone if you want to connect with them 1-on-1 here.- Caitlin Thayer, Project Manager @ UCSA International
Tags & Hashtags
If you research how to use Instagram for Marketing, tags and hashtags are the elements that are most comprehensively explained. It’s obvious that you want to use relevant but popular hashtags to try to reach your target audience. However, Suzan French Gennace, President, PR & Social Media Strategist at FlackShack shared her tips for how to take hashtags even further when using Instagram for business.
Tag other users whenever you can, but also hashtag them. For example, a boutique owner selling an exact replica of a dress Beyonce wore in a video should @Beyonce (you never know, she MIGHT see it and respond-depending on how good the accompanying caption is) but because you want Beyonce’s followers to see the post as well, include #Beyonce, as well as other relevant hashtags and those which her fans use most often.
Don’t be shy about using hashtags, but list the bulk of them as a comment, not in the initial caption. They will still be seen/searchable, the caption won’t be drowned out by the hashtag and your post won’t look like spam. Research potential followers. Using the same example, there are likely dozens of women who love to dress like Bey and would be interested in your post about the availability of an affordable, knock-off dress. Find those potential customers by searching related hashtags. #Beyoncesdress reveals 23 public posts (23 potential new followers/customers), #dresslikebeyonce has 22 more, and so on. Follow these users, comment on their posts (don’t be too salesy in your comments), send a message and you may very well earn yourself some new business! Suzan French Gennace, President, PR & Social Media Strategist @ FlackShack
By targeting relevant and popular hashtags and following Suzan’s advice for tags and hashtags you’ll be knocking it out of the park in no time.
5 Habits to Build When Using Instagram For Business
Now that we’ve broken it down feature by feature, let’s take a look at some habits that the experts recommend you adopt as part of your Instagram strategy:
- Choose A Colour Theme: “Instagram is a visual platform and users want to see aesthetically pleasing content. Choosing a theme and color palette for Instagram and sticking with it creates a brand identity and makes it more attractive to users.”- Anna Segova, Communications Manager @ 2hats
- Research Your Hashtags Thoroughly: “Hashtags are how you get seen on the platform and by using the correct ones, you can drive much more traffic to your page. It’s all about choosing hashtags that are the correct size (for example, #cute has 337 million posts in it- you’d have to be a Kardashian to rank there) and using hashtags that match your content. If you’re a food brand and you’re using the hashtag #fitness, that doesn’t work because all of the popular photos in that tag are of people flexing muscles. So your food photos won’t rank there either! When looking at hashtags, check to see if your content matches AND it’s small enough for you to rank (get in the top 9) in. This is precisely what I did to get my account from 5k to 10k.” – Talia Koren, Instagram Growth Specialist at TaliaKoren.com
- Repurpose Your Instagram Content: “One way we work to increase awareness for an Instagram page is to embed posts into our client’s blog content as either a replacement or in addition to static images. It’s a great way to increase engagement on posts and repurpose your social content.” – Brian Jensen CEO of Congruent Digital.
- Make Sure it’s a Business Account: “If your small business has not created a business account, you’re missing out on limitless exposure and powerful customer relationships. By letting your customers tag your business in their post, it can direct their followers and network to your business and give them more information. This can even increase the traffic to your website, and all of this will help boost the number of customers your business will have. Additionally, set up the “contact” settings so that customers can email or call your small business directly, either with questions or partnership inquiries.” – David Mitroff, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting.
- Use People In Your Images: “One tip I have for businesses that sell products is to use people in their images. I found that people are much more engaged in our posts when the picture is of a person is when the picture only shows a product. Showing people in posts can help your brand convey emotions and connect with your followers on a deeper level.”- Chandler Sterling, Founder @ California Beard Company.
- Re-post a Story: “So that you don’t have to continually dream up content, you can re-post a story when you’re tagged. When you come across a stellar post that you want to share with your community, you simply click on the little airplane next to the comment bubble. A list will appear with other people you could send it to, or, just click “Add post to your story.” Voila, you’ll find yourself in Instagram editing mode! Don’t forget to tag the original creator, add targeted hashtags, stickers, gifs and maybe even add a poll to maximize engagement.” – Karina May, CMO @Plann
We got some advice from people in different industries from all over the world. By taking the tips that are applicable to you and combining them with what you’re already doing you should be able to significantly increase the benefit that your company gets from using Instagram for business. I know there are a lot more ways that people can improve their Instagram strategy so let us know in the comments section what’s worked for you and how you use Instagram for business so we can spread the knowledge and help everyone create a killer Instagram profile.
- Instagram Bio Ideas for your Business
- Linking on Instagram: How to Link in Instagram Stories
- 12 Expert Tips to Bring Instagram Traffic to Your Website
This Article is About:
- Using Instagram for Business
- How to Use Instagram for Business
- How to Write a Good Instagram Bio
- Instagram for Business Best Practices
- How to Use Instagram for Marketing
Originally Posted: August 15th, 2017.
Post Updated: June 20th, 2019.