How to Use Instagram for Business

When it comes to social media, Instagram is one of the big three. Facebook and Twitter each have their own unique capabilities of influence, but the driving force behind Instagram is the use of pictures and storytelling.

With visual posts producing 650% higher engagement than text-only posts, it’s no wonder why digital marketers are flocking to this in-demand channel to engage their audience and keep them coming back for more. Below, we’ll share why taking advantage of Instagram for business is such an important strategy and exactly what you need to know about this platform to succeed.

What Every Picture Is Worth

When every picture is worth the proverbial thousand words, it’s the stories that are being told through imagery that make Instagram important for business. By telling your story you can begin to create an impassioned connection with your target audience. The easiest way to do this, especially on Instagram, is by posting engaging visual content. This can be done with a single post, a stack of images or videos collated into a post or through Instagram stories. What needs to be remembered is that rather than simply selling your product you’re looking to engage your audience with feelings and emotion.


Engagement with Branded Content

With almost a billion regular users who have a propensity to engage with branded content, when used properly, Instagram can be the most effective social media channel for becoming involved in your desired community. Find and follow those who are already talking about your product or services. Connect with them and make them feel rewarded for their loyalty. In the social media world that can be something as simple as a like, a share, a repost, or a positive comment.


Instagram Business Profiles

To be truly effective as a business on Instagram, it’s imperative to set up a business account. This will give you access to extra features that are unavailable to personal accounts. These features can help you understand who your content is reaching and the reaction it’s causing. Business profiles also open up a few more fields in the profile that allows potential customers to easily engage directly with you. If you’re already part of a large community or have amassed a healthy following on a personal account, you can easily convert it to a business account. Or you can just start a new business account from scratch. If you’re running into problems figuring out how to do this, use the Instagram help function.


Profile Optimization

Once you’ve set up your Instagram business account you need to optimize it. Instagram business profiles feature more actionable options than personal profiles, so an optimized business profile will take advantage of those options as often as possible. This begins with filling in all the fields of your profile page. Again, business accounts feature more areas and fields than personal accounts, so it’s important to take advantage of this extra real estate. Instagram profiles are quite brief. For example, your bio needs to be 150 characters or less. So, making the most of every available field is essential. If you’re running into space issues, emojis and branded hashtags can help cut down on excess verbiage. Also, make sure to utilize the website field as this is the only place you can add a clickable link. In order to make the most out of one URL, many brands will use LinkTree or an equivalent that will create a personalised and customizable page, that houses all the important links you want to share with your audience. You can also connect your brand’s Facebook and Instagram profiles together to allow for easy cross posting, scheduling and a centralized messaging centre.

Here is a well-optimized business profile from Constant Contact that is using a Link Tree to provide simple navigation for users.

optimize ig business profile

The Importance of Hashtags

Hashtags are an important tool for thematic discovery, relatedness and relevance. They are a shortcut that makes finding and accessing specific content easier. Hashtags can help boost current audience engagement while simultaneously providing exposure to new audiences. You can use hashtags to connect your brand to distinct themes, topics, conversations, issues or events and encourage engagement with users interested in those things. You can use hashtags in your profile bio, in the captions associated with photos, in stories and in comments. Used correctly they can generate more interest in your profile and brand by extending your reach.

Hashtag Research

What’s more important than actually using hashtags is using the right hashtags. You need to think about and identify the keywords and phrases that most relate to what your business is trying to accomplish. A good place to start is seeing what your audience is likely to follow and what your closest competitors use most effectively. Click through on various hashtags that might relate to your business, see how many posts they feature and determine whether the related images and tags are relevant to your situation.

There are a number of free hashtag research tools, such as MetaHashtags and Ingramer. In this example on Ingramer, a search for #DigitalMarketing generated a list of other relevant hashtags, sorted by popularity.

hashtag research

Popular vs Irrelevant

It’s important to keep in mind that just because a hashtag is super popular doesn’t mean it can be advantageous to use it. Using a popular hashtag that’s being posted thousands or more times a day means your submission will just get buried in the avalanche. To counteract this, you might want to combine a popular hashtag with one that’s more niche oriented. It’s also important to remember that being seen by a few relevant users is more important than being seen by a lot of irrelevant users. It is also important to know which hashtags are considered banned, as accidentally using one in your post will prevent it from reaching your audience.


Hashtag Tweaking

It’s also possible to follow hashtags. This can give you regular, real-time insight into how a specific hashtag is being used throughout the Instagram ecosystem. The Related hashtags feature can also acquaint you with other hashtags that might be relevant to your situation. It certainly doesn’t hurt to create your own branded hashtag that could eventually become an authoritative endorsement of you and your brand. Add it to your profile bio, use it in your posts and stories and follow it to see if and when other users pick up on it.

Creating Goal Driven Content + Publishing Schedule

Although an Instagram page should be part of your business action plan, unless your business IS Instagram, you don’t want to be spending all your time posting, liking and following. You can increase your efficiency by creating goal driven content and building a publishing schedule.

What Are You Trying to Accomplish?

Understanding what you’re trying to accomplish on Instagram is key to creating goal driven content. Whether you’re attempting to create brand awareness, sell your products or services or trying to publicize an event, the content you post should always be in service of that goal. Creating a narrative through the use of imagery should be used to try and attract your target audience. Whether you’re promoting adventure, inner peace or a yummy taste, the images, captions and hashtags you post should be related to those narratives. Ultimately, you want a quick glance of your Instagram page to provide an immediate understanding of what you’re all about.


Creating a Publishing Schedule

Creating a publishing schedule gives your audience continuity, keeps them engaged, takes the guesswork out of when to post and cuts down on the amount of time you need to spend on Instagram. The analytics tools provided by an Instagram business account can tell you when your audience is most engaged. Audience engagement times are often different for most every type of industry, so understanding the habits of your specific community will increase your ability to reach them. Due to Instagram’s algorithms, posting when your audience is most active will increase the chances they’ll be exposed to your content. Planning out your posting in advance will cut down on the amount of time needed to create images, write captions and research hashtags. Building and bundling a week or two of posts into a concentrated frame of time reduces the need to come up with ideas on the spot. There are many types of software available that make automating and scheduling your social media posts quite simple and offer detailed analytics. Some of the more popular ones offer basic free versions, including Hootsuite, Later and Buffer. Scheduling and cross posting to Instagram can also be done via the Facebook Business Suite, provided your profiles are connected. Taking advantage of these publishing automation tools can increase your efficiency and effectiveness.

Here is an example from Later, showing how posts can be dragged and dropped into a publishing calendar and feed previews can be generated for Instagram.

ig publishing schedule
bwp real estate costa instagram

Design Software

Instagram is about more than just snapping a picture and applying an available filter to it. Today, much of the content contains graphic design and many brands also develop custom presets to apply to their photos to create a consistent visual aesthetic. Traditional graphic design software such as Photoshop has a learning curve for many, however there are several other simple to use design software programs for Instagram that allow users to create stunning visuals. Some of the more popular ones include Canva, Adobe Spark and Desygner. Canva is especially popular and comes with preset sizes and templates to design feed posts, stories and highlights for Instagram.

instagram design software

Pre-made presets for photos are very affordable, and even without an Adobe subscription, Lightroom Mobile can be used free of charge to apply presets to your Instagram images.

Building a Community

Customer support and community building are important attractions for businesses on Instagram. Rather than advertisements that simply talk to customers, social media provides the opportunity to interact with customers. While a social media post creates a one-tomany interaction, Instagram’s Direct Messages (DMs) allow for one-to-one interactions. It’s these personalized interactions that can be used to supercharge the building of a community.

Engagement + DMs

DMs can help you to engage directly with your customers on a one-to-one basis. They allow you to prove that there’s actually people behind the business rather than just being another faceless corporation. DMs not only allow for text, but also allow the sending of videos, gifs, voice messages, location pin drops and more. Whether it’s help with customer service, responding to a comment or simply letting a user know that you appreciate their patronage, DMs personalize the customer/business relationship. There are also many tools that are part of the DM inbox that can help simplify customer interactions without undermining the appearance of personalization.


Using Stories

Instagram Stories is another facet of the app that’s become a widely used component and therefore an important part of most business Instagram marketing plans. Stories is a feature that causes posts of photos or videos to disappear after 24 hours – an obvious reaction to Snapchat’s business model. This function might seem pointless at first, but Stories offer a business another way to connect with users without having the material disrupt the profile page aesthetic or overwhelm their audience with newsfeed posts. And while there are no likes or comments attached to Stories, it’s possible to see who has actually watched them – something that doesn’t occur with regular newsfeed posts.


Stories Stickers and More

Stories also allows you to add stickers which can be used like emojis, provide a location, add a hashtag, start a poll, create a countdown and make it easier to buy products and services. There’s also the possibility of running paid ads in between individual user Stories. While most Stories will disappear after 24 hours, it’s possible to highlight Stories and have them reside on the profile page in perpetuity.

As you can see in this example, stories that you feel are special or have triggered a lot of engagement can be saved to highlight folders which are displayed near the top of your profile.

ig stories stickers

Consistent Visual Identity

Stories also allows you to add stickers which can be used like emojis, provide a location, add a hashtag, start a poll, create a countdown and make it easier to buy products and services. There’s also the possibility of running paid ads in between individual user Stories. While most Stories will disappear after 24 hours, it’s possible to highlight Stories and have them reside on the profile page in perpetuity.

As you can see in this example, stories that you feel are special or have triggered a lot of engagement can be saved to highlight folders which are displayed near the top of your profile.


Quick and Clear

Stories also allows you to add stickers which can be used like emojis, provide a location, add a hashtag, start a poll, create a countdown and make it easier to buy products and services. There’s also the possibility of running paid ads in between individual user Stories. While most Stories will disappear after 24 hours, it’s possible to highlight Stories and have them reside on the profile page in perpetuity.

As you can see in this example, stories that you feel are special or have triggered a lot of engagement can be saved to highlight folders which are displayed near the top of your profile.

Monitoring Instagram Insights

If you spend time curating an Instagram page, you’ll want to know that your time has been spent effectively. And no matter whether it’s been effective or not, you should always be trying to improve. This is where monitoring Instagram Insights comes into play. There’s a lot you can find out about your posts, your followers and the relationship between the two by monitoring your Instagram Insights information. Helpful insights include number of impressions, your weekly reach and how many visitors you received to your website from your Instagram profile.

monitoring ig insights

Some other helpful Insights to monitor are:

Content

The Content tab will give you more insight into what content is being engaged with and what isn’t as effective, which can help shape your future content marketing strategy. You can find out how many likes each post got, how many times they were viewed (Impressions,) the number of unique views a post gets (Reach) and how often your posts receive the interaction using likes and comments etc. (Engagement.) While you can find this information about both newsfeed posts and Stories, it’s important to remember that Stories data only lasts 14 days.


Activity

The Activity tab will let you know how many users looked at your profile page and clicked on your website link, email or phone number. You can see the dates and times these interactions occurred.

Instagram for eCommerce

Instagram is now also considered one of the best social sales tools and with their ‘Shops’ feature, businesses can take advantage of selling on the platform. By integrating product catalogs with Instagram profiles, brands can directly promote their products through feed posts, stories, the Explore tab and the profile page Shop tab.

Users can access the Shop icon from the Explore tab:

instagram for ecommerce

Product Tags

If your business is selling physical products on your Instagram profile and you have a Creator or Business account set up, you can add product tags to your photos to help expand your reach. To do so, upload a photo the same way that you normally would but then tap on the products shown in your photo that you want to tag and enter the product names. Many people tap on photos to reveal tags, and by adding product tags to your pictures you can increasing your visibility and reach a broader audience.

An Important Part of The Marketing Mix

No matter the size of your business or organization, ignoring the possibilities of Instagram can only be detrimental. The advantages of spending the time to create an engaging presence on the platform far outweigh the disadvantages of ignoring it outright. And while Instagram should only be a portion of any outreach program, any marketing plan that overlooks the opportunities Instagram provides is one that’s leaving money on the table.

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