With more than a billion unique users active each month, Instagram is a wonderful platform to consider for advertising your brand or company. With more than 4.2 billion likes per day, Instagram is also known for its high engagement. Instagram seems to be an obvious choice in terms of a social media strategy nowadays, even if your business is not photo-oriented.
While social media may seem quite straightforward at first, there are a lot of techniques and rules to follow if you want to get the most out of your social media strategy.
Here is a list of what you need to know to get started using Instagram for your business:
- Switch to a business profile
- Optimize your profile
- Focus on content creation
- Don’t forget about video!
- But don’t neglect the caption!
- Use hashtags
- Create more proximity with Instagram Stories
- Engage with your audience and with other users
- Figure out what works and what doesn’t
Tip #1: Switch to a business profile
Switching to a business profile is an elementary step that allows you to access some stats about your posts and audience. These stats are a great starting point for you to understand who is already following you, at what time your audience is using the app, and how good your engagement is compared to your reach. Switching to a business account also allows your audience to connect with you more easily, via email or phone, which can be a fantastic feature, for example, if you’re running a restaurant: people can call you directly from Instagram to book a table.
The switch is very straightforward; all you need is a personal Instagram account (all Instagram accounts are personal by default). Then the process can be broken down in a couple of steps:
- Tap the profile icon to access your profile
- Tap the three lines on the top right of the screen
- Tap the Settings button at the bottom right of the screen
- Tap Switch to Business Profile, then Continue
- Here you can link your newly made Instagram Business profile to your Facebook Business page (which is something I would recommend if you would like to run ads from the Business Manager in the future).
- Add your contact information; this way, your followers will have more ways to connect with you, directly from your profile.
And you’re done!
Tip #2: Optimize your profile
Make sure that all information about your business is correct: from the email address to the phone numbers and the address (if you have a physical store or a physical location).
You should also make sure that both your Instagram name and your Instagram handle (the name after the ‘@‘) are aligned with your brand, and possibly consistent with your username on other social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Not only will that make your brand look more cohesive, but it will also impact your search-ability and your global social media SEO. Having the same handle on Instagram and every other social media platform will get rid of any possible confusion from your customers trying to figure out if they found the right account or not.
On your profile, you can add a link. That link (usually referred to as the ‘link in bio’) is your only clickable link on Instagram. You can put a direct link to your website, but you can also use it to give people access to a Facebook event, or a special sale that you are running, or your signup form for your mailing list… You can redirect to whatever site you want. Try to make sure that you update it regularly, the link in bio can be a major source of traffic to the content you want people to be redirected to.
Not sure where you should redirect your followers? If you can’t decide if you should give a link to your website, your YouTube channel or wherever, you can always use a tool like Shorby. This tool will create a landing page with all your links in the same place, which allows your followers to choose which one of your sites or socials they want to visit. While this solution looks ideal on paper, it does add an extra click between Instagram and your followers’ destination, which can lead to less traffic to your sites because some people will give up in the middle of the process.
In other words: make sure that your Instagram profile is consistent with your business and with your global social media presence. And don’t forget to take advantage of that link in your bio, while keeping in mind that you can redirect to more places than just your website or shop.
Tip #3: Focus on content creation
Instagram is a visual platform. Don’t forget that Instagram used to be a photo editing app. You need to make sure that the content that you are creating for Instagram is visually exciting and appealing.
You’ll often hear that a phone is a good enough camera for most uses. On Instagram, most brands and influencers either use expensive mirrorless cameras and DSLRs to create content, or they hire a professional photographer or videographer to create their content. If you want to fit in the Instagram aesthetic, you’ll need high-quality images.
If you have a talent for photography, a good enough camera, and some editing skills, you can consider creating the content yourself. However, if you don’t have the time and equipment, you should think about hiring a professional. Not only it will save you a ton of time trying to get decent results, but it will ensure that your content will be tasteful and high enough quality for better engagement.
For maximum results, try to create clean, distraction-free, and bright pictures. People browse Instagram on their phones. The images will never be seen on a theatre screen, so try to make your visuals as clean and easy to understand as possible. You may also want to prioritize pictures that have a portrait format (Instagram’s ratio for portrait images is 4:5). Portrait content takes up more space on your followers’ home page, which means that your content is more likely to be seen and engaged with.
Tip #4: Don’t forget about video!
You can upload videos as a post on Instagram, but keep in mind that Instagram is not like YouTube: you are limited to 60 seconds, and most people will watch it without sound. So make sure that your video content is straight to the point, and possibly understandable without sound. Otherwise, you should add subtitles!
You can read more about Instagram video length (2020 updated)
With a Pro Magisto subscription, you can access more than 3 million stock videos that you can freely use to create a professional looking video. You can also choose from elegant editing styles and add music to your content. The nice thing about this tool is that you can export that piece of content in several formats and aspect ratios. This means that, with a couple of clicks, you can have a professional looking Instagram video post, but also an Instagram Story video too! You should read our feed vs. story guide, full with tips and best practises
It is still unclear today whether or not videos are more effective than regular posts on Instagram. It might also depend on your niche. In any way, having diversity in your content is always appreciated, and it will prevent your followers from being bored.
Tip #5: Don’t neglect the caption!
Even if Instagram is a photo-driven platform, captions also play a massive role in your post’s engagement. You want to treat your Instagram as a lighter version of your blog where each of your posts is a short blog entry.
A good caption will make your followers spend more time on your post, which will send a signal to Instagram that your content is worth interest and engagement. That way, in the future, it is more likely that Instagram will prioritize your content over other users’.
A good caption needs to have three main qualities:
- It needs to be readable. So, use that space bar, use emojis, use that return button and create paragraphs. Try to make your caption as easy to read as possible.
- It needs to be authentic. Try telling a personal story. Try talking about feelings. Show empathy. Try to get out of that corporate, impersonal voice. Your audience is not going on Instagram to feel like they’re attending a powerpoint presentation.
- It needs to be engaging. Try asking about your followers’ opinion. Try making them react in any way. Try to make them feel involved in your content. You should not expect people to spontaneously comment on your posts if you are not inviting them to.
Having a good, longer caption is critical if you want your audience to engage with you profoundly. And remember, the more they engage, the more engagement and visibility you will get!
Here is an example by @virtuallysavvy_ Facebook and Instagram ads strategist who was featured on our Killer Tips For Your Next FB Ad Campaign From 10 Industry Experts article
Tip #6: Use hashtags
Hashtags are keywords that make your content searchable. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post. I recommend that you use them all. At the end of every post, after your amazingly written caption, create a clean partition using hyphens or any other symbol, and start entering hashtags in your caption.
You can start by creating a hashtag for your brand and encourage your followers to use it. This way, all content related to your brand will be searchable, which can make your life easier if reposting user-generated content is part of your Instagram strategy.
Next, you should use all hashtags that are relevant to your niche. Try to be as specific as possible and don’t bother putting in overused hashtags. Finding hashtags that have between 50,000 and 1 million publications in them is ideal. That way your content will be searchable without being instantly lost in the amount of new content posted on these highly popular hashtags.
Only use hashtags that are relevant to your brand, your business, your niche, and your picture. Don’t throw in hashtags that are popular but are not related to what you do. It will not affect your engagement as the people finding your content will be unlikely to engage with it.
Finally, don’t use hashtags like follow4follow or f4f or like4like. These will only attract lurkers and unqualified followers. By doing so, you’re not building an authentic community, but instead, you’ll come off as an amateur, and you’ll be losing some of those 30 precious hashtags!
Don’t forget to tag the location where the picture was taken. Try to be as specific as possible. The more specific you are, the more likely you’ll be found. If you use the city as a location, your content is very likely to get instantly lost in the amount of content that will be posted.
Tip #7: Create more proximity with Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are a nice and easy way to create content ‘on the go’. They allow you to document your journey with your business such as a quick behind the scenes shoot. They will create more proximity between your audience and your business.
If you don’t have time to edit these stories with all the stickers and built-in tools, but you still want to document your day because you are, for example, at a special event, start an Instagram Live. People can interact directly with you using the chat. It’s an excellent and even quicker way to create content that feels exclusive, and that doesn’t require any time investment or any editing. At the end of a Live, you have the option to repost the Live as an Instagram story, which can be an excellent way to put more content out there.
If you have more than 10,000 subscribers, you can add a link to your Instagram stories. If a link is added to a story, your subscribers will need to swipe up to access your link. This feature can be used for special offers, for example. You can use Instagram Stories to promote an exclusive and limited discount that will be only available for followers swiping up!
Stories are amazing tools, and they keep being updated by Instagram with new edits: you can now take polls to ask for your followers’ opinion, or you can set up a quiz, and I am sure a lot more is yet to come!
Read more on Instagram stories creative ideas here
Tip #8: Engage with your audience and with other users
Instagram is a social media site. Don’t forget to be social. Interact with your followers, reply to every comment, and to every direct message that you are getting. It’s not a long process, it requires low to no effort, but it will make a difference for your followers.
You should also engage with users that are not following you yet. Using hashtags and locations, try to find people that are within your niche. Start commenting on their content, try engaging in a conversation with them. It’s very likely that, by commenting on their content, they’ll visit your profile and end up following you!
Engaging with others is a hugely underestimated tool to increase your followers; it is also an underrated way to show who you are as a brand and as a person. Replying to comments and engaging conversations can genuinely help your business and prove authenticity. It’s always nice to discover that there’s a human behind an Instagram business page.
Tip #9: Figure out what works and what doesn’t
After a couple of weeks, step back a little and look at how your different posts performed. You may notice that some of your content performed better than the rest. If that is the case, it might be an excellent idea to prioritize that same kind of content and give up on what’s less efficient.
There are no set rules for Instagram. No type of content performs better than another. It depends on every account and every audience. Memes may work for a specific business, but they may offend people in a different niche. Videos can be insanely popular on a certain account but they can be perceived as boring on a different one.
Each Instagram and each audience is unique, and it is your job to figure out how to utilize Instagram for your business.
It’s all about starting and trying
These 8 tips are a good starting point if you are still figuring out how to use Instagram for your business.
Again, there is no perfect method, every account is different, every audience is different and every audience doesn’t react the same way to different kinds of content.
Instagram is all about trial and error. The hardest part is understanding what works well, and what does not. Once you have that figured out, you can ditch what doesn’t work and focus and what actually drives results.