Instagram is one of the best social media tools that benefit all types of business- big or small. The platform helps with gathering data from your photos, helps with buttons to sell products, and keeps rolling out other tools to help business owners succeed on the photo-sharing social media platform. So if you’ve ever wanted to join Instagram for business purposes, you can do so with the right marketing strategy to promote products and services, boost brand image, and increase sales on Instagram. Here is everything you need to know about how to use Instagram for business and marketing.
Table of Contents
How To Use Instagram for Business: 10 Steps For Success You Need To Tick Off
Step 1: Create a business Instagram account
- When you download the app to create an Instagram account, make sure to create a business profile. Business profiles immediately give you access to tools and features that help to create a business presence (and business ethics).
- In case you didn’t start out with a business profile, go to your profile and press the three bars in the upper right-hand corner. Then click on Settings, and select “switch to business profile” to convert your profile. Instagram also recommends business profiles on Instagram should be linked with your business’s Facebook page.
- After you’ve created your Instagram account, enter your details about your business, including your name, username, profile picture, website URL and a short biography. Be sure to add your contact information so your followers can connect with you (and ask you more details!)
Step 2: Learn the lingo on Instagram
Bio: This refers to the biography section in your business profile where people can see your short description – (tip: use your bio to include a call to action).
Direct messages (DMs): Now your followers and friends can privately communicate with you through direct messages. If a customer has a complaint or question, it’s best practice to chat with them via direct message to keep the conversation private rather than expose the issue on your business profile. For eg if someone comments something negative, address the issue in the comments especially if you need to apologize for the experience and you can also DM or Direct Message them if the issue needs to be taken further or if you want to offer them special discounts!
Filters: Use Instagram’s filters to your photos to enhance features and colors.
Follow: Every time you click on follow on Instagram, you’ll see the user’s content in your timeline. You can also view their Instagram Stories at the top of the application.
Followers: Your followers are people who search for your profile and see your pictures in their timelines.
Hashtag (#): Akin to Twitter, a hashtag on Instagram is used to index words or phrases. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see similar types of posts. For eg, type in #throwbackthursday to see old photos – you could add a photo of the day your company was born using this hashtag!
Highlights: A highlight reel of your Instagram Stories appears on your profile above your photo gallery and it’s cool because it stays until you choose to remove it.
Home: Going to the home button directs you to your home screen, which is also your timeline or feed where you can see photos from the people you follow.
IG: IG is the short form for Instagram.
Instagram handle: Your handle is your username. To mention a user on Instagram, you need to use their handle, which always starts with the @ symbol.
Instagram Stories: Stories is one of the most popular features on the platform. These pictures and videos disappear after 24 hours. Read more about Instagram Stories below.
Tag: There are a few ways to tag people on Instagram, including in a photo’s caption, in Instagram Stories and in photos. Use the @ symbol to tag someone in a caption or an Instagram story. You can tag someone in your photos before you post the picture.
Between posts, ads and stories, there is no shortage of potential marketing tools on Instagram. Now that you know how to build your profile and understand the common Instagram terminology, here’s how to use Instagram to build your business.
Step 3: Add professional-looking photos
Brands thrive on image and so your photos set a tone of how affluent or basic your business is. As it is a photo-sharing social media platform, it’s crucial to share visually pleasing content – whether you’re a big or small business (generic photos won’t cut it).
Learn or get a team to take photos, edit them, and take the time to make sure you’re creating a cohesive grid on Instagram with consistency.
Want to add your first photo? Click on the camera button at the bottom of your screen, and take a photo. On the next screen, there are multiple options to personalize your post (such as filter, tag other users, write a caption and add a location). In advanced settings, you can also turn off comments on this photo!
Step 4: Use Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories is one of the most popular features that make it easy to create engaging and creative stories. You can go wild as these photos and videos disappear 24 hours after they’re posted!
This is especially important for small businesses as they get to market their products and services, getting their messages to followers that otherwise might not see regular Instagram posts in their feed because of the latest updates to the algorithm,” said Laura Kenat, content coordinator at Jo Chicago.
Want some ideas on what to post?
- Post recorded videos,
- Still photos,
- Live videos,
- Boomerangs (videos that loop back and forth),
- Basic text, music and focused photos.
- Add stickers such as your location, the temperature, user tags and hashtags.
- Add stickers for polls, questions and sliding bars to interact with your users and get feedback.
- Some accounts use the questions feature to hold a weekly Ask Me Anything, which is a fun way to answer common questions.
Finally, if you loved a story click on Stories Highlights, this way the story will stay on your profile until you remove them.
Step 5: Stream live videos
Now that you’re making your presence felt on Instagram Stories, do a stream live video that disappears – sort of like a cross between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, (maybe the manufacturing set up) show products (especially on a model) or answer live questions (sitting in a car is ideal to block out excess noise) through the live comments.
Once the video is completed, it stays alive in your Instagram Stories for 24 hours. If you want a video to not expire so quickly on your Instagram feed, you can upload the video you’ve taken or shoot the video directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload the video, you can still add filters and change the cover.
Step 6: Interact with other Instagram users
You’ve done your Instagram stories and you’ve done your live, now it’s time to go one step further and engage and interact with your followers on Instagram. Here’s how:
Liking: When you like a photo, you connect with users (the more you do this, even one per day, the better). Double tap or click on the heart under the post!
Commenting: Next to the like button is a comment button – where you can see a text box to enter what you want to say. Once you type something, hit post!
Mentioning: Just like Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions. (people like to use this feature to tag/mention celebrities)
Tagging: Instagram lets you to tag before you post photos – just click within the photo where you’d like to add a tag.
Instagram will then prompt you to type in the person’s name to search for their account. Once you’ve tagged other users in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the people who are tagged. For eg, if you’re used a model to display your makeup, tag the said model, the hairstylist, etc so that they too can share it on their own profiles and spread the message.
Direct messaging: To access Instagram Direct, go to the homepage and tap the button in the top right corner. DMs are used to send private instant messages, photos and videos to other users. To send a new DM, tap the + button in the top right corner and select Send Photo or Video, or Send Message. Once you’ve sent the message, you and the recipients can message back and forth. Users who are not already following you will be asked whether they want to allow you to send them photos and videos before they can view your DM.
According to a January 2019 New York Times article: Facebook, which owns Instagram, plans to integrate Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct messages and WhatsApp to create one messaging platform. This is going to be created to connect with your followers on Facebook and Instagram through ONE application.
Step 7: Hashtags are important
Hashtags such as #nofilter (a photo that hasn’t been heavily edited with filters), #selfie (a picture of yourself), and #tbt or #throwbackthursday (old photos) are popular on Instagram. Now if you’re working in the beauty industry, this pertains to you. But if your business is about bitcoins, you need to use #bitcoins. Alternatively, look at other established brands or even personal users and bloggers in your industry for examples of what hashtags to use.
Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand.
Important things to know about hashtags:
- It helps users find content, find YOU on Instagram.
- They can include letters and numbers, but they can’t contain any non-numeric characters. For example, #AdamAndEveworks as a hashtag, but #Adam&Eve does not.
- Make sure you’re using the right hashtags for your brand – relevant hashtags can be a highly effective tool for getting noticed.
- Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but that many would be excessive.
- The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better.
- Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.
- It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business so that customers can follow along with an event, even if they aren’t there in person.
Step 8: Advertise on Instagram
On Instagram, businesses have the option to advertise using these three formats for advertising:
Photo ads: Photo ads look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. Photo ads also have a Learn More button in the bottom right corner under the photo.
Video ads: Like the photo ads, video ads look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.
Carousel ads: Carousel advertisements look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.
All three ad formats appear in users’ news feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-thrus to your website, mobile app installations and mass awareness.
Step 9: You’re here to sell, sell, sell
Just two years back, Instagram integrated a new payment feature for select users. Then nascent, It has now started to roll Checkout on Instagram out to all users. With the feature, users can buy things without leaving Instagram – an especially big impact for businesses.
There is a report that in the upcoming weeks, users can now see a blue Checkout button under images of products from an initial group of 20 brands. The first 20 brands are from companies that do fairly well in terms of sales including products from Burberry, Nike and Warby Parker. To purchase shoes and clothes from these brands, all that will be required to complete a transaction will be a name, email address, billing info and shipping addresses.
Facebook, who owns Instagram will then save that data for future transactions. This is so that you can have a quick checkout.
Users can make online purchases on Instagram via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. While this remains in closed beta, small businesses do not have the ability to sell via the platform. But, we anticipate that will change in the future.
So do small businesses just sit back and wait? Well, no upcoming businesses can take advantage of Shoppable Posts to sell products through Instagram. All you have to do is simply create a product catalog connected to your account. Then you tag the product, similar to how you tag a person in a post.
One caveat: In order to create a shoppable post you must have a business account and you must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies. You can create your catalog through Facebook, Shopify or BigCommerce.
Step 10. Other Instagram tips and tricks
To get the most out of your Instagram account, these final tricks can help you find more success:
Links don’t work in Instagram captions, so please stop.
The only place you can share a working link that takes users to a website is in your profile – specifically in your bio where you write the short description.
So if you truly want people to see your link, don’t make them copy paste an enormous sentence in your photo caption. Put it in your bio.
Make sure your posts relate to your brand.
When people watch you, they are here to see your brand not your eating habits, your pets or style. It’s tempting to post such personal things because that’s what Instagram is all about. However, if your business has nothing to do with those things, it could make you look disjointed and confuse your followers.
Do as many giveaways and promotions.
A sign of paying true attention to your loyal followers is to do a giveaway, sale or contest.
Post an image advertising your product and ask users to repost that image with a specific, custom hashtag to enter. You can then search that hashtag to see who has reposted it and pick a winner. Promotions like this allow your customers and followers to market your brand for you by talking about your promotion on their personal pages, and it drives more people to visit your profile. If you do decide to run a contest or sweepstakes, though, make sure you’re following rules and guidelines.
Respond to other users’ comments.
When people comment on your photos, reply to them to encourage brand appeal and a sense of community. If there’s one thing for sure- be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter.
Embed Instagram posts on your website.
Using the desktop version of Instagram, you can get an embed code to add specific images and videos to your company’s website. This shows your website visitors that you’re active on Instagram they can be converted to a follower.
All you need to do is pick the photo you want to embed, click the ellipsis button in the bottom right corner, and select Embed. This pulls up a box with the embed code and gives you the option to display the caption. After this, copy and paste the code where you want it to go on your website.
Use Instagram influencers to promote your business.
Influencers are individuals who have large followings on Instagram – therefore they have a large buying influence.
There’s no way we as humans are going back to age old advertisements thanks to the brilliance of Instagram influencers who you can pay to market your products to their followers in a natural, subtle yet influential way.
Share posts directly to your story.
Two years ago, Instagram announced a feature that allows users to share posts directly to their stories.
Small businesses were now able to interact with their followers while promoting their products or services. So if a followers or celeb client posts a photo of your product, you can share the post directly to your story to highlight the product and your client.
Use polls and other features in your stories.
Some of the interactive features that you can use to build online conversations and relationships are – interactive question stickers. These polls designed to look like stickers lets followers submit questions for you to answer. This is a fun and simple way to interact with your followers.
IGTV shows long-form, vertical videos and each video can be up to an hour long. This feature is just two years old but it has come to be a great feature! People use IGTV to market your business in several ways, including by hosting FAQ sessions and conducting how-to chats.
This feature is even a stand-alone app but you can also access it within Instagram’s app.