All the cool kids are on Instagram these days – and lots of the smart businesses are there, too! While yes, it’s still a place to show off your latest brunch outfit or artfully filtered selfie, it can also be a place to make major strides for your business.
Nowadays, brands of all kinds are finding ways to meet their customers on Instagram. As Instagram is a highly visual social media network, it makes sense that some of the brands that are already visually appealing (think fashion and clothing brands) find it particularly good for capturing new clients.
But that doesn’t mean that other sorts of businesses can’t successfully use Instagram to promote their products and services, raise awareness, reach out to new and existing customers, and create more brand loyalty. We’ve seen businesses from a huge array of sectors and styles pull it off.
The secret? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy that will work best for every single business. But there are lots of tricks and tips that any business can use to use Instagram effectively – and that’s what we’re here to fill you in on.
If you’re still not convinced Instagram is the place for your business, here are some numbers that might shift your opinion:
1 billion. That’s the number of active users Instagram has a month. Of those, half use it every single day.
4.2 billion. The number of likes that happen on Instagram every day.
33%. The percentage of Instagram users that have bought products online straight from their phones.
23% more than Facebook. In terms of engagement with fans.
Setting Up Your Profile for Success
The first step to making your Instagram account work for your business is making sure you’ve set up your profile effectively. There are lots of things you can do to make your profile pop.
Let’s start with the most basic – your username. Ideally, this should be your company name. If it’s already taken (which, as there are 1 billion monthly users, can happen), go for something similar. And if you already have usernames on other social media profiles, it’s best to be consistent so your fans can easily find you.
The next step is your bio. You’ve got 150 characters, so it’s going to be short and sweet. Give a short explanation of what you’re all about, and don’t be afraid to add some character here. Your bio also has space for a functional URL. Some people like to always have their homepage here, while others switch it up from time to time for special promotions. One more thing to add to your bio? Hashtags. If there’s a hashtag that applies to every single photo your brand will post on Instagram, put it in your bio.
Don’t forget your profile picture, either! Make sure yours is recognizable even when it’s very small. Most brands use a logo here, and many have a small icon version that’s readable even at tiny sizes.
For business profiles, you can add in contact information, a category that your company or business belongs to, call to action buttons, and more. We recommend adding as much information here as is relevant to your business. The more ways people can find you, the better!
Choosing Your Images
Lots of brands pick a color palette that all their images fit in. This is an easy way to get a consistent look and feel for your profile.
Try thinking of your Instagram photos in blocks of 9 images that should all look nice together. Having an appealing “grid” can help you gain more followers, as they can instantly tell what your brand is all about.
If you have images that are good but don’t quite fit with the aesthetic of your grid, try sharing them via Instagram Stories (images and videos that appear when people tap on your profile picture and last for 24 hours). This is also a great place to show behind-the-scenes content and run limited time offer promotions (but more on that later).
For example, if you own a print-on-demand business in UK, you could share the printing process from the different facilities all over the continent. This way, customers would understand better the T-shirt fulfilment process.
How can you figure out which content your followers like? Use Instagram’s analytics. They’re accessible to everyone with a business profile (you can switch to a business profile in your profile settings). There’s a ton of information about which posts work best and which posts aren’t hitting the mark as well. Play around with different content, and then check out your analytics to figure out the top performers.
Promoting Your Posts
Instagram lets you pay to promote posts from your brand, which means your photos will appear to users who aren’t following you.
What do you need to promote a post? A business profile and to connect your profile to Facebook.
Which posts should you promote? Use your analytics to select the posts that are already doing well with your existing followers. Chances are, these posts will be the most appealing for your potential followers too.
To promote your post, go to your profile homepage on your phone. There, you should see a button that says “Promotions”. When the section opens, tap on “Create Promotion”. This lets you choose from all of your posts.
From there, you choose where you want viewers to go when they click on your promotion, as well as your target audience (if you’re not sure who they are, there is an “automatic” option where Instagram chooses for you).
Finally, decide what your budget is and how many days you want your campaign to run for. Then, you’ll have the last chance to review your promotion before setting it live.
Running Ads in Your Stories
Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours – which makes them a good place to promote limited-time offers for your clients. Because users tend to tap through these images quickly, it’s important that an ad you create for Stories is eye-catching right away.
With ads in Stories, you can add a link. Viewers swipe up and go directly to the think you added. Going back to the printing business example, if you own an online T-shirt store, you may add a link to your story that sends your followers straight to a landing page.
To make it extra special, you may even throw a special discount code that only your Instagram followers can use.
Selling Directly on Instagram
If you use Shopify for your online store, you can sell your products directly on Instagram! That makes it easier than ever for your followers and fans to make a purchase (and remember, a third of Instagram users have already made purchases on mobile). You can use this tool for both Stories and posts.
As an added bonus, your products will also show up on Instagram’s Explore section under “Shopping”. Users who are in the mood to shop can see your products there. The images they’ll see here are served to them based on their interests, so it’s a great way to capture more potential customers.
Help Your Customers Discover You
Every single photo or story you post on Instagram lets you add little bits of extra information that can help your clients find you more easily. Two of the most important: hashtags and location.
Using the right hashtags on Instagram isn’t a paid tactic to help your business, but it can go a long way to boosting your success. You can add up to 30 hashtags per photo, and each one is a chance for people to come across your content because hashtags are searchable.
Add as many as are relevant (think of words people might look for to find your content). Check out what your competitors are doing here and start using hashtags they use that work for your brand, too.
Your location is really important for businesses with a physical storefront. This is a great way to help Instagram users find cool places in their location – just like your business!
We hope this guide has helped you figure out how to successfully use Instagram for business. Like we mentioned at the beginning, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – so play around with a few of these techniques you like the sound of. See what works (remember to use that analytics!), start doing more of that, and rinse and repeat!