Brands on Instagram have an undeniable advantage over those who don’t have a presence there, and there’s a good reason for that.
In fact, a billion people use Instagram every month, with 63% of Instagram users logging in at least once per day. A third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories come from a business account, and the site has a potential advertising reach of nearly 850 million users.
But what makes Instagram so popular in the first place?
It turns out that there are a few good reasons for that, from how easy advertising on Instagram is to the huge potential target audience that your brand can reach.
Users love Instagram because it puts visual content front and center, and because it allows them to easily share a more visual type of content.
Brands on Instagram love the platform because it allows them to reach way more people than they might otherwise have been able to reach, and because engagement on Instagram is pretty high compared to other platforms.
But how exactly can you go about growing your business on Instagram?
Well, to start off, it helps to get to know what Instagram is all about and to learn what makes the social network tick.
The Instagram algorithm
Algorithms power everything from advertising on Instagram to the order in which content appears in your Instagram news feed.
Every different social networking site uses a different algorithm to rank content, and so it falls to you as a business owner to familiarize yourself with the way that different algorithms work.
When it comes to the Instagram algorithm, the main thing to remember is that it’s designed with relevance in mind. There are six main factors for your brand to take note of:
Interests: As soon as you create an Instagram account, they start to track the content that you interact with and to surface other, similar content. So if your audience likes cat videos, content about cats is more likely to surface.
Relationship: Instagram also monitors the relationships that different users have with each other. If an account has interacted with your content in the past, it increases the chance that they’ll be exposed to your content in the future.
Recency: While we’re a long way away from the old school algorithm where the most recent content would rank first, the recency of content still plays an important role when it comes to determining where posts rank in the news feed.
Frequency: This is based upon how often a user logs into their account. If they log in more frequently, their feed will be more chronological because Instagram will look for new posts since their last visit.
Following: This one’s fairly self-explanatory. The more users that an account follows, the more content that Instagram’s algorithm will have to choose from.
App Usage: This factor is similar to frequency, except that instead of focusing on how often you open the app, it focuses instead on how much time you spend within the app once it’s open.
How To Use Instagram For Marketing
The single biggest mistake that people make when creating a business account on Instagram is to dive right in and to expect to get started right away without making sure that they do the groundwork first.
The good news for you is that we’ve designed this guide to help you to get your business on Instagram with as little fuss and as few problems as possible.
Before You Get Started Know Your Audience
We can’t stress this enough: you need to get to know as much as you can about your Instagram audience. This goes above and beyond just taking a look at who’s on the follower list for your account and making broad assumptions about who your audience is, although that can be a good start.
Ideally, you need to carry out detailed research into your audience to make sure that you’re reaching the right people in the right places with the right message at the right time. You can then create buyer personas with real photos and specific details to help to bring your audience to life.
Ask yourself specific questions about the demographics of the audience you’re aiming to reach.
Who is your ideal audience member?
What kind of job does your ideal audience member have?
Does your ideal audience member have children?
What’s their income level?
Are they entrepreneurs?
Where do they turn for entertainment?
For our part, we swear by something called the #R3MAT method, which calls for a marketing strategy based on showing the right message to the right people in the right place at the right time.
The goal is to avoid burning out your audience by posting content that they’re not interested in or by constantly asking them to buy without warming them up first.
In other words, don’t create an Instagram account just to post a steady stream of ads.
Understand How To Read Your Instagram Insights And Metrics
If you want to get the most out of your business account on LinkedIn, you need to set goals and stick to them. Instagram insights can be a great way to monitor key metrics, but that’s not going to help you much if you’re not sure which metrics you need to monitor.
Setting and sticking to goals helps you to make sure that you’re growing your business account while still keeping one eye on the metrics that matter the most to you and your company. Identifying which metrics are most important to your brand isn’t easy, and it really depends on what you want to accomplish with your marketing strategy.
Still, some of the most common metrics to track include:
Follower Growth: Picking up followers on Instagram isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it’s certainly a good sign that your business profile is reaching your target audience.
Engagement Rate: There are different types of engagement rate for you to monitor, but we’d recommend tracking it at both an overall level and at a post-by-post level. It can also be useful to segment the engagement rate into comments vs likes.
Traffic: You’ll also want to check that your Instagram campaigns are generating traffic and sending people through to your website. Engagement on Instagram doesn’t always translate into product sales and other beneficial actions.
Conversions: Building on from our last point, you should look at what that those website visitors are doing once they arrive on your site. You can grow your Instagram account as much as you want, but if people don’t convert, it’s all for nothing.
Story Reach: If you’re posting stories from your business profile, you’ll want to keep an eye on how many people you’re reaching with them, as well as on the reach and engagement metrics for your regular posts.
How To Create A Business Account
You can sign up for a free Instagram account in five minutes, so once you’ve done all of the groundwork, you’re ready to make a celebratory cup of coffee and to get your phone out.
The first step to getting your brand on the platform is to download and launch the app.
To sign up and create your profile, you’ll first need to provide them with a valid email address or to log in with a valid Facebook account. It’ll walk you through the basics, such as adding a bio (don’t forget to use hashtags) and a profile picture, as well as prompting you to follow your first few accounts.
Right now, your profile is a personal account as opposed to a brand account, which could confuse your target audience and restrict the likelihood of you reaching them and establishing trust. Let’s fix that!
Inside the app again, hit the settings and scroll down to the option to switch to a business account. You’ll be prompted to provide the platform with some additional information and unlock new options, such as the ability to specify opening hours or to provide a contact address or telephone number.
Note that if you want to link up one social profile to another, you can connect your Instagram brand profile to a Facebook page that’s associated with your business. The main advantage of this is that you can combine data from one platform to another, unlocking more useful Instagram statistics.
So to summarize, the main benefits for businesses signing up for a dedicated business account include:
Access to real-time metrics on stories and promoted post performance
Monitor Instagram engagement across images, videos, and stories
Add business-specific information such as opening hours
Ability to run Instagram advertisements
The Different Types Of Instagram Ads
Businesses turn to Instagram ads for the same reason that they turn to influencer marketing on Instagram: because it helps them to reach more people on social media and because it helps them to sell their product.
Better yet, there are multiple different types of Instagram ads for you to choose from:
Photo Ads: Arguably, the most common type of Instagram ad, these allow you to share everything from user-generated content to influencer content, branded promo images, and other visual media. Remember to include some relevant hashtags in the caption of your post and to include a call-to-action.
Sponsored Ads: Unlike photo ads, which simply push an image-based ad into people’s feeds, sponsored ads promote a specific Instagram post. Businesses use them to promote their product while still focusing on engagement. They can also help to drum up participation in competitions and user-generated content drives.
Story Ads: These will be of interest if you’ve been wondering how to use Instagram stories for business. By running story ads, you can push your post out into the feeds of users who don’t follow you. The ads appear when people are switching between the stories of two different users and support the swipe up functionality so you can link back to your product.
Video Ads: This is the option to go for if you’ve got 30-60 second videos that you want to share. Videos typically receive higher engagement rates on social media sites and can be a great way to promote a product. Just remember to hard encode any subtitles so that people can see what’s happening even if their volume is turned down.
IGTV Ads: If you’re using IG.TV to share regular content, IG.TV ads will allow you to reach more far more people on the social media platform. It also supports videos as long as 20 minutes, allowing businesses to share and promote longer-form content on the site.
Carousel Ads: When you want to share more than one photo or video, Instagram allows you to post a carousel. If you’ve got multiple different product images that you want to share in a single post, or if you’re encouraging people to go shopping on Instagram, these can be a pretty good bet!
3 Tips To Optimize Your Business Account
Now that we know the basics of operating and launching an Instagram business account, the next step is to start optimizing your business profile. Here are the main things that you’ll want to focus on.
1. Build An Eye-Catching Bio For Your Business Profile
Writing a decent bio for your brand is as much of an art as a science.
Remember that you have a limited amount of space and a short window of opportunity (less than a second!) to impress your target audience when they visit you on a social platform.
The very first thing to think about is your name, which should be accurate, easily recognizable, and preferably optimized for search. The need to optimize for search also applies to your bio, and remember that you can use hashtags to help your target audience to find your profile, too.
You’ll also want to include a call-to-action to tell people what to do next, whether that’s to check out your shoppable Instagram gallery or whether it’s just to follow your account.
2. Include Your Business Website Link
Instagram captions don’t support external links to other websites, and so adding a link to your business website from your Instagram profile is a good idea to drive traffic, and ultimately, conversions.
Another option is to regularly update the link on your business profile to point to specific landing pages and then to direct people to that link from your Instagram captions.
3. Add Keywords To Your Business Account Bio
The chances are that you’re already using keywords as part of your marketing strategy, and so it makes sense to include them on your business account bio, too.
This can aid discovery and make sure that you’re reaching your target audience, especially if your brand is able to find highly trafficked keywords with little-to-no competition.
It can be a good idea to include popular hashtags, too.
Some brands choose to include a contact number or email address on their profile, but it’s important to remember that this is a prime piece of real estate. By all means, include them if it makes sense to, but remember that there’s a character limit. You could be using that same piece of real estate for something else.
The same holds true for emojis, which may help to boost Instagram engagement but which can often be removed when space is at a premium. If you do have some space left, consider adding more hashtags to increase your reach on the platform.
Finally, there are one or two little layout tricks that can help you to make a profile that people want to share and follow.
For example, some businesses use line breaks or change the font to try to stand out on the platform.
How To Use Instagram For Business
By now, your Instagram business account is up and running and reasonably well optimized.
Now we need to create and deliver upon a content marketing strategy.
This is easier said than done, but the good news is that there are a few simple steps that you can follow to give yourself the best possible chance of being successful.
1. Build An Instagram Content Marketing Strategy
Creating a content marketing strategy for Instagram is vital because without one, your business profile is an expensive gamble at best and something that actively works against you at worst.
Without a marketing strategy, you’re running blind.
The first thing to remember is that each social media platform needs content that’s specifically created for that network.
For example, if you’re creating content for YouTube, you need to create videos – you can’t just turn images into a slideshow or couple audio with a still to repurpose a podcast.
The goal should be to educate and inform your audience with the content that you create. Remember your buyer personas for your target audience and try to specifically create content that will receive a high engagement rate from them.
Remember what we taught you earlier about the #R3MAT method and reaching the right people in the right place at the right time. You need to make sure that for everything you post from your business profile, there’s a specific purpose behind creating it.
Your marketing strategy should include content for every stage of the buyer’s journey, from education for new customers to calls-to-action for people who are ready to buy and support-based content for current and future customers.
2. Create Content For Every Type Of Person
This comes back to thinking about your target audience and making sure that you’re drumming up engagement with the right people.
Different types of content work well for different audiences, so experiment with what you post from your business profile to see what gets you the most followers on Instagram.
One good way to grow your Instagram account is to use videos with embedded captions.
There’s some dispute over how many people watch videos with the sound on, with estimates of how many people watch without sound ranging from 30-85%.
Either way, you can’t afford to lose these social media users, and so it’s a good idea to embed captions directly within your videos. Some businesses even overlay an icon reminding people to turn the sound on as a standard part of each of their videos.
Speaking of videos, if you want to maximize engagement then it’s a good idea to make sure that the first few seconds of your videos are intriguing and attention-grabbing.
This is what gets your target audience to watch – or not!
Remember that an important part of running Instagram campaigns is encouraging people to take some sort of action. If this requires linking off-site, remember that you can’t link from the post caption to your website.
Instead, update the main link for your business profile and instruct people to click that.
3. Use Calls-To-Action In Your Content
A call-to-action is basically a short piece of text which tells people what action to take next.
They’re a vital part of any marketing strategy for one super simple reason – they work. It’s one of the most important things to know when learning how to use Instagram for marketing.
Calls-to-action can work in all sorts of posts, from stories to Instagram live video.
If your business profile has over 10,000 followers, you can access the “Swipe Up” feature, which is currently the only place other than your bio where you can include an active link off the platform.
The good news is that if you have a successful content marketing strategy, you’ll reach 10,000 followers in no time!
Perhaps more importantly, at least for businesses, is that it’s also much more intuitive than clicking on a profile link. No guide on how to use Instagram stories for business would be complete without it.
Adding these links allows you to create a shoppable Instagram story, simply by linking through to a product if it’s mentioned.
To create one of these stories, here’s what you need to do:
Post your media directly in the stories section of the app or import photos/videos from your camera roll.
Tap on the link icon in the top right of the screen. When the window opens, enter the link to your product and hit save.
Draw your followers’ attention to the link by including calls-to-action in your stories.
4. Use Instagram As A Place To Tell Your Story
If you’re not using your business profile to tell stories, you’re going to struggle to establish a popular Instagram account. Instagram is just like any other social media platform in that one of the best ways to generate engagement is to be unique and authentic.
It’s important for businesses to tell stories, whether these are personal stories or business stories. In many cases, your story is your business. That’s why if you want to know how to use Instagram for business, you need to be able to use your story as a selling point.
Make it as interesting as you can to boost engagement and to attract new audiences.
Remember that not everything that you post on social media needs to be geared towards selling things. Sometimes knowing how to use Instagram for business means knowing how to use it as a person.
If you’re comfortable with it, your business can show its authentic side by highlighting anything that makes you relatable to other people, whether that’s family, friends or activities that you love.
That’s how to build engagement – and more importantly, relationships – more naturally.
5. Sell Out Your Live Events
Whether you’re taking advantage of Instagram live video or whether you’re using popular hashtags to drum up some excitement ahead of time, you can make Instagram work as a powerful promotion tool.
Feel free to be creative when using your business account to promote your events. For example, trial some of the following approaches and see which drives the most traffic and engagement:
Post photos of previous events
Create a video promo
Get some testimonials
Run some advertisements
Use influencer marketing
Post some stories
Remember to think in terms of before, during and after when you plan your Instagram work.
In other words, you need to plan what you’ll do beforehand, as well as the assets you’ll capture on the day and what you’ll post in the weeks following the event.
6. Grow Your Awareness And Audience With Instagram
Ultimately, one of the most common reasons why businesses try to create a popular Instagram profile is that it helps them to improve brand awareness and to grow an audience.
What this looks like in practice tends to vary, and it may also be partly defined by the metrics that your business has chosen to measure.
With awareness, for example, it’s not uncommon for a brand to measure the percentage of conversations in their industry in which their company is mentioned. Your business can track this over time to see whether influencer marketing and other campaigns are having an effect. You can track hashtags, too.
Another option is to look at sentiment analysis, in which you dig into your Instagram statistics and campaign hashtags to see whether conversations are positive, neutral or negative.
This goes above and beyond merely tracking engagement and gives you a snapshot of what people are saying about your brand on the platform.
Developing an audience goes above and beyond tracking engagement or how many people have seen posts using your hashtags. Here, we’re looking more at how many people follow your business and regularly interact with your brand and its content.
A large part of building an audience for your business revolves around developing a community. You can achieve this through a variety of techniques, from free Instagram tools to tapping into popular hashtags or using influencer marketing on Instagram.
One of our top Instagram tips is to make sure that you cross-promote with your other social platforms to direct your target audience from profile to profile and network to network. You should post different content on different social sites too, so that you make sure people have a reason to follow you on more than one platform.
Now that you know our best Instagram tips for businesses, it’s over to you so that you can either get started on the social media site or so you can level up your presence by taking advantage of popular hashtags, user-generated content and influencer marketing.
Remember that whether we’re talking about hashtags or whether we’re talking about how to use Instagram stories for business, the important thing is to have a strategy. The strategy should come first and be based upon your business goals, and only with the strategy in place are you ready to sign up to the social media site.
Knowing how to use Instagram hashtags for business or tapping into influencer marketing and user-generated content is all well and good, but it won’t get you far without the strategy. You also need to make sure that you’ve identified the key metrics to track and that you know what your calls-to-action will be.
We should end here with the final point, and something that gets missed off on a lot of guides on how to use Instagram hashtags for business. You need to make sure that you have fun, because if you’re not having fun then your followers won’t have fun either. Even when you’re hoping to target people who are shopping on Instagram, you still need to have fun. Often, that’s where user-generated content comes in.
You might want to read back through this post again and to take notes as you go, or to forward this link on to your marketing team so that they’re up-to-speed on the latest best practices. The tips that we’ve shared today can also apply to personal branding and your employees‘ own Instagram accounts, except for the stuff about business profiles and advertising, and so that’s something to bear in mind too.
Still have questions? Be sure to let us know with a comment or to get in touch with us on social media. We’ll be more than happy to help!