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How to Use Instagram for Business: A Beginner’s Guide with Examples

7 minute read

Using Instagram for business can have a major impact on a brand’s marketing efforts. Hardly surprising when you learn that the social network has almost 1 billion active monthly users and that 200 million Instagrammers visit at least one business profile every day.

While those numbers indicate a strong marketing opportunity, figuring out how to use Instagram for business is a challenge. Resonating with target audiences, creating a coherent brand voice and being heard above the noise are problematic for brands new to Instagram.

That’s where this guide comes in. We show you how to use Instagram for business effectively, allowing you to craft and execute an impactful strategy from the ground up.

Pro tip: Just getting started with social media? Check out our article on creating a successful social media marketing strategy.

Instagram for Business Best Practices

More than 25 million businesses use Instagram to drive sales and brand engagement. Each of these enterprises has its own approach to the social platform, but there are a few basic best practices that apply across successful accounts.

  • Inspire: The most successful Instagram accounts inspire followers through stories of people overcoming obstacles. For example, cult account Humans of New York tells stories of ordinary people with extraordinary stories to tell. Many brands try to inspire fans to action, whether that’s a simple purchasing action or something more holistic.
  • Share stories: Instagram’s video and photo format lends itself to micro-storytelling. Airbnb, for example, uses each post to tell a mini-story about an apartment host and their neighborhood.
  • Post often: To create brand loyalty and recognition on Instagram, your content needs to appear consistently at the top of followers’ feeds. Tailwind found that brands that increased their posting schedule over three months saw an increase in both engagement rate and follower count. Set a realistic posting schedule and stick to it.

How to Use Instagram for Business: Account Setup

With those basic Instagram best practices under your belt, it’s time to get started on building a successful Instagram business profile.

Like a personal Instagram account, a business Instagram account lets you post pictures and videos and connect with people. But Instagram business accounts have extra audience insights and advertising features. With a business account you can:

  • Access analytics on how well your stories and posts perform;
  • Get insights into user demographics and behavior, including profile visits and website clicks, and how many people see your content;
  • Expand profile information to include things like your store’s location, phone number or opening hours; and
  • Use enhanced shopping options such as linking store items direct from posts.

It’s free to set up an Instagram for business account from scratch:

  1. Download the Instagram app.
  2. Open the app and sign up, either with an email address or with a Facebook account.
  3. Open Settings by tapping the hamburger menu icon, then scroll to Account and Switch to Business Account.
  4. Add brand information, such as your business category and contact information. We’ll look at how to optimize this later in the post.

You can also convert an existing personal account into an Instagram for business account by hitting Settings and Switch to Business Account. If you do, be aware that your existing posts and captions will appear under your business’s name.

7 Tips to Successful Business Marketing on Instagram

1. Optimize Your Profile

Your business’s profile page will be the first thing users see when they search for your brand on Instagram. Thinking of the profile page as a mini-landing page will help you focus the information you include and encourage interaction from followers.

Start by crafting the copy for the bio. The bio is the short text under your brand profile name, and it can include a description of your business, contact information enriched with a phone number and physical address, emojis and hashtags. The bio needs to be concise but impactful, and it should align with the brand voice, telling users exactly what the business does.

Instagram for business bios can also include a call to action (CTA). Use this opportunity to boost key marketing metrics by, for example, linking to a product page. Experiment with changing the CTA whenever you have short-term campaigns running. For example, if you’re driving sign-ups to an annual event, change the CTA to link to the event sign-up page, and incorporate hashtags to help your brand be found by your target audience.

2. Define a Visual Identity

Instagram is all about visual impact. That doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect—in fact, brands like DirtDogLA have seen great success using raw, unposed images—but it’s a good idea to have a coherent, identifiable visual identity.

A visual identity simply means that your photos and videos have a recognizable aesthetic that supports your business branding. A coherent visual identity means that when Instagrammers see your content on their feed, they’re more likely to associate it with your brand.

Define visual identity by setting out brand guidelines. These guidelines should include brand values, claims or taglines, brand colors and assets, fonts and even photo composition. Then, create templates that follow these brand guidelines. For example, brands that post text-based images, like Aesthetics of Joy, might want to create and re-use a template.

Finally, decide your business’s photo editing style. Sticking to the same editing apps or filters is a quick fix for visual consistency. The Jungalow has a consistent visual identity that manages not to appear staged or overly aesthetic.

3. Create a Community

Social media thrives on micro-communities. Tapping into one of these niches will enable your brand to generate a following faster than simply posting content randomly.

First, find existing micro-communities that align with your business goals by monitoring relevant niche hashtags. For example, a bakery might follow the hashtag #breadmaking and begin to comment on posts. It’s also a good idea to follow regular users of the hashtag you’re targeting to encourage them to follow you back.

Hashtags don’t just help you find niche communities. They’re also a great way to grow the community you have. Instagram hashtags are searchable within the app, meaning people find and engage with hashtagged content more easily.

Once you’ve built a community with hashtags, maintain momentum through personal engagement. Answering comments and questions left on posts is essential to keep followers engaged. Take the example of influencer Jenny Walton, who answers requests on what brands she’s wearing.

Finally, don’t neglect the community on your doorstep. Businesses with a local presence—think restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores—should take advantage of local hashtags. Eateries in Boston posting with the hashtag #bostoneats are tapping into the local foodie community, for example.

4. Work with Influencers

4 in 10 millennials say their favorite influencer understands them better than their friends. 59% of Instagram users are under 35, making influencer marketing a powerful tool on the social media platform.

4 in 10 millennials say their favorite influencer understands them better than their friends. Click To Tweet

Influencer marketing doesn’t necessarily mean working with top celebrities; it means identifying micro-influencers relevant to your target audience and building a profitable relationship with them.

Related: Guide to Influencer Marketing Strategies

To find influencers in your niche, use Alexa’s Audience Overlap tool. Enter your business’s website (or a site you know has a relevant audience), and the tool will map other websites that share a similar audience.

Navigate to these sites and note who’s writing on their blogs, who they are working with on social media and who’s following them. This list gives you a ton of potential influencers to check out on Instagram and connect with.

For example, if you sell courses on motivation, you’ll want to connect with people who visit Eric Thomas’s site. Plug that into Audience Overlap to find sites that share the same audience, then note down the top contributors and followers of those sites.

The Audience Overlap shows sites that share audiences with motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

 The Audience Overlap shows sites that share audiences with motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

For insights on how to work with influencers once you found them, read our post on influencer marketing.

5. Experiment with Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways are a great way to increase brand awareness, follower count and engagement.

Here are a few types of contests that work for businesses on Instagram:

  • Tag-a-friend: Ask followers to tag one of their friends in your posts to tap into the power of referral marketing and increase brand awareness.
  • Post a picture: Get followers to post pictures of them engaging with your product or service to increase brand loyalty and generate positive consumer engagement.
  • Like/comment to win: Give away prizes when followers like and comment on your posts using the gamification element of retention marketing.
  • Caption this: Photo caption contests allow followers to be creative and can build awareness of product launches or upcoming events.

Whatever contest you do decide to run, stick to Instagram’s promotion guidelines and make sure the contest rules are set out clearly in post captions. This prevents disappointed followers and possible negative feedback.

6. Engage Users with Instagram Stories

500 million people engage with Instagram Stories every day, and a third of the most-viewed Stories are posted by businesses. The ephemeral content, which appears at the top of the feed and disappears after 24 hours, helps brands add a human touch to their profiles, as well as providing a launchpad for ad campaigns and new products.

Use Stories to take followers behind the scenes of your business. For heritage or local manufacturers, that could mean showing how products are made. Service-based brands can do something similar, showing office interactions or going backstage at events. Both are a great way to add something original to users’ feeds while strengthening your brand identity.

Stories also allow you to take advantage of effects like Boomerang or Superzoom, which can appeal to a younger target audience and add a touch of humor to a business profile.

Don’t worry about creating perfect content for organic Stories. Interactions that are unstaged and imperfect align with the intimate nature of the medium.

7. Use Instagram Ads

Over 2 million companies use Instagram ads to reach audiences and promote their products. Paid ads help increase reach and tap into demographics that you haven’t connected with organically. They also give you greater opportunities to link to online product pages and sell directly.

There are several different types of Instagram ads, including:

  • Shoppable posts: Businesses that sell physical products can create “immersive storefronts” featuring tagged products on sale. Users tap on the tag and go directly to the purchase page.
  • Stories ads: Paid ads in Stories are different from organic story content. Ads should be visually impactful, three-second clips with a clear call to action.
  • Photo ads/carousel ads: Photo and carousel ads appear embedded in the organic content feed but have a call-to-action overlay. Most brands use a Shop Now CTA and show a range of products in magazine-style images.
  • Video ads: These appear in the organic feed like photo ads but include up to 60 seconds of sight, sound and movement. This KFC Italy video ad got 4 million views in 10 days.

Instagram offers ad targeting based on factors like location, demographics and shared audiences. In terms of costs, AdEspresso analyzed $300 million of Instagram ad spend data and discovered that the cost for U.S. retailers averaged $3.56 per click.

Use Instagram for Business for Better Marketing Results

Instagram can boost brand awareness, build communities and positively impact a business’s bottom line. But, as on any social media platform, success doesn’t come for free. You need to build a strong brand identity, market to a niche community and leverage engaging content to create traction on Instagram.

Use the best practices and examples in this post to inspire your first Instagram for business campaign. Then sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan to access the tools that will help you build buzz and retain followers for long-term wins.

How to Use Instagram for Business: A Beginner’s Guide with Examples