Should You Use Instagram for Business?
If you’re deciding whether or not to use Instagram for business, here are some numbers, straight from Instagram’s own survey results:
- More than 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile each day.
- 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram.
- 33% of the most viewed stories are from businesses
As a website designer and marketer, I used to think my business wasn’t visual enough for Instagram. I could see how an artist or fashion line could be successful on Instagram. I had a personal Instagram account, but had never considered Instagram for business.
I was wrong. More than 25 million companies, including numerous professional services freelancers and agencies, use Instagram for business.
How to Get Started on Instagram
The first step is to set up a business account. You can set up your account on the desktop, but you’ll have to use the mobile app to change to a business profile. Tap on your profile, then tap Settings, then Switch to Professional Account.
The main difference in a personal and business account is Insights. With a business account, you get analytics that give you information about your followers and how your posts are performing. You can also create ads with the Instagram for business account and add a Contact button on your profile that makes it easy for your followers to get in touch.
The first step is to set up your profile. This is crucial, as it’s how other users will determine whether or not to follow you.
How you use the limited space and 150 characters for your bio is key. Make your user name easily readable and identifiable with your brand.
In your bio, state clearly what you do and who you help. Here’s a great example from outdoor gear retailer Yeti. Their description is clearly written and spells out customer benefits. They have also included a branded hashtag to encourage user-generated content. The link in their bio goes to a page with product images and their Instagram feed.
Rival Corkcicle uses their bio in a completely different way — to announce a new product and the link goes directly to the product page. If you choose to do this, you’ll need to update your bio regularly so it doesn’t begin to feel stale.
For smaller brands, it’s probably best to be more descriptive in your bio, so that it’s obvious what you do at a glance.
Choose carefully the link that you add to your bio. You only have one clickable link, so be smart. Don’t just link to your home page; create a landing page with the information you most want the viewer to see. Mine has my last three blog posts, an email capture form, and a few bullet points about how to work with me.
If you can’t create your own landing page, use a service like LinkTree or Later to set up a mobile-friendly link to the content you want to link to.
Your Instagram Grid
Once you begin posting regularly, your Instagram images will appear in a grid on your profile. Think and plan carefully the colors and images you’ll use so that your grid will have a consistent and cohesive look. The New York City Ballet does this so well. Take a look at their profile — sometimes they combine images to make it appear as though the image go outside the individual photos, yet the photos still make sense on their own. That takes very careful planning.
There are apps like Planoly and Later that will help you lay out your grid and give you a chance to rearrange images and posts.
Types of Instagram Posts
Feed images were the original Instagram images, before Stories became popular. They are the square images you see with captions in your feed.
Instagram Stories draw more interactivity and engagement than Feed images. Use stories for timely posts and content that you don’t need to be visible for an extended time.
Stories give you options like questions, polls, registration buttons, DM (direct message) me calls to action, donation and more. You can use hashtags and tag other users in your Story and include location data. Here’s a great use of the interactive Story features by Yeti.
Accounts with more than 10,000 followers get a Swipe Up link, but the rest of us must settle for tagging ourselves in the story with “Link in Bio” text.
You can send Feed images to your Stories, which embeds the image and part of the caption. You can then add Story features and hashtags.
You can add up to 10 photos in a Carousel, which appears in your Feed, much like a regular post. It allows the user to swipe through photos and is an excellent idea because it keeps the user on your profile for a longer time, which helps your reach.
Here’s a Carousel post by Sue B. Zimmerman, The Instagram Expert. It explains Carousel posts in much more depth. You can identify them in your Feed by the stacked image icon. This Carousel is only two slides, a combination of video and an image.
Ideas for Instagram Posts
Most of these ideas work for Feed images, Stories, and Carousels — you just might need to adapt them a bit.
1. Inspirational Quotes
Quotes that inspire and motivate are generally popular on Instagram. Create a template in your favorite graphics program or just lay text over an image. It’s good to have a consistent look for your quotes — use a consistent font or background and consider incorporating a watermark with your logo and branding.
2. Happy Customers
Show happy customers using your product. Before/after images work well if your business lends itself. Take a screenshot of a customer testimonial and post it as an image.
3. Where You Work
Show your office or studio, wherever the magic happens. People like to know how you work, and it’s great to show a lighter, more personal side.
4. Staff Features
Feature your team with images and relatable facts about them. Show them inside our outside the work environment so your customers come to know them as human, which builds loyalty. Post a photo of them on their birthday to celebrate.
5. Contests and Giveaways
If you have products you can give away, you’ll be popular on Instagram. Use a branded hashtag and ask users to post using that hashtag to enter the contest.
6. Volunteer Efforts
Post-pandemic, this will again be a great source of content. Show your team members volunteering in the community and demonstrate your business giving back. Support causes related to your product or those that are popular with your audience and use Instagram to show your support.
Create text images and Carousels to provide tips and helpful insights on topics that interest your audience.
8. Specials or Sales
Create graphics for a special sale. This local coffee shop posted their August specials with detailed descriptions in the caption.
9. Images That Depict Situations in Which Your Product is Used.
This image is much more interesting that a simple photo of the cooler would have been. Users who enjoy their products are likely outdoorsy and are drawn to this image.
10. Promote an Upcoming Event
This post from NPR’s Guy Raz highlights a current interview with a quote that raises curiosity. Notice the branding and graphics, which are consistent with Raz’ profile.
11. Leisure Activities
This post from marketing expert Marie Forleo is a beautiful photo and shows her reading at the beach. She comments on the book she’s reading in the caption.
I’ve talked about hashtags before, but it bears repeating; use them on every post. Vary them so you’re not using the same on each post. If you use a tool like Planoly or Later, you can keep lists of hashtags there; if not, paste them into a text editing app on your phone so you’ll have them when you’re on the go.
Here’s a post about how to find the right hashtags for your content and audience.
So … Should You Use Instagram for Business?
If your audience isn’t there, it’s not worth your time. This is where the research becomes important. Are there audiences you haven’t reached yet on Instagram?
Whenever I’m asked which social platforms are the most beneficial, my answer is the same. It’s the one(s) where your audience is. Find out where they are and go there.