Let’s begin with the elephant in the room:

No, it’s not too late to get started on Instagram.

Not by a long shot.

Although the Instagram’s one billion user mark is just around the corner, marketers are still hopping on the bandwagon by the masses.

And why not? As the platform continues to roll out new business-specific features, there’s perhaps no better time than now to build your Instagram presence from scratch.

The beauty of using Instagram for business is that the platform isn’t reserved for any particular brand, by the way.

Running a brick-and-mortar business? An ecommerce empire? Or maybe you’re a solo business trying to snag some clout?

Good! There’s an audience on Instagram that’s waiting for you.

How to Use Instagram for Business: A Quick & Comprehensive Guide

At a glance, figuring out how to use Instagram for business might seem daunting.

“What the heck do I post? What’s a regram, anyway? Why isn’t anyone liking my stuff?”

But despite Instagram’s many moving pieces, attracting followers and winning over customers is arguably easier than ever.

It all boils down to your strategy.

We’ve outlined the essential Instagram for business tips to not only get you started on the platform but build an audience that falls in love your content, too.

And with that, let’s dive in!

1. Fine-Tune Your Profile from the Word ‘Go’

Spoiler alert: you can’t do much on Instagram until you properly fill out your profile.

Filling out your Instagram business bio is the first step toward building your presence on the platform

Where is no “right” way to craft your profile, these principles are a solid starting point based on Instagram’s best practices:

  • Profile photo: It’s best to use your company logo as your profile photo so people can easily identify your brand.
  • Account name: Make this your business name, identical to your brand’s other social profiles.
  • Username: This should also be your business name. Note that your username cannot have any spaces.
  • Website: This will be the only clickable URL on your Instagram page. Most businesses either use their website or link to their latest promotional page.
  • Bio: Your bio is where you will capture the attention of other users. You can either describe what your business does, hype up your website or slap your brand’s slogan here (or all of the above, actually).

Bear in mind that you have plenty of room to get creative in terms of how you craft your profile. For example, TED‘s takes a minimalist approach to its profile which goes hand in hand with their branding.

Minimalist Instagram bios are popular for bigger brands

Meanwhile, ecommerce brands like Topshop boast bios that promote their store alongside their branded hashtag.

Including a CTA in your Instagram bio is a smart move if you're selling products or have a promotion exclusive to the platform

Converting your account to an Instagram business profile is a smart move, especially if your business has a physical location.

Such profiles have access to both in-depth analytics and additional contact and location information for people to get in touch with you. Here’s a good example from Chicago’s own avec:

Instagram business profiles allow users to add contact information that's not available on a personal profile

Rather than fall victim to analysis paralysis, simply start by ensuring the small details of your profile are in order. For more tips on setting up your profile, check out our guide on how to write Instagram bios for businesses.

2. Adopt a ‘Tribe’ Mentality

With so many busy users and photos floating around on Instagram, standing out might seem like an uphill battle.

Reality check: you do not need millions of followers on Instagram to be considered a success story.

Instead of worrying about boasting big numbers, it’s best to approach Instagram for business with a sort of “tribe” mentality.

Start small. Establish relationships. Engage with others one-on-one.

In short, build your own tribe.

Make no mistake: Instagram is not an “if you build it, they will come” platform. Businesses both big and small should focus on not only building their own followings, but tapping into niche communities where their audience is already hanging out.

How do you make it happen, though? Where can you find potential members of your tribe?

Uncover Niche Hashtags

Hashtags essentially act as a search function for Instagram to find relevant followers and brands. This rings true for users and businesses alike.

And again, tapping into your target audience means getting specific.

For example, the #beauty tag has literally hundreds of millions of posts behind it. Rather than tackle crowded hashtags, consider how smaller, niche hashtags such as #unicornhair, #bluehairdontcare or #coloredhairgoals exist in which a beauty brand could realistically stand out.

 

Niche hashtags on Instagram are perfect for growing your tribe

Similarly, location-specific hashtags are perfect for zeroing in on an audience in your own neighborhood.

Location-specific hashtags are perfect for building a local audience

“Think small” is smart advice for brands trying to attract a dedicated following versus swinging for the fences. Oh, and Sprout can help you figure out how to get your hashtags right if you’re totally stuck on how to tag your photos.

Sprout Social's hashtag analytics can help you clue in on what tags should be coupled with any given post

Look Toward Your Own Customers

If your fans and customers are already on Instagram, using them as your billboards is a brilliant move given the popularity of user-generated content.

Incentivizing followers to tag you in their photos does double duty of showing off your products and signaling yourself as a brand that listens to its customers.

Shouting out your followers creates a sense of brand loyalty that most businesses would die for. The more you can show off your satisfied customers, the better.

Make Your Activity Count

Running your Instagram for business doesn’t have to be a total time-sink.

Efficiency counts on any social media platform and Instagram is no different.

Serially liking posts. Replying to comments. Following relevant users.

Between these actions as well as your own content calendar, it certainly pays to streamline your activity to save time.

For example, you should have a keen understanding of how often to post on Instagram to maximize engagement and when your followers are going to be online. Similarly, you should stick to a schedule to keep yourself from scrolling through Instagram 24/7.

Honing in on the right posting frequency and timing are both crucial pieces of Instagram for business

In short, anything and everything you do related to Instagram for business should be laser-focused on your brand’s goals for the sake of your valuable time.

3. Publish Goal-Driven Content

Speaking of goals, ask yourself: why are you investing in Instagram for business in the first place?

This isn’t a trick question, either. The answer directly influences your entire content strategy.

And with so much diversity in terms of what you can post, pretty much any goal is fair game.

  • Are you trying your hand at social selling?
  • Just trying to build some much-needed brand awareness?
  • Have killer product photos that you’re itching to show off?

Awesome. Just make sure that you post content that speaks to those goals.

Because Instagram is about so much more than random selfies and snapshots, especially given its status the go-to platform to research products.

Posts like this one from GoPro are shining examples of goal-driven content in action:

Eye-popping imagery? Check.

Showing off their product and a satisfied customer as well? Double check.

Providing a specific call-to-action for viewers? Yep, that too.

Haphazardly posting is not a viable strategy when it comes to Instagram for business. Once you define what it is your brand wants to do, you can begin to better speak the language of your followers.

4. Craft Your Brand’s Narrative

What better way to captivate followers than by telling a story?

The common thread between the biggest brands on Instagram is that they have some sort of narrative.

Through imagery, they’re able to speak to the interests and desires of their audience, receiving tons of love in the form of comments and likes.

You don’t need to be a master storyteller to create a narrative: you just need to let your pictures and captions do the talking.

For example, check out Airbnb captivates its audience through adventure-driven, motivational content:

Meanwhile, brands like Modcloth are all about empowerment and aren’t afraid to show off a bit of attitude:

Even something as simple as being a helping hand providing tips to your followers is a smart move as highlighted by the folks at Beardbrand:

The takeaway here is that people should be able to glance at your feed and have a defined sense of what you’re all about. Having a defined narrative makes it easier to craft captions and choose between photos, all the while reinforcing your identity to people who might not be familiar with you.

5. Show Off Your Products

At the end of the day, mastering Instagram for business is ultimately about, well, business.

That is, promoting whatever it is that you have to sell.

As evidenced by the brands above, there are a ton of ways to show off your products without totally shoving them in your followers’ faces.

Creativity counts on Instagram unlike any other platform. Diversifying your content strategy while also promoting your products should be your endgame, and below we’ve highlighted some awesome ways to make it happen.

Of course, straight-up promo posts to announce your latest launch, contest or giveaway are staples of modern Instagram marketing.

Video content is insanely popular on Instagram right now. With the help of the wealth of Instagram apps out there, you can bring your products to life minus a massive budget.

Instagram for business doesn’t have to be a total suit and tie affair, either. Brands like Chubbies rely on memes and off-the-cuff videos to put their products on display.

#chubbies

A post shared by Chubbies (@chubbies) on

As noted earlier, user-generated content in the form of customer photos can be some of your strongest marketing firepower.

From authenticity to connecting with your audience, there’s a reason why even some of the biggest brands on Instagram regularly regram photos from their followers’ feeds.

And again, not every Instagram photo needs to be meticulously planned and edited. Showing products “in the wild” is more than enough to people over.

The key to consistency is never running out of content ideas to keep your feed fresh to keep your followers engaged and entertained.

6. Engage With Influencers

By far one of the quickest ways to rise up in the Instagram ranks is to establish relationships with influencers in your industry that already have a massive following. Getting a shout-out from the right influencer can give your page instant credibility.

Power users get approached by companies on a regular basis because of the value they can provide with a single post. As a result, some influencers offer paid shoutouts while others do so organically.

The good news is there are plenty of free ways to connect with power users and have them mention your company. You can start by commenting on their photos, or tagging them in your posts. When you tag or @mention someone on Instagram, they’ll receive a notification. After seeing your company’s name pop up in their mentions a few times, they’ll become more familiar with you and be more likely to connect.

You can also connect with them on other social media platforms. A lot of Instagram users are also on Twitter, which can be a better option to start conversations. Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers and introduce yourself with a Tweet. Let them know you’re a fan of what they do and you’d like to connect with them.

Another technique that’s not completely free is to offer free samples of your products or services. This approach is effective because you’re offering value instead of just asking for something. Most of the time, you won’t have to ask for a product placement or shout out. If they try your product and dig it, influencers will more than likely post about it on their own.

That said, be selective about who you send offers to. Look for users who have a history of getting their followers to take action. Also, their audience should also obviously match your target demographic.

instagram management gif

7. Tap into the Power of Instagram Ads

Last but not least, let’s briefly talk about the growing “pay to play” nature of social media at large.

Unlike Facebook, it’s much easier to get in front of people organically on Instagram.

However, the numerous Instagram ad types out there coupled with the platform’s robust targeting is tempting for brands with the budget the experiment with ads.

From videos to stories and beyond, sometimes paid real estate is just what you need to pop up in your ideal followers’ feeds.

Video ads have become a huge aspect of Instagram for business for many ecommerce brands

Although not a must-do by any means, consider how Instagram is continuously promoting new features for businesses. By getting in on ads now, perhaps you can keep yourself ahead of the game before their “next big thing” for marketers rolls around.

No, It’s Not Too Late to Master Instagram for Business

If you haven’t gotten started as a business on Instagram, don’t panic.

With an active, ever-growing user base, Instagram has proven itself as a staple of social marketing rather than a flash in the pan. For brands with a visual story to tell and a desire to grow a tribe of dedicated followers and customers, there’s still a place waiting for you on the platform.

We want to hear from you, though. Which businesses do you think are totally killin’ it on Instagram? If you’ve had trouble getting started on the platform, what’s your biggest hurdle? Let us know in the comments below!