If you want to enhance your brand and use visuals to connect with your audience, you need to be on Instagram. With over 400 million monthly active users and the highest engagement of any social media platform, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using Instagram for business.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies fall under one of two categories:

  1. They’ve ignored Instagram because they don’t see the value.
  2. They’ve tried Instagram, but saw little to no results.

The hesitation to hop aboard the Instagram train is partially understandable. The app doesn’t have in-depth analytics like Facebook or Twitter, so it’s a little trickier to measure your Instagram analytics efforts. Also, businesses have historically been hesitant about using new social networks, and Instagram is no exception.

Now that Instagram has become a proven resource more than just a gimmick, it makes sense for companies to start getting active. Whether you’ve been ignoring the platform or struggle to get off the ground, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to master Instagram for business.

Instagram for Business Basics

First you want to lay a good foundation. That starts with setting up your profile correctly. The main pieces of your profile are:

  • 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.
  • Username: This should also be your business name. The difference is 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 the the latest promotional page.
  • Bio: Your bio is where you will capture the attention of other users. Clearly describe what your business does, and speak directly to your target audience.

For more tips on setting up your profile, read our article on how to write Instagram bios for businesses.

Build Your Tribe

In order to have success on social media, you need to build a tribe and establish a community. We’ve seen this on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and nearly every other platform you can think of–the most engaging accounts are the ones with die-hard fans. Instagram isn’t about how much money you can afford to spend on advertising. It’s about relationships.

Your tribe will help you grow your brand by creating user-generated content, liking your photos and creating conversations in your comments section. When your community starts to @mention your brand and share content related to your business on their own pages, it creates a ripple effect, and your community will continue to organically grow.

Start by reaching out to your existing fans and community members. If you already have an email list or accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, let your subscribers and followers know you’re on Instagram.

Next, get in the habit of including a call to action in your Instagram captions. It could be asking a question, telling users to tag a friend or anything else that will drive people to do something beyond browsing.

Another effective tactic is to create a branded hashtag. Branded hashtags make your followers feel like they’re a part of a movement. One company that’s great at creating branded hashtags and getting its community to participate is Under Armour. After creating a branded hashtag, Under Armour includes it in its bio so people know the current campaign.

When you click on the hashtag in the bio, you see several posts from users that are proudly representing for Under Armour. These are people that aren’t affiliated with the company and aren’t being paid to use the hashtag. They just believe in the brand and the message.

Having other people recommend or mention your brand on Instagram is more valuable than you may realize. One report from Deloitte found 47% of millennials are influenced by social media when making purchases. Also, a Nielsen report stated 84% of consumers trust product recommendations from friends, family and colleagues.

Building a strong and active community needs to be a priority when using Instagram for business.

Create a Strategy

Part of Instagram’s appeal is the ability to capture spontaneous moments. Your account should absolutely contain some spur of the moment content, but you should also have a social media strategy to go along with it. You can break this into two parts:

  1. The overall strategy for what your brand wants to achieve with Instagram.
  2. The plan for each individual campaign on Instagram.

For example, one of your goals may be to connect with social media influencers to expand your audience. In order to complete that goal, you could plan to attend industry events throughout the year and capture the moments on Instagram. Each event you attend will be its own campaign, and also contribute to your overall strategy to expand your audience.

Your Instagram strategy should include:

  • A list of your goals
  • The types of photos you’ll post
  • How often you’ll post
  • Popular hashtags you can use
  • Influencers you should target
  • Competitor analysis

Creating an in-depth strategy will keep you organized and on track. Otherwise, you could fall into the trap of posting aimlessly and hoping for results.

Create Your Narrative

We live in the age of story telling. The most successful businesses on Instagram mastered the art of expressing their narrative visually.

Your narrative will be based on your brand’s main message or philosophy. Ask yourself this question, and answer it in one simple sentence. What is my brand about?

Outdoorsman retailer REI has done an excellent job of creating a narrative and expressing it on Instagram.

REI is all about living a happier life through spending more time outside. The Instagram page exudes that message.

In addition to your company’s primary narrative on Instagram, individual posts or groups of posts can tell their own stories as well.

The better you become at creating consistent, captivating stories, the more success your business will have on Instagram.

Connect With Power Users

By far one of the quickest ways to rise up in the Instagram ranks is to establish relationships with users in your industry that already have a big following. These people are power users or influencers. 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 only offer paid shoutouts.

The bright side 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 the product and like it, influencers will more than likely post about it on their own.

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 match your target demographic.

Experiment With Instagram Ads

Instagram Advertising is still fairly new. However, it’s already miles ahead of most other social media advertising platforms because it’s integrated with Facebook Ads. This gives you access to Facebook’s advanced targeting filters.

You have a few different options for the type of ads you want to display:

  • Image ads
  • Video ads
  • Carousel ads

Instagram ads are great for businesses because they make it easier to calculate your ROI. Unlike regular posts, you have the ability to add a clickable call to action in your ads. This allows you to see exactly how many new leads are coming from an Instagram campaign, and how much you’re paying for each one.

Dip your toe in the water by running a couple of small campaigns. Just like with Facebook Ads, you can set a daily budget so you don’t overspend. Before you get started, read our guide to learn how to advertise on Instagram.

Creatively Show Off Your Products & Services

This might sound contradictory to everything you know about social media because marketers have been taught to keep promotional posts to a minimum. However, there’s a difference between occasionally showing your products and spamming. The great thing about Instagram is users aren’t as aggravated about brands posting images of their products on Instagram as they are on other social networks.

The Califia Farms Instagram page is filled with images of its coffee, milk and creamer products. But the posts that draw the most engagement are the ones that go beyond a generic product shot. Instagram gives you a great window of creativity for your images. Whether the an image is blatantly of a product or not, if it’s professionally taken, it will still draw attention.

Another great way to promote your products is to show people using them. These types of photos look more organic and natural. For certain products or services, some people simply want to know what it looks like to use it. Give your audience a window into how they can best use or enjoy your product.

You can get even more creative and use Instagram’s grid layout to your advantage. Several brands have turned the grid itself into a canvas to promote new products and initiatives like Samsung did with its new Gear S2 smart watch. When looked at individually, these two posts seem incomplete.

But when you look at them in the context of the Instagram grid, it makes a lot more sense. Additionally, if someone is searching your brand, on Instagram, they could do a quick browse of your photos to see what you’re about. Try grid photos to engage those who just want a peek at what you’re about.

Think of creative ways you can showcase your products or services on Instagram without being a blatant advertisement. Users have become very aware of the onslaught of Instagram advertisements so make sure you’re conscious of how they’ll view your presence. Again, using Instagram for business doesn’t have to be like your other social media sites. Instead, show your creative side on Instagram to keep audiences coming back for more content.

It’s Not Too Late to Start

If you’ve crashed and burned with Instagram before, or haven’t even created an account yet, why not start today? There are still thousands of businesses putting off the social media platform because it’s just not for them. Now you can put these tips you learned to use and start using Instagram to supercharge your brand. Get ahead of the pack and make sure you have the right Instagram management tools in your back pocket so you can measure and improve your social media strategies.

Have you had success with Instagram? Leave a comment and let us know what’s working for you.

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