A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram for Business

As a business owner diving into the realm of digital and social media marketing, you may have just gotten comfortable with posting on Facebook or Twitter. However, as marketing trends evolve once again, you and your team can now add a bevy of tools to your disposal.

While you may be tempted to try everything and see what sticks, you’ll probably want to start with adding one new platform to your content strategy at a time instead, and we’ve got a great suggestion for you!

Recently alluded to and memorialized in a Taco Bell commercial involving “sunset heart hands,” Instagram provides an organic, in-the-moment approach to content creation and sharing that includes pictures, videos, hashtags and much more.

Read on to discover some Instagram basics as well as two features that can help you take your company’s marketing game to a completely new level.

How It All Began

Like most of the major social networks, Instagram found life in the startup/hacker community of Silicon Valley and San Francisco. After their initial app Burbn veered too close in function to Foursquare, founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger decided that the photo-sharing aspect of their current app should be the main focus of their next product. Thus, Instagram, which derives its name by combining “instant camera” and “telegram”, was born and launched in the fall of 2010.

Downloads and user counts reached into the millions once the app was made available on both iOS and Android devices. By 2012, Facebook got involved and purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012. From there, Instagram’s reach and user base grew exponentially. As of the end of 2018, experts estimate that Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users that include both personal and business accounts.

What Makes Instagram Different

While Facebook and Twitter began as websites and became mobile-centric as the 2000s went on, Instagram’s functionality was a mobile app first and foremost. While you can view your profile and follow other profiles on the Instagram desktop site, you cannot make any video or image posts. For businesses in the restaurant or retail spaces, this immediacy allowed their customers to share pictures and footage from their phone or tablets that showcased a daily special, new product or last call, presenting a dynamic call to action to other potential customers. Instagram also offers an abundance of filters to help you craft the perfect picture.

Setting Up Your Account

For your profile, you will be asked to create a username with the similar “@” symbol found in other networks. If you already have Twitter and Facebook accounts set up, try to use a similar username so that your profile is easier to find. Unlike Twitter, your username’s character limit is 30 instead of 16, which often allows you to put in the full name of your business.

When setting up your Instagram account, make sure you correctly identify it as a business account. The business account allows you to receive insights and analytics for your posts as well as provide you a chance to connect your Instagram profile with your Facebook business page. That latter feature is especially helpful when it comes to paid ads (more on that later in the post).

Other key data for your profile includes your company website, physical address, type of industry/organization and a brief descriptions of your mission/services. Another distinguishing factor of Instagram is that in regular photo or video posts, users cannot click on a link. If the content you share requires a link, be sure to include it in the bio (this is why you often see the phrase “link in bio” at the end of posts).

Once you have all of that information filled out, pick a high-quality photo for your profile image, ideally your company logo or something that is distinctive to your brand. For this profile picture, you need to use an image that is 110 x 110 pixels. The best image size for image posts is 1080 x 1080 pixels.

Creating Content, Gaining Followers and Building Community

As with all social media and content strategies, consistency and creativity are key. As you begin posting to your Instagram account, be willing to experiment a good bit in order to find that perfect balance of candid images, self-promotion, audience questions, behind-the-scenes videos and the occasional inspirational quote. You may already have a unique brand voice on your website and your other social accounts, but remember that Instagram is a much more visual medium than Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to translate your messaging accordingly.

As far as followers are concerned, Instagram has a setup similar to Twitter in that you can follow most accounts that you see unless they are strictly marked as private personal accounts. You can still follow those accounts, but they will have to approve you first before you are able to see any of their content.

When you first start building your follower base, use the Explore tab to find profiles related to your business and customer base. Whether you are a local restaurant, retail space, law practice or doctor’s office, be sure to follow all of the other businesses in that industry. If your city has a business association page, look to see which businesses and potential profiles are listed on their site and follow those accounts. If relevant, look for any profiles run by bloggers that can help promote your business. Finally, don’t forget to share your Instagram page with your followers on your company’s other social accounts. You should also create a hyperlinked Instagram icon to place on your website and email newsletter if you have one.

Once you start posting from your account and gaining followers, find ways that you can build organic and authentic community with your Instagram. By using a healthy amount of relevant hashtags in your posts, you can bring in a variety of people who are searching for that type of content and increase your engagement through likes and comments. You can also search hashtags yourself to find other like-minded users and potential customers. Be willing to not only post your own content, but engage with the other users and content that you discover. The key to a successful Instagram strategy is involving yourself in the conversation.

Next Steps

Once you get comfortable with posting from your Instagram account, you can take your strategy to the next level with these two tools:

1. Instagram Ads: Similar to Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads allow you to select an image or video and pair them with an advertising objective, targeted demographics, interests, locations, budget amounts and calls to action. And because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can have your ads display to users on that account as well as access your insights and edit your ads through the Facebook Ad Manager. Another key element of the Instagram ads is that you can hyperlink your calls-to-action with a landing page or website instead of having to point users to the bio.

2. Instagram Stories: When you regularly post an image or video to your Instagram account, they stay in your feed until you delete them. Instagram Stories allow another approach to content sharing that lets users post full-screen vertical images/videos that last up to 24 hours. The Stories feature is located at the top of the home screen and allows for a seamless scrolling with posts often appearing in chronological order. After every few posts, users see an advertisement, which if done properly can introduce a new level of engagement and lead generation. Also, unlike most of the regular posts, users are often alerted to new stories in their notifications, which means you can take advantage of that attention over a business that simply focuses on a static image/video post.

Ok, now you’re ready to start dipping your toes in the Instagram pool. Remember to have fun!