How to use Instagram, in an effective way, for a business is the most common topic requested when we hold a workshop or host a marketing class. Its use has exploded in recent years and it is the #1 social media network that is viable for reaching millennials. Additionally, businesses in industries that are highly visual such as real estate, restaurants, any kind of retail or commerce or beauty/health-related businesses such as spas, hair salons, and fitness centers should be using Instagram regularly.
How To Use Instagram for Your Business
There are a few things to consider before jumping into Instagram with both feet.
First, you can only post to Instagram from a phone. This has been a very frustrating issue for most business owners. For one thing, they usually must make use of their personal (or their employee’s personal) cell phone in order to complete the task and it’s much more time consuming than writing.
Second, as Instagram grows, so does the complexity of what you can do with the platform. It’s no longer all about single selfies and cheesy quotes. Learning all the nuances, abilities, and tricks/trends can be time-consuming, but it is worthwhile.
Basics: Consistency and Clarity
An alternative headline could’ve been “Crisp and Concise.” Still, however you want to “c” it, what matters most is Cultivating your identity and brand. Instagram is a visual story and you are the storyteller. Begin by ensuring that what you are sharing fits in with your brand and is simple, clean and informative.
Separate Personal from Business
Make sure you are separating your personal Instagram from your business Instagram. One phone can hold five separate profiles so make sure you’re logging in to the “right” one. Business accounts are public whereas you can make your personal Instagram private if you wish.
Profile Image & Bio
Create a profile picture from your logo or another part of your brand (your face can be your profile image if you are your brand). Then leave it alone. The rule of thumb with social media in general is that when you’re bored with it is about the time everyone else is noticing it.
Write something catchy, witty, and descriptive of what you do in the Bio and include a link to the best place, which is hopefully your website (**ahem…designed by us) that people can get to know you. You can use that bio link more strategically later.
Learn To Follow
You want someone to follow you? Follow them. Start with businesses that know and love you or are your neighbors. Vendors. Local government bodies. Groups you belong to. Media. Any person or organization that could check you out, recommend you, “share” your content, or otherwise support you or that you could recommend or share content from. Later, you’ll want to be following fewer people than follow you but you have to start somewhere.
Curating and Brand Creation
Now comes the fun stuff. Charlie’s Cascade Canines isn’t going to take off without a little care and attention. Just like your pups, your profile needs to be groomed. Instagram continually ups the ante as far as profile curation is concerned.
It’s not good enough to snap pictures on your phone and upload them without any thought. Think about how your Instagram grid looks as a whole. Create consistency related to content, colors, patterns to cultivate a professional and/or impactful look. Remember, you’re trying to attract followers – that is where your grid matters most.
One thing: You don’t want to do the same thing every time. Mix it up with video. Have some posts that are one image and others that are multiple. When you’re first starting out you might be gung ho to do something cute like a checkerboard grid or other fancy things. We’ve even pinned a few of our favorite ideas here. But when you’re first getting started, it’s best to stick with basics.
Remember! Consistency doesn’t mean boring and unique doesn’t mean far out. Don’t stress too much about what will get the most attraction. Just commit to something that pleases you and stick to it.
One quick side note: down the line, you might be thinking about some of the more advanced grid techniques that require you to make 3-9 posts at a time. While this looks cool, don’t do it often. It will annoy your followers and look weird in their feed since they only see one at a time.
How do you gain followers on Instagram? Besides following others, the best thing you can do is #hashtag. On Instagram, hashtags are search keywords. It’s a pain in the ass, yes. But you’ve probably already figured out that hashtags are the least of the pains.
The best hashtags you can use have a combination of being descriptive of what you do and what you’re posting about and are something people actually search for.
No one is going to search for #thebestwebsitemakeraroundyeahbaby. But they will search for #websitedesigner.
When you start typing a hashtag, Instagram will give you a clue whether it is good or not by telling you how many times it has been used. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use humor once in a while or come up with your own fun hashtag. You are creating content, after all, and wit works. Just don’t expect the crazy long & never before used hashtags to bring you, followers.
It’s also not wise to exclusively use super popular/generic hashtags. For instance, #love may get you some attention but #love is the most used hashtag on Instagram. On the other hand, #dogsofinstagram for a dog grooming business or even better, #dogsofinsertyourtownhere is a little more suitable for your business and will generate follows from people genuinely interested in what you do. You can use both–no shame in that.
Incidentally, when we’re helping our clients with SEO – this is very similar advice. You want keywords people use but not necessarily the ones that are the very most popular. Depending on your business, the sweet spot is finding your niche.
Also, follow your competition. What hashtags are your local competitors using and what hashtags are used by the national brands? You can even start your own hashtag so that all your work is easily found, and people using your service can use your hashtag, and it’ll all be collected in one neat area. Why do you think wedding hashtags are so useful? AutoHash and Display Purposes are free apps that help you find popular hashtags and create catchy new ones.
You’ve followed a bunch of people, right? Now start interacting with them. Interacting gets your name out there for people to see and click on. Further, interacting increases the likelihood that your posts will show up more often for your followers and hashtags. Interacting means liking, sharing and commenting on posts.
Once you’ve mastered everything we’ve discussed so far: you’ve created your profile, and posted a few times, and followed a few people, and dabbled in the world of hashtags, and interacted with others, and gained a few followers, and cultivated a little of your own brand – you’re ready for the next step: stories, highlights, and ads.
Here’s the nutshell version for each and if you’d like to learn more, just let us know.
Stories: This is a separate area of Instagram (stories show up at the top of your home screen), where shorter and less cultivated posts and shares go. They expire in 24 hours and are a great tool for those who really want to maximize their Instagram exposure and interactions.
Highlights: Highlights are “compilations” of things you’ve posted under stories that can be featured above your grid. For instance, a restaurant might highlight all the posts of their food that customers have shared.
Ads: Want more exposure? Ads and promotions are a great way to gain more followers and engagement.
And there you have it! While we couldn’t cover everything Instagram is- this is a great starting point for any business. Be sure to head over to our Pinterest board about Instagram grids we love– there are a lot of neat things you can do to stand out. And of course, for help stepping up your Instagram, reach out to us anytime.