How to Use Instagram for Business: A Handy Step-by-Step Guide

Over a billion people use Instagram every month, and approximately 90% of them follow at least one company.

In just over 10 years, Instagram has grown from a photo sharing app to a hub of business. Brands can run fundraisers on Instagram Live broadcasts, open stores on their profiles, and make reservations through their accounts. Updates to new business tools, features, and tips in the app have become routine.

However, it can be a lot to keep on top of, especially when running an Instagram business account is just one aspect of your job. So we've brought it all together here.

Learn how to use Instagram for business, from setting up an account from scratch to measuring your success.

Bonus: Download a free checklist This shows the exact steps a lifestyle photographer took on Instagram to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers, without a budget and without expensive equipment.

Step 1: get an Instagram business account

Start a new account from scratch or switch from a personal to a work account by following the steps below.

Creating an Instagram business account from scratch::

1. Download the Instagram app for iOS, Android or Windows.

2. Open the app and tap Log In.

3. Enter your email address. If you want to give multiple users access or connect your Instagram business account to your Facebook page, you'll need to use an administrator email address to sign in or tap Log in with Facebook.

4. Choose your username and password and enter your profile information. If you've signed in to Facebook, you may be asked to sign in.

5. Tap Next.

Congratulation! You have created a personal Instagram account. Follow the steps below to switch to a business account.

Switch a personal account to an Instagram business account::

1. From your profile, tap Hamburger menu in the upper right corner.

2. Tap the settings. Some accounts may see Switch to Professional Account from this menu. When you do, tap on it. Otherwise, go to the next step.

3. Tap account.

4. Choose Companies (unless it makes sense that you choose the Creator).

5. If you plan to link your Instagram and Facebook business accounts, follow the steps to link your account to your Facebook page.

6. Select your business category and add relevant contact information.

7. Tap Done.

Learn more about the difference between Instagram Business and Creator accounts.

Step 2: create a successful Instagram strategy

Define your target audience

A good social media strategy starts with a solid understanding of your audience.

Check out Instagram's audience demographics to get a feel for who is using the platform. For example, 25-34 year olds are the largest ad group on the site. Identify the key segments that intersect with your customer base or take advantage of active niches.

Since defining your target market is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy for any marketing tool, we have created a step-by-step guide that explains all the details. Here is the short version:

Knowing who is in your audience will help you create content better. Take a look at the type of content your clients post and engage with and use that insight to inform your creative strategy.

set goals

Your Instagram strategy should define what you want to achieve on the platform.

Start with your business goals and see how Instagram can help you achieve those goals. We recommend using the SMART framework to ensure that your goals are met S.specific, M.easy, Areachable, R.Elevant and T.imely.

Track the right performance metrics

Once your goals are defined, it will be easier to identify key social media metrics to monitor.

These vary for each company, but broadly plan to focus on metrics related to the social funnel.

Align your goals with one of the four phases of the customer journey:

  • awareness: Contains metrics such as follower growth rate, post impressions and achieved accounts.
  • engagement: Includes metrics such as engagement rate (based on likes and comments) and amplification rate (based on stocks).
  • conversion: In addition to the conversion rate, this also includes key figures such as click rate and bounce rate. If you're using paid ads, conversion metrics also include cost per click and CPM.
  • customer: These metrics are based on actions that customers take, such as: B. Customer loyalty, regular customer rate, etc.

Create a content calendar

Once your audience and goals are defined, you can plan to post on Instagram on purpose. A well-planned social media content calendar ensures you don't miss any important dates and gives you plenty of time for creative production.

Start planning and researching key events. This can include time periods like vacation planning or Black History Month, back to school or tax season, or specific days like Giving Tuesday or International Hug Your Cat Day. View sales data to see when your customers start planning for specific occasions.

Look for opportunities to develop themes or regular installments that you can build into a series. “Content Buckets,” as some people call them, allow you to select certain check boxes without having to reconsider how they are created. The more you plan in advance, the better you'll be able to create regular content and respond to short-term or unplanned events.

Schedule publication when your followers are online. Since newsfeed algorithms consider "topicality" to be an important ranking signal, posting to active people is one of the best ways to improve organic reach. With a business Instagram account, you can check the days and hours that are most popular for your audience:

1. From your profile, tap Insights.

2. Next to your target group, tap See everything.

3. Scroll down to Most active times.

4. Alternate between hours and days to see if a specific time is noticed.

Step 3: improve your profile

An Instagram profile gives you little space to achieve a lot. This is where Instagram users learn more about your brand, visit your website, or even book an appointment.

Write a great bio

The people reading your bio were curious enough to check out your profile. So, hook them up and show them why they should be following you.

In a maximum of 150 characters, your Instagram bio should describe your brand (especially if it's not obvious) and showcase your brand voice.

We have a complete guide on how to create an effective Instagram bio for business. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Cut straight to the point. The name of the game is short and sweet.
  • Use line breaks. Line breaks are a great way to organize bios that contain different types of information.
  • Include emoji. The right emoji can save space, give personality, strengthen an idea or draw attention to important information. Make sure you find the right balance for your brand.
  • Add a CTA. Would you like people to click your link? Tell them why they should.

Optimize your profile picture

In most cases, brands use their logo as their profile picture. Keep your image consistent across social media platforms for easy recognition.

Your profile photo is displayed at 110 x 110 pixels, but it is saved at 320 x 320 pixels. So this is the size you want to upload. As with most profile icons, a circle will surround your photo. So be sure to take this into account.

Use your one link wisely

For accounts with fewer than 10,000 followers, this is the only place on Instagram where you can post an organic clickable link. So be sure to add one! Link to your website, your latest blog post, a current campaign or a special Instagram landing page.

Add relevant contact information

Include your email address, phone number, or physical address so fans can connect with you directly from your profile.

When you add contact information, Instagram creates appropriate buttons (call, text, email, or get directions) for your profile.

Configure the action buttons

Instagram business accounts can contain buttons that customers can use to book or reserve appointments. In order to be able to use this function, you need an account with one of the partners of Instagram.

In your company profile, tap edit profile, then scroll down to Action buttons.

Add story highlights and covers

Instagram story highlights are another way to maximize your profile's real estate. Organize stories in saved collections on your page, whether it's recipes, tips, frequently asked questions, or user-generated content.

Whatever you choose, add some sparkle to your profile with highlight covers.

Step 4: share great content

Create a visual aesthetic for your brand

Instagram is all about visuals. Hence, it is important to have a recognizable visual identity.

Try to set recurring themes from pillars that you can take turns. In some cases the content is obvious. A clothing line could showcase their clothes and a restaurant could post photos of their food. When offering services, try to showcase customer stories or go behind the scenes to highlight office life and the people who make your business tick.

Check out other brands for inspiration. For example, Air France switches between target shots, window seat views, travel facilities and aircraft images.

Buildings and destinations on the Air France Instagram page

Source: Air France Instagram

Once you've decided on a theme, create a consistent visual appearance. That includes a color palette and overall aesthetic that your fans will instantly recognize when they see them on their Instagram feeds.

Take great photos

In order for Instagram to work for your business, you just need to have great photos. But you don't have to be a professional photographer and you don't need a lot of equipment.

Your phone is your best friend when it comes to Instagram photography as you can post right from your device.

Here are some tips to help you get the best photos while taking them with your phone:

  • Use natural light. Nobody looks good when lightning bolts illuminate the oiliest parts of their face and cast strange shadows on their nose and chin. The same applies to product images. Natural light only makes shadows softer, colors richer and photos more beautiful to look at.
  • Avoid strong light. The late afternoon is an unbeatable time to take photos. Cloudy days are better than sunny days for midday shots.
  • Use the rule of thirds. Your phone camera has a built-in grid that you can use to comply with this rule. Place your subject where the grid lines meet to create an interesting photo that is off-center, yet balanced.
  • Try different angles. Squat down, stand in a chair – do whatever you can to get the most interesting version of your shot (if, of course, it's safe to do so).
  • Keep it simple. Make sure your picture is easy to see at a glance.
  • Make sure there is enough contrast. Contrast creates balance, makes content more readable and accessible.

If you have the budget, support artists and hire photographers or illustrators.

Make use of tools and resources

No matter how great your photos are, you will likely need to edit them at some point. Editing tools allow you to keep your aesthetics, add frames or logos, or even create infographics and other original content.

Fortunately, there are plenty of free resources available, including Instagram's built-in editing tools. If these tools don't work, experiment with mobile photo editing apps, many of which are either free or very affordable.

Here are some more pointers on how to edit your Instagram photos.

Write compelling captions

Instagram may be a visual platform, but that doesn't mean you can neglect your subtitles.

Captions allow you to tell the story that makes the photo meaningful. A good copy can build empathy, community, and trust. Or it can just be fun.

In two words, this Reformation headline is crooked, seasonal and alludes to the brand's ecological commitment.

Develop a clear brand voice so you can stay consistent. Do you use emoji in your subtitles? Is there a style guide that your brand follows? What hashtags do you use? A good set of guidelines will help keep your subtitles clear and branded.

Take inspiration from the best copywriters out there. Check out our Instagram Caption Guide for brand examples and copywriting tools.

Are you trying to figure out how to add line breaks? Discover this and more Instagram hacks here.

Tell great stories with Instagram Stories

More than 500 million people look at Instagram Stories every day. For perspective, Twitter has an average of 192 million users per day.

People have turned to the casual, vanishing nature of the format, even when it comes to branded content. A 2018 survey by Facebook found that 58% of respondents became interested in a brand or product after seeing it in a story.

Unsurprisingly, this format is a great platform for storytelling. Tell authentic brand stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. Engage your audience with stories stickers and add value to your viewers so that they get in the habit of watching your stories regularly.

Don't forget, if you have more than 10,000 Instagram followers, you can also include links on your Instagram stories.

Discover other formats

Instagram may have started out as a simple photo sharing app, but now the platform has everything from live broadcasts to roles. Below is an overview of some of the formats that might be a good fit for your brand:

  • Instagram carousels: Post up to 10 photos in a single post. Hootsuite experiments have shown that these posts often have higher levels of engagement.
  • Instagram roles: This TikTok-like format now has its own tab on the platform.
  • IGTV: Instagram TV is a long-form video format ideal for repeating series of content.
  • Instagram Live: Now up to four people can broadcast live on Instagram.
  • Instagram guides: Brands have found several ways to share products, company news, guides, and more using this format.

Stay up to date with the latest product updates from Instagram.

Create inclusive content

Branded content works best when people can imagine using your product or service. And it's harder for people to do this when they don't feel represented or recognized.

The aim is for your content to be inclusive in the truest sense of the word. Celebrate all areas of life but avoid clichés or stereotypes. Add alt text captions and auto captions, and follow best practices to make your posts accessible.

Step 5: grow and engage your audience

Reply to comments and mentions

Respond to comments and mentions of your brand on Instagram so that users feel motivated to keep engaging with your brand.

You might be tempted to use bots to automate your engagement. Do not do it. We tried and it doesn't work that well. Take some time to respond authentically when someone mentions or tags your brand.

Make sure there are social media guidelines, troll guidelines, and mental health resources in place to support the person in this role so they can manage a positive community.

Use the correct hashtags

Hashtags can help you find your Instagram content more easily.

Captions on Instagram are not searchable, but hashtags are. When someone clicks on or searches for a hashtag, they'll see all of its content. It's a great way to get your content in front of people who aren't already following you.

You may want to create your own branded hashtag. A branded hashtag embodies your brand and encourages followers to share photos and videos that go with that image. It can be a great source of user generated content and grow the community among your fans.

The tableware brand Fable encourages customers to post with the hashtag #dinewithfable and shares their posts in stories.

Fabel Instagram hashtag dine with Fabel

Source: Fable Instagram

Would you like to know more? Read our full guide to using hashtags on Instagram.

Promote your account on other channels

If you have an established following on other social networks, let them know through your Instagram business account.

Make sure you let them know what type of content you are sharing on your Insta profile so that they know why it is worth following you in more than one place.

If you have a blog, try embedding Instagram posts right inside your posts to showcase your best content and make it easy for readers to follow you:

Include your Instagram handle in your email signature and don't forget about print materials like business cards, flyers, and event signage.

Collaborate with Instagram influencers

Influencer marketing is a powerful way to gain access to an engaged and loyal Instagram fan base.

Identify influencers and creators whose fans may be interested in your brand. Start with your own customer base. You may already have influential brand ambassadors. It's just about making the collaboration official. The more real the relationship, the better.

Even small brands on a budget can take advantage of influencer marketing by working with micro-influencers: people with a smaller but engaged fan base.

While they have a relatively small audience, these influencers can have a lot of leverage on their domain. So much so that even big brands are interested in working with them.

In our post from influencer Lee Vosburgh, the inventor of the 10 × 10 Style Challenge, you will learn in practice how to best work with Instagram influencers to grow your Instagram business.

Use Instagram Ads to Reach Large Audiences

It's no secret that organic reach has been falling for some time. Investing in Instagram ads allows you to get your content out to a wide, yet targeted audience.

Not only do Instagram ads expand the reach of your content, they also include call-to-action buttons that allow users to take action right from Instagram, reducing the number of steps required to get them to your website or bring your shop.

Our in-depth guide has all the details on how to use Instagram ads for your business.

Run an Instagram-specific campaign

You can achieve certain goals with the help of Instagram campaigns.

Campaigns are often ads, but not just paid content. You focus intensely on a specific goal for a set period of time, in both your organic and paid posts.

You can create an Instagram campaign to:

Here are 35 tips for building an Instagram community that actually work.

Step 6: measure success and make adjustments

Track the results with analysis tools

If you are using Instagram for business purposes, it is important that you track your progress towards your goals.

With an Instagram company profile, you have access to the platform's integrated analysis tool. Note that Instagram Insights only tracks data back for 30 days.

Various other analytical tools are available, including those from Hootsuite, that allow you to track time periods, automate reports, and make it easy to compare Instagram metrics across platforms.

We have summarized 6 Instagram analysis tools here.

Use A / B testing to see what works

One of the best ways to improve your results is to test different types of content to see how they work. Learning what works best for your specific audience can help refine your overall strategy.

How to take an A / B test on Instagram:

  1. Select an item to test (image, caption, hashtags, etc.).
  2. Create two variations based on your research. Keep the two versions except for the one element that you want to test (e.g. the same picture with a different label).
  3. Track and analyze the results of each post.
  4. Choose the winning variant.
  5. Try another small variation to see if it can improve your results.
  6. Share what you've learned in your company to create a library of best practices for your brand.
  7. Start the process again.

Learn more about A / B testing on social media.

Experiment with new tactics and tools

Go beyond A / B testing. There has always been experimentation and learning on social media. So be open and never miss the opportunity to test the effects of new formats on the platform.

For example, Hootsuite ran a loose experiment to see the overall effect posting roles had on account growth. We even analyzed the impact of writing “Link in Bio” in your Instagram caption on post engagement.

If you think something is working, it is good practice to do your research and look at the data so you understand why.

Save time managing your Instagram presence with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and post posts right on Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all other social media profiles. Try it for free today.

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