With over 300 million active monthly users, Instagram isn’t just a niche social network anymore; it’s a force to be reckoned with, and one that your business should use. It’s a streamlined platform that drops the feature frills of other social networks and focuses on only the visual.
Sharing photos (and more recently, videos) is what Instagram is all about. You can tell graphically rich and inspiring stories about your business and brand through visuals. And because other social networks place increased importance on photo and video posts, Instagram is the perfect complementary network to include in your marketing mix for ease of cross-posting content.
How to Strategically Use Instagram for Business
For those of you already using Instagram for your business, my advanced guide to Instagram will help you build your brand’s identity on Instagram and grow your follower count.
So let’s do this. Here is how to set up an Instagram business account and get started down the right path to success.
1. Download the App
Unlike other social networks, Instagram is strongly app-based. So pull out your smartphone, find Instagram in your app store and download. I’m using iPhone screenshots throughout this post, but the layout will look the same on Android devices.
2. Create an Account Using an Email Address
While it might make sense at first to just log in with your Facebook account…DON’T! That will immediately create an account based on your personal Facebook page. Since this is for your business, go ahead and use your business email address.
Pro Tip: Use your personal work email address. Just like you, have your address saved in their phones or have their email connected to their address books. Either way, when one of your contacts uses Instagram’s “Find Friends” feature, you want to show up on that list. Thus, your direct work email address will get you the most hits.
3. Choose a Recognizable Username
On the next screen, you’ll be asked to create a username and password, as well as setting your profile image. These are two of the most important steps because they secure your brand’s name and makes it easy for people to find and follow you.
4. Picking the Right Profile Picture
On that same screen, tap on the +Photo button at the top. This is where you set your thumbnail icon. It’s important to note that this should be a large version of your logo or something really recognizable that’s associated with your brand. Do you see the size of the +Photo circle? That is literally the size your profile image will be.
After tapping that button, you’ll be given a few photo import options. Do not import from Facebook; that will pull in your personal account and not your business page. Feel free to import from Twitter, as long as it’s your business page.
Personally, I would go with either “Take Photo” or “Choose from Library” and get a fresh picture for your profile. Maybe you have a coffee mug with your logo on it or a really recognizable office. Or if you’re the face of your business, grab a headshot you like from your photos on your phone or take a new one.
In our case, we grabbed one of our company t-shirts and snapped a picture of the logo, just to give it an edgy look. After you get your photo, you’ll be able to scale and crop it to fit into the circle-shaped profile image.
5. Profile Basics
After than, you’ll be asked to enter your full name and phone number. If your business has a name, use it here, but it you’re the face of your business, go ahead and use your own name. And whatever phone number you think your clients would most likely have in their address books, put that number here. Remember, we want to maximize the exposure of your account through the tools that Instagram has provided.
The next screen will ask try and get you to find people to follow. Don’t do this step yet. It’s best to have a photo or two posted before you start following people, giving them some incentive to follow you back. If you follow them now, they won’t see anything on your account. Just click “skip” for now.
6. Get Your Bearings
Now that you’re finally in the app, the home screen is the first screen you’ll see. Once you follow people, their photos will show up here. A quick tour of the buttons from left to right:
- Home: See the latest photos from people you follow.
- Search: Look up people, places, things and hashtags, as well as see what other people are favoriting.
- Camera: Tap here to start sharing.
- Notifications: See the most recent people to follow your account and favorite your photos.
- Profile: Your full account, everything you’ve posted and access to the settings menu.
7. Complete Your Profile
Tap on the profile button on the bottom right to see your account, then tap on the “Edit Your Profile” button at the top of the page. This is where you complete your profile.
Be sure to fill out the website and bio fields. This is the ONLY place on Instagram that allows you to use a URL. For example, if you were to post a URL in the text of a photo you’re sharing, people who see it won’t be able to click it. Instagram wants you to stay in the app, but they allow this one URL–so make it count.
As for your bio, just like other networks, you’re limited by character count. Talk about what you do, where you’re located, something funny about your business, etc. Just get something down for now and as you check out other profiles, you can come back to edit this later.
8. Set up Your Social Sharing
The last thing you should set up is your social sharing. Remember, Instagram is a great tool to use to easily get your photos in multiple places without lots of work. Go ahead and tap the gear icon in the upper righthand corner and then “Linked Accounts.”
Once in there, you can go ahead and connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts.
After you log into your Facebook account, you’ll want to make sure you specify that you want to share to your Business Page and not your profile. Tap “Share to” and then select the right page. I manage a lot of Facebook pages, so I want to make sure to choose the right account. In this case, I’ve selected OutboundEngine.
9. Post Something
It’s always good to have a photo or two posted to your account before you start following people. That way, when they get the notification that you followed them, when they see your profile, your photos are there for them to see and like.
To post, tap on the camera icon at the bottom of the screen to open the camera.
For our first photo around the office, I picked out a foam hand we used at a sporting event. Tap the big blue button to take the picture.
10. What’s with All the Filters?
On the next screen, you’ll see a bunch of filter choices. Instagram is known for its filter selection, and playing around in here can make even the most novice photographer look like a pro. Play around with filters and settings until you like what you see. For this photo, I’m using the Ludwig filter because it makes the orange in our logo pop.
11. Caption and Always, ALWAYS Hashtag
Keep your captions brief and fun. Include just enough information to caption the moment; you’ll get points for witty and clever posts. Another thing you should always do is use hashtags. The more you use Instagram, the more you’ll see these used by lots of people. It’s a great way to get your photos (and account) discovered. For this post, I’m using a few, one of them being #ATX, which is popularly used for posts about Austin. You can also check out Top Hashtags to see what’s popular on Instagram. Keep in mind, though, that the most popular hashtags will also be the most crowded, so if you’re targeting a particular niche, consider using a more specific hashtag.
12. Use Those Social Share Features
As I mentioned earlier, Instagram is a great way to help you save time. You can snap and edit photos through the app and then share them to Facebook and Twitter with just a few taps. There are two ways to do this. The first way you can see in the image used in step 11. Just tap the Facebook and Twitter buttons below your caption.
The other way is to share to your social networks after the fact. I recommend this way because you’ll probably want to change the photo caption to remove all the hashtags you added prior to sharing. To do this, tap on the three dots in the lower right corner of a photo you’ve posted.
This will bring up some options for you. Tap Share.
On this next page, go ahead and remove the hashtags from the original post. They’re not as popular on other social networks as they are on Instagram. One caveat here: if the hashtag is specific to an event (as in the case of this example, #startupgames), leave that alone because you want your post seenby others. When you’re ready, select Facebook and Twitter and tap share in the upper right corner.
13. Follow People and Engage!
Now that you’ve got some content posted, it’s time for you to start following people so they start following you back. From your profile page (tap the bottom right corner icon), go to the options page (gear in the upper right corner).
From here, there are two options you should use at the top:
- Find Facebook Friends
- Find Contacts
Tap any of these and Instagram will connect to Facebook and your address book. This is good for you as a business because if you’ve got your past clients and connections stored in your phone, you’ll be able to see their accounts.
Instagram will immediately pull up all your friends on Instagram that are stored in your contacts list or logged in using Facebook. Find a few to follow and see what sort of response you get. This is how you get people to start following you back.
As you post more to the network and follow more people, you can check your activity page (heart icon at the bottom of the screen) to see who has liked your photos, started following you, or mentioned you.
14. Find and Define Your Brand’s Story
Once you’re set up and ready to go, it’s important to decide what your brand’s purpose on Instagram should be. A company like Google already has its brand identity established, Being known for its cool offices and culture, it focuses its account on recruitment. However, someone like a real estate agent might be interested more in establishing a positive public perception through photos.
I’ve put together an intermediate guide to Instagram for businesses that you should check out to help you define what your purpose should be. Click the banner below to download your copy.
15. Get Your Name Out There
Lastly, there’s only so much ground work you can do to grow your account. Add it to your website, in your email signature and more. Instagram has a lovely collection of badges to help you promote your account.
Instagram is a colorful, visual and expressive social network. You’ve got the basics tackled and if all you use it for is an easy way to publish photos to your Facebook and Twitter business accounts, more power to you.
But… social media marketing for small business can be so much more! Check out the advanced guide to using Instagram for business and really make your brand known.