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Using Instagram For Your (Small) Businesses, A Complete Guide

Using Instagram For Your (Small) Businesses A Complete Guide

In the previous post on our site, we talked about Snapchat, and how you can make use of this great social media platform to drive sales for your company. Nowadays, however, it seems you can’t talk about Snapchat and not use Instagram in the same sentence.

Indeed, even generally speaking, when creating a social media strategy for your business, Instagram is a force to be reckoned with.

According to a 2014 study by Forrester Research, Instagram even has the highest engagement rate for brands among all social networks. The engagement they see happening on Instagram (4.21 percent) compared to Facebook (0.07percent) and Twitter (0.03%) is staggering.

In other words, Instagram engagement is 58 times higher per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter!

User interactions with brands' post as a percentage of brands' fans or followers

Instagram has the highest engagement rate for brands according to Forrester Research in 2014

And with the power of Facebook behind Instagram, it means that sending great targeted advertising, etc. is easy. Instagram is an easy to use, free platform, and the only thing it requires is a smartphone to set up an account and start using it.

Still not convinced? Research done by MDG Advertising shows that 67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to be very important and carry even more weight than the product information, full description, and customer ratings. This makes Instagram a unique opportunity for your (small) business to reach your clients and visually tell your brand story.

If you think indeed, Instagram is a platform you would like to invest your time in, download the app (if you aren’t using it already on your phone) and let’s dive straight into how you can use Instagram for your company.

How to set up an Instagram account for your business

Instagram can be configured in two different ways. And you’re probably already familiar with the first option, the personal account one, but did you know you can switch an account to a business account?

By switching to a business account, it’s possible to add more information to your profile, including opening hours, a business address or a phone number. You’ll also be able to do paid advertising and gain real-time insights into how well your posts and stories are performing.

Creating an Instagram Business Account is easy

Creating an Instagram Business Account is easy

If you already created a regular account for your business in the past, you can skip straight to step four. Otherwise, you first need to take care of the first two step:

Step 1: Install the application on your phone (the Instagram app is available for iPhone and Android. After you installed the application, open the application to go to step 2.

Step 2: Create an account using an email address. While it might seem easy and while it may appear to make sense to create an account with your Facebook account… DON’T!

If you do, this will create an account based on your personal Facebook account/page. Since we are creating an account that will be for your business, the best thing to do is using your business email address to create an account.

A great tip to use here is using your business email address instead of a generic one you’re using to create different social media accounts. A lot of people are saving all their contact in the address book on their phone, and when they use the “find friends” feature in Instagram to find who else they might know on Instagram, you’re company account will pop-up in that list.

Step 3: We’re almost there with the creation of a regular account. On the next screens, you’ll be asked to create a username and password, search your contact to already find your first friends, and upload your profile picture. Although this seems insignificant, for a great consistent brand experience throughout all of your online touch points, it makes sense to keep this consistent.

Of course, every social network has its own quirks, so you can play a bit with the avatar to make it more in line with Instagram (maybe a picture of your logo?), but the brand name and username should be consistent.

Step 4: Visit your profile in the application and tap the cogwheel at the top right corner of your screen. If you scroll down a little bit, then you will find the option “Switch to Business Profile” option in the “Account” list menu.

Step 5: Tap “Continue” until you arrive at the “Connect to Facebook” screen.

Step 6: Select the Facebook Page of your business to link it to your Instagram profile. Note that you’ll only see the pages you’re currently an admin of, and only Facebook Business Pages can be linked.

Step 7: Fill out your profile (most information will already be pre-filled from your Facebook Page), and you’re ready to go! You can now start posting as your business, and analyse the success of your posts with the available analytics.

Setting up goals

No good doing anything for your business if you don’t set up goals attached to it. The same thing goes for all your other marketing channels and holds true for Instagram as well.

Instagram’s focus on visual sharing offers something unique. It gives you a platform to showcase your culture and people next to your products or services.

Being a mobile only social network, also means that it allows you to quickly capture moments at your company, giving your followers a change to interact with your brand in a way that feels more casual, more hitman than on other social networks.

Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve on Instagram?

  • Do you simply want to extend the reach of your brand?
  • Do you want to create a place where customers could share photos of your products?
  • Do you want to highlight the more human side of your company and your business culture to attract new talent?
  • Do you want to enhance and complement event experiences?
  • Do you want to grow your community?
  • Do you want to connect with influencers?
  • Do you want to drive sales through a third-party app?

Setting up Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed based goals (S.M.A.R.T Goals)

There are lots of different objectives to choose from, but whatever you do make sure that with each goal you set up an S.M.A.R.T. goal. Something that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.

By setting up goals next to your objectives, you can track your progress and see how well you’re on your way to achieving your objectives.

Creating an Instagram Content Strategy

Before setting up an Instagram specific Content Strategy it is important that you understand the audience of Instagram better. Brandwatch compiled some really interesting Instagram statistics, in which we highlight a couple here:

  • Over 60% of users log in daily, making it the second most engaged network behind Facebook
  • 30% of internet users are now on Instagram
  • Instagram was used by 48.8% of brands in 2016 and is expected to grow to 70.7% this year
  • Top brands post 4.9 times per week on Instagram
  • 50% of Instagram users follow brands, making them the social networkers most likely to do so
  • Over a third of Instagram users have used their mobile to purchase a product online– making them 70% more likely to do so than non-users

So how can you tap into this vast and active audience?

You need to determine the best times to post, identify different topics to post about, style guides to keep the look consistent, and you need a set of guidelines on how to engage with other brands and fans to start with.

How often and when to post

People don’t like looking at a profile that is never updated. As a result, you need to update and post regularly. Up until June of 2016, this first one was a significant one. Instagram used to be showing you a newsfeed in a chronological way, but that changed to an algorithmic feed.

This means that the posts that are now shown to your followers is no longer determined solely on when you post, but rather more on engagement. The better the algorithmic feeds think your post is; the more people will see your content.

This of course means, that just posting often is not enough anymore, but on the other hand having a consistent flow of content always ensures that your followers have a higher change of seeing it.

The only way for you and your brand to figure out the best time to post to get the maximum amount of engagement is just to experiment. Try posting at different intervals and times and track the result. Based on this information you can than determine the best posting schedules for your Instagram account.

Don’t forget to keep on experimenting though, as your audience grows and you’re attracting different people in different timezones, this might need to be revised now and then.

Content topics

In our post, on how to create a social media strategy for your online business, we already identified ten core topics that work for all companies in determining what to post on social media.

These ten topics don’t change for Instagram, only the implementation on what to post for a topic is of course different.

These ten topics are:

  1. Added-value Content
 – Inspirational, useful information for the reader
. For example whitepapers, studies, instructional videos, tutorials, studies,
expert explanation, sector-evolution verticals, …
  2. Stories
 – Human side of the organisation
. For example inside information, interviews, heritage, origin raw materials, old marketing material, client stories, …
  3. Special Dates
 – Events
. For example: launch new product/service, events that are sponsored by your brand, special dates related to your brand (new location, …), …
  4. Promo
 – Special actions to drive sales. For example 
coupons, limited time deals, limited quantity deals, …
  5. Fun
 – Not business related
. For example contests, top topicals, cartoons, …
  6. Company information – 
Messages about the company
. For example product / service related info, contact details, infographics, upcoming products / services / news, acquisitions, case studies, …
  7. Sector information
 – Messages about the sector. For example 
trends & predictions, infographics, future analysis, new technologies, sector news, …
  8. Participation & collaboration
 – Client-brand related actions. For example 
co-creation on new services, co-creation on new packaging, challenges, fan-photos, fan-assignments, feedback-calls, …
  9. Surprise & delight
 – Special surprises for the fans, feel-good actions. For example 
limited giveaways, birthday wishes, viral videos, …
  10. Social awareness
 – Support to good causes
. For example articles about the good cause, call for support, ..

Try identifying a couple of these topics and some concrete examples that work best for your company. After that make sure to rotate through the different topics to keep your content interesting and fresh for your followers.

Style guidelines

Every brand has their own visual identity and tone of voice guidelines. Instagram like any other social network is a little bit different than the report you regularly send to your investors though, or the copy you use in your brochure maybe even?

Instagram is a fun and engaging social network, so how do you communicate? Do you use emoji in your captions? Do you always talk in the first person perspective? What hashtags are you using? (More on that in a little bit) What type of photos or videos are you posting? Are you also using the extra apps in the Instagram portfolio like Hyperlapse, Layout and Boomerang to create a time-lapse video, image collages and GIFs?

Engagement guidelines

The final part of your Instagram Content Strategy should be covering how and when your company interacts with other accounts on Instagram. This ranges from liking and commenting on the photo’s of other Instagram users (and brands) to handling incoming comments.

Defining all these items up front makes it easier to stay consistent and build a powerful brand presence on Instagram.

Building an Instagram brand for your business

Having a consistent voice throughout all your communications is key to the building of any brand. This holds true for the communication you do on your site, on your emails, on your social media, etc. Since Instagram is such a visual platform, there are some things to specific platform elements to keep in mind as well.

If you want to create great consistency, and make it easy for anyone to look at a picture and quickly identify your brand, you need to establish some guidelines for photo and video composition, filter use, the subjects to put in your content, and the tone of voice of the captions and what hashtags to use. Establishing these upfront will help make sure you will deliver a unified brand experience to your followers.

Visual consistency

Let’s start off with the visual coherence. According to a study done by Simply Measured found that sixty percent of the top brands on Instagram (MTV, Starbucks, Burberry, BMW, etc.) use the same filter for every post. The Lo-Fi filter being the most popular, and Valencia garnering the most engagement.

By using the same filter over and over, you’re making sure you’re building consistency in your post and make your post more easily recognisable for your followers. The goal is to create thumb-stopping content, having user stop scrolling when they see your content so that they can engage with it, and the more instantly recognisable your photo and video are, the better.

Before you start taking any pictures, have a look at your existing visual representation of your brand; your logo, your website, the (stock) photos you are using. Do you have an existing colour palette? The content you will be creating for Instagram should be in line with this.

Using filters, adjusting contracts and saturation of your photos, brightness, contrast, warmth, shadows, and more you can make sure that each picture and video gives that same feeling to the viewer.


Not everyone is born to be a photographer, and creating engaging content for Instagram is a skill. While you can publish pictures with a landscape or portrait orientation, all content will still show up as a square on your profile grid. By defining a few elements that can be found on each picture up front, you can again help bring that visual consistency to someone looking at your content or profile.

Things like:

  • Backgrounds, are you shooting in front of a white wall, or on a wooden table when displaying your product?
  • White space balance, do you let your subject take over the entire picture or do you bring calmness by offering lots of whitespace?
  • Dominant colour(s), do you use bright colours, or only black and white?
  • Subject(s), do you show human beings or only (existing, teasing new) products, do you lifestyle quotes?
  • Do you bring life or a personal touch to the pictures?

(Branded) Hashtags

Hashtags are a great way for Instagrammers to discover content and accounts to follow. By using, you’re making sure that you can connect with new followers and help increase engagement on your posts. There is, however, a limit of maximum 30 hashtags per post or comment, so you need to decide which ones to use and how many you typically want to include with a post.

Most used hashtags on Instagram

Most-Used Hashtags on Instagram according to Simply Measured

According to another piece of research by Simply Measured, seven out of ten hashtags on Instagram are branded. Take some time for posting each post to browse the trending hashtags within the Instagram app’s Search and Explore tab to see which hashtags are used most often and are relevant for your brand to join a relevant conversation.

And by introducing your own branded hashtag, through your content, the events that you host, etc., you can make that your brand gets a more permanent place in the hearts and minds of your followers.

Getting Creative

Now that we got all the basics covered it is time to get creative and start posting. However just following the rules, might have worked best years ago, nowadays you have to get more creative for your brand to shine through and make it big on Instagram. So what other ways are there to make your content stand out from the crowd and help you deliver Instagram fame?


Not every brand approaches the writing of captions the same, and while captions are limited to 2,200 characters (for you novelist out there), captions are truncated with an ellipsis after three lines of text. So make sure if you want to write your life story with a post to include the biggest teasing part in the first three lines to encourage people to dig deeper and read the entire story.

Average engagement per post on Instagram (on posts containing the top 10 most-used emojis)

Average Engagement per Post on Instagram according to Simply Measured

According to the earlier mentioned research by Simply Measured, it also can’t hurt to include emoji with your posts and especially the emoji ❤️ averaging over 120,000 likes and comments.


Adding a location to your post, or geo-tagging puts your picture or video on a map and is another great way for people to discover your content. Posts that include a location receive 79% higher engagement than posts without a location.

Especially if you’re in the travel and event business, or have multiple offices that you want to promote. The geo-tag feature is a useful way for you to get more people to discover and engage with your content.

Photo and video albums

If you got multiple pictures or videos of the same subject, you could combine them into a little album of maximum ten photos and videos. This gives your followers the opportunity to swipe through and see each piece of content. They also offer you a possibility to get creative and tell a permanent story to anyone in a highly engaging way.


Talking about stories, since Instagram stories got launched in August 2016, the stories feature in the app hit 250M Daily Active Users in June of 2017. Unlike the telling of a story via an album though, the stories feature on Instagram is a bit like its Snapchat counterpart in which the content disappears after 24 hours.

Having a set of disappearing content and live broadcasting features, makes it easier for your company to take some (small but calculated) creative risk and experiment in different trying to get the attention of your followers.

Hyperlapse, Layout, Boomerang

Next, to the main Instagram app, Instagram offers a broad range of different application to help create creative content for your business on Instagram. Hyperlapse for the creation of timelapse videos, Layout to mesh up and combine different pictures into one, and boomerang to create animated gifs.

They all have their purpose, and they all can help you make your content more creative, standing out from other brands.

Collaborate with influencers

Lastly, you’re not along in this world, so why try to do all the heavy work yourself? By tagging other people and brands in your content, it will show up on their profile under the “Photos of you” section. This is an excellent way to collaborate with other users and brands on Instagram.

Or maybe you can identify and build a relationship with influencers in your space, or the biggest fans of your product? An excellent way to help build your audience is for them to take over your account for one day and have them run it as if it was theirs. This is a great way to reach a significant potential untapped audience at once!

Instagram is a colourful visual and expressive social network. It’s time to show the world that you are too.

Now that you know all it takes to start with your brand on Instagram, how will you use it to start your presence, or improve your current Instagram strategy? Leave a comment below!

This entry was posted in Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

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