Over one billion active users are scrolling Instagram every month. And they’re not just heading to the social media platform to share photos with their friends and family: 81% of people use Instagram to research products and services.
For business owners and marketers looking for a cost-effective marketing channel to build brand awareness and move audiences from product discovery to conversion, Instagram needs to be on your agenda. This is especially true if your businesses’ ideal customers are Gen Z and Millennials (as these are the largest demographics using the platform).
But we get it: simply posting images to an Instagram profile isn’t enough to cut through and convert followers into shoppers.
To succeed as a business on Instagram, you need to have a strategy in place that outlines your goals, defines your KPIs and harnesses best-practice content to build an engaged, loyal following.
Ready to use Instagram for business and see tangible ROI from your social media marketing efforts? Let’s dive straight into our ‘How to Use Instagram for Business’ playbook.
How to Use Instagram for Business
- Identify your audience
- Set Instagram goals
- Map out your Instagram strategy
- Create an impactful profile
- Settle on your aesthetic
- Use hashtags to your advantage
- Maximize your engagement
- Boost your reach with Instagram ads
Why Instagram is an Effective Marketing Tool
You’ll find no shortage of Instagram statistics that further prove why Instagram can be so effective for marketing.
But, aside from having a huge volume of monthly users, what’s the business case for building an Instagram following?
Let’s walk you through the key reasons why you should prioritise Instagram as a marketing channel:
- Instagram builds powerful social proof: customers need to trust a brand before they buy from them. And chances are they’ll stalk your businesses’ social channels (as well as online reviews) to get an honest perspective on what others think about your business. So, your business needs to be sharing high-quality content as well as encouraging other shoppers to snap and share their experience with your brand.
- Instagram is a cost-effective marketing channel: a well-executed organic Instagram strategy can help your business build brand awareness and capture new, high-intent new followers (all without touching your marketing budget).
- Instagram offers powerful eCommerce features: with the launch of Instagram Shopping, you can promote and sell your new products directly through Instagram. This is a cost-effective way to boost the visibility of your brand and move users from discovery to conversion in just a few taps.
Whether you’re selling products or promoting your services, Instagram is an effective marketing channel to get your brand in front of potential customers.
RELATED: Go ahead and sink your teeth into even more juicy Instagram statistics.
Instagram for Business 101Grab our Instagram for Business eBook to take your Instagram game up a notch!
The Great Debate: Business Accounts vs. Personal Accounts
Before you dive right in with marketing on Instagram, you have a choice to make: should you get a business account or stick with a personal one? Let’s help you make an informed decision about which profile type is best for your brand.
An Instagram business account is a type of account that distinguishes you as a business (rather than an individual) to your followers. The quickest way to identify a business account is by looking for “call” or “email” buttons like the ones below—that’s a feature that’s only available with business accounts.
What are the benefits of making the switch to a business account? Well, there are a few:
- Contact Buttons: Like the links pictured above, you can give users the option to immediately get in touch with you using your email or phone number. It’s a handy feature, particularly when you’re otherwise only allowed one link in your Instagram bio.
- Advertisements: In order to run ads on Instagram (more on those later in this post!) you’ll need to have a business account. Individual Instagram accounts can’t run ads.
- Analytics: A business account will also give you some insights into things like the demographics of your followers, best times for engagement, and how your posts are performing.
How to Use Instagram for Business – WeWorkImage Source
If you think there’s a hefty price tag associated with those additional features, think again. The Instagram for business cost is nothing. Of course, you’ll need to foot the bill for any ads you choose to run. But, the account itself is totally free.
What’s the downside? There’s really only one: some people have complained that Instagram’s algorithm is programmed to encourage brands to purchase advertisements. This means that switching to a business account might result in a dip in your engagement—although, nothing definitive has ever been concluded.
Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide which account is the best way forward for your business. Regardless of which type you decide to go with, Instagram will still be an incredibly powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
Our tip? An Instagram business account is a no-brainer for brands using this platform as a marketing channel. Without analytics, insights and the ability to run ads, you’re going to struggle to measure and track your results on Instagram.
So now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work on growing your following, solidifying your brand, and winning you more customers.
Step One: Identify Your Target Audience
The first step in your Instagram marketing strategy (or, really, any marketing strategy in general) should be understanding the audience that you’re hoping to target.
Why? Well, having a solid grasp of your audience’s demographics, interests, challenges and pain points will help you craft a content strategy that really resonates with them and builds trust with your brand.
If you already have some ideal customer profiles built out for your marketing efforts, those can just as easily apply to Instagram. But, if not, you’ll want to take the time to sit down and think through exactly what your target customer looks like—everything from basic demographic information to what their goals and challenges are.
Be forewarned that Instagram’s audience does skew slightly younger (25.2% of users are between the ages of 25 and 34), making it a great outlet to talk to that age range in particular. However, don’t let that limit you. Instead, think of the people that you most want to target with your posts, and then go from there.
So, what steps should you take to define your target market on Instagram?
- Review your Audience Insights on Instagram: jump into your Instagram apps’ analytics to see exactly who is currently following your brand. Instagram will provide a breakdown of the gender, age, and locations of your followers, which can help you understand the demographic of your existing community.
- Pinpoint your existing customers: take a look at your sales or client data to figure out the demographics of your existing customers. Look for any trends that appear in this data, such as age, gender, location, what device they use (desktop or mobile) and even what times of day they’re most likely to buy from you.
- Scope out your competitors’ audience: conducting an audit of your competitor’s Instagram followers is a smart way to uncover opportunities for your brand on social media.
From here, you can go a step further and build out in-depth audience personas to help you better understand the needs, challenges and motivations of your target market.
Typically, this involves defining the basic demographic information (age, location, job, income) about your audience, what challenges or pain points they face, what aspirations they have as well as what content or messaging will convince and convert them.
The better you nut out your ideal audience on Instagram, the more likely you’ll be able to design Instagram content that appeals to them and inspires them to engage with your brand.
Step Two: Set Instagram Goals
Every great marketing strategy is built on these: goals and objectives. And the same goes for Instagram. That means you need to spend some time figuring out what business KPIs and metrics you want to hit and measure to quantify success.
Start by asking yourself this one straightforward question: What are you hoping to accomplish with your brand’s Instagram account?
Much like with any social network, it’s easy to get wrapped up in vanity metrics and only focus on getting your follower count to increase. However, that’s when it’s important to step back and remind yourself of your endgame.
So, come back to the four stages of the customer journey to set goals and KPIs that align with these stages of the buyer funnel:
- Awareness stage: this is all about getting your brand name out there, and includes KPIs such as follower growth, post impressions and accounts reached.
- Consideration stage: this is all about building rapport and trust with audiences, and include KPIs such as your post’s engagement rate and profile visits.
- Decision stage: this is all about getting your followers to convert, and includes KPIs such as website clicks, Shopping clicks, sales, email signups and even app downloads.
Here’s the thing: your goals and objectives are likely to change over time. In the early stages of building your Instagram following, your goals may be concentrated in the awareness stage.
On the flip side, when you’ve got an engaged following built, you’ll likely be tracking decision stage metrics instead.
Make sure to give each KPI or goal you set a clear timeframe to hold you accountable, too. Try setting monthly goals and benchmarks, and use your monthly Instagram reports to reflect on whether you’ve achieved these objectives or not.
Step Three: Map Out Your Instagram Content Strategy
Now you’ve clarified your audience and goals, it’s time to flesh out your content strategy on Instagram. In a nutshell, this step is all about clarifying how you’ll communicate with your audience and what content formats, assets and messages will effectively connect with your audience.
Like with any other marketing campaign or initiative you tackle, having a strategy in place will both hold you accountable and ensure that your Instagram account is actually moving you forward in regards to your objective—you just need to follow the roadmap that you laid out.
So, what key questions does your Instagram content strategy need to answer?
- How often do you intend to post? This needs to be a realistic balance of internal resourcing as well as ensuring your small business is active enough on Instagram to build a loyal following.
- What type of content do you plan to post? Review your existing analytics to see what content formats (Reels, IGTV, Instagram Stories, Carousels etc.) generate the highest engagement from your audience and use this to inform your content strategy.
- What brand elements—from colours to typography—will you incorporate? We’ll dive into how to craft a compelling visual identity later in this blog, so sit tight!
- What voice will you use for your captions? Your brand’s tone of voice needs to be consistently applied across your marketing materials (including your Instagram content), so make sure you have clear guidelines for what is on-brand and off-brand from a copywriting perspective.
- How will you measure success? Come back to your goals and objectives and see benchmarks and KPIs for each month or quarter to hold your content accountable.
- Who will be in charge of posting to Instagram? Your Instagram strategy should have a workflow plan that nominates the team members who will be responsible for planning, creating, posting and reviewing your Instagram content.
When sorting out your strategy, there’s one other important thing to keep in mind. Like so many other social networks, consistency is key on Instagram. To attract and retain followers, you need to show that you’re active in that space. Research shows that posting five times per week is a great place to get started.
Think that sounds tough to manage? Fortunately, Sked Social can help you stick with your posting schedule—without any stress or headaches.
RELATED: We have a post that dives into the nitty-gritty of developing your own Instagram strategy.
Step Four: Create a winning Instagram profile
For businesses on Instagram, your bio is like your elevator pitch. In just 150 characters, you have to capture users, communicate what you do and convert them into followers (or even customers).
So, what does it take to create a perfect Instagram bio? Here are the key ingredients you need to focus on:
- Profile picture: this image needs to capture your brand’s visual identity and act as an instantly recognisable symbol of your business. Try using your logo or submark to build brand awareness on Instagram.
- Username and account name: the way your account is named on Instagram will determine how easy it is for users to find and discover your business. So, keep your username (@handle) short and easy to remember, and inject SEO-friendly keywords into your account name to boost your discoverability.
- Instagram bio: in just 150 characters you need to spell out your value proposition, capture your brand voice, leverage emojis, tap into keywords and popular hashtags and end with a compelling call-to-action (CTA).
- Your bio link: this one clickable link needs to do the heavy lifting for you, which is why Sked Link is a handy tool that allows you to share more than one link with your followers.
- Contact buttons: made sure you’ve activated your Instagram business profile’s contact information (which allow users to email, call or find directions to your business in one tap).
- Category: nominate the right category for your business to explain what your business does to audiences quickly and easily.
By leveraging an impactful bio along with the other Instagram marketing tips for business that we’ve already touched on, you’re sure to make an impression on Instagram users—and, hopefully, convert them into loyal customers.
Step Five: Define your visual identity and aesthetic
Instagram is a visual-first platform, built on the sharing of compelling images and video. So, to stand out from the crowd on Instagram, your business needs to craft a defined visual identity and visual strategy.
A clear, consistent visual identity is what will help your brand remain top-of-mind with users and potential customers on Instagram. That means you need to craft brand guidelines for Instagram that explain:
- Brand colours: select a handful of bespoke brand colours that will be used consistently across all of your Instagram posts (make sure this reflects your existing brand collateral, such as your website and email marketing templates).
- Brand fonts: one or two fonts are all you need to create a memorable visual identity. Make sure these are clear and easy to read in a range of applications.
- Logo applications: explain exactly how your logo should be displayed on your Instagram content, including a range of colour variations to suit different images and designs.
- Graphic elements: craft or curate a bespoke range of graphic elements and GIFs that your brand can share consistently on Instagram.
- Photography guidelines: whether you’ve invested in bespoke photography or are curating stock imagery, set parameters around what types of imagery is on or off-brand.
Your businesses’ visual identity should represent your brand personality on Instagram. Do you want to be seen as sleek and minimalistic? Bright and colourful? Driven and adventurous?
Coming up with those adjectives will naturally lead you to some different visual elements that you could incorporate into your visual aesthetic.
RELATED: This only scratches the surface of how to use Instagram for business! Find out even more about creating an Instagram aesthetic for your brand.
Step Six: Craft high-quality content
With a top-notch Instagram profile set up and brand guidelines in place, it’s time to turn your attention to the name of the game: crafting high-quality Instagram content.
To stand out from the crowd on Instagram and generate the best results from your Instagram marketing efforts, it’s essential to understand social media best practices when it comes to content format, assets and copywriting.
So, let’s walk you through what you need to know to succeed with Instagram marketing for business.
Leverage content formats
When crafting content for Instagram, it’s important to match your message to the most appropriate content format. Here are the top formats you have to choose from:
- Single image or video posts: perfect for communicating a single idea with a custom graphic template, high-resolution image or short piece of video content.
- Instagram Stories: with 500 million people watching Instagram Stories daily, there’s stacks of opportunities to reach and engage with your customers using this format. Use Instagram Stories to share raw, candid and ephemeral content to complement your Instagram Feed posts.
- Instagram Carousel: these posts allow you to share up to 10 images or videos in a single post, perfect for tutorials or showcasing a range of related products.
- Instagram Reels: these TikTok inspired videos (up to 15 seconds long) are edited, punchy and a great way to boost your organic reach on Instagram.
- IGTV: these long-form video posts are ideal for crafting an ongoing content series of interviews, workout classes or tutorials.
- Instagram Live: these live broadcasts are fantastic for having two-way conversations with your followers or teaming up with other accounts or influencers for a joint broadcast.
Capture social-ready video and photography
As a visual-first platform, the photography and assets you share to Instagram need to be striking to stand out on the feed.
So, follow these creative guidelines when capturing or curating imagery for your Instagram account:
- Use natural light and avoid flash photography to ensure your colours are rich and shadows are soft.
- Use the rule of thirds to place subjects in the centre of the frame and give a sense of balance to your imagery.
- Experiment with angles and don’t be afraid to get creative and select imagery that shows subjects from above or below to add visual interest.
Write compelling captions
Again, draw on your brand’s tone of voice everything you go to write a caption for your Instagram content. Attention is scarce on social media, so make sure to get straight to the point.
Here are some copywriting tips when crafting captions for your Instagram content:
- Start with a compelling hook, such as a question, provocative statement or intriguing phrase that captures attention.
- Use frequent line breaks to give structure to your captions and avoid huge blocks of text that are difficult to read.
- Use emojis strategically to communicate ideas succinctly and break up your captions.
- End with a strong call to action that drives Instagrammers to engage with your post, share it with their friends or even head to your bio or website.
Step Seven: Use Hashtags to Your Advantage
When learning how to use Instagram for business or personal, mastering your hashtag game is a vital part of it all! When getting started with marketing on Instagram, there’s another question that many people are faced with: How do they get new users to find them?
There are tons of Instagram marketing tips for businesses out there that promise to increase your following. But, one of the smartest is to always use trending hashtags in your posts.
By using hashtags on your Instagram posts, you’re making your individual photos searchable by that specific term. Think of hashtags as your ticket to winning social SEO.
In addition to getting your brand in front of new users, hashtags also make your Instagram posts far more engaging for your existing followers. In fact, posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than posts without.
When it comes to the optimal number to include, many experts assert that 11 hashtags with each post are a good number to shoot for.
That can seem like a lot of hashtags, especially when you’re feeling stumped on how to come up with ones that are relevant for your brand. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to zero in on the terms that best fit with your business:
- Scope Out Your Competitors: What relevant hashtags are they using with their own posts?
- Check Out Influencers in Your Industry: Influencers are often ahead of the curve. Are there certain hashtags you’re seeing crop up again and again?
- Use Instagram’s Search Function: Simply type in a keyword and you’ll immediately see specific hashtags and posts that are incorporating that keyword.
RELATED: Want even more advice on how to use Instagram for business? Check out our guide to using the right Instagram hashtags.
Step Eight: Maximize Your Engagement
Instagram is a social network—the operative word there is social. It’s not a platform for constant one-way broadcasting of your message. You need to plan to interact and engage with your followers.
How can you do that? There are tons of different methods for engaging, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Responding to Comments: When someone leaves a friendly note on your post or sends you a direct message, make sure to write back!
- Commenting and Liking on Other Posts: Whether they’re posts from influencers or other businesses in your industry, get out there and proactively interact with other accounts.
- Creating a Branded Hashtag: When users tag their own posts with that term, you’ll easily be able to find them and interact.
- Utilizing Instagram Live: With the ability to answer questions in real-time, it’s an incredibly engaging feature.
- Hosting an Instagram Contest: Everybody loves to win, which makes competitions and giveaways an effective way to pull more interaction out of your audience.
Regardless of which specific tactics you choose to implement, the important thing to remember is that you need to converse and interact—rather than just post.
Set aside some time each week that you can dedicate to engagement. Having that designated time to respond to comments, comment on other posts, and have friendly exchanges with other users will go a long way in boosting your Instagram reputation.
RELATED: Discover even more ways to increase your Instagram engagement.
Step Nine: Boost Your Reach With Instagram Ads
Finally, when it comes to learning how to use Instagram for business, it’s tough to beat the power of advertising on Instagram.
As mentioned earlier, this is one of the perks of having a business account: You can only run Instagram ads if you have a business account (as opposed to an individual one) and a Facebook page.
According to Instagram, there are numerous different options for the types of advertisements you can run:
- Photo Ads: Share your message with a simple, beautiful photo.
- Video Ads: Include sound and motion, as opposed to just a still photo.
- Carousel Ads: Users can swipe through a series of photos or videos.
- Stories Ads: Advertisements that appear in the “Instagram Stories” section of the platform.
Again, Instagram’s algorithm seems to push brands in the direction of purchasing advertisements. That’s frustrating. But, fortunately, advertising on Instagram can be effective.
Much like with Facebook, businesses can zero in and target customers based on demographics, behaviours, and interests—meaning you can show your advertisements to people who are most likely to be interested in them (and, thus, more likely to click through to your profile).
Over to You
There’s no denying the power of Instagram when it comes to marketing your business. But, when it seems like there’s so much involved, getting started can be intimidating. But don’t let this deter you from jumping right into our guide on how to use Instagram for Business.
That’s why this comprehensive guide comes in so handy. Use it to lead your own Instagram marketing efforts, and you’re sure to leverage Instagram to solidify your brand, engage your audience, and win new customers.
Now that you know how to use Instagram for business, why not start carving out hours in your social media workflow by signing up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.