How to use Instagram for business

Instagram is integral to any startup's success, but how do you maximise its potential for your business? Learn how to conquer Instagram here.

About Us

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:

Instagram isn’t just a social media app full of Love Island influencers and hilarious memes.

It is also a vitally important tool for commerce, with 90% of its users following at least one business account and 44% of them using the platform to shop weekly, according to Instagram's latest internal data.

It would be a missed opportunity to not use this platform to showcase your brand. But we understand that getting to grips with the business side of Instagram can be a time-consuming and complex task, particularly if you are not very social media savvy.

If you're low on time and require a bit of support in launching a successful Instagram strategy, we'd advise reaching out to an agency for a little help to enhance your efforts. In fact, if you have two minutes spare, you can use our digital marketing cost comparison tool and see what social media support is available within your budget.

They employ seasoned Instagram pros who will help save you time and money in the long run – and these services often cost much less than you think!

Or read to discover our easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide that will help you gain that highly sought-after verified account tick in no time.

Step 1: set up a business account

If you are one of Instagram's two billion monthly users, there is no doubt you already know how the platform works.

But note that one of the fundamental rules of setting up your business on Instagram is to make sure it is set up as a business account.

This type of account is very different from the personal account you may already have.

We’ve listed some of its unique features below.

Instagram business account features let you:
  • Boost your posts and advertise to a target audience
  • Access Instagram insights to monitor post and ad performance
  • Add business info, including opening hours, location and contact methods
  • Add call-to-action buttons to direct Instagram users to your website
  • Sell your products in the app via the Instagram Shop functionality

So, how do you create an Instagram business profile?

 

Step 1: Download Instagram
Step 2: Tap ‘sign up’ after opening the app
Step 3: Enter your email address – use an admin or centralised email address if you want multiple users to access your account
Step 4: Choose your username and password and complete your profile information. Consider your username carefully and make sure it is on brand
Step 5: Tap ‘next’
Step 6: Go to your profile, and tap the hamburger menu in the upper-right corner
Step 7: Tap ‘settings’
Step 8: Tap ‘account’
Step 9: Choose ‘business’
Step 10: Connect your Facebook page if you already have one set up – this is important for unified posting on both platforms
Step 11: Select your business category and input contact details (these can be changed at a later stage)
Step 12: Tap ‘done’ and celebrate – you are one step closer to becoming an Instagram business boss!


Step 2: create an effective Instagram strategy

Before you run in all posts blazing, any digital marketing professional will tell you it is integral that you put together a solid Instagram strategy.

Get together with other members of your team and think carefully about:

Finding your target audience

Consider the demographic you are trying to reach. Over 60% of all Instagram users are aged between 18 and 34 years old. Think carefully about your product/brand and work out your ideal customer. What are their interests? What kind of content will most engage them? What will make them choose you over your competitors?

Tracking insights

It is important to make use of Instagram’s insight functionality. Regularly and routinely track the performance of your posts to understand what engages your followers. Analysing engagements, click-throughs, and calls to action will help you paint a picture of what content works for you and what doesn’t.

Setting objectives

Having goals to achieve will help keep you motivated and focused. When running a small business, it is often easy to lose sight of the marketing side of things. But setting targets will ensure you spend time on your Instagram strategy and post regularly.

Ask yourself: if you want to reach 1,000 followers within three months, how are you going to get there? Read our top tips further down this article for some inspiration…

Using a task/project management app

Scheduling Instagram posts is incredibly important to ensure you post consistently. Using task management apps like monday.com will make it easy to create a content schedule. Think about how frequently you want to post, and if there are any tentpole days you want to take advantage of such as Earth Day, International Women’s Day, etc.


Step 3: create captivating content

Instagram is a platform to sell your brand. If you owned a jewellery store and wanted to attract customers inside, you wouldn’t put your worst, most unattractive wares in the shop window. You would showcase your most fabulous diamond-strewn designs to entice customers.

Try to think of Instagram as the shop window for your business. You want it to look as aesthetically pleasing as possible in order to attract users. This means the content you create needs to look and feel professionally designed.

We’ve summarised the best ways to create thumb-stopping content on Instagram:

Instagram posts

insta grid

This is the most common and important method of posting content as it helps you build your brand profile aesthetic. It is important to make sure you add professional-looking photos that have been edited and sized correctly. You should post recurring themes so that your brand’s visuals are easily identifiable.

If you haven’t got the money to hire a graphic designer, Canva is an affordable, easy-to-use design tool that we would recommend you use to get started.

To create a post, follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Open the Insta app and click on the home symbol in the bottom left
Step 2: Click the ‘+’ symbol in the top right corner
Step 3: Select post
Step 4: Select the photo(s) you want to post – be sure they are in the correct order
Step 5: Click ‘next’ and add any desired filters
Step 6: Write a caption for your post, tag people, and add a location
Step 7: Click ‘share’

Instagram reels for business

Having a video marketing strategy is integral to your business's success on Instagram. 91% of Instagram users watch videos weekly on the platform, so if you aren’t creating videos you are missing out on a great opportunity to gain new followers and turn them into paying customers.

Creating a reel is super easy and simple, but keep in mind that the videos can only be up to 60 seconds long.

You’ll have a great set of editing tools at your disposal when using Instagram reels. Use them to make engaging, fun video footage and showcase your brand.

Instagram stories

story example

Over 50% of Instagrammers have visited a website to buy a product or service as a result of seeing it on an Instagram story. And with more than 500 million people watching Instagram stories every day, that percentage is huge.

So in short, make sure you are posting stories regularly – this will even help you engage existing followers through the use of polls, Q&A sessions and sliding interaction bars.

It can also encourage users to visit your website, follow a brand you are collaborating with, or share a recent post you have uploaded.

To create an Instagram story:

Step 1: Click on your brand logo in the top left hand corner of the Instagram app
Step 2: Select the photo you want to share
Step 3: Add any elements (including location, links, polls, etc.) by selecting the smiley face sticker in the right corner
Step 4: Click on the white arrow in the bottom right corner to post

Other ways to create content on Instagram include:

  • Live feed – Live feeds are becoming increasingly popular on Instagram and are a great way to engage your followers because they can tune into your content in real time.
  • IGTV – This is a long video format that is ideal for any recurring content series.

If you want inspiration for your Insta account, be sure to check out our list of the top Instagram accounts every entrepreneur should follow.


Step 4: optimise your profile for business

 

example of strong profile

So you’ve got eye-catching content and a foolproof Instagram strategy – but is your profile ready/open for business?

Before you start growing your Instagram profile, be sure to make use of the following:

  • A strong profile pic – even if it’s expensive, get yourself a professional to design you a logo for your social media accounts. The last thing you want is for users to think your pic is tacky. Remember, we make visual judgments in the first seven seconds, and this applies to Instagram too.
  • A concise, intriguing bio – you only have 150 characters (just over two sentences) to show off your brand, so explain what you do succinctly and do it in your brand's tone. Add a CTA if you have space.
  • A link in your bio – unlike other social platforms, you can’t attach links to your Instagram posts, so it is incredibly important to include a link in your bio instead. Be very strategic about where this link sends people – will it be directly to your website? Or will it be to a landing page such as Linktree which allows you to share links to several pages?
  • Contact information – keep email addresses and phone numbers up to date so your followers can contact you easily.
  • Story highlights – organise your stories into saved collections on your profile so users can get a taste of your brand in just a few clicks.

Julaine Speight, director at award-winning digital marketing agency First Internet, offers us her advice:

“Ensure you have permanent stories on your profile, as they will provide clients and customers with key highlights and important business messaging that can be seen at a glance. This is a great way for you to promote different services or products.”


Step 5: grow your following

It’s all well and good having everything in place for your business on Instagram, but without an audience to engage with, it’s pointless.

You’ll find one of the hardest things to do on the platform is to get noticed and followed by users.

But don’t stress – there are lots of ways you can attract audiences and have followers jumping from the tens to the thousands in no time, including:

Hosting a giveaway

instagram giveaway example

Lots of successful brands have gained followers by organising giveaways in the form of a competition. Typically a brand will ask Instagram users to follow an account, share a post, or comment on a post by tagging a friend. In return, users have the opportunity to win free products or services from the brand – and who doesn’t like free stuff?

Giveaways are a great way to create additional post engagement and reach a wider audience, and working in collaboration with other brands to offer extra prizes will help make the competition a huge success.

Running followers-only promotions

Another way to encourage more followers and retain existing ones is to offer exclusive sales to users that follow you. Offering flash sales and promotions gives your followers a reason to stick around in the hope of future deals.

Being proactive – respond to comments and follow target audience accounts

The more you engage with users, the more likely they are to keep following you and spreading positive feedback about your brand.

Commenting on another brand's posts is a great way to get noticed, as is following and interacting with your competitor's audience who will likely be interested in the same products/services that you offer.

Promoting your Instagram account on other channels

A sure-fire way to gain more followers is to let people know about your Instagram business account, particularly if you are already well established on other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Also, be sure to include visible and clear links to your Instagram on your website and any marketing materials like newsletters or emails.

On the dangers of cutting corners when growing your audience, Petra Smith, founder of marketing consultancy Squirrels&Bears, stresses:

“Quick solutions don’t lead to long-term success. For brands that are keen to appear bigger than they are, without doing the legwork, buying new followers and artificial engagement is a common approach. But many brands are then surprised to see how quickly those followers start to disappear again.

“The reason is that followers purchased in bulk packages are either bots or inactive accounts, and Instagram continuously works on removing any follows, likes, or comments from third-party apps that are designed to artificially grow audiences and engagement.”


Step 6: use hashtags

When it comes to Instagram, it doesn’t get more important than hashtags.

Because captions on Instagram are not searchable, one of the only ways non-followers will be able to see your content is if someone clicks on or searches for a hashtag used in your content.

This is why it is important to use the right hashtags.

Some quick hashtag dos and don’ts:

Do:
  • Use relevant and specific hashtags – for example, if your post is about ‘sustainability’, #sustainability will do
  • Use branded hashtags to build brand awareness – famous examples include #shareacoke and #nationalfriedchickenday
  • Limit the number of hashtags you use and be selective – or face the wrath of the bots
  • Make sure your account is public
Don't:
  • Use a space, punctuation, or symbols as the hashtag won’t work
  • String too many words together – it's confusing #andnobodywillunderstandwhatyouaretryingtosay
  • Use random, non-related hashtags – after all, why would a user engage with non-relatable content?

Philip Bacon, Director of Bacon Marketing, on hashtags: 

“Like a creme egg, one hashtag is never enough. There is a fine balance on how many to add to a post. A handful of super generic ones are going to do diddly for your reach, same as maxing out at 30 on the post, not only is it crowded, it looks untidy, and it smells of desperation.

“The magic number has a three in it. 13 – 15 hashtags, a mix of high volume and niche lower volume ones will serve you well. On top of that, make them accessible by capitalising the first character of each word.”


Step 7: collaborate with influencers

Instagram is the preferred social media channel for brands engaging in influencer marketing, so you can feel confident that it is worth the effort and (sometimes) expense to collaborate with an influencer when 93% of marketers are using this strategy to grow Insta accounts.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is the collaboration between an online influencer and a brand. The relationship typically involves the influencer marketing a brand’s product or service to their followers.

Try to find an influencer who fits the ethos of your brand, someone who epitomises your target audience is likely to have lots of followers with similar interests and outlooks so they will be more likely to purchase your product or service.

Smaller but still well-established influencers are your best bet when starting out, as you typically won’t have to pay them to collaborate. Instead, offering them free products or services in exchange for the promotion of your brand will be enough.

On working with influencers, Anna Wilson, Head of Digital Development at Tangerine Communications, says:

“An influencer partnership is at its most valuable when it feels natural and is cohesive with your brand and the influencer’s feed.

“Step 1, make sure you find the right people, either search on Instagram or use an influencer profiling tool like Klear. Step 2, make sure you don’t ‘control’ the process too tightly or the content will be overlooked/ignored. Step 3, make sure you follow the ASA guidelines (it must be labelled as sponsored content). Step 4, review it to see if it did what you set out to do.”


Step 8: advertise your business on Instagram

boosting insta post

Growing your account organically is amazing (and doesn’t cost you a dime), but sometimes it literally pays to boost your posts.

Instagram ads are a form of paid social media, which means you can pay for your content to appear in someone else’s feed who otherwise may not have seen it.

By advertising your brand on Instagram you will be able to:

  • Reach the right audience with advanced targeting – changing options such as location, age, and even interests
  • Maintain higher engagement rates
  • Track your Instagram campaign performance

It is fairly simple to set up an ad on Instagram. Just follow these steps:

Step 1: Go to a post you have already published
Step 2: Select the blue ‘boost post’ button on the right-hand side
Step 3: Select a goal. Instagram will ask you what you want to achieve from boosting the post, and you should ask yourself: do you want to attract more profile visits? Increase website traffic?
Step 4: Choose an audience – here you can select the demographic of users you want your ad to reach
Step 5: Set your budget and the duration of the ad
Step 6: Review the ad, and if you are happy with everything, boost your post!

For more information about how much Instagram ads will cost your business, we highly recommend you check out our dedicated pricing guide.

Isobel Burns, the founder of Digital Marketing Engine, offers her insight: 

“Advertising on Instagram is incredibly effective for growth and sales. The Feed tends to generate more sales, whereas Stories and Reels bring in a wider audience.

“Structure your ad campaign to be as broad at the top as possible, capturing more of the right people, and then retarget your ads in their feed with strong calls to action.”


Step 9: measure and celebrate your success

Make sure to consistently monitor Instagram’s insights to determine how well your brand is performing on the platform month on month.

Organising retro meetings to discuss what is working well and what isn’t in terms of your Instagram strategy is an efficient way to analyse important stats like engagement rates and follower growth so that you can plan for future Insta campaigns.

Most importantly, reward all of your hard work by celebrating your successes. It isn’t easy mastering the art of Instagram for business, so when you do, be sure to shout about it!

Using Instagram analytics

example of insta insights

In short, Instagram analytics enable you to understand the overall performance of your business account, and at a more granular level, help you determine how successful your posts are.

Also known as ‘insights’, Instagram analytics are fundamental to any successful Instagram strategy as they can help you reach new audiences, improve your content strategy and target the right people.

Insta analytics give you a more detailed breakdown of important data, including the location of accounts reached, the age ranges of your followers, and even their most active times on the app.

This helps you paint a picture of the type of users that are engaging with your account. In turn, this will make it easier to plan your content strategy based on what works currently and what doesn’t.

To access Instagram Insights, simply:

Step 1: Open the Instagram app
Step 2: Select the ‘insights’ button on your profile, located on the left-hand side under your bio
Step 3: Use the dashboard to deep dive into specific insights, including ‘accounts engaged’ and ‘total followers’
Step 4: Select an insight to understand how your account is performing in this area!

Our top Instagram for business tips:

  • Use Instagram’s business account insights to determine the hours your audience is most active to help you increase engagement
  • Post consistently! If you don’t post consistently, you won’t gain followers or engage the ones you have – it's as simple as that
  • Tag businesses – if you are talking about businesses or personal accounts, tag them in your posts and encourage them to share
  • Get creative. Some of the most successful Instagram accounts are those that often think outside of the box – just look at vegan food producers THIS!
  • Adding your location when posting helps boost the visibility of your content, so be sure to do this
  • Explore and make use of all Instagram’s formats – including video, IGTV, reels and carousels
  • Increase your Instagram DM usage to maintain positive customer relationships

Next steps: should I get support setting up my Instagram business strategy?

Using Instagram for your business is a great way to improve brand awareness, gain customers and compete against other providers. To recap, the steps you should take are:

Step 1: Set up a business account
Step 2: Create an effective Instagram strategy
Step 3: Create captivating content
Step 4: Optimise your profile for business
Step 5: Grow your following
Step 6: Use hashtags
Step 7: Collaborate with influencers
Step 8: Advertise your business
Step 9: Measure and celebrate your success

Admittedly, it does take considerable time and effort to run your own Instagram business account.

This is why we would highly recommend you get support for your Insta strategy from a team of digital marketing professionals who will be able to do the hard work for you, so you can sit back, relax, and watch those followers come flooding in…

To find out more about some of the best digital marketing agencies in the UK and to receive bespoke, personalised quotes for their services, simply fill out our free, easy-to-use comparison tool.

There are zero obligations on your part, and the form takes under a minute to complete.

Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website.

Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism.

Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top