social media how toAre you looking for ways to get your business started on Instagram?

Do you have an Instagram account, but are unsure how to use it?

Instagram is a wonderful platform to use to provide your audience with unique visual content, while encouraging community engagement.

In this article I’ll show you five tips on how to use Instagram for your business.

Why Use Instagram?

As the popularity of photo sharing apps continues to rise, more and more businesses and marketers are using Instagram.

There are a variety of tools and apps you can use to enhance your social media presence—to increase awareness and engagement, as well as develop community. And Instagram, which allows you to share short videos in addition to photos, is on top of the list for brands like Nike.

#1: Connect Other Social Media Channels

First things first. Sign up for an Instagram account through email or Facebook. Then brand your page by choosing the username consistent with your other accounts and adding your profile photo or logo, bio and website URL.

Next, connect your Instagram account to your other social media accounts: Facebook (if you haven’t already done so), Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr and Flickr.

When you integrate Instagram with your other social media channels, you’ll easily be able to share content simultaneously on multiple social networks. Plus your followers on Facebook, Twitter, etc., will see that you are on Instagram and follow you there too!

connecting social profiles to instagram

Connect your other social platforms to your Instagram account so you can easily share your photos and videos.

By simply adding a few channels to where your photo or video is posted, you raise your visibility and can gain new followers. This tip will also result in increased engagement.

#2: Share a Variety of Content

Visual content gets an excellent response on social media. And if you really want to make a splash on Instagram, choose a diverse mix of content that combines different elements of your business.

Your business is not about just one thing—it’s not just about a product or a service, it’s about the people, location and industry. Make a list of the multitude of aspects that make up your brand so you have an initial plan for the types of images you can post. You can also post up to 15 seconds of video on Instagram.

Get started with these examples. You can post images or videos of:

  • Products you’ve released
  • Teases (sneak peeks) of new products and services
  • Office location or tour
  • Employees and fans
  • Clients in a causal setting
  • Events you’ve hosted or attended
  • Articles/blog posts

Follow the lead of Williams-Sonoma and combine elements that are formal such as a new or upcoming product release with a fun office activity, behind-the-scenes look or piece of trivia.

williams sonoma instagram

Williams-Sonoma shared a pic of the photo shoot for their upcoming cookbook. This type of post illuminates your business’ human side and helps the audience feel more connected.

Restaurants, don’t just post food deals and your specials of the day. Encourage your diners to share their favorite food pics.

Marketers, post more than client images. Share photos of your team actively participating and interacting with customers.

Publishers/bloggers/writers, tease photos of content and share a link and call to action. Time teased a link with this beautiful image.

time instagram

Time magazine posted this beautiful, artistic image from the ice dance competition to tease their Olympic coverage.

Both posts are very different in their type of content, but engage with readers. The first is that behind-the-scenes sneak peek at an upcoming product and the second is a tease to more content, complete with call to action: “To see more photos from Sochi, visit”

When posting your content, test different times of day to see which times get the most response. (Note: You’ll want to track this data.) Also remember to include a relevant call to action. Ask readers to like, comment or share the photo or visit a link.

#3: Use Relevant Hashtags

Whenever you post a photo, it’s essential to accompany it with relevant hashtags (#) that are related to the post.

Hashtags make it easier for users to search for specific content on a variety of platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And since you are cross-posting, this is another way to get your content noticed.

Readers tend to search trends, subjects and locations.

For example, if you’re posting pics related to your social media agency, you’ll want to add the hashtag #SocialMedia. That way, when people who want to stay up to date in the industry search for #SocialMedia, your post will come up in the results. (How far down in the results is another story.)

#socialmedia hashtag feed on instagram

If people are searching for #SocialMedia and they see your post, they are more likely to click on it and subsequently follow you.

Here are a few other hashtag recommendations:

  • Local businesses: hashtag your city (#LosAngeles, #NewYork, #Austin)
  • Products and services: hashtag your niche type (#Makeup, #Shoes, #Dentist)
  • Experts and websites: hashtag your industry (#Marketing, #Travel, #Fitness)

Do you want to follow hashtags that are related to your industry or product? Use a hashtag tracking tool like Tagboard, Keyhole or Nitrogram (a paid service). This is an excellent way to keep track of what other people in your industry are posting and get ideas for unique hashtags. Plus you can find others in your field to follow and connect and converse with.

This will help you reach new communities and gain more engagement and followers.

#4: Engage Your Community

Encourage your readers to post their own photos with a call to action related to your business. It’s an effective way to develop a community like Starbucks has. The trick is to ask your readers to post and tag, then you respond with a reply and #regram.

starbucks instagram header

Starbucks encourages their readers to post their coffee pics. Then Starbucks #regrams and responds.

Post your own pic with a question. Ben & Jerry’s asked a simple question to promote their latest flavor: “Everything but the…” The question “Did we leave anything out?” received nearly 600 comments.

ben & jerry's instagram

Ben & Jerry’s promoted their new flavor by asking: “Did we leave anything out?”

You can also try an Instagram photo contest. It’s a fun way to develop your community by engaging with your readers, encouraging them to post their own pics, getting feedback and growing your followers.

#5: Keep Track of Analytics

In order to continue to refine your post and your strategy, you must monitor your Instagram analytics.

Analytics tools such as Curalate and BlitzMetrics help you check how your posts are performing, monitor their analytics, assist with Instagram management and help generate revenue through ads, among other functions. These are both paid services, but if you’re serious about your business’ Instagram strategy, they’re definitely worth it.

curalate instagram metrics

Curalate provides a dashboard of your Instagram activity, similar to how Google Analytics has website data.

The Curalate dashboard includes metrics, such as how many people viewed, liked and commented on your posts. You’re also able to update your account from the site, engage with users and manage any Instagram photo ads you might want to promote. Plus you can compare how you’re performing against competitors across many key performance indicators.

All of this data enables you to make informed decisions about the type of Instagram content that you post. If images with questions on them get more views and comments than product competition photos, you know that’s where you need to focus.

Take the Leap

Instagram is an excellent tool to use to share visual content with and engage your audience.

iheartradio instagram

iHeartRadio used Instagram to drum up excitement and anticipation leading up to the #iHeartCountry show. They used a behind-the-scenes pic, hashtag and call to action.

Remember, in order to get the most out of your Instagram account, integrate it with your other social media networks, make sure your content is varied, use relevant hashtags, create community and use analytics to identify and evaluate Instagram metrics.

As with other social platforms, to get the best results you should have a plan, follow through and try new things until you figure how to get the most followers and the best engagement.

What’s your experience with Instagram? Do you use Instagram for your business? What’s your best advice for new Instagram users? Which strategies have you found most effective? Please share your favorite tips in the comments.

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  • I have to admit that my business is not on Instagram, yet. Until I’ve read this post, I though that there wont be any benefits, but actually I have been wrong.

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Kaloyan, thanks for reading the post. Yeah I think as social media progresses and as Instagram develops, it’s becoming even more essential for brands to have an Instagram presence. As you know you can’t stand still in the world of social media and if you don’t take advantage of it, your competitors might 🙂 Best wishes, Stuart 🙂

  • As they say “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I find that pictures help tell the story of your products or business far better than anything else. Where most are too busy to read most social media content that companies post…pictures however tend to grab their eye and attention like nothing else. Great post!

  • While linking brand pages to other social channels is a great idea, in practice, it doesn’t work when you have multiple brands to manage. It only allows you to link to one Twitter, FB and Flicker profile.

  • David Prince

    I have a client who insists on putting her hastags in the comment section of a post Vs the actual post. Any thoughts on which is better?

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Joanna, couldn’t agree with you more, pictures are a much better way to portray your brands products or offering. A stat on Twitter suggests images get shared something like 150% more than general status updates, so this makes Instagram a crucial channel. And yep in the world of information overload, images are much quicker to ‘read’ and view. Glad you found the post interesting 🙂

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Kim, that’s very true, and if you manage a Facebook brand page, this can make it harder to share via Facebook due to admin/log in problems. But an improvement Instagram could put in is the ability to share to multiple accounts. Maybe you should suggest that to them…get yourself a job there haha! 😉 Although linking is a great way to build an initial Instagram audience. Thanks for reading the post and glad you found it interesting 🙂

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi David, It’s better to put the hashtags in the actual post, as when people search for the hashtag, they’ll see the actual post, rather than a comment and ideally you want them to see the post. But putting hashtags in comments doesn’t hurt, but it shouldn’t be the main source of hashtag usage. Hope that answers your question, and thanks for reading the post 🙂

  • I to have not ventured into the realm of Instagram, however, we will be getting started shortly. Great post, very informative. Thank you

  • David Prince

    Thanks for the quick reply. I am a huge fan of SME. I am hoping Michael takes the time to interview me one day! 😉

  • Thanks for the tips Stuart. Are there any ways to efficiently manage Instagram from a desktop rather than a mobile device? I find it very frustrating only being able to work on Instagram on my phone.

  • lauren Tighe

    I have a question…how do I connect my Facebook business page with Instagram if my business facebook page is linked to a personal account? When I try to connect, it connects to my personal one…

  • Hanne Lene

    I’m going to be adding my company to Instagram – we’ve got a lot of Instagram worthy stuff… but what I’m concerned about is switching between my personal and work account on my smartphone. I’ve heard that this is a cumbersome activity. Cumbersome is a dirty word to me. Are there services that make this easier to do?

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Steph, great to hear you’re going to venture into the world of Instagram. Glad you found the article interesting 🙂

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Aaron, thanks for reading the article and glad you found it useful 🙂 One of the frustrating things about Instagram is you can’t upload photos from your desktop, only view your page. However, when I manage my company’s Instagram I do so from my iPad, whilst I use my phone for my personal one. Makes it easier and avoids having to log out and in all the time. As yet I’m not aware of any Instagram management tools, but hopefully they’ll be some choice soon. Hope that answers your question 🙂

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Lauren, I’ve had this very same problem, but here’s some useful information that should help 🙂 Thanks for reading the article 🙂

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Hanne, I’m not aware of any Instagram management services yet which would overcome this cumbersomeness. However, I use my personal account from my phone and my iPad for my company account. If you have two devices then this is a good way of managing both. Although if you only have one, it appears for the moment you’ll have to log in and out. Hopefully that answers your question 🙂 Thanks for reading the article 🙂

  • Thanks for the reply Stuart. That’s pretty much what I found from my research also. The lack of desktop access really does reduce the effectiveness of the platform though.

  • Digital Stuart

    Yeah I totally agree, the potential of Instagram is huge if they tapped into so many aspects, such as being able to manage your account from your PC. They’ve only just installed direct messages, so they’re quite behind the times. Let’s hope they’re working on the desktop management bit!

  • Guest

    Hi Lauren, I’ve had the very same problem, but there’s a way. On Instagram’s support page on their website they provide a good explanation that should help 🙂

  • Erin Martin

    I love Instagram. In addition to Twitter, Instagram generates the most responsiveness and engagement amongst my followers. The key for me is to merge both my personal life and professional brand. I find followers are much more responsive to my being authentic and not constantly pushing/pitching my brand. I’m also a Mom. I also cook dinner and make breakfast. I show that. But the biggest key for me is to be consistent and to respond when followers respond. And return the favor. I follow back (not everybody) and I do engage w/ other followers per their posts. I try to return the favor as much as possible b/c followers are much more inclined to engage w/ you, like your posts, comment on your posts when you extend them the same.

  • Important of course to mention here that Instagram is obviously for very visual brands. I’ve seen too many brands adopt Instagram because it has a huge number of users, but their brand had no business being on Instagram because they had nothing visual to offer.

    Does anyone know of a B2b brand that’s doing well on Instagram?

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Erin, thanks for the comments. I think it depends a lot on your brand and personal life and how much they interrelate. For instance, if you run a cooking business and like to cook in your spare time, this can fit nicely together. Although if you like to play football, but you work for a chocolate brand, the connection is a bit less related. I suppose it’s finding a balance.

    I totally agree, if your followers post a question or comment, you have to respond. That’s a huge key to social care and being an engaging brand. Also engaging with others does increase your chance of getting followed or interaction. Glad you found the post interesting 🙂

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Avtar, yeah brands that sell products are more likely to be on Instagram than say a legal or accountancy firm. I think brands need to pick and choose which networks are best for them, so yeah I agree, not everyone should be on Instagram. Brands should only go on there if it adds value and they’ve got interesting content to post. Rather than just being on there for the sake of being on there and for the fad.

    I can’t off the top of my head think of a B2B brand that has had success on Instagram, but I’m sure there’s one out there! Thanks for reading the post 🙂

  • Brian Clawson

    Very cool & simple advice! Some of my team uses Instagram… mostly for photo editing though. I just may have to give this a test run and see what transpires!

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Brian, thanks for reading. Glad you found it interesting 🙂

  • Personally I’m not a fan of marketers and businesses trying to use Instagram. It just seems forced and unnatural. I’d rather see Instagram stay just a social site.

  • Digital Stuart

    Hi Scott, yeah it can be unsettling that brands are moving into social media sites that were initially aimed at us regular people. Although this is the natural progression of social media, its happened with Facebook, Twitter and many more. Snapchat will probably be next! Thanks for reading and hope you found the article interesting 🙂

  • I have been adding Instagram into the mix with some of the businesses I work with. Personally, I wish Flickr would catch on for this type of use because it is a much more feature rich environment, but you have to go with where the interest is.

    Aside from Instagram being mobile-only for posting — I should write my own blog on my workflow for posting to Instagram — the biggest annoyance to me is that http links are not clickable. You can add a link in your bio that will work, but in-post links are treated as text. So posting links to outside articles just isn’t effective, and tracking will be more difficult as well.

  • I actually disagree. Here’s why: In the article above you state that it’s good to connect all accounts, so you can share to them all when you post on Instagram. And you say to use a lot of hashtags. But when you share your picture to FaceBook or Twitter you also share all the hashtags too.

    Instead it is better, IMO, to submit your post with your message (and perhaps THE most important #hashtag) and then go back into the post and comment all the hashtags you really wanted to use in the comment section.

    This way you have a message that goes out on Facebook and Twitter with language that meets the audience. And still able to use lots of hashtags on your Instagram post.

    Before Instagram changed their hashtag algorithm, you could use a single tactic to get incredible amount of likes. I would submit my post, with my message (w/ no hashtags). Then I would comment with the top 30 hashtags. I would then wait about 3 minutes, and then delete the comment with the 30 hashtags and then comment again with the next top 30 hashtags. I would do this 10 to 11 times on one picture.

    I used this tactic for my clients and I to get crazy amount of likes. For example, one of my pictures on Instagram has 234 likes (see picture) and at the time it was posted, I didn’t have more than 120 followers. But by utilizing the tactic mentioned above, I was able to get a ridiculous amount of likes.

  • marcia sherrill

    Frankly I have been intimidated by Instagram and thought it wasn’t relevant to my handbag business …boy was I wrong. I am still frustrated about loading pictures from my computer agh

  • RatchetMarketing

    Hi Tylaw,

    Why would you do such a thing? Your tactic is misleading and spammy. Here’s why: Firstly, you are not being authentic as a brand. Secondly, the likes you were getting are likely to be from bots. And Thirdly, you are tricking people that the brand has all the hype.

    My friend, what you’ve done in the past is called #ratchetmarketing. I’m glad that you’ve only done this in the past.

  • It’s not misleading and not spammy whatsoever. It’s smart and the authenticity of the brand remains within the content of the posts, not the hashtags used thereafter.

    And the results speak for themselves so I attached a screenshot for you to see (look at August & September 2013). If you want more proof, tweet me (@tylawmma) .

    Likes from bots come from specific hashtags (#L4L #F4F #followback #followme #10likes #teamfollowback) which I opted not to include because of this reason.

    Tricking people that the brand has all the hype? There is no tricking going on here, because the posts received activity. I can not trick those people into clicking like or commenting on the Instagram picture. All I can do is present the content to them and however they engage/disengage with it thereafter is beyond my control.

    My friend, what you are doing is ratchet commenting. I’m glad you use hashtags in irrelevant places and hide behind an anonymous profile.

  • Maureen Cioni

    Great tips. I’m working on a strategy for my mortgage company (service not product) so we have hesitated to get on Instagram – behind the scenes might definitely help.

  • Kenneth Tran

    Instagram can post to other social networks but can Facebook or Twitter post to Instagram? I do business on my computer so do I have to transfer the media that I work with to my phone in order to post it?



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  • Kim Lawton

    Hi Stuart – Thanks for your helpful post. I’m wondering if there is any new news in this area? I have 4 different Instagram accounts for different clients. Is my only option to use Instagram on my smartphone and log in and out each time? And is there a way to automatically link from Instagram to Facebook & Twitter, or do I have to do it individually on each post I do in Instagram?

  • Kim Lawton

    Thank yo uso much Stuart. Happy New Year!

  • Sam

    So is there a way I can start a business account using my personal phone that already has my personal Insta account on it? I would be the only one doing the posts and don’t have an iPad.

  • Grace Duffy

    Sure! There are third party apps which make it possible to manage multiple Instagram accounts on one phone. There’s Fotogramme and Multigram for iOS and Padgram for Android.

  • Crystal Zacharias

    I like to incorporate personal every day things into my posts….is this okay?

  • outsource HUB

    Not clear 🙁 Do I open a business account separately from personal, do I sink them or is there a way to do it like on Facebook (personal account + business page)? Still very much confused. And what do you do if you have 2 businesses? Please advise

  • Danny Coy

    I professionally build Instagram accounts for companies and individuals. I can bring in 500+ real and active followers a week to begin with and that number slowly rises to 1000 then 2000 a week. If you wish me to go into much more detail please e-mail

  • Deanna

    I have a question- I have about 15 different stores across the country I’d like to have an Instagram account for each one….but it sounds like I can only have 5 linked to my app at once, is that right? How would you recommend setting up a master account (that I would manage all 15 stores from)? Under each individual store’s email address (ie, or under a “corporate” email using the same email address for all accounts? (I don’t think that’s an option, right?)

  • Lovely post. Could you kindly tell me how can I link my company Facebook page to my instagram account?