26 Tips for Using Instagram for Business

social media how toAre you wondering how to use images and short video to enhance your customers’ experience?

Have you considered creating a brand profile on Instagram to make your brand visible to a new market?

Getting started on Instagram is fairly straightforward.

Simply sign up for an account (e.g., use the same name as your Twitter handle), add a profile photo (e.g., brand logo) and a link to your website, connect your account to Facebook and let your followers know they can follow you there.

It’s what to do next that presents a difficulty for many brands.

What follows are 26 tips and brand examples, an A-Z guide, for capitalizing on a business presence on Instagram.

#1: Acquaint Yourself With How to Use Instagram for Business

Businesses have been flocking to Instagram in droves. In response, Instagram started the Instagram for Business blog, which offers tips, brand spotlights, API examples and news from Instagram HQ.

instagram blog

Instagram's blog will help keep you in the know.

Check it out and add it to your reader to keep up to date on some of the coolest ways to use the Instagram platform for business.

#2: Balance Fun Images With Pictures From Your Business

Rachel Sprung writes, “Take advantage of the increased real estate you have with the Instagram web page to tell a story with the images. Have a healthy balance of fun images and business pictures.”

Anthropologie has struck a good balance with their images. Their followers like fun images as well as business ones. A puppy picture received 7,640 likes and a picture of their personal shoppers posing at a company luncheon event received 3,457.

engaging post with puppy

One of the ten most engaging posts mentioning #Anthropologie.

Track the engagement on your images to find out what your followers like best!

#3: Cultivate a Following

Tim Sae Koo offers 3 helpful tips for getting more followers on Instagram:

  • Connect your Facebook account
  • Use relevant, popular hashtags
  • Engage by following others and liking their photos

Cross-post selected images to your Facebook page with a hashtag that aligns with your campaign or brand image to help people who don’t know you’re on Instagram to find you there.

#4: Debut Videos

Instagram’s recent Video on Instagram has given Twitter’s Vine a serious competitor to contend with. Most notably 15-second, filter-enabled, editable video functionality compared to Vine’s 6.5 seconds.

Jordan Crook charts the differences between Instagram and Vine in the image below:

instagram vs vine chart

Jordan Crook charts Instagram vs. Vine.

Honda debuted an Instagram video by making a joke out of the choice. Fun idea!

#5: Embed Instagram Video in Your Blog or Website

Last month, Instagram released a new embed feature for its desktop web browser version. Mike Gingerich provides helpful instructions, in addition to examples for when and how to use Instagram videos.

Since you never know who will see your shares on a social networking platform, embed your Instagram video in your blog or website to extend the reach of your content.

#6: Follow Your Followers Back

The people you follow on social networking platforms make all the difference in the world. Curiously, many brands on Instagram (some with very large followings) don’t follow back.

To create strategic relationships on Instagram, find the brands and people you enjoy and can learn from in your followers and follow them back. We’ll talk more about this in #23.

#7: Generate a Flexible Posting Plan

Carley Keenan offers the following advice on the frequency of sharing on Instagram:

“You don’t need to post on Instagram every day. The ‘feed speed’ on Instagram is still mostly laid back. If you start posting a lot, you might saturate your followers’ feeds, and you don’t want to force yourself into the noise too often. Decide what you have ready to post and create a schedule to help you remember what to post when and to track what is working once you get going.”

#8: Harness the Power of Apps

Kay Tan put together a list of 20 apps that will enhance your photo-sharing experiences. There are apps that let users print images, search tags and keywords, subscribe to Instagram profiles via email, download all Instagram photos in a single archive folder, plus many more.

Use these apps to make Instagram a significant part of your social media marketing strategy.

#9: Inspire Potential Customers

Anna Colibri suggests you post photos that are relevant to your brand and potential customers.

Whole Foods Market posts representative photos to promote healthy, wholesome food products, store events, sustainability and their active community of customers and employees.

whole foods market

Whole Foods Market's photos are relevant to their brand.

Attract your target market with images that share a compelling and inspiring story.

#10: Juxtapose Use of Filter Types and No-Filter Images

Instagram provides a number of filters to change the look and feel of your photos.

A study conducted by Simply Measured earlier this year found 59 percent of the world’s top brands are now active on Instagram.

Their findings also shed light on choices around filtered photos: “Lo-fi is the filter of choice for 14 percent of brands’ filtered photos, followed by Valencia with 12 percent, Rise with 12 percent, Amaro with 11 percent, Hudson with 9 percent, Sierra with 9 percent, X-Pro II with 8 percent and Hefe with 7 percent.”

favorite filters

Simply Measured Favorite Filters: The Most Engaging and the Most Used.

Marketo also suggests that filters are more than a question of aesthetics, they can say a lot about you!

Shake things up a little every now and then, and try out a new filter or go the no-filter route.

#11: Kickstart Instagram Efforts With a Change in Perspective

Russ Meyer recommends that for brands to be successful on Instagram, they need to get past their inherent interest in selling and instead:

  • Share a distinctive view of the world
  • Cultivate a unique visual sense
  • Capture things that are interesting to the brand and to the core target customer
  • Train your eye to focus on what makes a great, provocative, engaging image

Entrust your Instagram presence to someone in the organization who understands how to align images with the interests of your target customer.

#12: Leverage Photo Contests on Instagram With Facebook

Businesses can host photo contests on Instagram using hashtags to organize submissions and an RSS feed to follow along with new photos as they’re added.

Samsung Camera used the hashtag #LiveInTheMoment to successfully promote their Instagram photo contest on their Facebook page.

samsung photo contest

Over 17,000 fans saw the status update and 336 commented on it.

Use Facebook status updates to encourage your fans to enter your Instagram photo contest.

#13: Market Your Brand Using Trends

Remember when Twitter’s #followfriday seemed somewhat avant-garde? Instagrammers can use a number of trending hashtags to join in a bigger part of the visual community storytelling.

Charles Mazzini takes us through the days of the week beginning with #ManCrushMonday and ending with #SelfieSunday.

way back wednesday on statigram

#WayBackWednesday viewed on Statigram.

Find a trending hashtag that’s relevant to your marketing strategy and participate with images from your brand.

#14: Network on Instagram

Kim Garst writes, “Instagram connects people through photos” and suggests 3 essential ways to create a network:

  • Engage—like others’ photos and leave comments
  • Follow your already established followers from other social media platforms
  • Include your hashtags—if your brand uses specific hashtags on Twitter or Google+, use them on Instagram as well

#15: Optimize Your Profile

Instagram profiles—like their counterparts on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking platforms—need to include brand information in specific ways (e.g., maximum number of characters, specific image sizes, attention to branding).

Brandon Gaille has a helpful list of what to include in your profile and Gerry Moran provides an easy-to-digest graphic illustrating where everything shows.

instagram profile

Gerry Moran shows how to build the perfect Instagram profile.

Complete your profile with all of the information customers might need to find you and do business with you.

#16: Promote Your Business on Both Facebook and Instagram

Great things can happen when a platform is purchased by an entity such as Facebook. Instagram and Facebook as a duo offer brands a unique opportunity for promotion.

James Borow explains, “Brands create Instagram videos, share them to their Facebook pages and then boost them into paid media that hits the Facebook news feed, in the same way that they boost text or photo posts. This enables brands to reach Facebook’s 818 million monthly active mobile users, which dwarfs Instagram’s 130 million. It’s profiting from Instagram without having to advertise on Instagram… For now it’s all about capturing and sharing the world’s moments—and paying to distribute them on the world’s largest social network.”

Capitalize on Facebook’s integration of Instagram to reach a wider audience.

#17: Quantify and Qualify

Want to know how your brand is doing on Instagram? There are image analytics tools such as BlitzMetrics and Curalate that will provide detailed insights.

Tim Peterson writes, “Curalate is able to track an Instagram post’s likes and comments so that a brand can see how that popularity translates into added followers, but also capitalize on the popularity. Denim brand 7 For All Mankind used the platform to identify that an image was resonating on Instagram. It then pushed that out as a Facebook ad, resulting in the brand’s most engaged ad on that platform to date….”

Use image analytics to identify images and video that resonate with your fans and followers.

#18: Reward Followers

Collins Paris describes how American Express “offers its followers backstage entries to events such as fashion shows, concerts and even the U.S. Open.”

He recommends that retail brands reward their followers with discount codes and promos.

american express

Follow American Express for insta-access to exclusive experiences, news and rewards through our lens.

Deliver perks to your followers so they will make viewing your feed content a priority.

#19: Showcase Photos of Employees

Showing your employees at work not only gives a behind-the-scenes view of your company, it’s also a way to celebrate staff and show them how much they’re valued. A great example is Beaucoup Bakery, which shares pictures of their staff with the hashtag #beaucrew.

member of beaucoup bakery

A member of #beaucrew at Beaucoup Bakery.

Acknowledge staff members’ skill sets, successes and milestones on Instagram.

#20: Treat Followers to a Visual Experience

Sharpie shows followers how their product can be used to “start something” creative. The majority of their photos in their feed show drawings in a myriad of colors.

sharpie

Grab a Sharpie and start something.

Find a creative way to showcase the use of your company’s products and services.

#21: Use Industry-Related Hashtags

If you’re at an event or location that’s designated by a hashtag (something like #smmw13), Jenn Herman recommends you add it to your photos so that event coordinators and other attendees can find them.

engaging photos mentioned

10 most engaging photos mentioning #smmw13.

Track the relevance of your Instagram hashtags with Nitrogram, the Instagram analytics and engagement platform that provides key metrics on hashtags including contributors, content, engagement and context.

#22: Video Important Brand Moments

Tom Edwards suggests that “Brands can share unique branded experiences, highlight brand advocates, co-create content with audiences, preview products, highlight a specific cause, extend the brand’s persona via video, preview upcoming events by adding visual context, share important news, drive promotional awareness, leverage Instagram video for promotion and create videos that show fan appreciation.”

Capture your company’s important moments in 15-second videos and share them with your followers so they feel included.

#23: Widen Your Exposure to Other Brands

As we covered in #6, it’s good practice to follow other brands on Instagram. Statigram is a great tool for finding brands and hashtags that relate to your brand. Simply enter the brand name or hashtag into the search box and click Search.

In this example, I wanted to see if Target had a profile on Instagram. They do!

search on statigram

Search for businesses and industry-related keywords on Statigram.

Use this tool to find, follow and research your competitors on Instagram.

#24: eXpose Something New

ABC World News often shares a photo about a broadcast they’ll be doing later in the day.

abc interview

ABC News shared hours earlier that Robin Roberts would be interviewing Venus Williams.

Use Instagram to give your followers a first look at or sneak preview of an event, a product or news feature.

#25: Yuck it Up

Donna Amos writes, “While running a business requires dedication, sweat and sometimes tears, it should never be all work and no play. Instagram is perfect for displaying fun times in the office or when you’re out and about having lunch or dinner with coworkers. Sharing these types of images with followers speaks volumes. It not only suggests that you don’t take life too seriously while on the job, but instead you must be happy and successful in your career.”

All work and no play will make your brand a dull company on Instagram. Integrate images that show your human side to create stronger connections with your followers.

#26: Zap Between Instagrammers’ Images and Edit for a Longer Film

Lexususa had a cutting-edge vision with their #LexusInstafilm using 212 instagrammers’ images to edit together a 3:44 Instagram video to showcase the 2014 Lexus IS.


@Lexususa a brand who knows how to zap it to their audience.

As one instagrammer says in the video, the Lexusinstafilm is a great example of what Instagram is, “A community that comes together.”

Transform crowdsourced images into a unique video message that features and highlights the creativity of your loyal followers.

Over to You

These are just a few tips on how you can use Instagram to create a presence for your business. Check them out and see what works best to enhance your brand.

What do you think? Are you inspired to try Instagram in your social media strategy? Do you see a tip that will make a difference in your marketing? Please leave your comments below.

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About the Author, Debbie Hemley

Debbie Hemley is a freelance writer and social media coach. She helps businesses develop and maintain social media content strategies. Follow her on Twitter @dhemley & Facebook. Other posts by »




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