woman holding phone taking picture of soup
Instagram is a visual social media platform, so creating content that is engaging and appealing to the eye is key when trying to gain followers. — Getty Images/Alexandra Iakovleva

Instagram has the potential to be a very helpful marketing tool for your small business by helping establish your brand presence. Studies show that 80% of Instagram users follow a business account. That means more than 200 million users visit at least one business profile every day. Here’s how to put this platform to work for you.

Curate your feed with great photos

What content should you feature on your Instagram profile? It depends on your business. Since its inception, Instagram has been a platform that sells a lifestyle. Intersperse your product photos with images that evoke particular feelings. As the experts at Canva say, “No matter what you’re selling, don’t make your feed look like a grocery shelf. Instead, provide a vision your followers can aspire to when using your products.”

As for how your photos should look, Buffer did some basic data analysis to understand what works best, visually:

  • Lighter images receive 24% more likes than darker photos.

  • Photos that are “less busy” receive 29% more likes; make sure there’s a lot of background in your images

  • Images with a dominant color or tone get 17% more likes

Lastly, don’t forget to pay attention to your layout. When a new follower first visits your profile, they’ll see the entire grid of your feed, not just one image.

Instagram management apps like Preview, Plann, or Planoly can help you organize your content to create a cohesive experience.

Write a good Instagram bio

Your Instagram bio is potentially the most important part of your page. It’s an opportunity to show your brand personality and bring a new audience into your customer funnel. Here’s what goes into creating a great Instagram bio:

  • Profile picture: Consider using a logo or a picture of your product.
  • Username: Aim to use the name of your business. Your username should be easily searchable, so avoid special characters or spellings if possible.
  • Bio: You are only given 150 characters to describe your company, so make sure you are straightforward and informative. Experts suggest using at least one hashtag to make it easy for customers to find your page. Other brands use their official tagline in the bio, reinforcing their message at every customer touchpoint. If you’re running an online store, you may wish to use the link in the bio to promote products on your feed.
  • Website: Instagram does not permit clickable links in posts, so be sure to link to your website in your bio to direct customers off Instagram.
  • Category: Instagram is owned by Facebook, so if you create a business account and link it to your company’s Facebook page, the category will automatically show up in your Instagram profile. This can help save space when writing your bio.
  • Call-to-action buttons: If you have a business account, use “contact options” in your profile to provide email, directions and “call now” calls to action. Again, this can help you save valuable real estate in your 150-character bio.

[For a full guide, see: Creating Social Media and Online Profiles.]

Use Instagram Stories

Video is prominent on this platform, and Instagram Stories offers a quick and easy way to include video in your content strategy. Analysis by Sprout Social found that video posts receive 38% more engagement than image posts. Likewise, Instagram Stories has 500 million daily active users – a number that continues to increase over time. Instagram Stories can be a good way to introduce a new product, highlight an event at your store or give a shoutout to an influencer you’re working with. Try a free tool like Unfold that can provide a template for creating an Instagram Story with ease.

Unlike some other social media platforms, Instagram is purely visual.

Pay attention to analytics

Unlike some other social media platforms, Instagram is purely visual. Users are looking for high-quality, interesting content. Learn about what your customers are looking for on Instagram by using hashtags and keeping track of engagement. There are many free analytics apps you can use to see what content works best for your followers. Besides the native Instagram Insights, try tools like Iconosquare or Squarelovin to see how people are responding to your posts.

[Read our full social media marketing guide.]

Work with an influencer

The best way to use Instagram? Work with influencers or micro-influencers who already have a following. It’s notoriously hard to “go viral” on Instagram, and it can take a long time to gain followers. As a result, many brands work with influencers who already have followers to spread the message about their products and services. Some influencers charge to post about your brand, but there are many who will give you a shoutout for a discount or free sample in return.

Check your DMs

As with Facebook, many customers will use Instagram direct messaging (DM) to get in touch with a customer service request. Always remember to check your inbox and respond to customer queries.

CO— does not review or recommend products or services. For more information on choosing the best social media management tools, visit our friends at business.com.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published May 23, 2019