If you want a business that’s ‘with the times’, you need to get yourself on Instagram. There are plenty of stats and demographics that prove Instagram is much more beneficial from a promotional perspective than Facebook is. Twitter is also beneficial, but still, Instagram wins.
One thing’s for sure, as a website owner myself, Instagram has proven itself to be a valuable asset in my marketing strategy and I’ve reached more people than I would have otherwise done. I can see traffic coming to various blogs from links I’ve put in the different Instagram bios and, as far as I’m concerned, your business NEEDS Instagram.
Why you should be using Instagram for your business…
First thing’s first, everyone who’s everyone is on Instagram.
Remember when everyone said Twitter was the social networking site that got you closer to your favourite celebrities, designers, models, etc…? Well, in all the years I’ve been using Twitter, I’ve tweeted various celebs. Not one of them has ever gotten back to me, that I can remember.
I’ve been using Instagram for a couple of years now. In that time, 8 ‘high profile’ people have responded to my posts or comments in some way, either with a ‘like’ or a comment in return.
I also find that more people comment on and interact with my Instagram images than they do with Twitter or Facebook posts. It’s easy to double-click and give a ‘heart’ as you’re scrolling on by.
That, to me, is evidence. Instagram works for your business.
Here’s some more evidence…
A friend of mine runs a business from home in which she ‘sparkles’ and ‘jazzes’ up glasses and other items for special occasions. This business is called Sparkle Mills. Think beautiful, sparkly champagne glasses for your wedding day and you’ve got about the right idea. Well, she just so happened to sell a couple of her wares to a well-known X Factor singer (who spotted them on Instagram).
That high-profile customer then put photos of the sparkly glasses on HER Instagram account, tagging Sparkle Mills. This spread the business name to the masses – over 208 thousand followers*. More people started following Sparkle Mills. Then her sales increased (because everyone wants something a celebrity has), and so did her profits.
*correct at the time of writing.
Instagram WILL get your business name or your products and services out to the masses. This is only when you use it the right way, however. It’s as simple as that.
So, how do you do it?
I’ll give you a few tips and tricks. In fact, I’ll do more than that… I’ll give you 50!
50 Brilliant Ways to Use Instagram for Your Business
1 – Use your company name
I know it sounds obvious but so many don’t…
Don’t use your personal Instagram account as your business one just because you’ve already got a few hundred followers on there. Start a brand new account under your business name if you can’t / won’t change your own, and spam your friends with requests until they eventually follow that one too! 😉
Instagram now allows you to have multiple logins, something that only recently came about. Make use of it!
2 – Don’t use a company logo as your profile picture
I know it sounds like the WRONG thing to say but it’s true. People don’t want to follow a company logo, they want to follow a person behind the company logo. It goes against the grain but I’ve road-tested this myself. With the same effort put in on both occasions, my social media campaigns featuring my face and a company logo together worked better than a company logo alone, minus my face.
(Also: in my experience, a colour picture works better than a black and white / dark one.)
My followers increased faster when I used my face for the profile image, something already hard enough for a small business trying to build up a brand new account.
Again, that sounds like evidence to me!
3 – Use your company website URL
There’s a space on your Instagram bio for a URL so put your business URL. Why wouldn’t you? See the above picture once more. Note how my website is clearly listed. My Youtube channel was also in the space above it, but this seems to have been removed by Instagram recently.
If it’s a blog you’re trying to promote, keep your Instagram account relevant and up to date by having a link to your latest blog post. If you’re going to do this, make sure you actually keep it up to date and change the URL regularly so your latest post is always listed there.
You’re making it easier for people to find your blog or website. They like your image, see “link in bio” in the caption, click on your name or face, find the link in your bio and before you know it, they’re on your website.
Links DO NOT work in Instagram comments or captions. You can put the link there if you like but it won’t work as a functional link. It’s pointless.
4 – Put your business details in your bio
What does your business do? If you’re a freelance writer, make sure it says that. If you clean carpets for a living, make sure your business / company bio states that.
You want people to know exactly what it is you’re offering just by looking at your profile page. Again, looking at the above picture for ‘bestecig’ on Instagram, you can clearly see what she does and where you can find her. It needs to be just as easy for your customers to find and then understand what your business offers also.
If it’s too vague, people won’t follow you because they won’t understand what it is you do.
5 – Don’t be afraid to put #hashtags in your bio **
If you’re a #vaper, put it right there in your bio. Hashtags are HUGE across Instagram and they are what will help get you the traffic you need.
If you run a small fashion boutique use the popular hashtag #fashionista in your bio. Or #fashion. Or #styleguide.
If you run a vape review website there are hashtags such as #vapelife, #vapesociety, #vapers and #girlswhovape (because I’m a girl) which will connect you to other vapers – people who are buying the products you’re reviewing.
** I would like to take the time to edit this. The Instagram algorithm changes quite regularly, and at the moment ‘broken hashtags’ seem to be detrimental to how many likes or comments an image or video will receive. I have taken the hashtags out of my bio and I will keep you in the loop as to what happens.
6 – Keep your bio regularly updated
It’s good to keep things fresh and reinvented so make sure you keep your bio, as well as everything else related to your business, up to date. Change the hashtags you’re using, change the link, change the profile picture…
Repeat after me – Change is good.
7 – Use inspiration from others…
I don’t mean steal other people’s posts, although it is okay to share images from other accounts as long as you give credit for the original post. You can look at what other businesses are using to promote their business and then use their ideas as inspiration for your own creations. Please don’t ever steal someone else’s work because that’s rude, amongst other things. And there’s the whole legality side of things also.
Whilst writing and managing the Instagram account for a fashion and beauty website, I learned the tags #fashionista, #styleguide, #stylequeen, #fashionblogger, #fbloggers, etc. were incredibly popular. I learned that information because I looked at other fashion-related blogs and their Instagram pages to see what hashtags they were using.
There are websites that will help you find latest, popular and trending hashtags but to start with just become comfortable with the basics.
8 – Use decent images
There’s a lot of competition on Instagram for whatever it is you’re offering so you’ll need to make your images stand out. Make sure you’re using high-quality images that are, again, relevant to your business or what you’re posting about.
There’s plenty of apps, programs and websites to help you take better images, or at the very least, edit them until they look great, so spend a few minutes playing around and get a little creative.
Make sure that the photos you’re taking are bright enough and clear enough to show what you are trying to display, but don’t be afraid to use filters, etc. to give your pics some new life. You can easily use a cool filter to make an otherwise rubbish pic usable on your social media pages.
On the other side of things, really good, clear, light and bright photos always seem to work better, in my personal experience. I use a digital camera, rather than my phone, to take the best shots, and I spend a few moments editing them – making them brighter, clearer and lighter – to ensure they are Instagram-ready. I have noticed that my pictures get a lot more attention when they are done this way, rather than just uploaded from my iPhone.
Decent images ARE important. It might be time to brush up on your photography skills or hire a photographer to give you a hand.
9 – Create your own brand hashtag
Why not? Everyone else does. Whenever you post something related to your business, hashtag it with your own business name. That, for me, would be #ukwordgirl. If I were to post an image for this article, a business owner might be interested to see what else I’ve got to say and therefore click on that hashtag to find out more. If all of my posts that are related to the website and my business – ‘UKWordGirl’ are tagged with the same hashtag, the business owner will easily be able to see what else I’ve got on offer.
**Again, just to update this, Instagram may have a problem with ‘broken hashtags’ right now, and I’ve noticed that my #ukwordgirl tagged images are getting fewer likes than those that aren’t tagged. The Instagram algorithm is renowned for changing regularly!
10 – Keep an eye out for trending hashtags
I’m not saying spam every popular hashtag that comes along because that will get you unfollowed super quick. If you’re hash-tagging things that aren’t relevant to you, your post, your customers, or your business, you’re not doing it right.
Trending hashtags are a great way to spread some brand awareness around, but you need to use them properly. Only use ones that are actually relevant.
To give you a hand, check out these smart examples…
11 – #ThrowbackThursday
This gives you the perfect opportunity to ‘throwback’ to an old blog post, image or an old event for your company.
With the airsoft events company I trained, I advised them to ‘throwback’ to an event that happened around the same time over the previous years. It could be the sell-out event that happened last year, or maybe even one of their infamous stag do’s from the year before.
“Fancy a stag party like this? You should like our Facebook page – Facebook.com/companynamehere. If you’re looking for a send-off with a difference, you’ve found it!”
If you’re a blogger, throwback to a blog post that you wrote on that day a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, etc.
‘Throwing-back’ is a great way of keeping old content rehashed and revisited every now and again.
*At the time of posting this, the hashtag #throwbackthursday had 35,529,980 posts on Instagram. It’s a popular one! When you post yours, look at the hashtag and ‘like’ a few other posts.
Social networking is designed for networking after all …
12 – #WomanCrushWednesday
Another popular hashtag you can definitely jump on if you’re smart there’s plenty of ways you could play it.
If you’re a fashion boutique selling your wares, use #womancrushwednesday as an excuse to post an image of one of your customers wearing something you sold them, looking fabulous.
If you’re a writer or blogger (like me) use #womancrushwednesday as a way to promote other blogs or websites. I like to find other blogs I enjoy reading (written by a woman) and promote them.
If you’re a nail or makeup artist, you could promote another artist and show off some fabulous work you’ve seen of theirs. They might even link back to you in Insta-love return. You could always collaborate with nearby businesses too. The possibilities are endless.
There’s plenty of ways to use hashtags just like this one. There’s plenty of hashtags to use too!
I once posted the image of a BEAUTIFUL tattooed makeup artist @baileysarian and she ‘hearted’ me right back. I almost died that day. (Swoon, she’s so pretty!)
But, it once again proves my point that you’re closer to the people you WANT to reach on Instagram. My #wcw ‘hearted’ me right back. Today could be the day your next customer ‘hearts’ you.
13 – #ManCrushMonday
Same as the above but instead of promoting a female, you promote a male. Perhaps a businessman you idolise? Or your dad? (Cute, right?)
Or just a really cute man? Whenever I post a beautiful man I ‘heart’, I always seem to get a few new female followers who agree with me …
14 – Be mindful of how many tags you’re using
I know, I know, I said to play around with hashtags but I didn’t mean use them all on the same post!
There’s a maximum limit of 30 hashtags allowed on Instagram posts so make sure you’re not going over that. If you do go over that, you’ll lose the whole comment and you’ll need to retype it all over again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Also, check you’re not repeating accidentally hashtags.
Proof-read and look to see they’re all spelt right (apart from the obvious slang-deliberate ones).
Make sure you’re not using hashtags that are on a ‘block list’. There are certain tags that won’t be displayed properly, and you won’t get the likes that you normally would. If you’ve noticed that your interraction has gone down all of a sudden, this might be the reason why. I found a very interesting post on The Huffington Post about this, and you can find it here > Don’t Even Try Using These Banned Instagram Hashtags
Finally, ensure they’re relevant too. You can’t use #ManCrushMonday when your post has nothing to do with men, Monday’s or crushes.
15 – Use motivational pictures
If you like a quote, post it. Use the hashtag #quote or #quoteoftheday. If it’s inspirational or motivational for you, it’ll be those things to someone else too.
My motivational posts seem to do really well and you could even try hashtags like #inspirational, #motivational, #lifegoals… etc.
Here’s a particular favourite of mine from @bossbabe:
16 – Don’t be afraid to personalise your business Instagram account
Introduce work colleagues or employees. Take part in charity events and promote them, or take photos and videos in the midst of them to show on your Instagram account. Bloopers always work brilliantly
Give a behind-the-scenes account of what happens in your business. Post a Christmas group photo dressed in bad jumpers. Or Valentine’s Day photos. Perhaps a few birthday photos. Or everyday-work photos just because you felt like it.
17 – Inject a little humour
When I ran the social networking accounts for a local airsoft company, I used humorous posts to get people talking on the various sites, not just Instagram. They worked very well, often receiving many ‘likes’ and definitely getting plenty of comments.
The target audience was mostly male, around 25-45 years of age, the majority of which had a military background or had some interest in the military life. This meant that many military-humour posts were relevant, many of which can be found on the world wide web.
Memes are a great tool and if you can’t find the meme you’re looking for, you can always make your own. There’s an app for that!
18 – People love cats
If you’ve ever met a #crazycatlady or a #crazycatman, you’ll understand exactly how much some people love cats. People go CRAZY for cats.
A funny cat video or a cute cat video, or any cat video for that matter, is always guaranteed to do well on a social networking account and again, in my experience, they tend to get shared a lot, especially around fellow cat people!
19 – People love dogs too
Just in case cats weren’t your thing, dogs are incredibly popular on the internet too.
Posting animal posts on your Instagram (and other social media accounts) will result in them being shared, or at the very least, liked.
Try it – I guarantee it works.
20 – People just love cute animals
Why stop at cats or dogs? People love animals, all animals – cute ones, ugly ones, funny ones, ones that fail at being the animal they’re supposed to be.
Throw a random / cute / funny animal video on your social networking account at 1 pm on a Monday afternoon and watch the likes roll in. Let’s be honest about this, on a Monday afternoon, the majority of people are stressed at work and need all the giggles they can get.
Ta dah! Animal pictures and videos.
21 – Tag other people & businesses
I don’t mean randomly, I mean when you’re talking about a specific item, place, business, etc.
If you’re getting breakfast from a local cafe and deem it Instagram-worthy, tag the business if they have an account. When you’re out in a cool shop, shopping for fab new items, tag the shop. If you’ve ordered something unique and one-of-a-kind on the internet, share it! They’ll be notified and they might even give you a cheeky follow back, and if you tag them in the actual photo rather than the comments, your picture will appear in their ‘tagged’ photos.
Tagging other businesses and people is a great way to show your appreciation, and it promotes you both.The whole point of social media marketing, is to be social! That’s how you use Instagram for your business.
22 – Make sure your business Instagram account is public
I know you’re thinking this should have been a point made much sooner and you’re probably right. But, at the same time, I don’t feel your Instagram page is ready for public viewing until you’ve made a plan… And you’re sure the plan is ready.
Put a few posts up first and encourage friends to like them. Get some memento going with family and work colleagues and have some followers before you send your account out there to the big wide Insta-world. People don’t want to follow the Instagram account with no followers.
If you don’t have a profile image ready yet, the page isn’t ready yet. If your bio isn’t written and a link attached, it’s not ready yet. What’s the point in putting a half-finished page out to the world? That’s no good to anyone and it won’t get you traffic or followers.
Get your page ready, have a few (maybe nine) posts published already and then set your page to public.
23 – Ask questions
How was your weekend? Do we have any new followers? Do you have any questions? What are you up to for Valentine’s Day? Christmas? The holidays? Are you going away this year? Where are you going? You’re thinking of booking a holiday and you’re not sure where to go …
Just because you’re only posting images doesn’t mean you can’t get involved and interact with your audience. There’s plenty of room for a witty caption and there’s room for a question too. And what are questions good for? Getting the conversation started, of course!
You’ll be amazed at how many people will start interacting with you once you start ACTUALLY interacting with them. You’re meant to be networking so go and do it. Network. Ask questions, learn more about your audience, be interested in the people who are buying your services or products.
24 – Compare two (or more) products or services
Another clever tip that seemed to work especially well for the fashion and beauty blog I promoted, was making a side-by-side image of two outfits or makeup looks (for example), and asking for an opinion. It proved to be a great way of getting people to interact.
Which of these two beautiful soft and romantic wedding day looks would you prefer for your big day? A (left) or B (right)?
Which outfit do you like better? Would image A or image B be better for Valentine’s Day? What outfit should you wear for that hot date? A day trip shopping with the girls? A dinner out with your parents?
When I wrote for a real estate blog based in the US, I would ask whether or not the followers liked ‘kitchen A’ or ‘kitchen B’.
With Airborne Airsoft, we created images of two weapons side by side (or safety equipment, venues and locations, etc.), and asked for opinions. Which one looked better? Which one did the customer prefer? Is there one they would rather use?
You could do this for anything… Which blog post do you like better? What photo do you think should be used in the new advertising campaign? What shoe wins for this new campaign? House? Kitchen? Coat? Mascara? Web design? Font? Anything you like. Get people’s opinion on the stuff that THEY are going to read / look at. Don’t you want to make THEM happy?
25 – Ask for opinions
Are your customers happy with the service or products they received? Do they have any feedback they want to leave you?
If customers have left you great feedback, post it on your Instagram page. Why the heck not? It’s great feedback, why wouldn’t you want to show that off?
How are you going to find out whether or not your customers are actually happy if you don’t ask them? Why wouldn’t you start by asking for feedback from those following you on social media?
Bad reviews are never good to hear or read but at least they’ll give you an idea of where to start when it comes to improving your business and it’s presence on social media.
Unhappy customers = no customers.
That concludes part one of the 50 Brilliant Ways to Use Instagram for Your Business. Part two will be coming soon so make sure you give the Twitter or Facebook pages a ‘like’ to keep up to date with everything I’ve got to say.
If you would like to chat with me to discuss coming up with a social media strategy for your small business, use the Contact Me page, or use one of my social media pages.