Instagram hosts over a billion active users every month, and within that number, approximately 90% will follow and engage with a business. Over the decade long transition from a photo-sharing forum to a buzzing multi-purpose resource, it is a now a must for modern businesses to use this platform in order to remain competitive in their industry. It can be difficult keeping up with the ever-changing best practices for your account, though, so to help, we have compiled a definitive, two-part guide on how to leverage Instagram to grow your brand – starting with creating an optimised account.
Setting Up Your Business Account
To aid business owners, Instagram has created specified business accounts differentiating from personal accounts, to provide additional benefits like insights, advertising, and more efficient displays of contact information.
Begin by downloading Instagram for Android, iOS or Windows, and select sign up. Choose which email address to enter, depending on whether you want to allow multiple users access, or if you want to log in with a Facebook account. This will prompt you to create a username, password and enter profile information (or log in to your Facebook account).
And voila – you’re ready to go!
Optimising Your Profile for Business
Instagram doesn’t give you much room to play, but a lot can be done with what is available to you. You want visitors to be able to learn at glance who you are, what your brand offers, and how they can either view more, or get into quick contact with you. You can do this through:
- Crafting a sharp bio: If this is your first impression, make it count. Utilise your 150 characters by summarising your brand’s offerings, point of difference, tone of voice, as well as a direct call to action (ideally a clickable link to a primed landing page). Keep things nicely concise with clean line breaks, and perhaps even spice things up with emojis to draw attention.
- Clear and comprehensive contact information: As mentioned above, a key feature to Instagram business accounts is that when you go to add your contact information, you will find corresponding buttons to help visitors call, text, email and even get directions from your profile. Be sure to make it as easy as possible for them to find you and fill in every possible section.
- Unified, well-selected profile pictures: If you have an aesthetic logo, be like most brands and keep that as your picture across all social platforms for improved recognition. Also remember that while your picture may be displayed as 110 x 110 pixels, it will actually be stored as 320 x 320 pixels, which is the size you should aim for upload.
- Save Story Highlights: This will become more relevant when you progress to creating content, but including Story Highlights allows you to utilise more of your profile’s real estate to include value for visitors. Reserve these for your best, well-organised posts to better hook visitor’s attention.
Develop a Target Audience
The high amount of monthly Instagram users gives businesses so much opportunity to reach their potential customers, but it also creates the potential for over-saturation within an industry, leaving a lot of marketing efforts unseen or unheard.
A large reason for this is the lack of defining a target audience within your niche to direct your Instagram content and marketing for better return on investment. Many business owners don’t want to sell themselves short and try to appeal to everybody. The problem with this approach means no-one specifically relates to the broader content you add to your profile.
Instead, identify the customer segments you think would be best suited to receive your products or services so you can cultivate more engaging content for them. Start with the wider, demographic information, such as:
- Where would your audience live? This isn’t just geographically, but whether they are likely to relate more to suburban life, or rolling in big cities, apartments over homes, and so forth.
- What is the approximate age range of your audience?
- What line of work are they in?
- What level of education do they possess?
Once you have this gathered, you can then start to dig deeper with refinement on your target audience’s personality traits. These can cover:
- Goals & Values
- Challenges & Pain Points
- Hobbies & Interests
- Objections to Sale
- Role in the Purchasing Process
- Preferred format of information
If you are an existing business, this process can be helped by looking at who already buys from you, what qualitative feedback they have provided you with throughout their journey, and see who is engaging with your competitors.
With your account primed and target audience define, you can proceed to start developing highly engaging content.
Develop highly engaging content
Now that you have your primed Instagram account set up, and a corner of the market you know you want to target, it is crucial to build a strategy for consistently creating high quality content. Many businesses scratch their head at this as it can be so subjective.
After all, what really is ‘high quality content’? The answer is content that prompts your target audience to engage with your brand throughout the stages of a conversion funnel.
This is how you do it.
Define Your Business Goals and Objectives
Ask what exactly it is your business needs to obtain from Instagram – and be specific. Don’t simply say you would like more sales (who wouldn’t?). Instead, think about what is more measurable and attainable from the platform.
For example, if you are an online ecommerce store, you could be promoting a product with a profitable margin, or a promotion to clear stock. If you are service based business, perhaps you are trying to build online traffic to your website or landing pages from other digital platforms by 20% and will use Instagram to do that.
Goals and objectives give your Instagram content some direction when presented to your target market and help you to measure how effective your efforts are in the long term.
Establish Instagram Success Metrics
Speaking of measuring performance, now that you have your objectives in place, you can establish your success metrics to gauge the efficacy of your Instagram content. These will vary for every business, but regardless of your goals, it always helps to categorise them in line with the marketing funnel:
- Brand awareness: This is where users first learn of your brand and can be measured by the rate your follower count grows, how many impressions your posts receive, and the number of accounts reached.
- Engagement: Now users (likely your followers) begin to interact with your content, such as likes and comments, and even amplify it through shares.
- Conversion: A conversion isn’t only a sale; it can be whatever objective you are trying to achieve with your posts, like website visits. These are often measured by click-through rates, bounce rates, cost per click and CPM.
- Customer Insights: This is where you build more understanding of your target market, based on areas such as retention, repeat customer rate and more.
Create Your Content Calendar Template
Unless you have a revolutionary product or service, it will usually take multiple interactions with your business before a follower decides to convert. Consistency is therefore critical to remain front of mind with your audience.
Creating a content calendar allows you to spend some time to consider the content you should develop in advance and allocate their distribution to avoid missing key opportunities, such as Christmas, Easter, and sales seasons. This prevents last minute content creation that holds little purpose to your wider strategy.
Developing High Quality Content
Instagram is first and foremost a visual platform, so aesthetics needs to be paramount with your content creation. You want to craft some recognisable visual traits, such as colour schemes or themes, by utilising templates showcasing new value posts as the main subjects, or uploading posts and photos that complement each other.
Tips for Capturing Thumb-Stopping Pictures
Not every business can afford professional photography, but nowadays, a smartphone is enough to get the job done. Share only the best photos by:
- Using natural light as much as possible to avoid flash lighting that can wash out a subject.
- Utilising the rule of thirds, in which the subject is placed where the grid lines of your camera meet so while they may be off-centre, they will still be balanced to viewers.
- Mix it up with different angles – climb ladders, get on the ground, find the most interesting shot of your subject to make your followers take note.
You can also make the most of photo editing tools. Followers are savvy enough to ignore posts obviously edited to a point where they are completely unbelievable, but some refined enhancement, combined with frames or logos, can help deliver some professionalism to your brand.
Pair Captivating Imagery with Compelling Captions
Tell the story of your picture in your captions. Bring your followers further on the journey, give them insight into your brand, and shift their mindset to your offerings or point of difference. This becomes easier as your brand voice establishes itself, allowing you to imply more and keep captions tight.
Take Advantage of Other Formats
Don’t limit your posting schedule to images with snappy captions. Take full advantage of the hundreds of millions of people watching stories every day. Spruce things up by dabbling with carousels that allow you to post up to 10 photos at a time; Guides that allow you to better share valuable news and content within your industry; IGTV to release longer videos in a content series; or Live features where you can broadcast directly to your followers.
Promote User Generated Content
Followers are most likely to relate to your messaging when they see someone outside of your business promote the product. Encouraging users to generate their own content featuring your product, and then sharing that content around, will not only boost the confidence in your offerings, but it will also allow you to add more content to your schedule without the effort of creating something new.
Select the Right Hashtags
This will simply make your content more visible to your target audience. Including hashtags in your captions or comments will allow someone who clicks on or searches for that specific hashtag to see all of the content containing it (i.e. yours). This can either be branded with your business name and products, or generic with trending topics based on your target audience.
You are now officially ready to start leverage your Instagram business account for success!