Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, with nearly 112.5 million users in 2020. From gathering insights to selling products, Instagram keeps rolling out tools to help businesses succeed on the photo and video sharing social media platform.
It’s not too late to become successful on Instagram. With the right marketing strategy, businesses can promote products and services, boost their brand, and increase sales on Instagram. Here is everything you need to know about using it to market your business.
Be up to date on some of the social media platform’s terminology.
Bio: This refers to the biography section in your profile. Businesses can also use their bio to include a call to action.
Direct messages (DMs): Users can privately communicate with each other through direct messages. If a customer has a complaint or question, it’s best practice to chat with them via direct message to keep the conversation private. Direct messages are often referred to as DMs.
Filters: You can apply preset filters to your photos to enhance features and colors.
Follow: When you follow a user on Instagram, you’ll see their content in your timeline. You can also view their Instagram Stories at the top of the application.
Followers: Your followers are people who will see your pictures in their timelines.
Hashtag (#): Similar to Twitter, a hashtag on Instagram is used to index words or phrases. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see other posts with the same one.
Highlights: A highlight reel of your Instagram Stories appears on your profile above your photo gallery and stays until you remove it.
IG: IG is an abbreviation for Instagram.
Instagram handle: Your handle is your username. To mention a user on Instagram, you need to use their handle, which always starts with the @ symbol.
Instagram Stories: Stories is one of the most popular features on the platform. These pictures and videos disappear after 24 hours. Read more about Instagram Stories below.
Tag: There are a few ways to tag people on Instagram, including in a photo’s caption, in Instagram Stories and in photos. Use the @ symbol to tag someone in a caption or an Instagram story. You can tag someone in your photos before you post the picture.
How to use Instagram for business
Between posts, ads and stories, there is no shortage of potential marketing tools on Instagram.
1. Add professional-looking photos.
Instagram is a photo-sharing social media platform, so it’s important to share visually pleasing content. Generic photos won’t cut it.
2. Use Instagram Stories.
Instagram Stories is one of the channel’s most popular features. These photos and videos disappear 24 hours after they’re posted. Instagram offers many tools to create engaging and creative stories.
On Instagram Stories, you can post recorded videos, still photos, live videos, boomerangs (videos that loop back and forth), basic text, music and focused photos. You can also add stickers such as your location, the temperature, user tags and hashtags.
The stickers for polls, questions and sliding bars make it easy to interact with your users and get feedback. Some accounts use the questions feature to hold a weekly Ask Me Anything, which is a fun way to answer common questions.
Another way to draw attention to your brand is with Stories Highlights, which stay on your profile until you remove them.
3. Stream live videos.
In addition to Instagram Stories, users can take and stream live video that disappears – sort of like a cross between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, show products or answer live questions through the comments.
Once the video ends, it lives in your Instagram Stories for 24 hours. If you want a video to remain on your Instagram feed, you can upload a video you’ve taken or shoot one directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload a video, you can still add filters and change the cover.
4. Interact with other Instagram users.
As with any social media platform, it’s important to engage and interact with your followers on Instagram, liking, commenting, mentioning, tagging, and direct messaging them.
5. Use hashtags.
Hashtags are a great way to help users find content on Instagram. Hashtags can include letters and numbers, but they can’t contain any non-numerical characters.
Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but that many would be excessive. The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better. Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.
Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand. It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business or even an event you’re hosting. This way, customers can follow along with an event, even if they aren’t there in person.
6. Advertise on Instagram.
Like on other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:
Photo ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Learn More button in the bottom right corner under the photo.
Video ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.
Carousel ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.
All three ad formats appear in users’ home feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-throughs to your website, mobile app installations and mass awareness.
7. Sell products on Instagram.
In November 2020, Instagram added the Shop tab, which allows users to discover and purchase products from brands directly through the app.
All that’s required to complete a transaction is your name, email address, billing info and shipping addresses. Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, will then save that data for future transactions. Users can pay via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal.
Small businesses can also take advantage of Shoppable posts to sell products through Instagram. A business simply creates a product catalog connected to their account. Then you tag the product, similar to how you tag a person in a post. To create a shoppable post you must have a business account and you must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies. You can create your catalog through Facebook, Shopify or BigCommerce.
Links don’t work in Instagram captions. The only place you can share a working link that takes users to a website is in your profile. Links don’t work in captions or photo comments, so if you’re trying to direct people to a specific webpage, you can change the default link in your bio to that page and note in the caption that the link is in your profile.
Run giveaways and promotions. Post an image advertising your giveaway, sale or contest, and ask users to repost that image with a specific, custom hashtag to enter. You can then search that hashtag to see who has reposted it and pick a winner. Promotions like this allow your customers and followers to market your brand for you by talking about your promotion on their personal pages, and it drives more people to visit your profile. If you do decide to run a contest or sweepstakes, though, make sure you’re following rules and guidelines.
Respond to other users’ comments. When people comment on your photos, reply to them. Interacting with customers and followers shows you are paying attention and care about what they say. They’ll be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter.
Use Instagram influencers to promote your business. Influencers are people who have large followings on Instagram. You can pay influencers to market your products to their followers in a natural way. These sponsored posts typically are subtle and don’t look like ads. This is helpful because people typically hate advertisements.
Share posts directly to your story. With this feature, small businesses can interact with their followers while promoting their products or services. If a client posts a photo of your product, you can share the post directly to your story to highlight the product and your client.
Use polls and other features in your stories. Instagram offers many interactive features that you can use to build online conversations and relationships. For instance, you can use the interactive questions sticker in Instagram Stories. This feature lets followers submit questions for you to answer. This is a fun and simple way to interact with your followers.
Use IGTV. IGTV is a feature that shows long-form, vertical videos. IGTV is available in a stand-alone app and within Instagram’s app, and each video can be up to an hour long. If you get creative, you can use IGTV to market your business in several ways, including by hosting FAQ sessions and conducting how-to chats.
Use Reels. Launched in August 2020, Reels are one of Instagram’s most recent updates. Reels are short-form videos (no longer than 15 seconds) that you can edit with audio, effects and creative tools. You can use Reels to feature new products, highlight your employees or recent work, or engage directly with customers.