Would you like to leverage Instagram for your business, but you're struggling to know how to go about it? Here are ten absolute basic beginner steps for getting going with Instagram for business that will make sure you're maximising the features Instagram offers.
By way of a brief intro, it is helpful to know that Instagram allows a few levels of information to be added to your profile. These can be accessed through your profile and are as follows:
- Your profile photo
- Your ‘Name’
- Your ‘Username’
- Your ‘Website’ link
- Your ‘Bio’
On your profile, click 'Edit Profile'
Add in your Name, Username, Website & Bio
It is important that you’ve set these up correctly so that you are ‘findable’ on Instagram, and that your profile leads potential customers to your other online platforms, especially your website. If you’re new to Instagram, or are unsure about how you’ve set your account up, here are ten absolutely beginner basics for your Instagram business account.
1. Use A Profile Photo that Best Represents Your Business
Your profile photo is one of the very first identifying features that people will see when scrolling through Instagram. It makes sense then that you use the profile picture that best represents your business. If you’re a lifestyle blogger or portrait photographer and your business brand is centred on you, then it probably makes sense to use a great head-and-shoulders portrait style image as your profile pic. If, however, your business has a separate identity from you, then I would suggest you go with your most up-to-date logo.
Some things to watch out for when using your logo as your profile pic:
- Make sure it isn’t distorted or squished
- If your logo is text-based, make sure none of the words or letters are cropped out of the image
The question to ask here is - how do people recognise that it really is YOU online? So make sure this profile picture is the same one you use on your Facebook business page, Twitter account, Pinterest business page, and everywhere else you may be found online.
It’s pretty straightforward to upload a new profile pic to Instagram, and you can do it either on your phone within the app, or you can do this online once you’ve logged onto your account at www.instagram.com. You have the option to import from your camera roll/library, from Facebook, or Twitter.
Click on your current profile pic (top left in the circle)' and then select an option to change your profile pic.
TAKE Action: is the profile picture you're using on your business Instagram account up to date? If not, go and change it right now!
2. Select a *Name That Makes Good Sense for Your Business.
On your Instagram profile, there is a space for you to add your name. It is in the first slot just below your profile picture (see image below).
While your username might be ‘_@bearista’ (as mine is) that isn’t my actual name, so I have the option to add my full name, ‘Claire Brear’ in this space. Different people choose to use this ‘name’ space for different purposes, the reason being that names are searchable across the platform. Because of this searchability feature, I’ve changed my name to ‘Cape Town, Claire Brear’. Cape Town is a much more searched for term than Claire, meaning my Instagram account will show up when anyone is searching the term ‘Cape Town’.
Another way you could use this to your advantage is if you have a design related product or brand. Instead of using your own name (e.g. Sally Smith) here, you could use ‘Design’ or ‘Design Products, Johannesburg’ or whatever terms you feel would make your account more easily found by those looking for you.
*Note - 'Name' and 'Username' are defined differently on Instagram.
TAKE ACTION: Does the Name you're using for your account make sense for your business? If not, go and fix it!
3. Select a User Name that Makes Sense for Your Business.
Typically, it’s difficult to get the exact name you want on Instagram because of the many millions of users who have set up multiple accounts and then abandoned them. To allow some variation, Instagram lets you use both the underscore "_" and full-stop "." in your username. Here are some variations on ‘Bob’s Biltong’ that work:
I’m sure you get the picture. Another option you have is to add another word onto your existing name, like @bobsbiltongtreats. Try to keep this extra word in line with the kind of business you run, like ‘studio’, or ‘design’, or ‘eats’.
I know this sounds really basic, but my experience is that of spending a long time trying to locate a business on a social media platform that has an entirely different name the website name. This can be frustrating and cause potential clients to be put off from engaging with your brand online.
Action: If your Instagram account name doesn’t match your current business name, go and change it now.
Don’t worry, you won’t lose your photos or followers if you do so. And Instagram will be sure to tell you whether that name is available or if it has already been taken.
4. Make Your Bio Brief But Relevant
Your bio, the space that is provided for more detailed info, is located next the the information icon on your Instagram profile. I recommend that this is where you add a few key details about your business. Again its the kind of thing that you might have as a summary info section on your Facebook business page, or a blurb you might send to a magazine who wanted to know more about your business. Keep it relevant to your brand, and keep it brief.
Gone are the days of cutesy old-school Twitter bios, things like 'Smoothie-drinker; yoga poser; world traveler; dog lover.' Well, you can do that if you like, but we're talking about using Instagram for business, so I would advise you to use that space to tell people what it is you do, what services you provide, or what physical products you sell. You have such a brief window of time to get your message across, so try to help people know exactly what you're about.
I've made it seem rather sterile here, but it doesn't have to be. You can state the facts, but you can still craft something that reads well and doesn't sound like an infomercial!
Take action: Ask a colleague to give you honest feedback on your Instagram bio - does it provides clarity as to what your business does?
And don’t forget that you can constantly change it. Have you just uploaded some new products to your online shop? Then change the link to take people straight to that page. Perhaps you have a survey you’d like people to take part in, you can add a shortened bit.ly link here to an online questionnaire or google doc.
When you post an image and caption that is aimed at leading people back to your website or blog, don’t forget to say something in your caption that reminds your followers to go and check out that link. You’ll see most people say something like, ‘New arrivals in our showroom. Link in Bio’.
TAKE ACTION: Add your website address to your Instagram profile by clicking the 'edit profile' button and entering your web URL.
6. Start Following
If you’re going to make the most of Instagram, you not only need to grow your following, but you need to find accounts to follow. To start I would recommend following between 100 and 200 accounts that relate to your business in the following ways:
- Follow accounts that inspire you
- Follow accounts of businesses similar to yours
- Follow your customers and clients
- Follow businesses and public figures in your geographical region
- Follow feature or hub accounts that relate to your business
- Follow your competitors
When it comes to Instagram growth, slow is fast.
Many people want to grow their Instagram following as quickly as possible. One way they do that is to follow thousands of accounts, hope that those people follow them back, and then once they’re boosted their followings they go back and unfollow all of those initial accounts. Don’t do it! Yes, it will boost your numbers initially, but you'll end up with loads of people following who are not your ideal customer, who aren’t interested in your product and who will realise that you’ve unfollowed them at some point and do the same in return.
Take Action: set a timer for 15 minutes and search hashtags related to your business, see what you like and start following some more Instagramers.
7. Use Hashtags.
Hashtags are the way that you are able to put your content in front of more people than just your followers. They're are a way of organising data on Instagram, and I suggest you start using them. Instagram allows you a maximum of 30 hashtags per image post.
Here are some tips:
- Set aside some time to do a bit of hashtag research based on your business
- Look at what tags businesses similar to your are using
- Research some popular trending hashtags, but use these sparingly
- Use content based hashtags (i.e. what's in your picture?)
- Use geographic based hashtags (i.e. where was this picture taken?)
- Use feature based hashtags (i.e. tags related to feature accounts that you might want to participate in)
For more detailed info on the use of hashtags, you can check out the chapter on hashtags in my book Instagram: The Nuts & Bolts.
Take Action: Go back to your last image you posted on Instagram, and in the light of this point, see if the hashtags you're using are relevant.
8. Set Your Account to Public
Although this feature can be useful for a personal account where you want to keep in touch with a few friends and family, and maintain your privacy (similar to your Facebook privacy settings), when it comes to using Instagram for your business, it is best to switch this feature off.
You can find this feature by visiting your settings, and then looking for the option labelled ‘private account’. Make sure it is switched OFF!
Make sure your privacy setting is set to 'Off'. You can find this under your settings tab.
Take action: Check that your account is public
9. Link Your Other Accounts
Again, you can find these options under ‘Settings’. Just go through each of them and connect your existing social media accounts. Be sure to connect to the right ones, especially if you have multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Under settings, go to 'Linked Accounts'
Click on each social media platform you'd like to connect to Instagram and follow the prompts.
How this works is that once you’ve selected the image you want to post, and before you click ‘share’, you’ll see a toggle option to also share to your connected accounts. You can also go back and share older posts this way by selecting the ellipsis (three dots…) above or below your post, and then selecting the ‘share’ option.
Another great option to look into is the free online tool "If This Then That", which enables you to set up automations across various apps, so that when you post to Instagram, your pic will also be posted to your blog, or to Twitter, or to Facebook.
Take Action: check that your Instagram account is linked to your relevant social media channels and practice sharing across one platform.
10. Switch to Business Profile
Under settings, find "Switch to Business Profile" then follow the prompts.
Under settings, you'll see an option to 'switch to business profile'. Follow that and you'll be led through a process of adding or importing information. Depending on the information you add - email, phone number and/or physical address - when you go back to your account you will see that you now have a two buttons under your profile, one for 'follow' and one for 'contact'. Now people who come across your account on Instagram can contact you directly from Instagram, either by email or by phone call.
Some of the benefits for your business of switching to a business profile include:
- People can contact you without having to navigate to your website first, or having to google your business details
- It is a mobile friendly option, the jump from Instagram which is already mobile, to making a call is very quick
- People can find the geographical location of your business quickly
- Your account is immediately recognisable as a business account
- There is a clear call to action on your Instagram account, encouraging potential customers or clients to reach out immediately
Don't worry, if you change your mind, Instagram gives you the option to retrace your steps and switch back to a personal account. Whew!
Side note: I've had my account set on personal, but I'm going to try set it to a business account for a week or two and see how it goes!