With Instagram being the top platform for businesses in 2020, check out our practical step-by-step guide in how to optimize your Instagram Business account performance.
As of 2020, there are already over 25 million business accounts with an estimated 75% of businesses on Instagram this year. That’s a small 25% of businesses that don’t want to take advantage of the 200+ million instagram users visiting at least one business profile per day. Needless to say, there is huge potential on Instagram for businesses to take their marketing to a wider audience. There are already 2 million monthly advertisers on IG as it is, and at this rate, these numbers will only continue to grow.
Since roughly 2018, Instagram steadily became the business power platform it is today as it edged out facebook, shifting FB back to its roots of connecting with friends and family, opening up Instagram to all sorts of business-facing tools, such as in-post shopping, product tags, and more.
How To Use Instagram For Business Marketing
In this guide, we’ll give you all the tools you need to navigate and thrive on Instagram for business, both for the newbie and veteran alike. If you’re just starting out, you’ll see the foundation for building your IG business empire. If you’ve already got an established business account, you can make sure you’re using all of Instagram’s features and procedures to their maximum potential.
Buckle up and let’s go!
Step 1: Set Up Your Instagram Business Account
If you don’t have an existing Instagram account, you’ll need to set one up. You’ll create it as a normal account and later follow the steps to convert it into a business account (see below).
If you’ve already got your personal Instagram account set up for use with your business through a solid following and brand-related content, you need to convert it into an Instagram business account to take advantage of all the features offered to businesses. It’s absolutely free of charge and will open your account up to new possibilities that personal accounts don’t have, such as analytics and many more.
You could also create a new account specifically for your business if you don’t feel that your personal account accurately transmits your business image, or if you’d like to keep it for personal use with friends and family.
Regardless of which you choose, below are the instructions for making sure you have a business account.
How to convert a personal Instagram account to a business account
- Open your existing Instagram account on the app.
- Tap the profile icon at the bottom right of the home screen.
- Tap the three lines icon at the top right of the screen to access the settings button.
- Once in settings, tap the “account” section.
- At the bottom of this menu, you’ll see the option “switch to professional account.”
- You will have two choices: “creator” or “business.” We will assume you selected business, but both options are fairly similar in process.
- Once you select business, select your business category (market).
- It will then prompt you to enter your contact info and business address (you can omit this)
- Optional: if you want to link to Facebook you can follow the prompts to do so.
And there you have it! Your Instagram account is now ready to thrive as a business. Let’s find out about how to optimize your profile so that you’re ready to show your audience your best side.
Step 2: Optimize Your Business Profile
Now that you’ve got our account created and ready to roll, you’ve got to make sure that it’s as good as it can get for your audience. You entered some basic info when you set up the account, but now we need to get it “brand-ready” and coherent with its aesthetic and content.
Here are some of the most important elements to consider when editing your profile for success.
Make sure that your Instagram handle is catchy and memorable, and that it accurately represents your brand or business. Depending on your business name and sector, you may just be using your business name as your handle. If you’re not, or want some extra tips, have a look at some other tips we’ve created on how to craft the perfect Instagram username.
Brand your Bio
You’ve only got 150 characters to transmit exactly who you are, what your brand represents, and why it’s of interest to them. Your bio can have a huge impression on your visitors as it’s one of the first things they’ll see when they land on your page. So, with that in mind, here’s what you need to know to create a good one:
- Speak with the tone of your brand: Make sure your audience can feel your personality. Depending on your account, you may want to be extra professional, or conversational, casual, humorous, or direct. This should align with your business and the image you want to convey.
- Use line breaks: Don’t type everything altogether. Break your text up into short and manageable chunks so that it’s easier to read and more impactful.
- Use link-in-bio: If your business has a website or an outside link, make sure you list it in your bio. It’s the only spot on Instagram where you can include a clickable direct link.
- Use Emojis or Hashtags: Some emojis can help to add color and energy to your bio, so if they are appropriate for your business image, feel free to include them as they can convey a lot of info in just one little symbol. Hashtags are also clickable in bios, so if you have a unique hashtag for your business or something you want to include, add it to the bio.
Another element that your audience will see in the first few seconds of landing on your profile is your picture. Verify that your profile picture is welcoming and connected directly to the representation of your business.
Many times, this will be a logo or a graphic that identifies your business. If you use other platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, or even a personal website, make sure that it is consistent across all platforms.
Your profile photo is required to be at least 110×110 pixels, but since your photo may be viewed on a desktop or other devices, you should have it at least at 180×180 pixels. It will also be cropped into a circle, so make sure that your icon is fully visible and centered well.
Instagram Business Features
As an Instagram Business account, you have access to features that aren’t available on normal profiles. Make sure you are using them accordingly, including:
- Contact info: You will be allowed to have your contact info in your bio section so that your followers can have easy access to your info. When including this, Instagram will provide you with button options such as “call,” “email,” and “get directions” so that it’s even easier for your followers or viewers to connect.
- Action Buttons: You can add action buttons so that your followers can take actions such as making reservations, appointments, buying tickets, etc. To do this, tap edit profile, contact options, and finally add an action button.
- Category: Make your category visible so that viewers know exactly what type of business or services you offer.
Step 3: Create Your Winning Instagram Business Strategy and Plan
Without a business strategy and plan, you don’t have much going for you. There’s got to be a clear knowledge and analysis behind everything you do, and this was a thing for businesses way before any social media platform.
Instagram is no exception. While it seems like it’s just a social media platform, there’s so much more that goes into transforming your Instagram into a successful business marketing and selling machine. In this section we’ll take a look at a variety of business elements that you must be an expert about in order to optimize your Instagram business results.
Strategy point 1: Know who your audience is
When considering what kind of content your account will be featuring, you first need to identify your audience– who will be seeing your posts?
There’s no shortage of Instagram demographics out there, and we are aware that in the US there are a total of over 120 million Instagram users, with a little over half being female (56% to 44% respectively). There’s a big global market with many users in other countries, but if your market is in the US, you’ve got a huge population to target.
There are a few different points to keep in mind when thinking about your target audience. You want to identify:
- What is the demographic of people who are already your customers
- If you use other platforms, review your follower base and see who is following you
- Research the audience of your competitors or other similar businesses in your target market.
- Have a clear mission statement and set of values for your brand; consider like-minded people who are looking for this in a business.
The following set of questions can help you narrow down your audience:
- What is my target age range? What age range is most likely to engage with my product/service?
- What location(s) do I need to target?
- What do they do?
- What are some life difficulties or challenges for them?
- How frequently do they use Instagram?
- What features do they use on Instagram? (Stories? Posts? Comments? Likes? In-app shopping? Direct links?
If you want some further guidance in establishing your target audience, HootSuite has created a template for doing just that.
Once you have a general idea of these demographics, it’s time to consider what type of content you should be posting, ask yourself the following set of questions:
- Does this content align with my brand image and values?
- Does this ask my target audience to engage in any way (like, comment)?
- Does this content promote my business goals?
- Is this content interesting to my target audience?
- Does this content inform my target audience?
- Is this content entertaining to my target audience?
- Is this content relatable to my target audience?
- Does this content make me relatable and authentic?
All of your content should have a direct connection to these questions. It’s important to be objective when considering your answer to these questions, as false positives will only hurt you in the long run.
Set Measurable Goals
Now that you have your target audience identified, you’ve got to decide what you want to do with that information and how you are going to determine whether or not you’re successful and developing forward. Everything you do should always trace back to a root in your measurable business objective.
It’s good business practice to follow the SMART business model:
The Balance Small Business has a great article with a variety of examples of how to set up SMART business goals and exactly how to write them out.
Of course, eventually you want to have goals in place for likes, comments, or other things that help your profile look good, but the first thing you want to focus on is what brings you real sustainable business results. Those other elements will then follow.
Developing Measurable Business Metrics
So, what type of things should you be tracking, anyway? This will vary depending on your business sector and stretch goals, but overall, you want to be focused on reach and social funnel.
Whether or not you’ve already been exposed to “the social funnel,” we’re going to break it down here. This basically refers to the different phases that each client goes through as part of the user experience.
These four phases can be defined as:
- Awareness: metrics related to awareness include things like follower growth rate and post reach; this can include things like advertisements as well, but those may also be connected to conversion as you’ll need an ROI that you can factor in.
- Engagement: engagement is now when customers are looking for more specific information related to purchasing or acquiring your product/service. Things like user comments, messages, likes, or means of contact can be measurable here.
- Conversion: ultimately everything comes down to conversion: what’s my conversion rate, what’s my click-through rate, with paid ads you can also add cost per click to these metrics.
- Customer Loyalty and Advocacy: After you make a sale, what happens? You always want to stay engaged with people who have already bought from you. You also should keep tabs on if your customers are leaving reviews or testimonials or sharing your products.
There is much more we can say about the social funnel, but all in all, make sure that your business goals are measurable according to the user experience and how they are moving through your content. If you are gaining awareness but lacking conversion, for instance, this is an important measurable that you need to re-examine and adjust for better growth.
Posting Schedule and Consistency
You need to continually deliver top-notch content to your followers, but if you do it whenever you feel like, your audience and followers won’t know when to reach you and you will appear inaccessible or absent. A lack of consistency doesn’t put off a favorable image of your brand and can make you seem less reliable.
Your followers will also become accustomed to seeing your posts on a normal basis, so keep up with that schedule and always analyze how your posts are performing.
That being said, you also don’t want to overwhelm them and annoy them with too many posts. You want to make sure they’re informed and they see you, but without seeming too needy or annoying.
While it’s a heavily debated topic, and varies from account to account, you should be knowledgeable about the best time to post. This will be dependent on factors like where are your audience members and what are their social media habits (aka when are they most likely to be on Instagram). Take a look to find out what the best 2020 posting times are, but remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all. The best way to ensure you’re posting at the right time is to analyze and test.
Use your Instagram Analytics to help you understand when your audience is online. You can access this from the three bars tab at the top of your profile page. Click insights and then see audience. You can then use the information to plan out your content.
You can post your content manually, or you can use a content scheduler. Check out some of our tips about content schedulers on the market.
Step 4: Content Enhancement
By now you have a good foundation in place. What comes next is what will truly show your business’s character and what will set you apart from the rest. It’s absolutely vital that you enhance your content and create unique and memorable posts for your audience.
One of the most important things when it comes to content is visual coherence. No matter what the content subject matter is, you should have a general idea of what aesthetic you’re going for and stick with it.
When users visit your profile landing page, this visual coherence should be visible when looking at your posts as a whole. Make sure your profile picture and story highlights all fit into this visual coherency.
Next, you’ll want to consider what you’re going to feature in your content. Of course, you’ll want to feature elements of your products or services that are attractive to your audience. For example, let’s say you’re a restaurant. This is very general; if you’re a high-end restaurant, you’ll probably be appealing to a different audience than you would be if you have a street food stall in a popular area. Take these things into account, and buy into your brand! Know what your followers want. At the high-end restaurant, your aesthetic may be built around luxury and a unique experience, featuring food and intimate moments. If you’re the street vendor, maybe you’ll have a more casual experience with a profile that exudes energy, color, and movement. Regardless, be creative and be specific about the content elements that you’re going for.
Another aspect that really works well is including the human element. Photographs with people tend to perform better on Instagram; that’s not to say you have to include someone in every photo. But people like to see your faces, the people behind the business interacting with each other or with customers. This really helps to build your authenticity and build bonds with your audience.
You can also include clients in your photos through user-generated content or stories. Come up with a hashtag for your business and your clients can tag your company when they buy your product or services. It’s great because you’ll have a center of user-generated content through that hashtag, which then you can share or highlight on your account later.
Taking High-Quality Photos
Whether or not you’re a professional photographer, it’s no doubt that you’ll need amazing photos for your Instagram business profile. You can achieve this with minimal equipment if you’re not looking to splurge on a professional camera or photography team.
You can use your mobile phone to take photos, as these days, mobile phones have great cameras with enough power to do the job. Here are some tips for using your phone to capture some photos:
- Strategic lighting: No photo that was taken in bad lighting is going to help you. Make sure that you have your subject well-lit and in the right tones. You can use selfie lights, reflectors, or natural light to do this depending on shooting location and time of day.
- Grid lines: Your phone has some grid lines that can help you center the photo. If you take the photo where the grid lines intersect you’ll have a photo that is slightly off-centered but still with an interesting balance.
- Angles: Take a few different photos to see which angle is best for you and your subject. Bend down, shoot up, elevate the camera to a higher angle– try a bunch of different things so that you have options later.
After taking the photos, you also want to make sure that you have a good photo editor so that you can even out any inconsistencies or add filters that help to keep your visual coherence.
You can edit the photos directly on Instagram but these days there are loads of apps that offer you different filters or options. You can also take your photos to your computer if you prefer using programs on a laptop.
Part of your content includes not only feed posts, but also Instagram stories. Instagram stories is one of the most popular features of Instagram, and many people these days tend to default to stories on a frequent basis instead of scrolling through feeds, as stories offer a more up-to-the-minute look into brands and people.
With over 500+ million daily active story users, this is not a feature that you should ignore. This can generate a lot of engagement for your account; you can encourage your followers to compete in contests, answer questions, watch and write to you on a live feed, respond to polls, and so much more. A third of the most viewed stories are from businesses, according to Instagram itself.
You can also use stories to feature user-generated content, as well as give a behind-the-scenes look on the day-to-day operations of your business. Through Instagram stories you can really open up and build that bond with your followers showing a new level of authenticity.
You can then take those stories and pin them to your profile page using Instagram stories highlights. This can also be another go-to for your audience and followers to get quick info on your profile.
Step 5: Engage
The goal for your account is to have a high level of engagement, yes. But you have to be very accessible on the platform and have a strong presence.
There are many ways you can do this, including:
- Responding to likes/comments on your profile
- Sending welcome messages to new followers
- Liking and commenting on accounts that don’t yet follow you
- Follow/unfollow growth techniques
- Quick message response times
- Live feed on Stories
- Follow relevant users in your field and participate in conversations
Ultimately, the more active you are, the more visibility you’ll generate, and the more likely you’ll be to extend your reach. Engagement on your end is key.
Another way to engage is through Instagram-specific campaigns. You can run product advertisements, use in-app shopping and product tags, as well as using contests or paid advertising to help expand your reach. All of these strategies for engagement are excellent and you can use them all at different moments to have a rich Instagram engagement variety.
All in all, you’ve got 5 vital steps on how to use Instagram for business marketing, and these will definitely pave the way to your success.
Every day there are more and more elements to Instagram business. You should make sure you are taking advantage of all features offered.
The final thing that you need to do? Test.
There’s no better way to see what works well for you than testing, and you can do this by choosing 2 variables and seeing which one performs best. Make sure you keep everything else the same and only vary two elements that you want to compare.
Note your findings, review, and then make adjustments according to which performed better. This can be a type of content, a filter, a hashtag, a story post, etc. The possibilities really are endless and Instagram has no shortage of elements that you can tweak and customize.
Doing these types of tests can help you to develop your optimal business strategy for your unique account. If you follow the five steps we’ve laid out for you here in addition to always testing and evolving, you’re bound to see your Instagram business marketing flourish!