To understand why your business should have an active presence on the growing photo-sharing app Instagram, consider this: in March this year, over 120 million Instagram users visited a website, got directions, called, emailed or direct messaged to learn more about a business based on an Instagram ad.

Instagram Trend over 5 Years

Instagram Trend over the last 5 Years – Source Google Trends

Instagram now has 600 million users worldwide, with 400 million of them using it daily. There are now 15 million registered businesses using Instagram Business Profiles and half of Instagram users follow at least one business, according to Instagram.

As well as following businesses, 60% of users say they learn about a product or service on Instagram.

These are some of the very compelling reasons to start using Instagram as part of your marketing efforts. Jump straight to our Instagram Post Improvement Tips here.

Although the visual aspect of Instagram makes it an ideal venue for companies with products, service-based businesses can benefit from Instagram too.

Service-based businesses can:

  • Demonstrate their expertise and share valuable content (tips, how to videos, answers to questions, etc.).
  • Share success stories.
  • Offer inspirational quotes.
  • Reveal a ‘Behind the Scenes’ view of their business or operations.
  • Make people laugh.
  • Show the benefits their service provides through aspirational images.
  • Offer special sales that provide solutions to users’ problems or challenges.

With an Instagram business profile, businesses of any size can get analytics about their followers and posts, have a more professional looking profile, and promote Instagram posts as ads.

Instagram’s Insights is the app’s built-in analytics tool that provides detailed information on who your followers are, when they’re online, and more. You can also see Insights for specific Instagram posts and Stories to see how they performed and how people are engaging with them.

Instagram provides the example of UK-based shopping app Grabble which offers users a curated selection of fashion and beauty products that can be bought with a single tap. Grabble attributes Instagram’s Business Tools feature with having an immediate impact on its marketing strategy. Jack Rogers, Grabble’s Head of Marketing says the company uses the insights Instagram provides to hone its target audience.

“We’d always thought that the majority of our audience was female, so we’ve tended to post female-focussed content. However, the insights in Instagram Business Tools have shown us that 21% of our followers are, in fact, male.”

Promoted Posts

Once you’ve set up a business profile on Instagram, you can promote your posts from within the app. It’s a lot like boosting a post on your Facebook page.

Use the contact button

An Instagram business profile also includes a ‘Contact’ button near the top of the profile. With the contact button, you have the option to include directions, a phone number, and/or an email address. Grabble’s Rogers says this makes it easier for customers to get in touch. “Everything is in one place, so they don’t have to go elsewhere to look up our details.”

Add links to Instagram Stories

Instagram now allows all business Instagram accounts with 10,000 or more followers to add links to their Instagram stories (video stories). You can find more help about Instagram Stories HERE.

How to improve your Instagram posts

Tell a story with pictures

Instagram is all about telling a story, so if you want to convert people into customers, you need to hook them in with a story about your brand that engages them. Think about what you offer, the value you provide and the lifestyle your product or service users enjoy as a result.

Every post you share should continue that story. Although Instagram is a visual medium, the words you use with each picture are just as important as the image itself. The images you use will grab people’s attention, and the text you use will make them stay.

See what your competitors are doing

By looking at your competitors’ Instagram accounts, you will see what is working and what is not working with your target audience and then you can improve on it. Look at who your competitors are following and who is following them. Look for any influencers or people with huge followings. Reach out to those people and get them to follow your brand as well.

  • Offer sales: Make your Instagram followers feel special by offering an Instagram-only sale with a promotional code. Make sure you use an attention-grabbing graphic to capture your followers’ attention.
  • Think where you link: Be clear about what you want people to do on your website and link to the most appropriate page. Or create a landing page specifically for Instagram users with a unique offer or a CTA. Unless you’re advertising, the only live link Instagram allows you to use is the one in your Instagram biography.
  • Post regularly: Maintain a regular posting schedule but don’t overwhelm your followers with too many posts. Depending on your audience and region, there might be more optimal times to post on Instagram. Experiment with posting times to determine the best time to publish your updates. Use scheduling apps like Hootsuite or Later.
  • Choose your subject matter: Decide the kind of posts you’ll share. While this will be an obvious choice for some companies (a retailer will feature its products, and a restaurant will showcase its dishes, for example), B2B companies could offer lifestyle content (for example, photos and videos of staff, its offices and even pets).
  • Use #hashtags: If you want to expand your reach, target your market, ensure your content is found and amplify your brand, then use hashtags. Think of them as keywords. Here’s why: Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement, according to a study by Simply Measured who have been recently acquired by Sprout Social.
  • Create a brand hashtag: Create a hashtag that encapsulates your company brand and which encourages your followers to share photos that fit with the concept. For example, KitKat uses the brand hashtag #HaveABreak, and people share photos on that theme with the rest of the #HaveABreak community. HootSuite uses #hootsuitelife.

Use captions

Although Instagram is all about the visual content, you should include a brief caption with each image you post. That’s because they give you the opportunity to tell a story, give it context and even entertain your followers.

Captions can be up to 2,200 characters in length and can include emojis, and up to 30 hashtags.

Lead with the most important words or ideas since most captions are cut off in users’ feeds after a few lines of text. That means you need to have a key point or CTA at the start of your caption. Put hashtags and call outs or mentions—@[username]—at the end of the caption.

To encourage your followers to comment on your post, ask a question. It could be an open-ended question or a simple question that will elicit a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. You could also invite followers to leave a comment.

Try Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories allow you to share multiple photos and videos together in a slideshow format. They will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in your feed. You can bring your story to life with text and drawing tools.

Collaborate with influencers

Identify influential people on Instagram that are relevant to your brand or industry, and begin building a relationship. Ask them if you can provide them with sponsored content for their account. If they agree, it means your brand could be exposed to a much larger Instagram community.

While the top global influencers can charge tens of thousands of pounds for a sponsored post, you can partner with influencers in your market who will charge a lot less than that.

Here’s why you should consider influencers: A recent study from marketing firm Collective Bias found nearly a third of the consumers they surveyed were more likely to purchase a product by a non-celebrity blogger than a celebrity.

Not surprisingly, most of the millennials surveyed—70%—valued non-celebrity endorsements, particularly from influencers that they consider peers. Instagram influencers can be very subtle with their endorsements such as using a hashtag to support a company’s campaign or tagging a clothing brand in a photo.