Wondering how to use Instagram for your business? It doesn't have to be complicated--like other social media platforms, Instagram works well for people who know how to use it to connect with an audience. Here's how you can connect with your audience and make the most out of your Instagram account.
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1. Use Stories
If you use Instagram for your own personal interests, you probably know what “stories” are. If not, here’s the basic idea: A person can make a post that goes into a special “stories” section rather than the main newsfeed, where regular posts go. Stories are temporary; they only remain live for 24 hours. However, the stories you post may also be saved to your device so you can reuse them whenever you want—so even though they’re short-lived for your followers, you can make use of them over and over again.
Because stories do not appear in the news feed, they might seem a little off-putting as a marketing tool. How will they help your brand if they aren’t in the news feed? It’s a good question, but there’s also a really good answer. Stories can be easily found in a designated area right at the top of the screen, and people love looking through them. People can also click to follow the stories of companies they like. So, in this respect, stories can be “incentives” for people to follow you—if they follow, they get access to exclusive, time-sensitive content. You can also be a little more informal with these posts, as they allow you the opportunity to show your brand’s humor, insider knowledge, and routine daily activities that let people feel more connected to you on a personal level.
The best part about stories is that they are fun to experiment with: there are lots of moving pictures, gifs, stickers, fonts, and colors available to customize your posts, and you can even tag other accounts to get cross-promotional benefits.
2. Use Your Own Unique Hashtag
This makes it super easy for people to find posts related to your company. Be sure to use it with your own posts and encourage your fans and followers to use it with their posts if they want to make a post featuring your brand. Having a unique hashtag for your brand essentially translates to free advertising for you—every time someone posts a photo and utilizes your hashtag, they become a part of your brand’s story. When people search for your company, they’ll see these images too. It’s a great way to watch your influence grow!
3. Figure Out Your Timing
It’s easy to post whenever you feel like it—just take out your phone and post a picture in 30 seconds, right? But your audience might be on a different schedule than you are, and for them, your posts might be lost in the dead hours of the night.
A great way to reach the biggest audience is to do some research on when they’re online. For example, many people are online between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM because that’s when people are commuting to work or just waking up and scrolling through their feeds. But people are also up around 2:00 AM—probably because this is when they should be in bed, but they’re going through their phones instead of sleeping! You can research your audience’s habits by utilizing the “Insights” feature for business accounts, or you can try some generic timetables as recommended above and go from there, tweaking times and using what works best for you. It can take some time to get it right, so don’t feel bad if your results aren’t ideal right off the bat.
4. Invest in Sponsored Ads
You don’t have to spend a ton of cash on ads to get some traction on Instagram. In fact, Instagram advertising is typically cheaper than a standard Facebook ad campaign. You can set a budget as low as $5 a day and still reach a good amount of people. You also have the option to define your audience specifically—you can target by location, interests, behaviors, age group, and languages spoken. By utilizing this strategy, you can be sure that the people you want to reach are the ones who will be seeing your ads. For a more in-depth guide about setting up your Instagram ads, visit Neil Pate’s blog.
5. Use Marketing Tools and Schedulers
Instagram comes built in with its own free tool to help marketers figure out what’s working and what isn’t. It’s called “Insights,” and you can get a breakdown of important information, such as follower demographics, hours your followers are active, what your top posts were, your number of impressions over a given time period, and more.
Schedulers such as CoSchedule and BufferApp are available to help you schedule posts even when you’re not around. You can also use the insights features within these applications as well, if you so choose (most schedulers have a native “insights” option built in that runs separately from the one you can use on Instagram). The beauty of using a scheduler is that if you want to schedule a post for, say, 2:00 AM, you can do that without having to actually be up at 2:00 am.
6. Most Importantly: Use a Business Account!
Finally, all of this works best if you use a business account rather than a personal one. This is what allows you to create ads and promote your products. This is also what allows you to look at insights and engagement statistics. Your followers can also click on a contact button to reach out to you versus having to navigate to the link in your bio or send you a DM. Having a business account is quite possibly the most important part of using Instagram as a business owner. It just makes sense: You get more features for free, and it isn’t complicated to switch! Just go to your profile while logged in, and under “Account Settings” you’ll see an option to “Switch to Business Profile.” Follow the instructions. A heads up: You’ll need a Facebook profile to do this, as Instagram and Facebook are connected and subject to the same terms and conditions.