When it comes to marketing your business online, Instagram plays a vital role in effectively connecting with your customers.
As the fifth most popular social media platform in the world, with over 1.2 billion monthly active users, marketing your business on Instagram is a no-brainer.
Before you start posting, you need a strategy. After all, you want to play smarter, not harder, with social media.
That’s why we created this ultimate guide to Instagram to help you through every step in the Instagram marketing process. From creating an account, to building your audience, this guide will help your social media strategy soar in 2022.
Table of Contents
What is Instagram Marketing and How is it Different from Marketing on Other Social Media Platforms?
Instagram marketing is using the tools of the social media app to grow brand awareness, launch new products, and connect with customers through visual aesthetics.
The biggest challenge that companies face when using Instagram for marketing is that they do not realize that certain strategies which work on other social media platforms do not have the same impact on Instagram.
Instagram is all about photo and short video sharing, company branding, and visual aesthetics.
Focus on growing your audience, promoting products/services, and being part of the community. Utilize pictures, Reels, and hashtags to connect with customers while adding a personal touch to your businesses online interactions.
Are you unsure about whether or not your business is right for Instagram?Click here to check out our blog about the best businesses for Instagram.
By posting great content, interacting with your customers, and streamlining your professional goals, you’ll find success in no time.
How to Set-Up Your Instagram for Business
Setting up your Instagram account for business is relatively simple and straightforward.
The first step is to download the Instagram app and sign up for an account. Without it, Instagram won’t let you sign up for a business account. (Note: You can create ads on Instagram without an account as long as you have a business account on Facebook, but you cannot post organically on Instagram without an account.)
While logged into the app, click on “Settings.” From there, pick “Account” and tap “Switch to professional account.”
You will be prompted to choose a category that best describes your business: select “Business.”
From there, there are a couple of pieces of information you will need to fill out about your company.
By changing your regular Instagram account into a business account, you now have access to a variety of specially designed tools to help get the most out of your account.
Now that your business account is set up, let’s take a look at your professional dashboard.
Navigating Your Instagram Professional Dashboard
At the beginning of 2021, Instagram introduced Professional Dashboard, a new way to “track performance, access and discover professional tools, and explore educational information curated by Instagram.”
Instead of separate sections for analytics, branded content, and Instagram Shop, the Professional Dashboard keeps track of everything all in one place.
The first graphic you will see pop up when you open the dashboard is Instagram Analytics.
Similar to Google Analytics, Instagram Analytics features a collection of insights about your account including profiles reached, accounts engaged, and total followers over a set period of time.
These data points are especially important when trying to figure out your business Instagram’s reach. The more accounts you reach, the more eyes on your posts.
From here, you also can receive an elementary grasp on which posts, or hashtags seem to get in front of the most people.
Engaged means a variety of activities ranging from comments and shares to mentions and direct messages.
There are two reasons why engagement matters.
First, it allows you to know what your followers care about. If your followers are commenting, sharing, saving, swiping through and liking certain posts, or seem more interested in a specific topic, you can get an idea of what kind of information your audience wants.
Just don’t feel discouraged if your initial posts aren’t setting the world on fire with high engagement. It takes time to build a dedicated Instagram audience.
Secondly, engagement matters to Instagram’s algorithm. Like all social media products, if more people are engaging with your posts then said posts are more likely to be boosted in Instagram’s newsfeed. Generally, Instagram bases how “important” your post is to show to more people on the engagement it receives within the first hour it has been published.
Instagram Ad Tools
If you want to promote one of your top engaged Instagram posts, Ad Tools is what you are looking for.
Designed with simplicity in mind, Instagram Ad tools allows you to create promotions and ads from posts you have already published with only a press of your finger.
The Ad Tools page also allows businesses to manage their ads right from the Instagram app.
If you want a more detailed look at your Instagram ad information, it is recommended you check out the desktop version of ad tools. Because Instagram is a part of Meta, the desktop version of ad tools includes information about Facebook ads as well.
Tips and Resources
At the bottom of the Professional Dashboard are a collection of posts and videos produced by Instagram to help you on your business journey.
Not only are these short posts filled with useful information, but they also provide you a roadmap to create your own Instagram posts.
When is the Best Time to Post on Instagram?
With about 500 million users accessing the app every day, Instagram is one of the most consistent and reliable platforms for connecting with your customers. And, while you might have the perfect post ready to publish, it may get buried under a sea of other pictures if you aren’t publishing at the right time.
Most Instagram users follow hundreds of accounts, so posting at the most optimal time will help your discoverability.
For example, if you post when most of your followers are asleep, it’s unlikely that they’ll see your post on their feeds by the time they wake up. This can also hurt your post’s “ranking” in Instagram’s algorithm.
A general rule of thumb is to post around 11:00 A.M. CST on any weekday, as this is a period of high engagement. But also think about the times of day you are usually scrolling through social media? Many people check their phone throughout the day, but the times that people scroll are based on their daily routine. Check out this chart from Sprout Social that details Instagram engagement.
We’ve compiled some questions you should ask yourself when scheduling your Instagram Stories and posts to help you find the best time to publish and optimize your audience engagement.
When is Your Audience on Instagram?
Knowing your specific audience is crucial in deciding on a posting schedule. Think about what your ideal customer’s day looks like and when they would be able to access the app.
If you’re a local boutique selling to high school students, avoid posting in the mornings. Instead, try posting during lunch times or after the school day has ended.
For businesses that have customers on both coasts, remember that 10:00 A.M. EST will be 7:00 A.M. PST, so meeting in the middle or prioritizing the west coast’s schedule may prove beneficial.
Ideally, you are posting at least a couple of times per week at a variety of times so you reach the most people no matter what timezone they are in. Depending on your industry, the ideal time for posting differs.
Keeping your audience in mind will help you narrow down a more specific, personalized posting schedule for your Instagram activities.
The Type of Business Matters
Depending on what kinds of products or services your business offers, it may be better to post during the evening than in the morning and vice versa.
Restaurants that are only open in the evenings may find more success in posting shortly before they open for the night as opposed to posting during lunch hours since customers won’t be able to take action until later.
When you post should make sense for your business.
Thanks to Instagram’s ability to schedule posts through your Facebook business account, there’s no need to wait to post when you have the time. With your business account, you can schedule posts for whenever you want, so be sure to take advantage of that and post when it is most optimal.
(Note: You cannot schedule Instagram posts directly through the app. If you do not have your Instagram account connected to a Facebook business account, you will need to use a paid scheduling platform like Sprout Social, or Buffer to schedule Instagram posts)
Take advantage of Instagram scheduling and design your posting schedule as soon as possible. With great content and excellent timing, you’ll notice that your Instagram account’s engagement will skyrocket.
How to Use Hashtags
Although hashtags may be mostly-associated with Twitter, their importance to other platforms like YouTube and Instagram is much more crucial.
There’s no place more important for hashtags than Instagram. The # symbol has become synonymous with content organization and helped various niches find a home and grow online.
Hashtags aren’t reserved for social media influencers, though–you can use them for your business, too, and you should. Using hashtags is a great way to make your business more discoverable online, but to maximize your social media success, you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re doing.
Using the wrong hashtags or too many of them may put off potential customers, so you’ll want to ensure that your hashtags are appropriate and streamlined. But where do you start?
We’ve put together some of our tips for using hashtags on Instagram to get your business’s account more #Exposure.
What are Hashtags?
A hashtag is a symbol (#) used on social media to help categorize topics or keywords.
Twitter was the first social media platform to use hashtags back in July 2009. Since then, Instagram has taken over as the land of the hashtag.
Hashtags can be found in almost any Instagram post you see. You’ll likely stumble across a post with #travel, #food, or #tbt (throwback Thursday) at some point in your social media life.
Hashtags can help categorize your posts so that people searching for them can find them.
If you want to utilize the best hashtags, use a service such as DisplayPurposes which identifies and highlights the most popular hashtags.
Creating a unique hashtag for your business can help you build a brand identity.
Take for example Coca-Cola’s incredibly successful hashtag campaign #ShareACoke. Combined with the release of personalized Coke cans, this hashtag helped create the idea of a community within it.
Not only can users use the hashtag to search for your posts, but customers can use the hashtag to show you off. It’s kind of like free advertising.
Every post can feature up to 30 hashtags, so mix and match business branded hashtags with more popular related hashtags for optimal performance.
The hashtags you use, not just the ones you create, set the tone for what kind of image you want your business to have online. Is your company more serious, or would you say you want to appear more casual and carefree? What kind of customer are you trying to attract?
What hashtags you use and their frequency will affect your branding, so be sure to focus on how you want to portray your business online when using them.
How to Use Hashtags
The best way to use hashtags will be different for every business, depending on your target audience, business type, and goals.
Still, you can do some general things to get the most out of your hashtags regardless of those factors.
Instagram shared their own tips for using hashtags on their Creators account (@creators) that will aid you on your quest for hashtag mastery. They advise using 3-5 hashtags per post (using more can get overwhelming) and keeping your hashtags relevant to your content.
While it may be tempting to use generic or broader hashtags, it’s important for small business and growing accounts to use more specific hashtags. Look at suggested hashtags to create narrower tags that allow you to show up in search results more easily compared to big accounts with generic hashtags.
We recommend commenting your hashtags after you’ve posted or hitting the return button a couple of times after your caption to make sure your hashtags do not overwhelm or distract from your caption.
Don’t forget about your local audience as well. Adding an area code or town name to a more generic hashtag, can be a huge win. Instead of just #foodie, try #chicagofoodie or #312eats if you are a restaurant in Chicago. Users on Instagram often follow tiche hashtags like these as if the hashtag were an actual account.
If you’re not already using hashtags on your Instagram posts, be sure to add them in! You can go in and edit your old posts to include hashtags as well.
What to Post to Your Business Instagram Account
Because Instagram is primarily used for sharing images and videos, it can be intimidating to figure out what to post if you are running a small business.
We’ve got some ideas for content that you can post to not only draw in new customers but keep your current ones engaged and ready to return.
Below are some of our favorite Instagram content ideas for your small business.
Highlight New Products or Services
Do you have something new coming soon? Instagram is a great place to share the news and show off what you’ve been working on.
Take advantage of Instagram’s photo-sharing ability and post pictures displaying your new products.
Additionally, if what you’re posting is a significant announcement for your business, daily countdown posts always get audiences excited.
Customer Reviews and Results
If a customer made an Instagram post highlighting your product, share it! Reposting is easy.
You can either take a screenshot of the desired post(s) and crop accordingly, or use a platform like Repost for Instagram, an app designed specifically for this very purpose!
Please remember to ask permission before reposting a customer’s post and to give credit for their photos in your caption.
Behind the Scenes (BTS)
Posting content during your business’s working hours can make your business feel welcoming and approachable. And it makes for great Story content and future Highlights.
Showing what goes into making your product or service lets your audience know that you genuinely care about what you’re doing and that you want to build a relationship with them.
Additionally, posting content of your employees (with their permission, of course) can make things feel more personal, too.
If you’ve got a great work environment, show it off! People love to see that the people behind the products or services they’re paying for are just as good as those things themselves.
Letting your audience know that you’ll be a part of a community event makes you that much more reachable for them. Plus, if you’re going to be physically at an event, it’s an excellent opportunity to speak with potential new customers!
All of this is even more important if you’re doing a charity event. Share a cause you care about with your followers–it’ll show them your business values and draw in new customers who share similar ideals.
Types of Posts on Instagram
Instagram is more than just a photo-sharing app. Founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in 2010, the platform has evolved into a giant virtual space where you can post various types of content.
This is why Instagram is the perfect place to market your business.
After you’ve set up a business account on Instagram, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the different posting options you’ve now discovered.
No need to fear–we’re here to break it down for you.
Photos are the most shared content you’ll find on Instagram, and they’re also the easiest to post.
You can select multiple photos by tapping on the icon next to the camera on the right-hand side of the screen.
With photos, you can apply filters or customize individual values within the app, making editing easy. Instagram isn’t very flexible when it comes to image dimensions, though, so make sure that the focus of your photo will fit within the borders.
Much like posting photos, it is pretty simple to share videos. According to Instagram themselves, the maximum file size for 10 minute long videos is 650MB, while the maximum file size for 60 minute long videos is 3.6GB.
On the mobile app, you have access to reviewing insights on your Instagram videos. These insights include audience retention, and average video percentage watched, giving you more scientific feedback than the average like or comment.
Instagram Stories are posts that last up to 24 hours and disappear after this period has ended.
Suppose you want your Story to remain available. In that case, you can create a Story highlight, which will keep the Story available for anyone to see after its original posting period has ended.
Unlike regular posts like photos or videos, Stories do not show up on your Instagram feed, but are at the top of the app. Your followers can view your Stories by tapping on your profile picture. These also show up chronologically for your followers, so you do not have to fight against the algorithm to get your story seen.
Stories are a great way to directly engage with your target audience and highlight or hype up your upcoming posts. And, with Instagram’s newest update, you can easily share links in your stories for content sharing, event signups, and more!
Added to Instagram in 2020, Instagram Reels are designed to be brief, attention-grabbing videos much like what you would see on TikTok. Reels are recorded within the Instagram app and are 60 seconds or less.
Still, you can apply various fun filters and effects while editing.
Reels are especially great for discoverability, as they’re easily found in the Explore tab and are shown as suggested videos while scrolling in your feed.
Even if you’re not interested in adding effects, posting short videos as Reels can significantly help you attract new followers or customers to your business’s Instagram account.
By using Instagram’s Live feature, you can host a live stream.
Your viewers can comment or request to join you during these live streams unless you turn these options off. You can share a replay of your broadcast after it’s ended by posting it to your profile as an IGTV.
Live videos are perfect for interacting with your customers in real-time.
If you’re hosting a Q&A session, showing off a new product or service, or even just wanting to say hi, going live is a smart and excellent way to build a relationship with your audience.
Building Your Instagram Community
Here’s where the leaders on Instagram separate themselves from the beginners.
Some people believe that once you set up an Instagram account, take a couple of photos, maybe include a link to your website, and you’re all set.
Then when your posts get zero traction, or your analytics show no traffic coming to your site, discouragement kicks in and you give up.
But if you learn how to build an engaged Instagram community early, you’ll expand your business’s reach while providing another connection to your community.
Never Buy Followers
That zero next to follower count on an Instagram dashboard can feel lonely, but whatever you do, never ever buy followers.
There are a ton of services that claim to provide cheap, easy, and real followers (especially on places like Fiverr), but none of those are legitimate.
Not only will paid followers not provide you with any long term gains, fake Instagram followers are against Instagram’s terms of service. Add in the fact that these paid follows (and likes) don’t authentically engage with your posts, and you end up with a waste of money.
No matter how good the deal sounds, never pay for Instagram followers. The best way to gain followers is by organically engaging with people on Instagram that are a part of your community. Follow people and like posts.
Fill Out Your Profile
This might seem obvious, but the first step towards building an Instagram community is to fill out your profile.
That means uploading a profile image (preferably your logo), choosing a proper Instagram handle (should be as close to your business name as possible), and filling out your bio.
While you are putting in information, think about what link you’re going to include. Some businesses are linking followers to pages directly related to the products they post on their Instagram in order to drive more traffic to specific pages. If you need to provide more than one link in your bio and don’t want to update it constantly, apps like Linktree are a good link hosting option.
Think about what information is most important for potential customers to see and make sure to include it in your bio.
Similar to having a consistent blog post schedule, it’s essential to also post on Instagram consistently.
Some people and businesses post multiple times per day, but most marketers recommend posting 3 times a week and no less than 1 time per week. This allows you to keep a consistent presence while not overwhelming your followers.
In the next section, we talk about automated social media calendars which automatically schedule the correct number of posts for you. Whether you use an automated service or not, you should at least keep an updated social media calendar for posting.
Promote Your Instagram
One way to gain more Instagram followers is through simple promotion. Use your other social media profiles to let fans and customers know you are now on Instagram.
Add a link on your website, even include your Instagram in an email bio. The more places the Instagram logo is visible, the better. No one can follow you if they don’t know you exist.
Another option is to reach out to your contact list to see if they’d be interested in promoting your account. Sometimes a brand with a lot of followers that you’ve worked with in the past might be willing to swap social media links which would allow you to get in front of an entirely new audience.
Don’t be afraid to promote your Instagram. It’s the easiest way to connect with an audience who is already familiar with your brand.
Social media is all about connecting with your audience. What better way to do that than start the conversation?
Maybe make a post asking a question, or share an intriguing thought that might usher in some user engagement.
Just as important though is to start conversations on other people’s posts. Commenting, discussing, even just liking someone else’s photos can help get your account in front of other users.
Automated Social Media Posting
From the advent of social media comes one of the best business tools to invest in: automated social media posting. There are a ton of options available online, and most share similar functionalities with varying price points.
The key to finding the right automated Instagram posting software is knowing what you are most interested in. Do you want to post without having to log in all of the time? Would you like more detailed Instagram analytics? Is engagement high on your priority list?
Based on those factors, we chose a few of our favorite (and most popular) social media automation tools to help you grow your business Instagram while saving time.
If you are looking for something easy to use and decently priced, then Buffer is the way to go.
With a free version and paid subscription version ($5 per month per social channel), Buffer is one of the cheaper options on our list, but is quite formidable for the price. For $5 per month, there is individual post analytics, historical data access, and hashtag performance information.
Unsure of what time to post? Buffer sets three preferred times every day based on social media metrics to give your Instagram photos the best chances to be seen.
On the free version, users can schedule posts, but to get the best results, you will need to sign up for the paid plan.
Hootsuite has been around forever so it’s no wonder that they’ve managed to find themselves on our list of the best automated social media platforms.
Like other platforms, Hootsuite has a limited free plan and a bevy of more expensive subscription options ranging from $49 a month to $599 a month.
The biggest difference between the plans is how many posts you can schedule at once. On the free plan, it’s five maximum whereas the paid plans allow for unlimited.
Posting is relatively simple through Hootsuite: choose your photo, write your caption, and schedule your post. That’s all. Hootsuite also publishes suggested best-practice times for posting.
The platform features a robust collection of analytics including Hootsuite Impact. With this feature you can “track, analyze, and understand audience engagement on your social channels at every step of the customer journey to grow the value of your content and campaigns.”
Add in a customizable analytics dashboard and you have one of the most powerful social media tools at your fingertips.
One of the biggest companies in social media automation is Sprout Social. Trusted by over 30,000 organizations and brands, Sprout Social’s strong reputation precedes them.
With Sprout’s social media engagement tool, you’re in control of everything at once. From complete conversation management to keyword/hashtag tracking, Sprout Social is designed to be the one and only social media management platform you need.
They do offer a 30-day trial, but everything else is under a paid plan. The cheapest, $89 per month, is severely limited in what it can do – if you want custom workflows, social analytics, and more than five social media profiles, the cost is $149 a month.
If you’re looking for a full-featured, well-designed social media management platform and aren’t afraid to spend a little money, then check out Sprout Social. Otherwise, some of the other subscription sites listed here are better options.
CoSchedule is a little bit of everything. Part social media calendar, part marketing suite, it’s easy to get lost in all of the features that CoSchedule offers.
When talking about Instagram for business, CoSchedule allows you to connect your account to a social media calendar. From there, you can post “single-image, multi-image (Carousel), and video posts through CoSchedule.”
Where CoSchedule as a platform really shines is how they offer a full-size content organizer. With one calendar, CoSchedule visualizes all of your posts (social media, blog posts, etc.) for your entire team.
You can even schedule follow up Instagram posts to advertise your blog posts.
As a whole marketing suite, CoSchedule is one of the best. It’s simple to use calendars, automated publishing and holistic schedule views allow you to have complete control over everything content.
For the marketing calendar, CoSchedule charges $29 per month, per user. As for the marketing suite, CoSchedule requests you schedule an appointment online where a representative can help provide you with the most accurate and personalized information.
If you’re looking for something simple that’s dedicated just to Instagram, something like Buffer or Hootsuite might work for you. But if you want to become an advanced content marketer, CoSchedule and Sprout Social are the best.
Be on the lookout for newer, similar scheduling platforms like Kontentino. These new platforms offer many similar features to Sprout Social and CoSchedule but could be a better price or workflow option for you.
Tips to Help Your Instagram Marketing Strategy Soar in 2022
If you want your business to skyrocket, you’ll want to make use of these Instagram marketing tips.
Develop Your Brand Personality
What is your company’s identity? What are your goals?
These are questions to consider when developing your brand’s personality on Instagram.
An inconsistent feed will both put off and confuse your potential customers, so you’ll need to decide on what kind of content you want to post.
Try sticking to lighter colors and everyday language if you’re going for a relaxed, family-oriented vibe. Alternatively, if you’re seeking a more professional look, keep things clean and direct.
Your images, captions, and hashtags should complement one another and reflect your brand personality. Keep your target audience in mind as you curate your content.
The most important things to users are authenticity and consistency when developing your brand personality.
Make sure your posts make sense with the company’s goals and that all interactions with your audience maintain a similar voice.
For those businesses that sell products, consider setting up Instagram Shopping.
Instagram Shopping allows you to sell the products featured in your posts in the easiest way possible for your customers. Simply tag your products in your posts and if followers want to learn more, they can click on a product detail page (PDP) to learn more information.
Not only that, Instagram allows customers to tag your products too. If a customer is using your product in a post, they tag the product, and drive traffic to your website.
Also, put your business on the shopping tab, a section designed to discover new products and brands.
Keep Up with App Updates and New Features
The world of social media is always changing and evolving, so it’s important to stay on top of what’s new to get the most out of your social media marketing on any platform. However, this is especially true with Instagram.
For a long time, Instagram has been one of the more time-consuming platforms for social media marketers. You could only post from a mobile device, sharing links was nearly impossible, and people only saw your posts in their feed if they followed your account.
While some of this has changed with the addition of Instagram stories in 2016, the biggest and most exciting changes have come in just the last year.
Links in Stories
Until the last few months of 2021, only verified accounts and those with 10,000 or more followers could share links in their stories. Now, this feature is finally available to all users. Link sharing has also changed from a swipe up to a link sticker (like the location and tagging stickers).
The ability for everyone to now share links in stories opens up more marketing opportunities for small businesses who don’t have the large enough audience or “clout” for verification to convert views on Instagram to clicks and site visits.
This means you can now share anything you want in your stories, such as company blogs, newsletter signups, product pages, and more. Providing a link in your Instagram story is a quick and effective way to direct your customers to what you want them to see.
Story links don’t replace the importance of your “link in bio.” Rather, they are a good supplement as stories only last 24 hours unless you use them in an Instagram Highlight.
Your link in bio is a more “permanent” resource for followers to get to your site or a blog you may have posted. At The Loop Marketing, we recommend using link hosting tools like Linktree and Linkin.bio by Later to keep multiple links in your business’s Instagram bio.
Posting from Desktop
Instagram previously only allowed users to post from their mobile devices. Now, it is possible to post directly from your desktop. This is a crucial change not just for the platform but for your business as well.
Previously, if you stored images on a desktop, or edited those photos on your computer, you would need to transfer those images to your mobile device to post.
Not every business is tech savvy, and identifying hashtags on mobile is challenging. You can share an image or video directly from your desktop and write your hashtags as intended from the comfort of your own computer.
A word of warning: Instagram only allows you to post images and videos via desktop. Instagram Stories, Reels, and live videos still require a mobile device and app.
Follow Adam Mosseri on Instagram
Adam Mosseri is the Head of Instagram and posts various series to help you make the most of your experience on the platform. If you want to be one of the first to know about Instagram updates, @mosseri is the account to follow.
Mosseri’s six series tackle announcements, advice on using Instagram, question and answer sessions, interviews with creators, addressing common complaints, and more. Every week, Mosseri shares a video that will provide helpful tips to making your Instagram presence a phenomenal success.
Instagram is an ever-changing and ever-growing platform. The best source of information regarding new or improving features to the platform would be its leader. Additionally, because Instagram is a Meta Platforms company, many of these tips can be carried over to Facebook.
Let The Loop Marketing Take Your Business to the Next Level
If your business isn’t already on Instagram, now is the time to get started.
Instagram is a handy tool to grow your business online. If you still need some guidance, The Loop Marketing is here to help. We offer various social media services, such as setup, management, and social media promotion, including Instagram. Contact us today with any questions.