As a small or medium size business owner, have you been thinking about using Instagram for Business? Should you?

How to Decide Whether to Use Instagram for Business

Before you jump onto the Instagram bandwagon, consider whether social media marketing on Instagram makes sense for your business. Ask yourself these five questions to decide.

Start With Strategy

Instagram is a photo sharing site.
The first question to ask is:

Does your business generate rich imagery? Could it?

If you’re a hair dresser, interior designer, realtor, or restaurateur, you can easily take stunning photographs that help you achieve your business goals. Hair dressers and designers can showcase “before” and “after” photos. Realtors can display the exterior and interior of listings. Mouthwatering images of food can drive patrons to a restaurant.
Another question to ask is:

Does Instagram for Business fit with your strategy?

A marketing strategy is your business’s overall game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers. We recommend an integrated strategy with a mix of interrelated marketing tactics that form your marketing plan. Because resources of time and budget are limited, not every marketing tactic can nor should be implemented.
What is a social media strategy?

buyers journey funnel for prospects and customers includes awareness interest consideration purchase post-purchase repurchase

A social media marketing strategy is a type of marketing strategy. It’s a plan to engage prospects and/or customers through content that users share. The purpose of a social media marketing strategy is to increase brand awareness and customer/prospect reach. It does not necessarily generate leads. It tends to be early in the buyer’s journey. Contrastingly, if you have a loyal brand following, it can also be used to engage customers.
Your strategy answers the question, why am I doing this marketing activity?
Just because Instagram is the right tactic for someone else’s business, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice for yours.
A third question to ask:

Do you or does someone on your team have the bandwidth and the expertise to set up and maintain a new social media channel?

If your answer is yes, keep reading. A brand does not make a good impression if it’s an abandoned ghost town of a profile page.
If you or your staff members don’t have the bandwidth or the expertise, ask yourself this fourth question:

Can you pay a marketing consultant or digital agency to post for you?

A startup cost and a monthly retainer may be a better fit for your business than trying to rely on internal resources. Furthermore, if you’re not very adept on a smart phone, but Instagram is the right choice for your business, you may want to hire a digital agency to help you.
Finally, ask yourself:

Who are you trying to reach?

If your main target audience for customers and prospects is retirees, Instagram might not be the best channel to reach them. We created the infographic below to showcase the latest demographic research regarding Instagram use.

instagram-users-2019Your Target Audience on Instagram for Business

Pew Research data indicates that about 37% of US adults over age 18 are on Instagram. It skews slightly toward women. It also skews urban (vs suburban or rural) and with higher household income levels.
Mostly Instagram users tend to be younger. A whopping 75% of 18- to 24-year-olds are on Instagram. In the next demographic, 25- to 29-year-olds, 57% are on Instagram. In the older than 65 age bracket, just 8% are on Instagram.
What’s more, Instagram users tend to be college-educated and have higher household income levels. Blacks and Hispanics are active on Instagram with 40% and 51%, respectively, of the adult US population in those groups. At the same time, only 33% of white adults are on Instagram.
In summary, if you want to reach college-educated millennials with disposable income in an urban area, Instagram may be the perfect tool for your business.
(Don’t be misled by these age data, however. Instagram is growing. Parents are now following their millennials to Instagram in droves.)
If you answered yes, to all the above questions then…

  • You have (or can get) interesting photos to share
  • Your strategy includes a social media strategy
  • You want to generate more brand awareness or brand engagement
  • Your company is trying to reach millennials
  • You have the bandwidth or technical expertise OR can afford to hire it

What You Get With an Instagram for Business Profile

Instagram for Business has been around since 2010. Today, more than 25 million businesses are on Instagram. A profile is free.
Unlike a personal Instagram account, it allows you to see analytics. It also gives you the opportunity to run ads. Further, you can include a contact button. (If you have a whopping 10,000 followers, you can also include a link in your stories. More on stories later.)

The Instagram Algorithm in 2019

According to 2019 Instagram Tweets:

What shows up first in your feed is determined by what posts and accounts you engage with the most, as well as other contributing factors such as the timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc.”

The Tweet continues,

“…we never hide posts from people you’re following – if you keep scrolling, you will see them all. Again, your feed is personalized to you and evolves over time based on how you use Instagram.”

It is a myth that Instagram’s algorithm favors stories over posts. It is also a myth that Instagram’s algorithm favors video over photos.
HOWEVER, Instagram may prioritize videos, stories, or Instagram Live if it believes that users prefer them.
Hashtags and location tags can help your post appear in more search results. Furthermore, Instagram does not favor users or businesses. What’s more, it doesn’t down-rank people for posting frequently. However, people may un-follow you if you overshare.
All in all, the most important activity to enhance your business’ exposure on Instagram is to get engagement. And that means generating great content that your followers want. More on that after a review of Instagram’s basic features.

hashtagInstagram Basics

What the #Hash is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word (or words) preceded by a hash (#) symbol, previously known as the pound symbol or number symbol. Phrases do not include spaces, and may or may not have initial caps. These hashtags can be seen as identifiers—like an indexing tool that describes your post and others with similar themes.
On Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags. Expert opinions vary on whether you should use all 30. Many do with good results. It’s available. And since it can be used to search terms, may help your post to get found. In one study, however, SproutSocial found the optimal number of hashtags in an Instagram post was nine.

Business Application of Hashtags

Research hashtags that describe your post, your brand, and your company by going to the search window and typing sample hashtags. Small businesses and those just getting started with Instagram should aim for hashtags that have search volumes from about 2,000 to 75,000.
Why? On the one hand, you won’t get as much attention if few (<2000) use a hashtag. On the other hand, the algorithm will likely favor larger, more established brands for the extremely popular hashtags (>75,000).

Features and Differences Between an Instagram Post, Instagram Story, and Instagram Live

Instagram uses posts, stories, and live video. Each has its own unique features.

Instagram Posts or Feed Features

  • Launched in October 2010
  • Original Instagram content
  • Partial screen
  • Photos and videos with captions
  • Can apply multiple effects to photos and videos
  • Photos appear in your 3-column grid
  • Can tag users and location
  • Can share to Facebook, Twitter or Tumbler
  • Videos can be 3 to 60 seconds

Instagram Stories Features

  • New in August 2016
  • Full screen
  • Multiple photos and videos appear in a slideshow format
  • Ephemeral—stories disappear within 24 hours unless you save a story to your archives or save it as a highlight
  • Can tag Instagram users
  • Archives isn’t visible unless you reshare it or directly message someone
  • Videos can be in only 15 second increments
  • Usually involves shorter posts of 5 to 15 words, or so
  • Photos and videos do not appear in 3-column grid
  • Can add music and special effects like boomerang (forward and rewind segments), focus (background blur), superzoom (focuses and plays dramatic music) and more

Instagram Live Features

  • New in August 2016
  • Followers informed if you go live
  • Ephemeral—video disappears at end of broadcast unless you share a replay of it
  • No titling available for video

IGTV Features

Business Applications of Instagram

Instagram Posts

Instagram posts are great for any images or videos you want to share with your prospects or customers. Make sure to use high-quality, well-thought out images. Because these will appear in your grid, you’ll also want to showcase your brand look and feel.

Instagram Stories

Why in the world would a business want to spend time, effort, and budget to pay for stories that will disappear in 24 hours? First, stories are growing in popularity and more Instagram users are turning to them. Second, a study from Hootsuite showed that story ads got more clicks (while post ads had a less expensive cost per acquisition).
Third, and perhaps surprising to many traditional marketers, there are times when stories are most useful. These might include:

  • Flash sales
  • Today’s promotions or discounts
  • One-time events
  • Behind-the-scenes look
  • Sneak peek into new product innovation
  • Customer preference poll
  • Spontaneous interviews

Instagram Live

Instagram Live has business applications as well. These might include:

  • Hosting an event
  • Q&A or AMA (Ask Me Anything)
  • Contests or bets on an outcome
  • Video blogging (Vlogging) live
  • Webinar

Setting Up Your Account

You can start a business Instagram account in one of two ways:

1.     Convert Your Personal Instagram Account

If your current personal Instagram account represents your brand, AND you don’t want to manage a separate account, you’ll want to choose this option. This also will allow you to keep your current followers. Here’s how to convert a personal account to a business account.

2.     Establish a New Business Account

If you have never used Instagram, you’ll want to set up a new Instagram for business account. If your personal profile does not represent your brand, you’ll also want to log out of your account and log in using a different email address.

instagram-for-businessYour Profile

Once you’ve established an account, you’ll want to first create your business profile. Look at other business profiles to get ideas about what to include. You’ll want to:

  1. Upload a Photo (typically your brand icon or logo)
  2. Add your Name
  3. Write your Bio
  4. Include your NAP

Name

Your name and your user name are searchable. Currently, these are the only two features in your PROFILE that can be searched. Therefore, it makes sense to use your 30 characters of your name in a way that is different from your username.
For example, your Username may be your brand name, such as “Johnny’s Place” but your “Name” might be a generic name “Chicago Restaurant.” This would cover multiple search queries and help to optimize your profile.

Bio

Your Bio is 150 characters. Here is some information you might want to include in your Bio in Instagram for business.

  1. Keywords (They’re not searched, but they add focus.)
  2. One clickable link—only one is allowed
    (Some businesses like to include multiple links by using Linkin.bio or linktree. These apps allow for one link to lead to multiple links. Keep in mind, however, that the more choices a person has, the more likely they are not to make a decision. In other words, too many link choices may result in no clicks at all.)
  3. Your business email (won’t be a clickable link)
  4. Location and hours, if appropriate
  5. Brand hashtag, emojis, line breaks
  6. A call to action (CTA)

NAP

Include a consistent NAP, name, address, and phone as you do on your website, other social media sites, and across the internet.

Getting Engagement

In the final analysis, to get your business found and keep prospects and customers engaged, you need to generate great content.

Instagram for Tips for Engagement

Remember the algorithm favors your content if people engage with it:

  • Publish quality content, such as stunning images
  • Use a consistent brand voice and imagery
  • Be descriptive in captions
  • Ask a question
  • Respond
  • Use emoji’s
  • Use humor
  • Add a CTA (call to action)
  • Use hashtags
  • Tag your location
  • Post when people are awake and active on Instagram
  • Include a variety of activities, such as posts, stories, Live, and IGTIV to expand your followers

Instagram for Business Content Ideas

  • Add value (tips, tricks, hacks)
  • Position yourself as the expert
    • Educate
    • Communicate
  • Include a giveaway or contest
  • Make a video tutorial
  • Promote a special event (occasionally)
  • Create a carousel post
  • Promote your business (occasionally)
  • Showcase your team
  • Share “behind the scenes”
  • Demonstrate your community involvement
  • Add a quote
  • Capture the season
  • Cross-promote with another brand
  • Show your product or service in a unique way
  • Highlight a company success story
  • Create before and after images

Summary

With that you should have a better understanding of:

  • Why you should (or shouldn’t) be on Instagram
  • How to set up an Instagram for business account
  • What to put in your business profile
  • What features are available for posts, stories, Instagram Live, and IGTV
  • When to use Instagram posts, stories or live
  • How to get engagement on your Instagram activities

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