How to use Instagram for business: A beginner's guide

Discover best practice tips and step-by-step guides on using Instagram for your business. Find out how to get up and running on the popular social media app – from setting up your account and posting your first photo to commenting on posts and finding people to follow.

What is Instagram?

Launched in 2010, Instagram has more than one billion active users. Home to a mix of accounts from celebrities, brands and everyday people, the popular social media app is a very visual platform.

Instagram is always adding new ways for its users to share content. As well as regular photos, people can now post Stories (15 second snapshots of text, video, images and gifs), Reels, IGTV and do live video streams. And users can like, comment and share content from other accounts.

With so much going on and so many people logging on, it’s no wonder companies have started taking Instagram seriously. Most businesses now include Instagram as a key part of their marketing strategy. But what if you’re just starting out? Let’s look at how you can use Instagram to help grow your small business or establish yourself as an influencer.

How to set up Instagram

You’re only a few taps away from setting-up on Instagram and connecting your business with the world. Here’s how:

  1. Download the Instagram app (go to the App Store if you’re an iPhone user or the Google Play Store if you have an Android device or Windows Phone).
  2. Sign up using your email address or mobile phone number and your full name.
  3. Choose a username (ideally your business name or something similar) and a password.
  4. Tap ‘Next’ and follow the on-screen instructions to finish set-up.

Customising Instagram notifications

With more of our daily life happening online, we’re using apps on our mobile devices to help us with everything from buying a house to booking a holiday. It can feel like the notifications never stop piling up. The good news is, with Instagram you control what notifications you receive. The social media site lets you customise your settings so you’re only given the information you want. Here are some of Instagram’s notification types:

  • Likes (on your posts and/or on photos of you posted by other people).
  • Comments (on your posts and/or on photos of you posted by other people).
  • Comment likes.
  • Follower requests (only for users with a private profile).
  • Accepted follow requests (only if you request to follow a private profile).
  • Reminders (if you have unopened direct messages, for example).
  • Someone you follow posts their first photo or story.
  • Someone you follow starts a live video.

Choose your notifications

Pick and choose. You control what updates you want. And the accounts you want them from. For most notification types, you have three options. From everyone. Only from people you follow. Or never. Let’s look at each of them in a bit more detail:

Connect to other social accounts

When you’re trying to get a small business off the ground, there aren’t enough hours in the day. Luckily, Instagram is one step ahead. The app has a useful feature which lets you connect your Instagram account with your other company social media channels.

Set it up. Post your content to Instagram. Then sit back and relax. It will automatically be shared to your other accounts. Leaving you with more time to work through your ‘To Do’ list.

How to use Instagram for business

Instagram for business gives you the same content, same app but a few added features. Switching from a personal account gives you access to handy tools designed for businesses, including:

Convert your profile to a business profile

Posting for professional – not personal – purposes? If you’re using Instagram to grow your business, you might consider swapping your account type. Whether you’re an aspiring global influencer or a small local company, an Instagram business account opens up a world of features. Sign up to hone your marketing strategy and take your social media presence to the next level.

How to upload, edit and post images

Instagram is a visual platform. A focus on photo and video content is what sets the popular social media platform apart from Facebook and Twitter. Users expect to see content that looks good. Luckily, the app makes it easy. Here are some tips on how to upload, edit and post images on Instagram:

  1. Open up the Instagram mobile app.
  2. In the top left you’ll see a square with a + in the middle. Tap that icon.
  3. To use an existing photo - select one from your camera roll. Or to take a new photo - tap the camera icon above your photo library.
  4. Tap ‘Next’ in the top right corner.
  5. If you want to add a filter - you’ll see a good selection of filters across the bottom of the screen. Scroll through and select the one you want.
  6. To edit your image – tap ‘Edit’ at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see a range of options pop up below the photo. Scroll though and tap the icon of the editing tool you want to use (warmth, saturation, fade, sharpness etc). Use the on-screen tools to make any adjustments. When you’ve finished, tap ‘Done’.
  7. Tap ‘Next’ in the top right corner.
  8. Tap the white box and type your caption. You can also tag people or add a specific location to your photo on this screen (if needed).
  9. When you’re happy with your photo, tap ‘Share’ to post it to your profile.

Find the right people to follow

With more than one billion users, how do you find the right people to follow? It’s actually not as difficult as you may think to grow your social media network.

Our best advice is to follow people who produce the kind of content that appeals to you and your target audience. If you’re starting out as a freelance make-up artist, for example, you might follow motivational accounts that’ll help you reach your business goals and personal Instagram accounts of people who seem like your ideal customer. You might also follow other make-up artists to keep you updated on trends.

But how do you discover new accounts in the first place? The Instagram app gives you a few different ways to find the right people to follow. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Upload images and videos to your Instagram story

Instagram stories. This popular feature lets you share 15 second snippets of content. But you have to be quick to catch them - they disappear after 24 hours! Fun and fast-paced, stories are a great marketing tool. Made using a mix of text, photo, video and gifs, they’re the perfect opportunity to bring a bit of personality to your company.

In a band? Share behind the scenes footage from your next gig. Offer mobile hairdressing services? Showcase your best work with client photos or short video testimonials. Whatever your industry, Instagram stories can help attract loyal followers and build your customer base.

Comment on posts

Posting comments is a great way to become part of the Instagram community. Especially for business accounts. Followers love it when brands are active users. People don’t just want to see your content – they want you to engage with theirs too. It’s quick and easy to leave a comment. Plus it’s great for brand awareness.

Use Instagram's free analytics

1 billion users. 500 million daily active users. Instagram can be a goldmine of opportunity for you and your business. And the app’s free analytics could be just the tool you need to find that gold!

Use other tools to help

You’ll find everything you need to get up and running already in the app. Analytics. Photo editing. A good selection of filters. It’s all there. But when you’re using the social media platform for business, you might want to take things to the next level. If that’s the case, there are plenty of other tools you can use to improve your Instagram business account.

Search the App Store or Google Play Store for software that makes life easier. With apps constantly being released there will always be new ways to manage your account and improve your content.

Say for example you want to build brand awareness. Consistent posting and eye-catching visuals are a great way to do this. So you might use a design app to create a logo and pre-made templates for stories. Then use a photo editing app for professional looking images that you also use for Instagram ads and on your business Facebook account. Finally, you might download an app that lets you schedule your social media posts in advance and then automatically posts them for you.

Should I use Instagram for my business?

Instagram is a great tool if you’re thinking of starting your own small business, or growing an existing one. It’s full of useful features that can help you promote your products and find new customers.

There are third-party apps which can help smooth and streamline your Instagram experience even more. But it can get overwhelming. Make sure Instagram works for you and doesn’t become a burden. Do this by customising notifications, connecting your account with your Facebook page and following a few fun accounts too.

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