Top tips for using Instagram for business

PNE Group has been supporting people to start and grow businesses in the North East for more than 40 years. Melissa Middleton, Business Support-Coordinator, explains how businesses can make the most of using Instagram as part of their marketing strategy. 

So, your target audience lives on Instagram? Let’s talk about that….

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms used by businesses in the UK and so because of the increase in enquiries on how to best use it, I thought I’d give you my top tips to make a powerful start, and critically, allow you to understand ‘what you have let yourself in for’ by using it.

First a bit about me, I have an Instagram account and a few hundred followers (not massive) but crucially I work on hundreds of Instagram accounts with business owners and that’s where my experience and tips for this blog has come from.

Step 1 – Why, oh why (Delilah!)

I want you to think about why you want to use Instagram and what you want to get out of it. This is the first area I see so many businesses forget to do. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, then why are you doing it? You need to think about whether your business’s target audience is active on Instagram, or are you setting up an Insta because everyone else has one? If your target audience is here then you need to use Insta to sell primarily. But you’re setting up an Instagram account just because you feel you need one – what do you actually want to get out of it?

Step 2 – Profile is king, but be consistent

You need to set up your Insta profile in full before you start telling people it exists (I’ll cover what this means in a second), but before you do that I want you to think about all the other marketing and comms activities you are doing or plan to do. Consistency is everything and that means your logo(s) and your voice needs to all be the same across all platforms.

Now to the profile. Make sure your profile is your business name and your image is your logo. Then your bio. This is the only place you can add a link such as a website, but it also only gives you 150 characters to tell the world who and what you are. I would suggest updating this bio on at least a quarterly basis and ensuring that you pop in your USP (unique selling point). You can also use hashtags for those key words too.

And the final two things to think about: make sure your account is a business account and add at least five photos with captions and hashtags before you launch.

Step 3 – Creativity is what it’s all about

To grab attention on Insta you need to showcase your creativity through really cool photos/images but also through InstaStories – these are only live for 24 hours but you can add them to your profile as a highlight so they stay forever. Use this for quick, less than a minute long pieces. If you want something longer, try IGTV which allows you to create a video that is up to one hour long – great for that welcome video you want to do.

Step 4 – Be there or be square!

You need to really be posting to Insta three times a day (yep, no joke) with meaningful and creative content. This is especially if you’re using Insta to generate sales. If you’re using it as a simple communications platform to keep people up to date then try one post a day and see how you get on, but be prepared that you may need to do more if you’re not hitting your goals for using it. Expand your reach with the use of hashtags. You can create a hashtag for your business name so all messages that go out have ‘#yourbusiness’ in them. You can have up to 30 hashtags per post but really you want at least five and that should do, if they are relevant. So one is your business hashtag and others could be sector-specific, or relating to a trend that happening that day (an example being #tbt, or Throw Back Thursday). Put the hashtag in the body of the text of your post where relevant, or at the end of the post. Any extras add as a comment!

Step 5 – Works well with others

Don’t just post all the time about yourself and your business. Instead showcase your willingness to collaborate by tagging other people or businesses – it will get you noticed by their followers but also will make you best friends with the people or businesses you’re tagging, as you are promoting them to your followers too. Oh, and never post something negative about another person or business, it’s not nice and you wouldn’t like it. Use Insta as a happy creative place.

Step 6 – Analyse, evaluate

Is Insta working for you? You will only know if you ask your customers where they hear from you, or you look at the stats for your posts and see if they are reaching the people you intended to. Are people leaving comments? Are businesses getting in touch with you because of something you have said or posted? Essentially, are you meeting the goals you set out right at the beginning?

Finally, if you feel you need to use Instagram do it, but please remember that if you do want to talk it through with someone, do so. Reading a blog is great but sometimes talking it through with someone works even better, so contact your local business advisor, social media guru, friend with a million followers, or if you’re in the North East give me a shout and let’s talk about it!

Find out more about the business support available through Melissa and PNE Group.