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March 10, 2020
Social Media Marketing

How to use Instagram for your business

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, and every small business should consider using the platform. From gathering insights to selling products, Instagram keeps rolling out tools to help business owners succeed on the photo-sharing social media platform.

It’s not too late to join and become successful on Instagram. With the right marketing strategy, businesses can promote products and services, boost their brand, and increase sales on Instagram. Here is everything you need to know about using it to market your business.

Creating a business Instagram account

When you sign up for an Instagram account, make sure to create a business profile. Business profiles have access to tools and features that help create a business presence.

To convert your profile to a business profile, you’ll first need to go to your profile and press the three bars in the upper right-hand corner. Then tap Settings, and select “switch to business profile.” Instagram also recommends that you connect your business profile on Instagram with your business’s Facebook page.

Once you’ve created your Instagram account, you add details about your business, including your name, username, profile picture, website URL and a short biography. Be sure to include contact information so your followers can connect with you.

Instagram terminology

Bio: This refers to the biography section in your profile. Businesses can also use their bio to include a call to action.

Direct messages (DMs): Users can privately communicate with each other through direct messages. If a customer has a complaint or question, it’s best practice to chat with them via direct message to keep the conversation private. Direct messages are often referred to as DMs.

Filters: You can apply preset filters to your photos to enhance features and colors.

Follow: When you follow a user on Instagram, you’ll see their content in your timeline. You can also view their Instagram Stories at the top of the application..

Followers: Your followers are people who will see your pictures in their timelines.

Hashtag (#): Similar to Twitter, a hashtag on Instagram is used to index words or phrases. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see other posts with the same one.

Highlights: A highlight reel of your Instagram Stories appears on your profile above your photo gallery and stays until you remove it..

Home: Tap the home button to land on your home screen, which is also your timeline or feed. Here you’ll see photos from the people you follow.

IG: IG is an abbreviation for Instagram.

Instagram handle: Your handle is your username. To mention a user on Instagram, you need to use their handle, which always starts with the @ symbol.

Instagram Stories: Stories is one of the most popular features on the platform. These pictures and videos disappear after 24 hours. Read more about Instagram Stories below.

Tag: There are a few ways to tag people on Instagram, including in a photo’s caption, in Instagram Stories and in photos. Use the @ symbol to tag someone in a caption or an Instagram story. You can tag someone in your photos before you post the picture.

Between posts, ads and stories, there is no shortage of potential marketing tools on Instagram. Now that you know how to build your profile and understand the common Instagram terminology, here’s how to use Instagram to build your business.

1. Add professional-looking photos.

Instagram is a photo-sharing social media platform, so it's important to share visually pleasing content. Generic photos won't cut it. Take photos, edit them, and take the time to make sure you're creating a cohesive grid on Instagram.

To add a new photo, tap the camera button at the bottom of your screen. You can take a new photo or select one from your camera roll. On the next screen, there are multiple options to personalize your post. You can add a filter, tag other users, write a caption and add a location. You can also turn off comments on this page with the advanced settings.

2. Use Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories is one of the channel's most popular features. These photos and videos disappear 24 hours after they're posted. Instagram offers many tools that make it easy to create engaging and creative stories.

On Instagram Stories, you can post recorded videos, still photos, live videos, boomerangs (videos that loop back and forth), basic text, music and focused photos. You can also add stickers such as your location, the temperature, user tags and hashtags.

The stickers for polls, questions and sliding bars make it easy to interact with your users and get feedback. Some accounts use the questions feature to hold a weekly Ask Me Anything, which is a fun way to answer common questions.

Another way to draw attention to your brand is with Stories Highlights, which stay on your profile until you remove them.

3. Stream live videos.

In addition to Instagram Stories, users can take and stream live video that disappears – sort of like a cross between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, show products or answer live questions through the comments.

Once the video ends, it lives in your Instagram Stories for 24 hours. If you want a video to remain on your Instagram feed, you can upload video you’ve taken or shoot video directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload video, you can still add filters and change the cover.

4. Interact with other Instagram users.

As with any social media platform, it's important to engage and interact with your followers on Instagram. Here's how.

Liking: Liking is a simple way to connect with other users. To like a photo, either double-tap the image or tap the heart button under the post.

Commenting: Next to the like button is a comment button – just tap it, and the app will take you to the comments page for that photo, with a text box where you can enter what you want to say. Hit Post when it’s complete.

Mentioning: As on Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions.

Tagging: Instagram allows you to add tags before you post content. To do so, tap Tag People before sharing your photo, and then tap where in the photo you’d like to add a tag. The app then prompts you to type in the person’s name to search for their account. Once you’ve tagged other users in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the people who are tagged.

Mentioning: As on Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions.

Direct messaging: To access Instagram Direct, go to the homepage and tap the button in the top right corner. Here, you can send private instant messages, photos and videos to other users. To send a new DM, tap the + button in the top right corner and select Send Photo or Video, or Send Message. Once you’ve sent the message, you and the recipients can message back and forth. Users who are not already following you will be asked whether they want to allow you to send them photos and videos before they can view your DM.

5. Use hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way to help users find content on Instagram. Hashtags can include letters and numbers, but they can't contain any non-numerical characters. For example, #DaveAndBusters works as a hashtag, but #Dave&Busters does not.

Because users can both search for hashtags and click on hashtags they see in posts in the app, relevant hashtags can be a highly effective tool for getting noticed. However, make sure you’re using the right hashtags for your brand.

Hashtags such as #nofilter (a photo that hasn’t been heavily edited with filters), #selfie (a picture of yourself), and #tbt or #throwbackthursday (old photos) are popular on Instagram, but they may not work for you or your brand. It’s a good idea to look at other established brands or even personal users and bloggers in your industry for examples of what hashtags to use.

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but that many would be excessive. The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better. Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.

Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand. It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business or even an event you’re hosting. This way, customers can follow along with an event, even if they aren’t there in person.

6. Advertise on Instagram.

Like on other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:

Photo ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Learn More button in the bottom right corner under the photo.

Video ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.

Carousel ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.

All three ad formats appear in users’ home feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-thrus to your website, mobile app installations and mass awareness.

7. Sell products on Instagram.

In May 2018, Instagram added a payment feature for select users. It has now started to roll Checkout on Instagram out to all users. And it could potentially have a big impact on small businesses. With the feature, users can buy things without leaving Instagram. In the coming weeks, you'll see a blue Checkout button under images of products from an initial group of 20 brands, including Burberry, Nike and Warby Parker. All that will be required to complete a transaction will be a name, email address, billing info and shipping addresses. Facebook, Instagram's parent company, will then save that data for future transactions. Users can pay via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. While this remains in closed beta, small businesses do not have the ability to sell via the platform. But, we anticipate that will change in the next year.

Currently small businesses can take advantage of Shoppable Posts to sell products through Instagram. A business simply creates a product catalog connected to their account. Then you tag the product, similar to how you tag a person in a post. To create a shoppable post you must have a business account and you must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies. You can create your catalog through Facebook, Shopify or BigCommerce.

Source: Saige Driver | Business News Daily

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