Instagram is more than just a massive photo and video-sharing social network—it’s a powerful marketing and branding tool for your business. Ninety percent of Instagram users follow at least one business account for up-to-date deals, news, products, inspiration, know-how, and more. Eighty-seven percent of surveyed Instagrammers said they took action (followed a brand, visited a website, or made a purchase online) because they saw a business’ post on the platform. Fifty-four percent said they made a purchase immediately after seeing a product or service on Instagram. That’s a lot of power and influence. However, finding success on Instagram isn’t as easy as creating an account and throwing up some cutesy pictures. No, you’re going to need to get more strategic than that. With more than 71% of all U.S. businesses on Instagram, you have a lot of competition. Fortunately, it’s never too late to get in on the action. Now’s the perfect time to update, reset, or create your Instagram business strategy. Let’s get started from the high-level overview and then get down to the specific action items. Set Your Instagram Goals and Audience What are you hoping to achieve with Instagram? What does success look like? Is Instagram the best use of your time to accomplish your goals? Who are you creating the content for? Start wrapping your head around why you want to use Instagram. Here are a few reasons to consider: Goal: Build Brand Awareness Audience: Non-customers who fit your customer profile If you’re trying to grow your business, or if you’ve only recently started to use social media for your brand, brand awareness is a great place to start. Brand awareness is relevant to all types of businesses, including B2C and B2B alike. Home contractors, real estate agents, and other similar industries will likely use Instagram for brand awareness. Your followers might not be ready to buy, and organic social media like Instagram is a great way to keep your brand top-of-mind until they are. Goal: Drive Sales Audience: Current and potential customers If your aim is to increase sales and boost your overall revenue, Instagram is an excellent avenue for that. The visual nature of the social network lends well to showcasing products and services to drive sales. If you run a storefront or locally operating business, Instagram is a great platform for driving sales. Goal: Engage With Your Customers Audience: Current customers Don’t forget about your existing customer base! Continuously engaging with your current customers is just as important as catering to prospects. If you have a longer sales lifecycle, or if you are putting out new products on a regular basis, social media is a great touch point. For longer sales cycles, you can use Instagram to showcase your expertise and demonstrate the value of your services. You can also use the platform for ongoing announcements and updates to keep your customers up-to-date on the latest and greatest in your business. You could have multiple reasons for being active on Instagram, but make sure you have a purpose. As a small business owner, you have a lot you can be doing and delegating—ensure that Instagram satisfies a business goal before you invest time on the platform week in and week out. Develop a Content Strategy Based on Your Goals If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of creating content for Instagram, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to create a successful Instagram content strategy for a small business. Start with a competitive analysis. Look at what competitors and other businesses in your industry are doing. What kinds of content seem successful? What do you think their strategy is? Take note of what you would like to include in future content. Next, perform an audience analysis. Who are your target customers? What are their behaviors? What are they looking for on Instagram, and how can your business provide that for them? Here are some content ideas based on your goals: Brand Awareness Using humor, addressing pain points, sharing user-generated content, posting educational content, and running tag-a-friend campaigns are all great ways to boost brand awareness. Your content should be helpful, engaging, and approachable, so as to encourage new followers to engage with your brand. Drive Sales To push revenue growth, your content should primarily consist of posts about your products/services, as well as any available sales or discounts. Your Instagram followers should always be aware of your latest launches, and your content should encourage them to buy with your consistent stream of offerings. Engage With Customers Engage with your existing customers by sharing business updates, product how-tos, challenges, and content from followers. Having regular interactions with customers shows them that you value their business and can increase their loyalty. Identify Your Content Promotion Strategy You might think Instagram is just about sharing pretty pictures, but that’s no longer the case. The platform has become a powerhouse tool for marketing, and there are several different ways to promote your content. Here are a few to consider: Hashtags You probably recognize hashtags by the hash symbol (#) that comes before the “tag” (text) bit. Hashtags are used to identify posts about certain topics. If you run a coffee shop, for example, you’ll probably use the #coffee hashtag, but more specifically, you’ll probably use a more localized hashtag, like #seattlecoffee (if you’re located in Seattle). Hashtags are a great way to help new customers find you because they go beyond the reach of just your followers. You can also explore relevant hashtags for content ideas to see what other similar businesses are posting and what’s working for them. Comment/Like Incentives While directly soliciting interactions on social media is generally frowned upon, there are plenty of ways to incentivize interactivity. For example, you can run a giveaway where commenting on and liking at least one of your posts is a requirement for entry. User-Generated Content Content from your customer base can be just as powerful as paid ad content, if not even more. User-generated content (aka UGC) includes posts made by real customers. If you sell home decor, this might include photos of your products in someone’s home. UGC not only will help drive brand awareness from these customers’ followers, but you can also use it as content on your own page (once you’ve gotten permission from the user). Ads Paid advertising is always an option on Instagram. Their ads are run through the Meta Business Suite, just like Facebook ads. You can use paid content for any of the previously mentioned business goals. If you find good organic success on Instagram, it’s worth giving paid content a shot to see if that can boost business even further. Co-marketing If you have a partnership with another business, Instagram can be an excellent opportunity for co-marketing. Appeal to your shared audiences by creating content that is relevant for both businesses. You can even do an Instagram Collab so that a post shows up on both feeds. Create an Instagram Business Account Personal and business Instagram accounts are different. Business accounts give you access to insights, ads, shopping, additional inboxes, profile contact information, and a call-to-action button on your profile. Don’t worry if you already have an account—you can convert a personal profile to a business one in no time. Optimize Your Instagram Profile You have only 150 characters to make a great first impression—easier said than done. A first-class Instagram profile isn’t something you can whip out after lunch. You’ll need to take some time drafting, tweaking, and finalizing this content. Here are the top things to focus on: Name - This is typically the name of your business. Profile picture - Choose a picture that’ll help your audience recognize your business—this is almost always your logo. Bio - Briefly showcase who you are and why people should bother following your account. Link - Decide where you want followers to go. Usually, this is your website’s homepage, but you may want to send followers directly to your products depending on your goals. Category - Tell your audience what your business is all about without wasting bio characters. Create Visually Engaging Content Instagram is no longer just a feed of still photos. It has evolved to offer several different content types, and it’s important to understand the parameters of each option, so you can execute each content type well. Types of Instagram Content Static Images Static images still constitute almost half of business accounts’ content. These images can be either actual pictures or graphics. Images can be posted on their own or in a carousel of two or more. They can also be sized in a variety of formats, from horizontal to square to vertical. Be sure to check the latest guidelines for sizing if you want to post in a specific orientation. Videos Videos can be shared in both a post format, like photos, or in a Reel. Reels offer more functionalities, with a more sophisticated video editor and a different format from video posts. Reels have their own feed, which can be found on the middle button on the menu at the bottom of the app and has its own algorithm that feeds users content based on their interests. This can make Reels a great way to reach new audiences. Stories Instagram Stories are temporary posts that live in their own feed at the top of the app and last only 24 hours. Users can react or respond directly to Stories. Stories are also the only place—other than your bio—where you can share a link (hyperlinks do not work in post captions). Instagram Design Best Practices You don’t need to be an experienced graphic designer to find success on Instagram. Ensure that whatever you post is high-quality and is a good representation of your brand. Try not to use a completely different template every time you create a new design. Instead, incorporate your own branding (logo, fonts, colors, etc.) into a template and use a similar design each time. Your overall feed should have a sense of cohesion with the general look and feel. While users can zoom in on content, it’s smart to ensure any text is readable without zooming. It’s also smart to include captions on videos, both for accessibility and so followers can keep track of the content without turning their sound on (which is more common than you might think). Free Instagram Design Resources Now that you understand what it takes to create successful visual content on Instagram, you’ll be excited to know there are countless free resources you can use to design standout content. Here are a few options: Canva - A free design website with endless design templates so you don’t have to start a design from scratch Buffer - A free content scheduler that offers several add-ons, including their AI Assistant, which can help create content Unfold - A mobile app tool for creating engaging Instagram stories Adobe Express (formerly Adobe Spark) - Another design platform that offers both templates and design tools CapCut - A free video editing app Creator Studio - Meta’s proprietary content tool for creating, scheduling, and managing posts on both Instagram and Facebook Set Up a Content Schedule Posting consistently on Instagram is essential. It’s all too easy for your followers to forget about you if you post sporadically. Be consistent. Your goals and your bandwidth determine the right frequency. That could be every week on Mondays and Wednesdays or every day of the week—that’s up to you. Create a schedule and stick to it. Feel free to experiment with new posting days, times, and frequencies from time to time, but try to settle into a routine. Social media management software can help you with scheduling, engaging, monitoring, and measuring. Here are a few tools with free Instagram options to consider: Later - Use four social profiles and 30 scheduled posts. Hootsuite - Manage three social accounts and schedule up to 30 posts. Buffer - Enjoy up to 10 scheduled posts across three social channels. Engage With the Community Like, follow, comment, direct message—do it all. Engage with the community! This can’t be overstated, so let me be clear: you will NOT find success on Instagram by just posting content. If you build it, they will not come. There are just too many businesses and personal profiles posting too much content on Instagram to coast on posting alone. To find success, you’re going to need to go out, find, and engage with your audience. Use the right hashtags. Respond to every comment, mention, and message. Comment on your audience’s (or potential audience’s) content. Like relevant posts in your industry. Measure Your Success As with all business strategies, you’ll need to know how you’re going to measure your success on Instagram. What metrics do you plan to track? What goals do you aim to hit? Here are a few ideas. Brand Awareness If your priority is brand awareness, you’ll want to track how your account is growing. Follower growth rate, impressions, and post reach are three prime indications of how far your content is reaching. As your account grows, so should your likes, comments, direct messages, and overall interactions. Drive Sales If you’re looking to increase sales, you’ll want to track conversions. This metric isn’t quite as easy to track as post reach, for example, because Instagram doesn’t provide that information in its Insights dashboard, but it is important to know how to measure conversions from Instagram. You can use UTM parameters to track your referral traffic from Instagram to your website via Google Analytics. Learn more about creating UTM parameters here. Engage Customers If you’re focused on engaging customers, interactions such as likes and comments will be your key indicators. All of these interactions ladder up to your engagement rate. You can also look to see how much your content is reshared via Stories, which is another indication of customer sentiment. Where to Track Instagram Metrics Similar to Facebook, Instagram has its own built-in metrics dashboard. You can access insights on both mobile and desktop—mobile will be a basic overview, while desktop will have more thorough data. On the app, go to your profile, click Professional Dashboard, then tap Account Insights and See All. You can also see individual post insights by tapping View insights underneath a post or Stories insights by swiping up on any live Story. On your desktop, go to your Meta Business Suite and click Insights. From there, you can see insights for posts, Stories, and ads. You can also generate reports from this dashboard, which are helpful for long-term insights. Get Started Now The best time to get started on Instagram was perhaps at its inception way back in 2010, but the second-best time is now. Today. Getting started on Instagram is easy, but it’ll take some time for you to start seeing results. Create your account, begin posting, and start building an audience on this unique, robust platform.