Everything you need to know before you put your business on Instagram

Prep for a photo finish

Instagram is the star of the social media scene, catching the attention of small business owners and marketers everywhere.

And for good reason.

The photo-sharing app expanded its user base more than every other social media site in 2014. It grew faster than Twitter, Pinterest, and even Facebook, and it now has 300 million users who collectively post an average of 70 million photos per day.

Instagram is a social media powerhouse that attracts users and holds their attention.

So it makes sense that small business owners and marketers are flocking to the site. And if you’re one of them, here’s what you need to know before you get started.

Should your business even be on Instagram?

After seeing those stats, you might have Instagram downloading to your phone right now. But you may want to hold off. Instagram is effective for many businesses — but it won’t be effective for every business. Here are a few question to help you figure out if it’s right for you:

Is your target audience on Instagram?

Only spend time where your audience spends time. If they aren’t on Instagram, you don’t need to be, either. Think about your target audience. Can you see them posting and viewing photos in their free time? If not, don’t waste your time building an Instagram presence.

The age of your target audience will heavily play into this consideration. Young people are far more likely to be on Instagram than older demographics, according to Pew Research. Their study found that 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds use the app, compared to just 18 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and only 6 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds. If your target audience is older, you might want to hold off until more of that age group adopts the platform.
Instagram users

Do you have the resources to manage the account?

It’s the No. 1 rule of social media: don’t set it and forget it. It’s better to never build a social media platform than to build it and vacate the property. So before you create an Instagram account, consider:

  • How often you will post?
  • Who will manage the account?
  • How much time is required to manage the account?

Don’t get started until you’ve set aside the resources to regularly generate content, manage the profile, and create a consistent presence.

Do you know how to use the platform?

If you’re going to manage the profile and you’re new to the platform, get some practice with a private or personal account before you set up a profile for your business. That way, you can learn the ins and outs of the program before posting as your brand. It will give you a chance to make some mistakes, test out your ideas, and improve your skills. Consider sharing the account with trusted family or friends to get some feedback before launching your business profile.

Set your profile up for success

If you decided that you’re ready to get on Instagram, here are a few tips for setting up your profile to promote and grow your business.

Make sure your account is public.

Practice in private, then open your profile to public to get the largest reach.

Be strategic about your profile URL.

You only get one active link on your Instagram account; URLs added to photo captions are not active. So get the most out of the one link that users can actually click. Don’t add a URL to your main website as your profile link. Instead, add a link to send users to a page where they can take action (buy a product, view an offer, sign up for a newsletter, etc.).

Use your bio wisely.

Use your Instagram bio to introduce yourself, then add a call-to-action to click your profile URL. Since it might not be obvious what your URL is, explain what users will do once they click.

You can see how Abercrombie and Fitch shares a very short intro to their bio then introduces a call-to-action to click to shop.

Abercrombie Fitch

Come up with a plan for creating content

Before you get started, think about what type of content you will create and how you’ll use it to attract and engage your audience.

Brainstorm post ideas.

Write down a list of ideas or concepts for your content. As you start using the platform, you will start to have more and more spontaneous ideas. But it helps to have some initial concepts before you get started. Consider how you will:

  • take beautiful photos of your products
  • show behind-the-scenes shots of your processes or office
  • share teasers or sneak peeks of upcoming events or new products
  • post photos that represent the lifestyle of your target audience and brand

GoPro doesn’t share photos of their products; the company shares images that represent the lifestyle of their customers and their experiences with their product.

Go Pro Instagram

Don’t forget about video.

With Instagram, you also have the ability to share 15-second videos. So, factor in a few videos into your content plans. Here are some tips for creating cool videos.

Research and plan to use hashtags.

Write down a list of keywords or search terms that match your business and industry. Then take some time to browse through what others are posting with those hashtags. Identify the best terms that will help connect your images and business with your target audience. (You can use top Top Hashtags to see the hashtags that are most commonly used.)

Always keep the platform and user in mind.

You might be using Instagram to grow your business, but Instagram users aren’t there to see promotions and sales tactics. They are there to see beautiful, interesting images and to connect with other users who are interested in the same hobbies, lifestyles and passions. So give them what they want.

Use your Instagram to connect with your target audience by posting things they want to see and feel natural to the platform. This strategic and authentic approach is the best way to use this growing platform to build your followers and help grow your business.