How to start a business on Instagram

6 min read
Jessie Day

It’s big, beautiful and your customers are using it every day

It may not have overtaken Facebook and Twitter yet in overall user figures, but for active, daily log-ins, Instagram is where #engagement is at. And because it’s much more effective to be speaking to a full room, than an empty one, it follows that Instagram could be an excellent place to build a business, if you’re following the etiquette and doing it right.

I’ve done a deep-dive into the platform, figuring out the best ways to start monetising your Instagram profile, or building one that attracts keen new customers. Here are my five steps to making Instagram your biggest business asset:

1. Ask yourself: can I delegate this?

If you’re already set up and enjoying using Instagram, skip to step 2. If, however, you know that Instagram is something you ‘should’ be doing, but haven’t the inclination, or you’d like to be doing it, but your daughter/babysitter/intern/more creative spouse is looking for some extra pocket money or a creative outlet, why not ask them if they’re interested in helping out?

The reason I say this, is that, just like with blogging or podcasting, Instagram followers and fans expect you to show up regularly, with inspiring, interesting content.

The very-wonderful Hashtag Authentic and Soulful PR podcasts make this point (and many others – check them out) brilliantly.

Think about it. If you made a big deal of launching a newsletter and got loads of subscribers for your first two issues, stacked them full of content and then didn’t send anything for three months, you’d expect to lose momentum. You’d also understand people getting a bit confused, assuming you’d gone bust and even unsubscribing.

Instagram can be loads of fun, and a seriously effective marketing tool. But if you think it would be better suited to someone else, why not rope them in? You’re looking for a creative type, with an eye for detail and good community management skills.

2. Decide why, what and who

Are you a coffee roaster looking to sell some beans? Or a window cleaner with a penchant for pics of sparkling panes? Just about any business can create a beautiful Instagram profile, but make sure you’re asking yourself why you’re doing it, what services or products you’re hoping to feature and who your most valuable audience might be.

Take the window cleaner. Your starting point could look something like this:

Why am I doing this? To set myself apart from other local window cleaners and drive traffic to my website or contact details using monthly giveaways on Instagram

What will I feature? A week’s worth of real-life, sparkling windows, along with interesting window displays from around the world that I find inspiring

Who am I trying to reach? Local residents and business owners, probably aged 25-40

Once you’re done, use it as a mini Instagram business plan. It can help you schedule your content for the week, and any giveaways or promotions.

3. The benefits of an Instagram Business Account

Because there are two options, people. Sticking with your everyday personal Instagram account, or switching to an Instagram Business Account. But which is best?

First things first, you should know that Instagram has a whole section dedicated to getting you set up for business.

Pretty early on, it will suggest setting up an Instagram Business Profile, and why this might be better for you than an everyday personal one. Basically, an Instagram Business Account gives you space and scope to grow. Here are the perks:

  1. You can switch from a personal to business account easily (just go to Options in the top right corner of your profile).
  2. You’re making it easier for your fans and followers to contact you. Once you’ve provided basic information like a phone number or email address for your account, a nice big contact button will appear on your profile.
  3. You’ll get access to some analytics, to help you see what value your content is adding.
  4. You can create adverts using the Promote option, getting your products and services in front of more people.
  5. All of the above combine to remove some of the mystery, and do the hard work for you. It’s not cheating, it’s just taking social media that bit more seriously.

4. Driving business through Instagram

Your first job is to link that bio. Or in Plain English, make sure you include one clickable link to your website, Facebook page or blog in your account bio.

If you’re using an Instagram Business Account then it’s a good idea to include other contact details too, anything to turn that heart-shaped ‘like’ into an enquiry.

Next, don’t forget a call to action! Even the most beautiful post is a bit of a waste, if there’s nothing obvious the user can do next, to get deeper into your brand and products. You can make it natural, maybe link to an event you’re going to be appearing at, or a fantastic review of your services. And of course if it’s a product you’re featuring, let people know where they can get their hands on it, perhaps with an offer, unique to Instagram.

You can go one step further with your traffic-driving and invest in Instagram Ads, but that’s probably worth a whole separate blog post. Try the tips above to get started and then, if you’re enjoying it and seeing good traction, research Instagram Ads with a small launch budget in mind.

Social media tends to put pressure on content. But remember:

  1. Creating a beautiful, engaging account doesn’t have to cost you anything
  2. Once you’re set up and posting, any click-throughs to your website or contact details tend to be deliberate, and high quality
  3. Finally, Instagram is a fantastic showcase for your brand. Be creative, and let it set you apart from the competition

And if you're short of ideas for your new business, why not read "10 small business ideas you can launch from home" to inspire you?