Tips for Using Instagram for Your Business

As you’re setting up your social media accounts, check out the power of using Instagram. Not much of a photographer? Think only the kids use it? Maybe you feel there is nothing visually entertaining about your business so you’re unsure of what to post. Restaurants snap shots of their food, and interior designers post photos of the beautiful homes they decorate, but what if your company’s photo ops are in short supply? Well, think about it this way: Instagram is “a community built on the power of visual storytelling.” Your job on Instagram, then, is to tell your story through the power of a visual platform.

You’re thinking, Great! . . . But I still don’t know what to take photographs of. That’s okay. We can help. The people at Instagram have an awesome site dedicated to businesses, and the tips below will allow you to march on over to their site like an “Insta” boss.

Let’s talk about Instagram itself. Originally a mobile-only platform, it was designed with the idea of snapping photos with your phone and uploading them immediately—capturing the moments of life right as they happened. However, as it grew, Instagram developers expanded it to the web, allowing users to view their accounts and those they followed from their computers. Outside companies have developed apps that allow you to take photos from a regular camera, download them onto your computer, then upload them to Insta. While that’s time-consuming and a stark contrast to capturing the moment, it means you can reach followers in more than one way. And what if customers don’t have an Insta account? Not a problem. You can share your Insta photos to all your social networks, so those customers who only have Facebook or Twitter, for example, can see your posts.

So now that you know a little history about Instagram, let’s look at a few accounts that use it. Remember that statement above about how restaurants and interior designers have got it made when it comes to what to post? Well, photo after photo of different plates or multiple bathrooms can make for a pretty boring account. If you’re telling a story, you’ll want to include the atmosphere and culture of your business, as well as the personality and culture of those you hope to reach. Here are some accounts that do this amazingly well:

Diet Coke. They don’t just have photos of a can or a bottle—they show people drinking their deliciousness. Diet Coke also pairs cans with animals and celebrities and has brilliant ads, like the one with an empty Diet Coke glass and the words “Refill please” emblazoned across the photo. That’s one of the best things about Insta—it is visual advertising! And the more creative, eye-catching, and fun your photos are, the more you’ll pique your followers’ interest.

Staples. What? Photos of paper, office equipment, and sticky notes? Yep. Staples’s photos are bright, colorful, and creative. They place their products in real-life situations—and, better, in dreamlike situations. Backpack on the beach? Let’s all pack up! Adorable dog wearing a tie and glasses sitting in front of a computer? Yes, it’s been a doggone hard day at work, right? And Staples is showing their followers that they have the products to make the day go better.

National Geographic. Okay, so yes, they’ve got a lot of photo ops—but the thing to learn from @natgeo is that quality photos get you followers. Again, you can post only so many photos of elephants before they get a bit mundane, correct? Not with this account. The photos are stunning. Don’t feel like you have to compete with their photos, though. Instead, study how their photos tell a story.

Feeling a bit more confident about Insta now? Good, because it gets even better. The good folks there have made enhanced photography a snap (pun intended) with built-in filters and editing tools. Decide on the content, compose the shot, snap it, apply the filter, and do any necessary editing. That’s it!

Well, maybe there is a bit more. Here’s your Insta to-do list:

  1. Set it up! Create your account, username, and profile, and connect your other social media accounts to it so that your photos will post to all of your platforms.
  2. Set goals: What story do you want to tell about your business? What do you hope to accomplish with it—bigger brand awareness, more leads to your website, more customer engagement?
  3. Consider what you want to post and learn from the major accounts mentioned above and from those you follow. You want to feature your product, but what setting will you use (empty Diet Coke glass needing a refill)? What is your business’s culture, and how can you portray it (Staples’s photos are far from boring.)? Maybe you run a software company. Could you offer short video clips on how to install the software? Maybe you’re a health coach. Post videos of exercises or photos of healthy food that will lead followers to your site for recipes. And don’t forget your staff—use snapshots of them at the office or giving presentations or in funny or quirky office situations.
  4. Consider how you want to post your photos. As mentioned, the Insta platform has built-in filters and editing tools, but you’ll want to keep the number of filters on your photos limited so that they have the same visual feel, which makes them recognizable as yours (try to convince anyone that those National Geographic photos aren’t unique.).
  5. As with your other social media accounts, be sure to have a content-generation plan and posting calendar, as well as a metrics report for measuring ROI. Use themes, engage with followers by having photo and hashtag contests, and consider putting user-generated content (content created and generated by people not affiliated with the company, i.e., customers and fans) to work for you.

What are your thoughts about using Instagram? Got any tips? What mind-blowing accounts do you follow? We’d love your feedback. Please share it with us in the comment box below!

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About Lindsay Flanagan

Lindsay Flanagan is a senior editor and project and social media manager at Eschler Editing. She earned her Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and spent over a decade working in higher education before joining the Eschler team. She and her husband are the proud parents of two brilliant daughters and make their home in Heber, Utah.




    August 19, 2016

    Friend of mine has some small business. Yes, she uses IG for it. But she also uses zen-promo to find more followers. She needs followers located close enough to her to to make a deals. That is the way how IG really helps business.

      Lindsay Flanagan

      August 22, 2016

      That's great, George! Thanks for the response and the info!