How to Use Instagram for Business: 30 Ways in 2018

How to Use Instagram for Business: 30 Ways in 2018

Did you know that 76% of small businesses don’t see the value, don’t have the time for, or are simply too intimidated by Instagram marketing? Hearing that really bummed us out, so we created a guide explaining how to use Instagram for business, regardless of what kind of business you run.

Let’s jump right into into it – below are 30+ tips detailing how to use Instagram for business in 2018:

How to Use Instagram for Business: Hashtags

Use hashtags to target your target audience: the main way people express their interests on Instagram is through hashtags. The hashtags someone uses in their posts can even indicate whether or not they might be interested in certain kinds of businesses or brands.

For example, someone who consistently uses fitness hashtags in their posts could indicate that they have an interest in health and nutrition. An interest in health and nutrition could indicate an interest in health and nutrition products. It would then make sense for health and nutrition companies to contact people using these health and fitness hashtags because these people are likely to be interested in the kinds of products a health and nutrition company would sell.

Use geotagging to connect with location-based followers/customers: if you are a local business catering only to customers in a specific location, Instagram geotags are one tool you need to be taking advantage of.

Hashtags indicate interest and geotags indicate location. When you see that someone is both interested in your kind of business (as indicated by the hashtags they use) and that they are located in a location serviceable by your business (as indicated by the geotags they use), that indicates that that person is meets your ideal customer profile and is worth reaching out to.

Instagram hashtags for business

Geotag your own content: tag your posts with your geographic location to make your business know to people who aren’t necessarily looking for your kind of business but are exploring your area.

Create a branded hashtag: branded hashtags are an easy way for other people to share your brand, build brand recognition, and get your name on as many different feeds as possible.

Make your Instagram shoppable so that customers can click on products and they will immediately taken to your store: as a business owner, you want to make the buying process as easy as possible for your customers. One way to do that on Instagram is to tag your posts with relevant products and allow people to visit your store simply by clicking on the tags. For example, if you have a post that features your company’s new t-shirt, you can tag the t-shirt and make it so that when someone clicks on the tag it will take them to your store where they can buy the shirt.

shoppable instagram

Here’s an article to help show you how to do that: How to Sales on Shopify with Instagram (4 Ways).

How to Use Instagram for Business: Content

Re-share satisfied customers photos on your own timeline: after your customers post on their channels, ask permission to repost their posts on your business channel. This provides for easy content and works to build social credibility for your business. When potential customers are considering making a purchase from your business and they see pictures and videos of satisfied customers on your Instagram channel, their decision to buy from you becomes easier.

Include behind-the-scenes footage: Instagram is still a social media platform – people want to see that there are people behind your business. Nothing but special deals and products photos is sure to bore even your most loyal followers/customers.

To add a human element to your business, sprinkle in photos and videos of new hires in the company, additions to the office, team lunches, and anything else that promotes the culture of your business.

Create content that is catered towards the kind of people you want to attract to your channel: in addition to using a competitive analysis to find new customers, you can also use a competitive analysis to find out what kind of content your target audience responds to.

The idea is not to copy your competitor’s content. but rather to research what tactics, tools, and general strategies are bringing your competitors success with the purpose of incorporating what you learn into your own strategy.

As explained in our guide 62 Ways to Grow Your Followers on Instagram in 2018, some things you may want to take note of include:

  • who your competitors are
  • the content of your competitors’ posts
  • the posting consistency
  • what time your competitors are posting at
  • any consistent stylistic choices (color, shape, etc.)
  • how your competitors engage with their followers
  • what hashtags your competitors are using
  • the structure and content of their bio
  • any consistent problems voiced by your competitors’ followers or clients

Look at what your competitors are doing and modify it to work with your brand

Use videos: even if they’re just GIFs, 52% of marketing professionals rank video as the type of content with the best ROI. To you, that means more Instagram followers, more customers, and more purchases.

Hold live events: this one might depend on the type of company you are, but hold live events where customers/viewers can ask you questions. These live events can help humanize your business, build your social credibility, and attract new followers and customers who may not be familiar with your business but who are interested in the topic of your event.

To keep things directed, hold themed events like “how to use Instagram for business” or “how to build your ecommerce store with Instagram alone” (the events will inevitably change depending on what kind of business you operate and what kind of audience you have).

Utilize Instagram Story takeovers: allow well-known influencers in your industry to take over your stories for a day and advertise the event in advance. Takeovers benefit everyone involved – they give the person doing the takeover access to your audience, and the influencer’s audience is exposed to your business.

instagram-story-takeover-harpers-bazaar
Harper’s Bazaar turned over their Instagram story to Jaime King for the Dior Cruise show. Source: Social Media Examiner.

Hold contests: offer the chance to be featured on your channel (only really works if you already have a decent following), win free product and//or cash prices, etc.. A good recurring contest to incentivize current followers and attract new people to your channel consists of asking your current followers to comment on your latest post and tag 5 friends for a chance to win free product or cash.

Use Instagram Stories to create anticipation for new products: Instagram Stories are discoverable by anyone on Instagram. This is great for businesses because it allows just about anyone on Instagram to be exposed to your business. Because of this, Stories are a great way to create a sense of exclusivity among your follower and to encourage non-followers to start following you.

For example, you could advertise in your story that for the next 3 days all of your followers get 25% off your new product line. This makes your current followers feel like they’re part of something special and encourages non-followers to start following you to take advantage of the deal.

Speed up your Instagram Story creation process with this article: Why You Should be Using an Instagram Story Template (10 Free Templates + 2 Tools).

Use influencer marketing: peer recommendations are trusted by approximately 90% of customers (stat). Instagram is a social platform, meaning that people often view who they follow as their friends. That means that when someone recommends a product or service to their Instagram followers, it’s similar to someone in real life recommending to their friend what pair of headphones to buy. People listen to these recommendations, and that’s what makes influencer marketing so powerful.

hold contests to gain instagram followers
Skincare brand partnered with beauty guru @babithome to help promote their new natural coffee scrub.

Read our in-depth guide Instagram Influencers: Finding Them, Working with Them, and 10 Cases to Learn to learn how to find the right influencers for your brand and how to create your first campaign from scratch.

Research when your target audience is online and active and post during these times: if you’re targeting people with full-time jobs, post in the early morning, at lunch-time, or after 5 PM. If you’re targeting night workers, post later in the night and/or in the very early AMs.

Understand who you are trying to attract to your channel and post according to when you think they would be online. Instagram Analytics and other tools like Iconsquare can help you find this information.

How to Use Instagram for Business: Engagement

Incentivize customers to post about their experiences: when a customer makes a purchase, encourage them to post about their experience with your business and/or product on their own Instagram profile. The more satisfied customers post about their positive experience with you, the more new audiences are exposed to your business.

Two simple ways to incentivize your customers to post about their experience are:

  • exposure (offer to repost your customer’s posts on your channel and to tag them for easy exposure)
  • discount towards next purchase (offer a discount to your customers they can use towards their next purchase if they post about their experience with your business/product. This also encourages your customers to make another purchase)

Use Instagram DMs for customer service: social media is where people voice their opinions. Stat about people not receiving responses from businesses. Instagram DMs are a great way to simplify the complaint/response process. If you find someone complaining or asking a question about your business, sending them a quick DM allows you to quickly address the issue without having to take part in a back-and-forth email exchange. By encouraging people to DM you with their problems, you can also dissuade them from posting about an issue they’re having as a general comment for the entire public to see. Similar to posting pictures and videos of satisfied customers, this can help avoid any harm to your social credibility.

The only issue when using Instagram DMs as a main form of customer service is that you are confined to your phone. As you build your following and begin to receive more messages, responding to each message one-by-one can be exhausting. This is where a tool like AiGrow can come in handy which provides an identical Instagram DM experience on your desktop.

With AiGrow, you can send and receive messages, filter your inbox, and send mass messages to groups of people with the same questions/concerns.

Welcome new followers/customers: make your new followers feel like they’ve just joined the most exclusive club on Instagram. An easy way to do that is to send them a DM welcoming them to your channel. You can do this manually one-by-one, or you can create a customized message and use an automation tool like AiGrow to send a message to every new person who starts following you. You can even use AiGrow to personalize your messages, rotating between greetings and first names depending on the person.

Use a competitor analysis to generate new leads: why take the time to research an entirely new audience when you already have access to an audience of likely buyers? Let’s say you are a custom sneaker company and you find another customer sneaker company on Instagram with 10,000 followers. Because you and the other custom sneaker company sell similar products, the other sneaker company’s audience is likely to be interested in your channel as well.

Using influencers on Instagram to gain follower or customers
Followers of your competitors are likely to also be in your business as well, especially if you can provide a better experience (content, special deals, price, etc.).

Read our article Using a Competitor Analysis to Find Customers and Followers on Instagram to learn exactly how to perform an effective competitor analysis.

Easily address common questions/concerns in comments of posts: while comments shouldn’t be your main method of customer service, they can be a quick way to deal with easy questions and can serve to help build your social credibility.

Comments help serve two main purposes:

  • having a public answer to a common question safes you from having to answer the same question over and over
  • when it’s public that you consistently answer your customers’ question it can help to further build your social credibility

Nurture hot leads with DMs and by providing clear next steps: remember how we talked about welcoming new followers to your channel with a DM? End that DM with some clear next steps you’d like your new follower to take (“Click the link in our bio to visit our store!”, “Comment and tag 5 friends on our most recent post for 10% off your first purchase!”, etc.)

Studies show that CTAs result in more action stat, although only at the end of a message.

Use engagement groups: Instagram engagement groups, also known as Instagram pods, are groups of people who have agreed to comment on, view, and/or Like your posts in exchange for you commenting on, viewing and/or Liking their posts.

People join engagement pods depending on the size and, more importantly, theme of their Instagram channel. One of the most common engagement group themes is business.

In addition to receiving timely engagement from you fellow businesses to help you rank higher for you hashtags (something more thoroughly explored in our guide, Using Instagram Engagement Groups To Get More Likes, Comments & Views), you can also use these engagement groups to seek advice and ask other business owners how to use Instagram for business.

Use Instagram advertising: it’s not free, but for a very affordable price it can tell you a lot about how to use Instagram for business. For less than the price of a Starbucks coffee a day, you can put your store in front of your target demographic.

You can target your ads based on (from Instagram):

  • Location: target people based in specific locations like states, provinces, cities or countries.
  • Demographics: narrow your audience based on information like age, gender and languages.
  • Interests: reach people based on interests like apps they use, ads they click and accounts they follow.
  • Behaviors: define your audience by activities they do on and off of Instagram and Facebook.
  • Custom Audiences: run ads to customers you already know based on their email addresses or phone numbers.
  • Lookalike Audiences: find new people who are similar to your existing customers.
  • Automated Targeting: we help you quickly create an audience who might be interested in your business using a variety of signals including location, demographics and interests.

Use information from your paid advertising to optimize your non-paid advertising: you can also look at Instagram advertising as helping you to refine your non-paid targeting. For example, if you are a business selling pet food bowls and you notice that your paid campaign targeting dog owners in Los Angeles is performing substantially better than your other campaigns, you can take that information and use it to optimize the hashtag you use in your posts.

You can also use this information to help you narrow down your outreach. If you know that dog owners in Los Angeles are your most receptive audience, instead of engaging with people using general hashtags like #instagrampets, you can begin reaching out and connecting with people who are using more specific hashtags like #ladogs.

You can do all of this manually, or you can use an automation tool like AiGrow which allows you to auto Like, comment, follow, and DM people based on hashag-use, location, and competitor connection. When you know the kind of people who are likely to buy from your business, as indicated by the hashtags and geotags they use, you can tell the automation engine to engage with exactly those kinds of people.

Here’s how you would target dog owners in Los Angeles using AiGrow:

AiGrow customer targeting

How to Use Instagram for Business: Story

Include link in your bio: your Instagram bio is the only place on your profile that you can post a clickable link. As a business, this link should lead to your website , store or specialized landing page.

Say everything you need to say in your bio: after linking to your store, your bio should consist of any other necessary information people need to know about your business. A simple way to do this is to include:

  • what you do
  • any credentials/awards
  • a strong call-to-action (“get your discount through the link in the bio!”)

For a dedicated article explaining how to best optimize your Instagram profile, read our article Beyond the Post: Optimizing Your Instagram Profile.

Optimize your profile so that at first glance it’s easy for a potential customers to see what you do: some people follow you on an individual post basis, but some people follow your channel based on how your profile looks as a whole (the”grid” of your profile). When you look at the grid of your profile, how do your photos look together as a collected work – both aesthetically and content-wise? Does it tell convey what it is that your business does?

Construct your Instagram page so that if someone new to your channel was to look at it they would immediately understand what you do.

Choose the right instagram handle: this one is self explanatory. If someone were to scroll through a list of names and see your username, would they immediately get a sense of what you do? As a business, you want to make sure your username clearly conveys what you do and the types of services you offer.

Use Instagram to build your email list: spend $1, get an average return of $38. That’s email marketing. While Instagram is obviously a social media platform and not designed to be an email marketing tool, there are many ways you can use Instagram to build your company email list.

For a more in-depth guide, read our article 10 Ways to Grow Your Email List on Instagram.


Do you currently run a business on Instagram? Do you know how to use Instagram for business in a way not explored above? Please share you wisdom in the comments below!

Looking for a way to get ahead of the competition? Many of the suggestions above can be significantly sped up or completely automated using a smart automation tool like AiGrow.

But don’t just take our word for it! Click here to start your free AiGrow trial today.

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