• Alex Westfield

Instagram Basics For Your Business, Every New User Must Know 10 Things Before Promoting

Updated: Jul 15


Whether you're a newcomer to Instagram or you've been trying to promote your business for a while but haven't found success, this could be exactly what you need. There's no shame in reevaluating things. Some of this may seem obvious but, just like in Basketball, you need to have your fundamentals down if you want to make the big shots.


1. Know Your Niche

Before you begin growing an Instagram account, you need to be clear regarding your niche. After you understand what your account is about, you’ll know which followers have an interest in what you've got to offer. Then, produce an attractive bio with your name and what you do, and concentrate on posting quality content. Be constant. Keep in your niche. There’s no purpose in having an account about beauty then posting an image of a random cat. Use hashtags, however not those like #followforfollow; use ones relating to what you’re posting. That way you’ll attract the right individuals and not spammers. After you find solid hashtags, you'll want to stick with them.


2. Understand Your Audience

You can't exclude an accurate analysis of the audience you want to connect with on Instagram if you want the platform to work for you – and most of all, you've got to find out if at the very least a slice of your target demographic is really on Instagram. Instagram is a unique platform with a significant focus on giving businesses the chance for rich, visual storytelling. Many internet professionals aren't aware that Instagram isn't solely for youths but is a nice platform for promoting that utilizes visuals. So, they don't really pay attention to this social network.


We like to use a method of posting entrepreneurial pictures and videos branded with our website name and logo. This resonates well with the youth as many of them are website owners and webmasters. One viral Instagram image will get you thousands of followers and potential clients.

Our Instagram strategy involves:

1. Understanding who our target demographic on Instagram is

2. Creating visuals in a manner that actually resonates with our audience

3. Boosting our posts with an advert for brand visibility

4. Monitoring, measuring and calibrating our social campaign

5. Growing our list of followers and email subscribers


Understanding your audience is crucial to your campaigns and visibility, and it's the only means to make all your work from #1 well worth the effort. Ensure your feed is coherent. Those who have an interest in my art won’t care about what I had for lunch yesterday. Users enjoy feeds that select a definitive color scheme, or one thing that's recognizable like a custom background or props. Once you have identified your target demographic on Instagram, ensure the visuals you share in your feed fit for your followers and keep them engaged and curious about your future updates. Creating a series is a decent way to try this – something you already do for your blog, and it'll work on Instagram as well.

3. Leverage Your Bio, Photos, and Stories

Your bio, your profile photo and the newest content in your feed, including Instagram Stories, are the first things an Instagram user will see upon loading your profile, so you better make a good impression if you'd like users to follow your channel. Every social network attracts a distinct kind of audience. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are an excellent option for bloggers that rely a ton on visual content. Sites from niches like fashion, travel, home decor, gardening, food, photography attract a ton of traffic to their website.


Pay attention to your bio on Instagram, include your mission statement (your niche in which you're blogging, what kind of readers you aim to assist and why or how). You'll be able to fit all of these in only a few clear sentences. Also, keep in mind to incorporate a link to your blog in your bio. You'll be able to add some personal pictures to bond together with your readers, like photos where you utilize certain merchandise you promote, images from blogging conferences from your niche or simply friendly selfies from time to time. Be careful to not go overboard, you want followers that are attracted by the subject you write about. Make sure this isn’t a generic link to your blog’s homepage. First, your audience wouldn’t have a reason to click on the link. Second, they'd need to find their own way once they were on your blog. People's attention span on the web isn’t great, therefore we should always make it as simple as possible for them.


Share the link to your latest blog post. With “bit.ly” you can make this URL shorter and you’ll be able to see how many users really clicked on your link. Then, make sure you've got multiple calls to action to click on the link. The most obvious place is your profile – say something like: “click below to receive a free printable planner” – but additionally mention your link in the photos you share. For example, if you’ve shared an image of a gorgeous-looking pumpkin pie, you may write: “Would you like a bite of this pie? Then follow the link in my profile.” With this method, you will need to swap out the link in your bio a lot, however it'll be so worth it. Users will really follow the link. Even those who have been following you for a long time will have a reason to keep clicking on your links.


In 2016, Instagram updated its algorithmic program to only show the photos that it deems more fascinating in the newsfeed, Usually those that got the most interaction the quickest, and within the niche or genre users largely engage with. That exposes some interesting promoting opportunities to look at on Instagram:


- Leverage Boomerang videos. Videos that play backwards after playing ordinarily for a couple of seconds, a fun Instagram feature that users love

- Schedule posts to go live at the most effective times of the day when your audience is most receptive

- Post niche content that you just know can attract their attention

- Quickly reply to comments or at the very least “like” them with a “heart”

- Also, switch to a business account if you haven't already, so you'll be able to check a lot of statistics and have more accurate promoting data handy

Instagram Stories, the app that allows users to post photos, videos and livestreaming events that expire only after twenty-four hours, a la Snapchat, has undergone a dizzying growth over the last year. Instagram Stories beat Snapchat in 2017 with a boom of three hundred million daily active users and its more interactive features sort of like a poll and a Swipe Up option to visit links, if you've got 10k+ followers, make it simple for users to interact with brands. Besides, Instagram users can always reply to Stories via Direct (Instagram's own messaging system). The most effective way to leverage Instagram Stories for your brand is to use it for fast polls, time-sensitive offers and news you want your followers to read inside the next twenty-four hours, and brand event livestreaming sessions like Q&A, speeches and meet-ups, and even hold webinars with different experts. Stories are vital to the frequency of your updates in your followers' newsfeed: the more users reply to your Stories or interact (e.g., vote in the poll), the more of your posts they'll see on their feed.

4. Build Relationships with Different Instagrammers

Other Instagram users may or may not be your competition, however you can never go wrong by building relationships – whether or not they lead to new followers (and blog readers) or partnerships. Once you’re proud of the design of your profile, it’s time to begin growing an audience. My suggestion is to engage. Find accounts with similar interests as you, like their photos, interact with as many pictures as you can. Smaller accounts are a lot more likely to follow you if you show interest in their posts, however it’s also important to comment on larger accounts. That’s because these profiles have tons of views every minute, and if those users see your comment, you’ll probably get visits from them as well.


Liking and commenting on different user’s posts is the most effective way to engage and build relationships. Show real interest, not just one-word comments. If they're really curious about engaging with you, they’ll respond to you. Ensure you reply to all of the comments on your pictures. Show you’re active and interested in your followers.

Another tip is to ask questions in your post. That way you’ll encourage people to interact with your pics. And again: keep in your niche. It’s important to interact with people interested in what you’re posting. That will make you get loyal followers that like what you do. Defining your sector would also include you as a recommended user to follow for those instagrammers that begin an account within the same niche as yours. Always react to those who have commented on your picture. Actively seek out users in your niche by browsing relevant hashtags, and like and interact with their pictures. This is often what I found worked best:

A. Don’t like just one picture.

Visit their profile and like a minimum of 3 of their pictures. Only then will you stand out between all the other users interacting with their latest photo.

B. Comments work better than likes.

I always try and comment on a minimum of one picture. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and the chances are you’ll get a reply.

C. Always make your comments personal.

I believed I was doing great by commenting stuff like: “Oh, it’s so pretty!” Or: “Wow, that’s adorable!” Little did I know that my comments could simply be mistaken for bots. Unfortunately, Instagram is overloaded with bots. These are accounts that use generic comments and send these to every image with a specific hashtag. They say stuff like: “Nice shot! / Cool! ? / That’s awesome!” or they just comment with a smiley. The issue is, I often commented with a smiley, too! I had no clue users may mistake my comment for a bot. So what should you comment, then? Well, something specific to the content or user usually works. For example: “I really love the stripes on your skirt!” Or: “I always wanted to go to Prague, I hope to follow in your footsteps one day!”

D. Ask questions.

Commenting, in general, is extremely valuable, however if you actually want to connect, ask a question preceded by a compliment, if possible. Users love it when you show interest in their work, and most of them are happy to answer any questions about their post. Comments are valuable conversation starters.

E. Use Facebook groups to market yourself (in a real way).

There are Facebook groups that exist to promote your blog/Instagram. Make sure to not just drop your link! interact with the other members. Also, make sure you're active in different groups in your niche. I always post my Instagram photos in doodle or planner groups. When I do, I always make sure I put my Instagram handle within the corner of the picture. This keeps people from stealing my work, but it additionally imprints my handle into the minds of users in my niche. If they love your picture, they'll visit your Instagram for more.


If you do all of this, you'll find yourself establishing some very nice and valuable relationships with other bloggers. It might look like hard work, but it really doesn’t need to take up an excessive amount of your time, and in the end it’s all worth it. In addition to similar instagrammers in your niche, reach out to niche or industry influencers. If you blog about similar topics and you show your value, they may want to support you and provide exposure.


However, remember that influencers with thousands of followers may not interact with you at all, at least not initially and not if you aren't in the same network(s). You may indeed improve your chances with smaller accounts instead. Engage with smaller accounts, or accounts with an equal follower/following count. Instagrammers with 15K followers might reply to your comment, however it's not likely they'll visit your account, let alone follow you. They merely get too much attention to be able to keep up with all of it. Smaller accounts get fewer messages, so they're a lot more likely to notice you. Also, they're more likely to see you as an example [to follow] and thus begin following you.

5. Live Links

Since Instagram doesn't permit links in posts, adding links and CTAs to graphics, infographics style, is essential. Also, make the most of your other social channels to share and repost your Instagram images and videos. You'll be able to add live links on your other channels, therefore boosting your visibility and getting additional conversions for your special content.

6. Brand Your Pictures and Videos

Because Instagram is a visually orienting platform and you can't add live links to your blog content, it's vital that the pictures you add to your posts be heavily branded to be effective. In our example to the right you'll see an infographic that we put out. You'll find our social media handle on every image and our logo will pop up frequently.


7. Use Hashtags to Your Advantage

Utilizing hashtags in posts on Instagram is the way you get found and make connections, but it'll work even better if you interact with other instagrammers using a similar hashtag before you post yours. However, you'll want to avoid jam-packed hashtags, just like you want to avoid high competition keywords when optimizing your blog posts for search engines. If you want users to notice you on Instagram, you can’t go without hashtags. Not only do you have to use them, you have to use them correctly. Simply adding generic hashtags like #travel, #food or #cats won’t do you any good. Those hashtags are being used so frequently, that your post will vanish into the depths of Instagram in mere seconds.


You need to analyze which hashtags work well in your niche. You'll be able to do this by simply putting a hashtag in Instagram’s search bar. For example, I share tons of my doodles on my feed. If I put in #doodle in the search bar, it shows this hashtag has over thirteen million posts. Unfortunately making it completely useless. However it also shows a bunch of alternative hashtags starting with the word doodle. #doodledrawing for example, that has 9,457 posts. That’s perfect! If you’re starting out with a fresh account, I’d advise that about 50% of your hashtags have between 1,000 and 10,000 posts and the other 50% between 10,000 and 100,000.


Simply finding the proper quantity of posts in a hashtag isn’t enough, though. You want to click on the hashtag to check what kind of photos others share using this hashtag. Does your style fit with this hashtag? Some results may surprise you. In my case, #doodlesofig with 43,643 posts looks perfect, however, after I click it, I see this hashtag is jam-packed with… dogs! Labradoodles to be exact. The users browsing this class would care less about my drawing being among the cute pups. So, make sure your hashtags have between 1,000 and 100,000 posts and that your photos match their content and style. Oh, and you're allowed to use up to thirty hashtags. Use them all!


From 2017, hashtags do not work in comments for display in search results. They have to be placed within the caption of the post for them to be searchable and followable (yes, currently users can follow hashtags like they do accounts!).

8. Advertise with Ease

You'll probably want to make money with Instagram, getting brands to advertise on your channel, and at the same time you may want to go out and locate Instagram accounts to advertise on to boost your traffic and up your branding efforts. The recommendation given in the previous points applies. You really want brands and businesses to choose you for their influencer marketing campaigns.

9. Get Active on Blogger Communities

There are Facebook groups dedicated entirely to Instagram promotion. One of the largest and most active groups in this sense is Instagram Posse, a community for instagrammers to assist one another grow in engagement and follower count. As of Sept 2016, the group count is at 9,000+ members within the Beauty, Travel and Parenting niches. Instagram Posse works to users' advantage with Comment Pods to increase engagement, 30-day challenges and account critiques. The group has its own hashtags on Instagram to boost community engagement.


Indeed, hashtags additionally make for on-platform communities and lots exist for bloggers: #bloggerslife, #problogging, #businessbloggers, #bloggingbootcamp and so on and so on. Be careful with the requirements and rules each community comes with. For example, Instagram Posse has rules against self-promotion, ‘follow me' requests and business solicitations. Different communities will permit some self-promotion, however you'll still need to follow the host' rules. Keep a look out for Instagram contests and linkups, too – they're great opportunities for networking. You'll be able to create groups, contests and linkups yourself.

10. Use Instagram Search Wisely

Look for hashtags, influencers (often, they have a verified icon next to their names, like @businessinsider) and smaller accounts in your same niche or industry. The first result in Instagram search will always return the most active hashtag, followed by the most active accounts. It's a decent plan to start with these high profiles then narrow down to hashtags and accounts – usually coupled within the posts you'll notice – running on smaller numbers. Not to mention that your search on Instagram ought to focus on hashtags over on accounts, because hashtags are the center of Instagram' activity and where you'll notice users in your niche.


About Alex

I graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelors in Marketing. I then relocated to Chicago for an entry level Social Media Manager job. After about a year I got in touch with a friend from college who had a cousin named Francisco, aka the Owner of Big Picture Creatives. At the time he still worked at Fiscal Web Designs but was looking to start something of his own. After hearing about the wide range of clients he was helping, I was certainly intrigued. So I decided to partner with him and help create Big Picture. We've been doing this for a few years now and I can't imagine doing anything else. Instead of helping an old-fashioned company reply to boomers complaining on Facebook, I now get to help new small businesses every single day!

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