A beginner’s guide for businesses and brands posting on Instagram

There are so many channels that make up today’s digital ecosystem, and brands are constantly trying to navigate it to win the attention of audiences. One simple opportunity that always stands out from the cacophony is Instagram, the world-famous, highly visual, vibrant community platform where brands can lay out a narrative and connect deeply with their audience.

For businesses and brands looking to use Instagram, this guide is here to help you out. We’ll explain how to navigate setting up your Instagram presence; craft compelling content; engage with your community; and, crucially, analyse your success.

With a consistent, creative, strategic approach, you can use Instagram as a powerful and clear amplifier of your brand’s voice, vision, and values, fostering trust and loyalty in this era of endless digital noise.

Set up an Instagram Business account

To get going on this Instagram journey, you need to start with a simple but important step: transition your account to a Business account. It doesn’t cost anything, and it unlocks access to invaluable tools, such as insights into your audience, enhanced visibility, and the ability to engage audiences more deeply by integrating direct links to your channels.

Here’s how to do it: go to your settings, choose a Professional account, and select ‘Business.’

Now you need to comprehensively populate your profile with your brand’s essence. Write a bio that encapsulates your brand mission to a profile picture that is consistent with your brand identity. It could be your logo, but you could equally go for something more interesting.

Remember, your Instagram profile is an opportunity for your audience to experience your brand up close, so it’s imperative to curate each element strategically. This is the first step in distinguishing your brand against your competitors on the channel and setting the stage for engagement, storytelling, and building a loyal community.

Create a content strategy

On Instagram, every scroll of the thumb brings about another distraction and a new attempt to win the audience’s attention, so understanding what will engage your audience is paramount.

This is a platform that thrives on captivating imagery, show-stopping videos, and narratives that resonate. What will drive and delight your followers? What will stand out in the feed against the competition? And by “competition”, we don’t just mean your competitors. Your content will find itself among a stream of algorithmically curated content that’s designed to captivate the end user. Sandwiched between videos of friends’ holidays, articles on

personal hobbies and interests, promotions from beloved brands, memes, jokes, and a plethora of viral sensations, your image must stand out in this diverse and dynamic stream. Thankfully, Instagram’s Insights tool offers you a window into your target audience’s behaviour on the app, illuminating their preferences and behaviours to help guide your content creation.

Once you’re armed with this knowledge, curate your content calendar balancing promotional material with stories that invite conversation and connection. The art of visual storytelling is important here. Every image, video, and caption should be a reflection of your brand’s identity and values. However, that’s not to say that your content needs to adhere to the same production values as your presence on more traditional channels. Content that

appears user-generated, as if it’s been created with the native Instagram tools, can perform better than content that looks overly professional and slick. This is because audiences on social media channels often value authenticity and relatability over content that looks overly polished or advertorial.

This doesn’t mean that high-quality, professional content doesn’t have its place. The key is to strike a balance, ensuring that content feels accessible and relatable while still maintaining a level of quality and coherence with your brand’s identity and values. Quality, consistency, and authenticity should be the pillars of your content

strategy, ensuring that every post engages your audience, and tightening your bond with them in some way.

Get your head around Instagram’s features

Instagram’s array of features is a box of tricks for creativity and engagement. Here are some key ones you need to know about. At the centre of the experience is the fundamental “feed” feature (the stuff you scroll through), where algorithmically selected posts vertically stack on top of each other and try and get your attention. Eye-catching imagery and videos here, and provocative captions, will encourage engagement and connections.

Instagram Stories (the circles along the top of the interface), short form portrait format videos, let you share fleeting moments that add texture to your brand narrative. These are easy to skip, so aim for instant impact and interest. You can also embellish these with animated gifs, music, questions and polls, stickers, and quizzes and add an all-important link to your website (a feature not available anywhere else on Instagram other than on your bio) to add some of that native authenticity.

The Instagram Reels feature deserves a guide all of its own. It’s a powerful feature and an effective tool, that contains a mini editing suite to create expressive, multi-scene videos. Reels offer a lot of visibility on the platform, as the algorithm Reels promotes content not just to your followers but also to potential new followers through the Explore page, enhancing discoverability.

Businesses can also take advantage of Instagram’s Shopping feature, which can transform your profile from a gallery of inspiration to an e-commerce experience, seamlessly integrating product discovery and engagement with sales conversion.

Using Instagram’s features with intent and inventiveness can elevate your brand from being just another participant to a hero of the channel. It’s all about harnessing these tools to craft content that resonates and engages.

Some practical Instagram posting tips

Knowing what kind of content works and how to craft it is crucial for standing out. Here are some practical insights and strategies for creating content that doesn’t just capture attention but also encourages engagement.

Be authentic and relatable

Create content that showcases real-life experiences, glimpses behind-the-scenes, and relatable moments, as these tend to resonate more deeply with audiences on the platform. Authenticity builds trust and fosters a sense of connection.

Be thumb-reversingly compelling with your imagery

You don’t only want to stop users in their tracks. Users scroll so fast on Instagram that they’ll have whizzed past your content before digesting it. Using visually appealing imagery, that makes your audience go “Huh? What was that?” prevents them from passing it by completely. Whether it’s vibrant colours, strange or arresting compositions, or eye-catching – even shocking – graphics, your visual content should make people pause and look. Think about the opening frame of your video. This is no place for lengthy intros. You need a cold open, and a good one at that.

Add value and share knowledge

Posts that educate, provide value, or solve problems for your audience can boost engagement. Consider creating how-to guides, tips, hacks and tutorials, and useful, insightful captions.

Use the interactive tools

Utilising native features like polls, quizzes, and questions in Stories encourages direct interaction, making your audience feel involved and heard, and gives them a tactile engagement with your digital experience

Hero user-generated content

Sharing and re-posting content created by your followers or customers doesn’t just drive authenticity – it also encourages others to engage and share their experiences with your brand in the hope of the spotlight.

Know Your Audience

Using Instagram’s Insights tools will help you understand who your audience is, what their interests are, what they’re doing on the platform, and, most especially, when they’re most active (because posting during peak times will increase your content’s visibility). Use all of the information to guide your content and posting strategy.

Mix it up!

Make use of all the various content types (images, videos, carousels) and formats (e.g. posts, Stories, Reels) to keep your feed interesting and dynamic. The algorithm will thank you for it!

Captivate with captions

A caption is just as important as your image. Start with a compelling opening line, use emojis judiciously, and include a call-to-action to encourage comments, shares, and saves.

Deploy hashtags strategically

Use a mix of broad and niche hashtags (around 3-5 on each post is optimum) to extend your content’s reach beyond your current followers. Research which hashtags are relevant to your brand and audience for maximum impact.

Engage promptly with comments

Responding to comments on your posts not only boosts engagement rates but also signals to Instagram that your content is generating interest, potentially increasing its reach.

Time your likes

Returning to previous comments on your last post and “liking” them (tapping the ‘heart’ icon) just before you post again doesn’t just heighten awareness of those followers to your new post but also boosts your latest post on their feed, increasing the likelihood of them seeing it and interacting again.

Embrace experimentation and actively analyse

Continuously experiment with different types of content. For example, try different sizes of imagery for the feed. Many users default to square images but a more portrait-sized image (such as 1350 x 1080) takes up more space on the screen, will give you stand out, and often works wonders. Monitor the performance of your experimentation, and adjust your strategy based on what works best for your audience and objectives.

Point to a link – or links – in your bio

A major frustration for businesses using Instagram is that you can’t put a link in a feed post! When you want to link to a web page outside of the platform, the only place you can put this (apart from on an ephemeral Story or on the e-commerce Shopping feature) is under your bio at the top of your profile page. You can only provide a call-to-action, such as the much-used standard “link in bio” in your caption. Instagram now lets you add multiple links, but will still only display the top one until you tap it. Many users hack this by leading users to a link aggregator site like Linktree or Koji, but we recommend placing all your links on your own hosted landing page to benefit from the resulting traffic and brand engagement opportunities.

Stay up-to-date with Instagram’s algorithm

Keeping pace with Instagram’s ever-evolving algorithm is important for ensuring your content reaches its intended audience. The platform continually tweaks its algorithm to enhance user experience, which can directly impact how your posts are prioritised and displayed in followers’ feeds. Staying informed about these changes allows you to adapt swiftly, ensuring your content remains visible and engaging. By being proactive and responsive to the algorithm’s nuances, you can keep your engagement rates healthy and your audience engaged.

Instagram is still just one part of the mix

Instagram presents a unique opportunity for brands and businesses to not just be seen, but to connect, engage, and resonate deeply with their audience. This platform, rich with potential for storytelling and community building, demands a blend of creativity, strategy, and authenticity.

However, as you refine your Instagram presence, remember that each post, story, and interaction is another building block of your brand’s entire narrative. Embrace all of the tools, features, and insights available on the platform, but don’t lose sight of Instagram’s role in your marketing ecosystem and be alert to opportunities to create connections that move beyond Instagram, and even the digital space itself.

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