Instagram 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Using IG for Business

It seems like everyone—from your 10-year-old niece to the neighbor’s dog— has an Instagram account nowadays.

In fact, Instagram recently hit one billion monthly users, and around 8% of those logins come from business accounts. Although the vast majority of big brands can be found on Instagram, just over half of all small businesses have an Instagram account as well, according to recent surveys.

So, if you’re part of that half that’s been sleeping on Instagram, take this as your cue to finally give it a try. Hey, if Fido the Goldendoodle next door can get 2,000 likes for posing with a leaf on his head, surely there’s a place for your business to shine on Instagram, right?

If you still need some persuading, check out these 5 reasons why small businesses love Instagram:

  1. Their customers are on Instagram. Social media helps businesses engage with their customers and gain valuable insights into their preferences. If your customers are on Instagram, that’s where you should be as well.
  2. Instagram, more than any other platform, is the place people go to keep up with the Joneses and follow emerging trends. Staying “in the know” is key to engaging with users across social media platforms, and Instagram is the best tool to do just that.
  3. People are more likely to share and engage with visual content than with written content. Why is that? Well, visuals are processed by the brain 600,000 times faster than text. Our brains are wired to take in visual clues very quickly, so people naturally gravitate toward and engage with visual content more than they do with text alone.
  4. Instagram lets businesses get personal. With small and local businesses, especially, people want to connect with the faces behind the brand. Instagram is one of the best places to do that. Along with product and inspiration photos, businesses post behind-the-scenes content to Instagram. This openness helps build trust between them and their customers.
  5. Still not convinced? Well, we saved the best for last: Instagram is business friendly. According to the company’s latest statistics, 80% of Instagram users follow at least one brand. Also, about 60% of users discover products on Instagram, and 75% of users take action (like clicking a link or visiting a website) after seeing a branded post.


Who Uses Instagram?

Instagram has over 500 million daily users from around the world. It’s an impressive number, but to figure out how to market to these users, we need to know what makes Instagram users different from those on other social platforms.

Where are they from? What are they like? Just how many Instagram accounts are actually owned by dogs?

Although Instagram, unfortunately, doesn’t provide any information on how many of their accounts are created on behalf of pampered pooches, we were able to find some statistics that matter to marketers looking to improve their Instagram strategy:

  • The U.S. has the largest number of Instagram users (121 million), followed by India (71 million) and Brazil (64 million). (Statista)
  • 35% of U.S. adults use Instagram. (Pew Research)
  • Instagram is the 2nd most popular social media site among teens. (Snapchat is #1.) (Statista)
  • City dwellers are much more likely to have an Instagram account than their suburban or rural counterparts. (Pew Research)
  • Women are more likely than men to have an Instagram account. (Pew Research)
  • The largest age demographic of Instagram users is 18-29 year-olds. (Pew Research)
  • Instagram usage is mostly consistent across income levels. (Statista)

Instagram is trendy, so it stands to reason that many of its users are young and hail from cityscapes. Note, though, that Instagram users come from all economic backgrounds. That means that whether you offer a prestige brand or a more affordable option, there’s an audience for you on Instagram.


How Do I Get Started?

We’ll admit, there’s a bit of a learning curve to starting out on Instagram. There are Stories, Filters, Stickers, and so much more. But, to be honest, all of that is just icing on top of the cake.
To start out on Instagram, you really only need to follow 5 simple steps:

1. Set up your account.

By default, you will begin with a personal account when you first sign-up for Instagram. You will need to link your Facebook Business page to Instagram in order to create a business account. (We’ll talk about why you’ll want to make the switch in the next section.)

Once you’re all linked up, you can edit your profile with a picture and a bio to describe your business. Use the bio as an opportunity to let your brand voice shine and let other users know what you’re all about. You can also add links to external sites here.

Finally, navigate to your settings menu to invite friends from other networks to follow you.

Congrats! Now you’re all set up!.. Now what?

2. Decide what story you want to tell.

Think of the adjectives that best describe the look and feel of your business. Are you hip and trendy or minimalist and traditional? Are you colorful and playful or calm and subdued?
These words should be reflected in the type of content you post. You can convey your business identity through your color scheme, subject matter, or even the captions that accompany your photos.

Try to keep in mind that all your photos will appear together on your profile, so they should look cohesive as a group.

3. Create a content schedule (and stick to it).

A content schedule is a simple tool used to keep you on track with your social media posting, and you should tweak your schedule as you learn more about when your audience is most engaged with your content.

Studies show that Thursday is generally the best day to post to Instagram (followed by Wednesday and Friday), and the best times to post are 5 a.m. (when people first wake up) and around midday.

Your mileage may vary depending on a bunch of factors including the demographics of your audience and the type of business you run, so do your own experiments to figure out what time works best for you.

4. Do some hashtag research.

Using hashtags effectively is key to your success on Instagram, so it’s worthwhile to do a little research before you dive in. Check out what hashtags your competitors or other influential people in your industry are using. Then use Instagram’s search bar (aka the “Explore” feature) to do some sleuthing into how well those hashtags tend to perform.

It’ll take some trial and error to figure out which hashtags work best for your particular business, but there’s no time like the present to start experimenting!

5. Start off with 9 posts.

This may sound like a weirdly specific requirement, but there’s method behind the apparent madness. Instagram’s gallery format displays 9 images at a time on your profile. Without at least 9 images, it will look empty when users click on your profile.

As you get started, remember to keep an eye out for ‘grammable moments as you go about your day. Not every picture needs to be from a professional, planned photoshoot. In fact, it’s good to break up your feed with some candid, behind-the-scenes photos to let your followers see the real you.


What’s the Difference Between an Instagram Business and a Personal Account?

It’s like asking for the difference between coffee from a Keurig and a fresh-brewed cup from your local coffee shop. Don’t get me wrong. The Keurig coffee is good, but after you start going to the coffee shop, you don’t want to go back to the pre-packaged stuff.

While a non-business account is perfectly fine for general use or even for Instagram influencers, it’s woefully inadequate if you’re using it for advertising your business. That’s because there are certain features you’ll only get with an Instagram business account:

Analytics

An Instagram business account gives you access to advanced insights into your content performance. This is where you’ll go to find your view count, reach, and engagement. You can also find a breakdown of your follower demographics—including gender, age, location, and active hours.

Contact Button

With an Instagram business account, you’re able to add a “Contact” button to your profile. You can choose whether you want this button to direct the user to your email, dial your phone number, or show your location on a map.

Shoppable Instagram Stories

Long have Instagram marketers bemoaned the lack of clickable links in Instagram, but now there’s a solution for business account holders. Within an Instagram Story, you can now add a clickable link to take viewers to a product description page.

Promoted Posts

Do you want to boost the reach of your posts? With an Instagram business account, you can promote a post from within the app by tapping “Promote.” From here, you’ll have the option to choose a call-to-action, create an audience, and select a budget.


There’s some evidence to suggest that, much like with Facebook’s algorithm, content from Instagram personal accounts tends to get better reach than that from business accounts. On the other hand, there’s no denying the power of the features that are available only to users with a business account.

So, is it worth the trade-off? We think so.

Mike Speer Administrator
Chief Marketing Officer Michaels WIlder

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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Mike Speer Administrator
Chief Marketing Officer Michaels WIlder

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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