How to use Instagram for your business

Instagram is a powerful tool for leveraging brand awareness and building community around your business. In fact, many brands are creating content marketing plans around the now-ubiquitous app, and achieving results, too. With more than 300 million people using and checking Instagram, there’s absolutely no reason not to add this free tool to your social media marketing kit.

InstagramHere are some options for using Instagram for business, and how the photo-sharing platform’s suite of free tools can help you attract new customers.

Getting started

Getting started on Instagram is as simple as downloading the app on your phone and setting up an account. When using Instagram for business, put some thought and effort into creating high-quality curated posts that convey your brand’s values and aesthetics.

In other words, don’t snap photos of your dinner and dog unless they further your brand agenda. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than your desk drawer: Sharpie has an effective and well-crafted Instagram stream. Even fast food restaurant Taco Bell has mastered the art of the Instagram. Yes, you heard us, Taco Bell. Taco Bell keeps it casual, upbeat and fun, posting photos of young people relaxing, laughing and getting creative with restaurant shots.

Or take Free People,, which creates cutting-edge women’s fashion. Free People knows their niche craves travel and highly values freedom and style. To that end, they curate gorgeous landscapes using the hashtag #ontheroad, they have a #fpmeweeklystylist hashtag they use for editorial-style fashion shots and they find and post images to inspire a “Free People lifestyle” and sense of community around their brand.

Following, commenting, liking and hashtags

After your business feed gets started, you need to follow and interact with your community as much as possible. Luckily, Instagram makes this painless and easy to manage. In the same way that Facebook gives you the option to “Like” a post, Instagram allows users to ability to “Heart” and comment on posts.

You can tag your photos with a brand or product name, catchy phrase or slogan to build buzz and community around your posts. Make sure you use the search functions to find photos of your customers using your products. Make sure you like and comment on those as well.

Developing your brand style

The key to standing out on Instagram is developing a consistent photographic style and mastering it. Like other forms of social media, simply showing up regularly is the baseline to remain relevant. If your goal is for Instagram to boost brand awareness, however, you need to work a little harder to create a buzzworthy photo stream.

Ask yourself, what is my brand’s community interested in? What do they value? What sorts of images reflect those values? Make a list of five or six kinds of images to curate and post, along with relevant hashtags, and make sure to give yourself the time and tools to take those creative photos.

Instagram has proven its app has staying power in the ever-growing mobile market. And for now, the ability to send strong, visual cues and share your brand message is as free and easy as pressing the shutter button on your phone. Really.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a free mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that lets users take pictures and videos then share them on social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

A distinctive feature of the service is that it confines photos to a square shape, similar to old Kodak Instamatic or Polaroid images, in contrast to the 4:3 aspect ratio typically used by camera phones and TVs today. Instagram videos are designed for rapid consumption, with a maximum duration of only 15 seconds.

Launched in 2010, the service has rapidly gained popularity, especially among the younger crowd. There were more than 300 million users worldwide in December 2014, according to the company. Instagram was purchased by Facebook in 2012 and has helped that firm stay relevant. One report says that Instagram grew 23 percent in 2013 while Facebook, the parent company, only grew by 3 percent.

Instagram is distributed through the Apple App Store, Google Play and Windows Phone Store. Support for the app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android handsets; while third-party Instagram apps are available for other devices such as Blackberry and Nokia. Check your phone’s app store. Chances are very good it’s there.

– Originally published as How to Use Instagram for Business and Brand, by Melissa Haney, Used with permission.

If you liked this post you might also like: