Using Instagram to Support Your Business

Instagram is by far my favorite social media channel!  It has a simplicity and ease to it which makes it a perfect fit for the small business owner.

That being said, I’m not one to suggest that you shoehorn your small business into Instagram just because it’s a popular app.  I once worked for a medical research center which, frankly, didn’t fit the visual medium of Instagram, so we decided to focus more on using Facebook and Twitter.

But if you are a small business or creative individual who wants set up a killer Instagram account but aren’t sure where to start, this will get you going.  Or if you have an account which needs some fresh blood, these tips will give you a shot in the arm.

What are the first steps?

After signing up for the app, choose a simple name for your account which is easily recognizable by your audience.  This may be a challenge if you have a long name or if the name you want is taken but keep trying different names. Avoid using a lot of underscores and acronyms which will simply confuse your audience. You may need to use a variation of your company name or perhaps add the city or town where you are located as part of the account name.

Once you have your account name, make sure that your profile image is also something which is easily recognizable by your clients.  If you are the face of your business, it may be a portrait of you.  Alternatively, it may be the submark of your brand or the product which you produce.  Don’t be afraid to switch up your profile image periodically to keep it fresh.

Your bio is also very important to communicate verbally what your business is all about. There are a lot of articles out there written on this subject so let me just link to some which I personally found to be helpful: How to Create a Killer Instagram Bio in 2018 by Later.com and How to Craft the Best Instagram Bios for Businesses by Sprout Social.  Again, don’t be afraid to reassess and update your bio periodically.

How do I develop a cohesive look?

The most successful Instagram accounts appeal to their followers because of the consistent look and feel of their posts.  You can achieve that by using the same filters, Lightroom presets, or photo emulator apps on each of your images.

Here we have two examples.  Zora’s Daughter [@zoras_daughter] features a clean, minimal look with a muted color palette.  Even though the subject matter in each image is different, she sticks closely to this aesthetic. 

Hippie in Heels [@hippieinheelsblog] has a colorful palette but she uses the same filter or Lightroom presets on all her images which make them cohesive. She is a travel blogger and even though she finds herself in various countries, the photos still look like they belong on the same account.

How can I connect with my audience?

The whole point of social media is to connect, in this case, with potential clients.  Therefore, you should be where your clientele is.

For instance, if you are a mechanic you could seek out motorcycle clubs or classic car accounts.  Engage with them in a natural way, not always “selling” but perhaps offering helpful tips or positive comments.  If you pique their interest, they will come and check out your account and perhaps become your next customer!

Using hashtags is key to helping people finding you.  For example, imagine you are a woman living in Boston who would like eyelash extensions.  You might search #bostoneyelashextensions.  So if you are a salon offering that service, you should anticipate that and include that tag and variations of it in your relevant posts.

Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6 percent more engagement than those without. (via AdWeek.com)

More Reading: Have We Underestimated the Power of the Hashtag?

Why It’s Time to Update Your Instagram Hashtag Strategy

Where do I find content?

Some businesses lend themselves well to easily developing content.  For instance, if you are business with a lot of events, you have something to share before, during, and after the event.  Or if your company has regular sales and specials, you should be regularly communicating this with your audience.

But what if your business is less visual focused or event driven?  Or what if you are a new business without any clients to highlight?  Here are a few ways to think about generating content:

1 | Use high quality stock photos like those found on Unsplash and add your own text or quotes.

You can add text to images using an app like Over.  Alternatively, You can add text in Instagram Stories and then save the image instead of posting on the Story, and instead post it on your permanent Instagram grid.

2 | Hire a photographer or enlist the help of an artistic friend for a photoshoot day.

With a stock of photos at the ready, you can use them in the coming weeks and months.  Keep in mind that these photos don’t have to be directly tied to the work you do but can include anything that works with your brand.  For example, if you are a mechanic and your brand is gritty and edgy, some graffiti would work very well and appeal to many in your audience.

After you have a collection of photos, you can schedule these posts to go live automatically using an app like Later.  In this way, you don’t have to work on your Instagram account every day.

3 | Dig deep in your archives

Share a student project you did in college or as a side project.  Your work is your work so it doesn’t matter if it was done yesterday or five years ago.  As long as you are still proud of it, you can highlight it!

4 | Share posts from other Instagrammers.

Sharing the work of other Instagrammers can be mutually beneficial.  For instance, since I am a designer I have a natural interest in art and illustration and I know my clients do too so I sometimes share the work of independent artists whose aesthetic matches mine.

Always remember to tag the originator of the work.  This isn’t only ethical and polite, it also lends itself to cross-promotion because they and their followers may notice you and follow or get in contact to work with you.

5 | Share your expertise

Remember that the point of Instagram is to communicate to potential clients who you are and what you can do with them so step them through something you are good at!  If you do makeup, do a smokey eye tutorial in your stories and save it to your highlights.  It might seem basic to you but your clients will love to see your work!


Instagram can be not only a fun outlet, but an effective way of connecting with your clients.  So go forth and Gram!

Instagram can be not only a fun outlet, but an effective way of connecting with your clients. So go forth and Gram!

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