9 things I’ve learned about Instagram for business
Once upon a time a Facebook Company Page was the primary social media platform for businesses to build a relationship with their audience. But over the past few years Instagram has emerged as a powerful business tool you should also explore.
Instagram has over 500 million active monthly users globally, with a quarter of all adults in Ireland saying they have an Instagram account, and even more in the UK (29%).* Over the past few months I’ve been working on the team that’s building a social media presence for one of our UK clients, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. This project has given me a few eureka moments: read on if you’re looking for insights that could help your organisation on Instagram.
1. Instagram doesn’t replace Facebook Company Pages
In fact, it was by linking our client’s company page and their Instagram account that we opened up the “Instagram for business” options, including the buttons you see below: these let followers phone or email the Prize directly from Instagram. Yes, what you’ve heard about Facebook Company Page frustrations is true: it’s harder than ever to get your Facebook status updates seen even by the followers who like your Page. But on balance it’s definitely still worth maintaining your Facebook Page, especially as Facebook continues to drive more integration (especially on the advertising side) between itself and Instagram, which it wholly owns.
2. You need 100 Instagram followers to access new possibilities
Once an Instagram for business account has 100 followers, demographics are unlocked, letting you see the gender breakdown, the cities where most of your followers are, and days and times they’re most active. This gives you the insight to time your posts to release at just the right moment. And yes, that means scheduling your Instagram posts is important, which brings me to…
3. HootSuite or another management platform is vital for Instagram
My colleague Deirdre prefers Buffer, but HootSuite does the job for me: I love how it lets me schedule updates for all the platforms my client cares about, including Instagram, although truth be told, Instagram still insists you post directly onto the platform. This means that, when 9 PM rolls around, I’ll still have to go to my phone, open up the HootSuite notification that has the post I prepared earlier, and click to make it live on Instagram. Buffer performs in a similar way.
4. Know your hashtags
Continue to research, use and engage with (“like”) the hashtags that are performing best for you and prove most popular with your followers. Our client is a literature prize, and the avid community under hashtags like #bookstagram are perfect when we’re posting about books, which is daily. But core parts of your community could be under unexpected tags: for example, researching #bookdesign led us to a core of Instagram users who revere books as beautiful objects, as well as to Instagram accounts devoted to cover design. Hashtags aren’t something you can set and forget: keep researching to discover what’s working.
5. “Retweeting” doesn’t exist on Instagram, but Repost can help
The Repost app is a great way to amplify content that matches your aesthetic, while giving credit to the original poster by appending their Instagram ID to the image. Once you have Repost installed, click on the magical three buttons above the post you like, click “copy share URL,” and you’ll get a dingdong notification on your phone that the post is ready to re-share on your Instagram account. But please, use Repost sparingly. Your followers want to see your aesthetic, not continually re-purposed images from someone else.
6. Use an app like Snapseed to overlay images with text, such as your own hashtag
Remember that other people might Repost your image, so appending your own hashtag is a good idea for your most important posts. Snapseed’s text tools let you do this, and it also offers fantastic photo-optimising features, like “healing” (magically erase flaws in photos) and “HDR scape,” which does some truly impressive sharpening and intensifying of colours. Here’s one of the Walter Scott Prize images we badged with text and the Prize’s hashtag, using Snapseed:
7. “Edit post” is a lifesaver
Click on the magical three buttons to the upper right of your Instagram post and fix any egregious sins in posts you’ve already published. Even better, don’t make mistakes in the first place. Especially typos. Especially if you’re a literature prize.
8. Experiment with longer-form Instagram posts
Brief Q&As with influencers can work well as an image caption on Instagram, but beware line breaks: Instagram will try to chunk your text together and eliminate white space. I paste my text into Notepad, make sure Word Wrap is off, then add line-breaks by going to the beginning of a line and pressing return (instead of adding extra “carriage returns” at the end of lines). When I paste the whole Q&A into HootSuite, this works for me. You can also use a repeated emoji (we use a string of 5 book emoji) as a visual break between parts of your text. If in doubt, keep a private Instagram account where you can experiment with posts before you blast ahead on your business Instagram account.
9. Stay on top of Instagram innovations, like “post multiple”
Do you ignore prompts to update your apps on your phone? I often do, which is how I nearly missed “post multiple,” a brand-new Instagram feature that lets you select up to 10 images for a single Instagram post that your followers can swipe through. Just click the “plus” icon as you normally would to select an image, then tap the double-square icon and choose the images for your slider. Before posting, Instagram shows you your entire slider as a unit so that you can post the same filter to all images. Handy. Here’s the first Instagram slider I created for the Walter Scott Prize (hover over the image with your mouse, or slide it with your finger on mobile, to see the multiple images).
A big thank-you to my colleagues at the Walter Scott Prize for allowing us to share insights from their Instagram experience. If you love superb historical fiction, go ahead and follow the Walter Scott Prize on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
What’s worked for you on Instagram for business? Share your insights in the comments.
Sheila Averbuch is managing director of ENNclick, offering content services and social media management from our offices in Edinburgh, Scotland and Cork, Ireland. Talk to us about how we can help build social following for your company or non-profit organisation. Learn more about our social media management services.
* Instagram stats for Ireland from Ipsos MRBI 2016; UK figures from We are Flint, 2016.
Main image by mmartinsson on Flickr
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