How to Use Instagram to Elevate Your Business

How to Use Instagram to Elevate Your Business

Instagram boasted 400 million daily active users (DAU), and 600 million monthly users as of the end of 2016; that means that more people use Instagram in a day than may use Twitter in an entire month. And those people scrolling, liking, and uploading 95 million images and videos a day on Instagram? They come from all walks of life, skew young, and are eager to use the burgeoning platform to discover the next big thing. Could it be you?

Want to reach a millennial audience? Instagram is the place to be. Positioning your brand on Instagram is a great way to generate leads from eager social media fans, bolster your brand’s voice and identity, and cultivate invaluable consumer loyalty.

Here’s how to put Instagram to work as a powerful social media marketing channel for your brand, in five easy steps:

1.) What Are You Trying to Achieve?

The most important step in launching any social media campaign? Determining why you’re launching that campaign in the first place! Why are you using this social channel? What do you hope or expect to get out of it? Asking these questions early on will help guide your strategy down the road, helping you to avoid unnecessary or unproductive work and reduce your chance of falling victim to what we call “platform overload.”

Instagram can help your business achieve any number of goals, and there are a few things that it does better than any other social media platform. So, do you hope to use Instagram to…

1.) Show off your product or service?
2.) Show off your company culture or employees?
3.) Increase brand awareness?
4.) Build and engage a loyal community?
5.) Advertise to the audience most likely to do business with you?

All of these are good goals; we’d suggest honing on just one or two at a time. Once you know what you’re using Instagram to achieve, you can figure out how best to reach those goals and tailor your content strategy accordingly.

2.) Set Your “Content Pillars” and Find Your Voice

So you’ve figured out what you want to do with Instagram – let’s say “increase audience engagement” and “showcase your company culture and values.” These goals will help you figure out the unique themes you’ll want to thread through your Instagram content; the social media scheduling gurus at Buffer helpfully refer to these as “content pillars,” and they give a few handy examples:

  • Behind the scenes content
  • User generated content
  • Product demos / showcase
  • Educational (e.g. the best social media tips)
  • Culture focused (showing the human side of your company)
  • Fun / lighthearted
  • Customer stories
  • Get to know the team
  • Team member takeovers

So, for our two stated goals, we’d want to pick a few content pillars, and then brainstorm what content would best help exemplify our themes. Want to increase engagement with users? Running an Instagram contest or sweepstakes may help drive up your likes and comments. Want to showcase your company’s stellar people? Turn over control of your Instagram to individual team members on a rolling basis; this is known as a “takeover.” You may also want to post lots of behind the scenes snapshots as an Instagram story, or do a profile series of each of your team members in the vein of “Humans of New York.”

Get creative! There’s no limit to what you can do on Instagram; the most important thing is to make sure that your content doesn’t veer all over the map. Users like to know what they’re getting into. Oreo is known for its brightly lit snapshots of its delicious cookies, for instance; it would be jarring if, buried within these impeccably manicured images was a photo of the CEO’s lunch from a Hawaiian vacation.

To that end, we’d also recommend taking some time to sit down with relevant team members and come up with your very own unique branding for Instagram. Remember, Instagram is an incredibly visual platform, and there are plenty of ways in which you can make a mark and ensure that all of your content is relevant, valuable, and consistent. Create a style guide for your Instagram; leave room for experimentation, but make sure that everyone who may be posting knows your brand’s preferences when it comes to:

  • Image composition (Should shots be shot up one way? Are there certain filters that are off-limits? Does each image need to reflect a color palette?)
  • Text in images (OK or not OK? What font(s) are acceptable?)
  • Captions (Long or short? Jokey or serious? Hashtags or no hashtags?)  
  • Video guidelines (Should you post or video or not? Audio or no audio? Boomerang or no Boomerang?)


3.) Optimize Your Profile

Where do all of those perfectly-designed and edited posts show up? They’re curated to your profile! And while your profile isn’t as centralized or as ripe for optimization and branding as, say, a Facebook profile page, there are several things you should do to make sure you’re maximizing the value you get from what Instagram does let you work with:

Who are you? What do you do? And how succinctly can you sum this information up in a memorable slogan? Your bio is also a great place to include a brand hashtag or two, which you can then carry over to unify your image and video posts across the platform.

Profile Picture
Make sure your brand is instantly recognizable by posting a clear logo, logomark, or mascot image as your profile picture.

Taking advantage of your link space is one of the most important tricks to hacking Instagram. You see, unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram doesn’t allow you to link out to landing pages on individual posts, whether they’re story posts, videos, or traditional images. Instead, you get one link in your description. Make the most of it! Make sure the link in your bio leads to a valuable landing page, and remember that you don’t need to leave it static. If you’re focused on capturing leads or boosting referral traffic, you can update this link and guide users to it with a “Link in Bio” caption, which has become a handy shorthand for guiding users to your site.

4.) Optimize Your Posts

The most important part of optimizing your Instagram content is to make sure that it’s consistent, clear, and high quality. Having a thorough strategy/creative guide like the one described above will help take care of those first two points; ensuring that your team knows how to make the most of Instagram will help with the second. Are your phones up to the task of taking professional quality video or photos? Is someone able to touch up images with photo editing software, before sending them out to your users?

Like all content marketing, success on Instagram is about quality, quality, quality. So, besides making sure that your images are beautiful and relevant, how can you add value to your content? We’ve got a few ideas:

  • Use hashtags, which get your posts in front of new eyes and are statistically proven to increase engagement
  • Sync up your Instagram posts with Facebook, where they’ll see additional engagement
  • Post often; studies show that most brands post to the platform daily, and that increased content doesn’t lead to decreased engagement, as it does on some other social platforms
  • Consider scheduling your posts in advance with a tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer
  • Engage with other users; reply to comments, seek out other content to comment on, be generous with your “likes,” and don’t be afraid to try the new features – like Stories – being added to Instagram every day

5.) Make Use of Targeted Advertising

Like Facebook, Instagram offers some pretty powerful tools for paid native advertising. When organic reach isn’t enough – of if you have a budget worth investing – consider putting Instagram’s advertising features to work!

Users have the options of video ads, image ads, carousel ads (which include multiple images at once), or “stories” ads, which appear to users of that new, Snapchat-baiting feature. Like Facebook, Instagram offers powerful targeting tools, allowing you to reach the demographics who matter most to you; you can also drive up retention and conversion rates with retargeted ads. Even better? There are many ways to set up an Instagram ad campaign, including through Facebook – making getting started a breeze and helping you get every ounce of value from your marketing budget.

Looking for help getting started with Instagram? Want to talk social media strategy for your business? We’re here to help! Drop the Geek team a line today to get the ball rolling. And why not give us a follow on Instagram while you’re at it?

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).