21 Instagram Tips for Small Business

21 Instagram Tips for Small Business

21 Instagram Tips for Small Business

Social media is important in today’s digital marketing world. Not only does well-written content help customers find you on social media sites, so do images, and luckily, many make it easy to share them. What’s more, people are more likely to engage with brands that post pictures.

One of the best sites on which to promote your small business visually is Instagram. Now boasting a community of one billion monthly active users, Instagram can boost your exposure, engage consumers, build demand for your services and products, and increase brand recognition. Users share more than 95 million photos every day, so here are 21 Instagram tips for small business to help you stand out from the crowd.

1. Represent Your Business Truthfully

When getting started, make sure you set up your profile in a manner consistent with your business or brand. Make sure you use your company name, a company logo for your profile image, provide a descriptive bio (in 150 characters or less), and include a link to your website (this will be the only live link on your page).

2. Know Your Dimensions

Here are the dimensions you’ll need to know for posting to Instagram:

  • Your profile image will be 360 x 360 pixels
  • A normal photo you post will be 1080 x 1080
  • A landscape photo will be 1080 X 608 (a 1.91:1 ratio)
  • A portrait will be 1080 x 1350 (a 4:5 ratio)
  • A story will be 1080 x 1920 (a 9:16 ratio)
  • An IGTV Cover Photo will be 420 x 654 (a 1:1.55 ratio)

3. Show Off Your Products and/or Services

Think of Instagram as a mobile window-shopping service. Take high-quality and appealing images of your products, but don’t throw them all up at once. Make sure you intersperse your product pictures with other, more lighthearted photos (we’ll discuss these in a bit). Promote new products to create buzz and demand, or photograph a “mystery product” and see if users can guess what it is. If you don’t have products but provide a service, photograph equipment, supplies, and activities that are essential to your business.

4. Introduce Yourself

Humanize your brand by introducing yourself and those in your small business. Do a weekly or monthly employee spotlight, using a photo of the employee and a description including what s/he does for the company. Make it fun! Take the photos in front of a colorful backdrop and/or use props.

5. Follow Others

It’s important to not only have followers, but to follow others on Instagram. A great way to grow your own following is to like and comment on others’ photos. Remember, it’s all about engagement and reciprocation in social media.

6. Tell Your Story

Use photos and/or videos to tell why your company is in business, your purpose, and your passion. Why did you start this small business and why does your industry matter to you? After all:

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

7. Ask for Fan or User Photos

A great way to jumpstart your Instagram page and create a following is to ask customers to share their own photos of them using your product or service. Ask if you can share their photos, give them credit by tagging them with the @ sign, and use the #regram hashtag and/or us a reposting app.

8. Use Hashtags

Using hashtags on Instagram is great because they instantly link your Instagram photo to a group of others about the same topic, increasing your exposure. They also help categorize your small business so potential customers can find you more easily.

While you can use up to 30 hashtags, use no more than three to ten—more than that can make your business come off as spammy. You can include them in the post, or in a comment below the post, whichever you prefer stylistically. Also make sure your hashtags are relevant to the photos you’re posting. Lastly, feel free to create your own brand-specific hashtag (e.g. Nike’s #justdoit) to create consistency throughout your posts.

9. Engage Customers

Make sure to caption pictures with engaging descriptions and/or questions. Thank users who submit photos you post by tagging them. Lastly, listen to what people have to say about your brand via comments on your photos and respond to any inquiries. Want to take engagement even further? You can host a giveaway of a product or service you offer.

10. Post Videos

Whether you’re showing how a particular product is used or how you perform a certain service, posting videos via your Story or IGTV is a great alternative to still photos. For Instagram Stories, you’ll have a 15-second limit per individual Story, but if you upload a video that’s longer than 15 seconds, it will automatically be chopped up into 15-second pieces for you. For longer videos, use IGTV; you’ll have up to an hour.

11. Utilize Third-Party Instagram Apps

There are a lot of mobile apps you can download to give your Instagram photos even more pizzazz. According to wyzowl, top Instagram buddy apps include Afterlight 2 (iOS), Snapseed (Android and iOS), InShot (Android and iOS), Quik by GoPro (Android and iOS), and more.

12. Connect Your Accounts

Connecting your Instagram account to other social networks and your website make it easier to expand your audience and for people to find your small business online. You can promote your Instagram page on your website or blog by using a social media icon linked to your profile (see the footer of our home page for an example).

13. Show What Your Products Can Do

Yes, we’ve already covered product photos, but what about photographs or videos of your products in action? Show potential customers how powerful your product or service really is and any new, novel, alternative or out-of-the-box uses it may have. Ask your followers to post their own photos or videos of them using your product(s) and/or before-and-after shots of how your service has helped them.

14. Give Behind-The-Scenes Glimpses

Post photos of products or services that are still in the making and ask for input from your followers. This will build anticipation and create a demand even before the product or service is released!

15. Establish Weekly Themes

Weekly themes are great for consistency and consumer engagement (e.g. the popular Man Crush Monday #MCM or Throwback Thursday #TBT). Create your own weekly themes that relate to your business, like #MotivationalMonday, #WorkoutWednesday or #ThankfulThursday.

16. Include Company Culture

Do you and your coworkers go out for drinks every Monday, participate in local charity walks or have a Secret Santa gift exchange? Photograph these events and activities and post them to Instagram. Like employee spotlights, these posts will further humanize your brand.

17. Use Seasonal Creativity

Use holidays as a chance to showcase the creative nature of your small business. Post photos of the festive nature of your office or how customers can use your product or service during the holidays. This isn’t just an opportunity to get in the spirit of the season, but will allow you to become a part of the bigger conversation surrounding any given holiday on Instagram.

18. Don’t Just Sell

Don’t just focus on generating sales from Instagram; remember to be relatable. If your sole purpose of being on any social media site is to increase sales, it’ll be blatantly obvious and may backfire. If you instead vow to provide valuable content consistently, the sales will come.

19. Ask for Feedback

Create a photo collage of gallery post of some of your different types of posts (ex: product, weekly theme, employee, and company culture photos) and ask your followers which ones they like the best. Inquire as to whether there are any other series of photos they’d like to see on your Instagram page, then listen to and apply their feedback.

20. Make Announcements

Use Instagram as a place where your small business announces new offices, products, or other company updates in a fun, lively manner. Your followers will feel special to be some of the first to hear the news, more in the loop, and therefore closer to your company.

21. Be Accurate and Correct Mistakes

Make sure you double-check your spelling and grammar before posting. If you do make a mistake, thankfully you can always go back and edit photo captions (something that didn’t exist before November 2014!).

If you utilize these tried and true Instagram tips for small business, you’ll be sure to amass an engaged following in no time. Make sure to keep a lighthearted tone, engage with other users, listen to your customers, and keep a varied posting strategy. After all, keeping customer interest is a crucial component of any effective marketing campaign.

Learn how your business can best leverage social media. Book some time with me below.

This post was originally published in 2014 and updated in 2021.

Published by Lolly Spindler

Writer, copy editor, and content marketer on the fence about the oxford comma.

17 thoughts on “21 Instagram Tips for Small Business

  1. Yes, many companies don’t know the basics of video marketing and therefore miss the mark on Instagram. I primarily see Flickr as a more professional user-based platform to share photography as opposed to the amateur-share-everything nature of Instagram. I guess I see Flickr as more of a photography-sharing site instead of a social media site.

  2. I absolutely agree that they should, what i was trying to say is they don’t do it well enough. I’d like to ask what you think about Flickr? This platform was quite promising lately, but now nobody seems to care about it. Do you see any potential in it, or it is just left to die?

  3. Thanks for your feedback! To clarify, I was referring to the fact that brands should take advantage of the video option. Most companies solely stick with images and never develop video content to share with their social following.

  4. Great tips, thanks for the post! the only thing i can’t agree completely is about the videos. My experience shows that it’s not always a good thing to post, unless you’ve got something really special.

  5. Hey JD,
    According to this article by Business Insider, Instagram outranks Facebook and Twitter in terms of prestige among young users. Furthermore, unlike Pinterest, the platform is more gender-balanced (boasting almost 50/50 male-female users). Google+ is great, but I wouldn’t use it primarily for picture content (more for community engagement, etc). Given their photo-centric natures, Instagram and Pinterest are great places for businesses to showcase their products in a visual format.

  6. Instagram seems to be the secondary or further down the line resource for picture content. Any idea of the demographics of users and numbers? I think G+ with its totality and because its part of the big search guys, Google is one of the best places to use? As it becomes more second nature to people I think Facebook will have some degradation. Comments?

  7. Awesome post! Very useful information. I’m writing a blog for my class and I wrote a post about hashtags. It’s no where near as informative as yours, but upon researching hashtags, I learned how important they can be for businesses trying to market themselves!

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