I had a young college student ask me for some tips on Instagram because her employer has asked her to take over their Instagram account, and she had only used it on a personal level. How we use Instagram absolutely depends on the product, service, audience, etc., but I really think these tips should help anyone who is just getting starting with a business account. They’re in no particular order!

1. Create a hashtag that you’ll use with every post that is reflective of your business–hashtags is one of the main ways your account will be found.

  • Keep in mind whether there are other locations or businesses that yours might be confused with, and use location as part of the hashtag. For example, there are several Harbor House restaurants around the world, so the San Diego restaurant uses both the #HarborHouse and #HarborHouseSD hashtags. The SD one reflects the location, but by also using the other, the restaurant also has a chance of being “found” by a larger group of people.
  • Search on hashtags using https://www.hashatit.com to see if the hashtag you want to use is already in use.

2. Look at what hashtags similar businesses, the competition, and industry are using—and use them also. 

  • Also use variations on the hashtags that are a bit more unique. Some are totally over-used, so it makes it harder for your posts to be seen. #SanDiego, for example is one of the most used hashtags (so popular people who aren’t in SD use it!). 
  • See what the “top Instagram hashtags” are: http://top-hashtags.com/instagram/ 

3. In your initial post* how many hashtags to use for “maximum impact” is different depending on which expert you listen to, but 5-11 seems to be the range. However, you can then add a comment with numerous other tags, and your post will still be found by all the tags attached to it.

  • This also makes your post more visually appealing to followers in their feed—there’s nothing worse than hashtag overload!
  • Use a notes app on your phone to store your most used hashtags so you don’t have to re-type them every time you post.
    * Instagram now “auto-completes” hashtags (& lists similar ones) as you enter them in the initial post (only – not in comments), so you can see how many times the tags are being used. 

4. Each time you log in to post, I recommend searching on your top hashtags first. This will show you posts your guests or customers might have posted of or about your business. 

  • Go through and like all of them, at a minimum—but make comments on as many of them as you can to show your appreciation. 
  • Repost the good images, and give the initial poster attribution. This gives you more content (“user generated content”), and people LOVE being highlighted for their photography! 
  • NOTE: Some people will include your location in their post (like a check-in), but haven’t used your hashtag, and you do NOT get notifications on those posts, so seek those out in the posts that have used both… it was a goldmine of content once I figured this out.

5. Good community / social media managers are also relationship-builders. In addition to liking posts using your hashtag, you should also be regularly following those people who you think are good, and who might be following your account also. 

  • Make sure to like a handful of posts by those you are following whenever you log in. 
  •  Also make comments on those posts you like—they should be genuine, though—so you don’t need to overdo it. 

6. What to post & how often? Visually appealing photos get the most activity, period. 

  • Colorful product photos, scenery… along with clever words—make your caption brief, and try to use your business hashtag within the sentence structure. 
  • Mix in some videos in your posts if it makes sense for your business—Instagram has them auto-play in the feed. 
  • Do not post a bunch of images all in-a-row because that’s the quickest way to get un-followed! How many will depend on your business–I typically post just one per day (5-6 days per week) for my client’s accounts.

7. Be sure to reply to every person who comments on your posts. 

  • Make your comments personal based on what they have written, and know that you have to use their handle in order for them to get a notification. 
  • To include their handle, swipe left on the comment, and click the arrow–this will add their handle w/o having to re-write it.
  • Many times people will just say “Great!” or post a thumbs-up emoji, and for them it’s okay to reply “Thanks” in one comment using all their handles. 

8. If you’ve noticed you made a mistake after you’ve posted, you can edit your post (yea!)—click the three little dots to the right of the heart and comment bubble, and click edit.

  • You cannot edit comments, so if you need to edit your own comment, you’ll need to delete it and re-write it. 
  • You do have the ability to delete comments that other people have made—occasionally people will spam your posts, so you can either report them (which will delete the comment) or simply delete.

9. The only “hot link” (clickable URL) you can have in Instagram is in your bio.

  • Normally you would want this to be a link to your Website or blog, but if you’re running a contest or have some information that’s particularly important (like a press release), you can always switch it up. 

10. Instagram provides the ability to simultaneously post to different social platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr. 

  • Unfortunately, either the Twitter or Instagram engine gets confused… So, if you’re managing multiple accounts, that post can go to the wrong Twitter account! 
  • As a workaround, I recommend posting to Twitter separately — I copy the initial post after I write it, put it into the notepad file, copy out the additional hashtags in a comment, and then post it to Twitter. 
Of course, this isn’t everything, but hopefully it’s a good start as you get going with Instagram! And perhaps even you veterans learned something new? If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments, and perhaps I’ll use them in a future post. 

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