How to Use Instagram for Business and Brand

  •    digital marketer and writer in New York. She specializes in social media, web development, and publishing. Say hello in 140 characters @melissajohill.

Instagram is a powerful tool for leveraging brand awareness and building community around your business. In fact, many brands are creating content marketing plans around the now-ubiquitous app -- and achieving results. With over 300 million people using and checking Instagram, there’s absolutely no reason not to add this free tool to your social media marketing kit.

In today’s post, we’ll go over your options for using Instagram for business, and how the photo-sharing platform's suit of free tools can help you attract new customers.

Getting Started

Getting started on Instagram is as simple as downloading the app on your phone and setting up an account. When using Instagram for business, put thought and effort into creating high quality curated posts that convey your brand's values and aesthetics.

In other words, don't snap photos of your dinner and dog, unless they further your brand agenda. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than your desk drawer: Sharpie has a effective and well crafted Instagram stream. Free People also mastered the art of the Instagram for its lifestyle brand. Even fast food restaurant Taco Bell gets it. Yes, you heard us, Taco Bell.

Taco Bell keeps it casual, upbeat and fun. Posting photos of young people relaxing, laughing, eating #TacoBellTuseday and getting creative with external restaurant shots.

Free People knows their niche craves travel and highly values freedom and style. To that end, they curate gorgeous landscapes using the hashtag #ontheroad, they have a #fpmeweeklystylist hashtag they use for editorial-style fashion shots, and they find and post images to inspire a Free People lifestyle and sense of community around their brand.

Following, Commenting, Liking and Hashtags

After your business feed gets started, you need to follow and interact with your community as much as possible. Luckily, Instagram makes this painless and easy to manage. In the same way that Facebook gives you the option to “Like” a post, Instagram allows users to ability to heart and comment on posts.

You can tag your photos with a brand or product name, catchy phrase or slogan to build buzz and community around your posts. Make sure you use the search functions to find photos of your customers using your products — like and comment on those as well.

Developing Your Brand Style

The key to standing out on Instagram is developing a consistent photographic style and mastering it. Like other forms of social media, simply showing up regularly is the baseline for your brand to remain relevant. If your goal is for Instagram to boost brand awareness, you need to work a little harder to create a buzzworthy photo stream. Ask yourself, what is my brand's community interested in? What do they value? What sorts of images reflect those values? Make a list of five or six kinds of images to curate and post, along with relevant hashtags, and make sure to give yourself the time and tools to take those creative photos.

Instagram has proven its app has staying power in the ever-growing mobile market. And for now, the ability to send strong, visual cues and share your brand message is as free and easy as pressing the shutter button on your phone.

Photo Credit: Leo Hidalgo/Creative Commons