5 ways your business needs to be using Instagram

Estimated reading time: 8 mins

Since its inception in 2010 Instagram has exploded. 9 years on and Instagram has an incredible 1 billion active accounts logging in, posting, liking and commenting on posts. Put this into context, Instagram is part of 1 out 7 people’s monthly life. If you’re not already using Instagram then you need to be, if you are already and are struggling to see any benefit then this article will outline the 5 key ways your business needs to be using Instagram. To top it all off, one third of people on Instagram admit they bought an item that they originally saw on the platform.

Organic posts

Using Instagram successfully needn’t be an arduous or expensive task but having a strong Instagram presence is invaluable. There are some great ways you can put together a fun and interesting Instagram feed which work less well on Facebook. For example, when viewing an Instagram profile, you will notice that it is styled in a grid layout with 3 posts per row. What can look great is having one image divided into 3 or 6 individual posts, so that when your profile is viewed as a whole, so too is the original image. The same idea applies if you wanted one single post that you can swipe to reveal the next section of the image, Instagram allows up to 10 images or videos per one single post. This is a great way to share a mini photo album, or many photos and videos for a specific topic or event.

In 2016 Instagram changed the way the main feed is structured, switching from a reverse-chronological feed to one centred around engagement. Instagram uses 3 main ranking features to determine what appears in a user’s feed – relationship between users; interest in previous posts; timelines. This has all been done in a bid to increase time spent on the platform, which in the long run, benefits marketers as more ads will be seen. Here at Upbeat we strongly believe that a powerful and relevant Instagram account will eventually benefit the performance of your ads.

Tagging Products

If you haven’t already, make sure you have a business Instagram account, it’s simple to do and unlocks a whole host of extra features that personal accounts are not privy to. Arguably the most important of these features is the ability to tag products from your online store. You can sell directly from your organic posts! This invaluable feature allows for customers to tap a post and see information about that product including price and name, after clicking the tag itself they will be redirected to this product on your website and be able to purchase. What’s even better is that in March Instagram introduced an in-app checkout feature to a select few retail partners, meaning that customers could purchase via the product tag without even leaving Instagram. Now that is an extremely powerful feature and one that will continue to be expanded to other businesses over time.

The beauty of this feature is that it is easy to set up. After converting account to a business Instagram account, you need to meet the following criteria: complying with Instagram’s merchant agreements and commerce policies; have a connected Facebook page; sell physical goods; have a business account connected to a Facebook catalogue. If you meet these conditions, then applying for shopping on Instagram is as easy as going to Settings > Business > Shopping > Continue > Connect a product catalogue. Once that’s been done you can begin tagging your organic posts with products and make it that bit easier for customers to buy.

The age of Influence

If you’re not in a position for a paid influencer campaign but can spare a few units of stock here and there, why not look at influencer marketing content? A staggering 83% of Instagram users reported that seeing a friend post something related to a specific brand is influential in their decision to browse that business on Instagram. A study found that 80% of marketers determined an influencer marketing strategy to be effective, causing influencers to become a near $2 billion industry. Using an influencer inspires an element of trust in a user as their posts are perceived to be more genuine than posts or ads that you as a business may put out on your social media platforms.

Working with influencers is also useful when trying to reach a wider, perhaps more specific audience. Influencers command respect from a niche audience who actively take an interest in their life, so much so they are recognised as experts in their various fields of interest. With all those Instagram users, there’s bound to be an influencer who is the right fit for your brand so start the conversation and see where it might take you. Finding that right influencer for your brand could be the start of a successful business relationship, and they may even unlock the doors to even more influencers willing to advocate for your brand.

Instagram has recently introduced branded content tools allowing influencers to have total clarity with their followers, building further trust in the content they produce. The content produced by these influencers can then in turn be repurposed into your own ads! These “Branded Content Ads” would then continue in the same vein of authenticity and authority that these Instagram users command. This tactic would work especially well if it were a viral post that you were turning into an ad, as you can be rest assured of its performance.

Instagram stories

One of Instagram’s more recent additions to the platform is Instagram stories, introduced in August 2016. Potentially a move to rival Snapchat, the stories function of Instagram has grown exponentially to become an integral part of the platform. In January Instagram announced that 500 million accounts use stories daily and 1/3 of the most viewed stories come from businesses, with 50% of businesses worldwide sharing at least one story in a typical month. These pieces of vertically optimised photo and video content have become a necessity for businesses, but how can you make these effective?

With the focus here being engagement, there are various types of “stickers” you can use on your stories to get your audience interacting with your brand. These include creating a poll; asking questions; adding a countdown; adding a rating slider; creating a quiz. One example of these stickers in use could be as simple as adding a rating slider to a behind the scenes photo, encouraging your followers to rate your latest collection. How about running an Instagram stories competition with the quiz function, asking a series of questions with the opportunity of winning a prize or experience. Alternatively, use a countdown to get people excited for a new product launch – the beauty of these being the fact that users can subscribe to your countdown event or even share it on their own story! One of the most used stories features is the poll sticker, an element that has now been added to ads manager for use in stories ads! The best part is, it’s no more difficult to add a poll to an Instagram story. Start by selecting just stories in the placements section at the ad set level.

Then, when you come to the ad creative you will have the option to add an interactive poll. Simply tick the box and fill out the question, options, shape and position of the sticker.

Instagram ads

After being acquired by Facebook in 2012 the obvious next step was introducing Instagram to the Facebook ads network which began in the US only in 2013, progressing worldwide by 2015. This of course means that all the ad formats available for Facebook, are too for Instagram. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need an Instagram business page! With one click you can run the same ads you’re running on Facebook on Instagram as well. This provides an excellent opportunity for any businesses selling products that depend on their aesthetic to shine.

A good Instagram advertising campaign can begin with something as simple as a photo, these ads appear like organic posts just with a “Sponsored” tag and a call-to-action that appears at the bottom of the post itself. However, a greatInstagram advertising campaign converts with video, an ad format that achieves 48% more views than just an image and a consumption rate increasing by 100% each year. Mark Zuckerberg himself has described this phenomenon as a “megatrend”. Why not even take it a step further and combine a video with an “Collection” ad that once interacted with opens either to a full-screen product catalogue or website of choice. This dynamic ad format allows the user to explore the product catalogue or website without ever leaving the Instagram app. These Collection ads are great for storytelling, driving conversions or a combination of the two! Whether your aim is to convey a message or simply get people to purchase these ads should be all about personality and Instagram is the best place to celebrate your brand’s look and feel.

The best Instagram ads don’t really look like ads at all, they blend seamlessly into the feed but without compromising the message or call-to-action. It is also wise to keep a level of consistency, not just on Instagram but throughout each marketing channel, so prospective customers can instantly recognise your brand and make the connection. With users spending an average of 53 minutes on Instagram per day, take time to build connections with your audience and respond to comments on your organic posts and ads. It may even be the case that some ads and campaigns garner greater results on Instagram. When reviewing ads be sure to use ads manager’s “Breakdown” option and select By Delivery > Placement to get an insight into the metrics by platform. If you’re getting a lot of traction, simply switch your ad placements to Instagram only and see if you save yourself money.


Instagram is an incredibly versatile platform and can be used with great success. The earnest on you here is to adapt your marketing campaigns to be Instagram-friendly. Having a strong idea on the outcomes you are trying to achieve as a business, while also being contextual may seem like a hard task. What will set you apart from the rest is how visually engaging your Instagram business account is, so be creative! How will you use Instagram going forward? Let us know in the comments below!

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