Over the last few years, Instagram has exploded into one of the most popular social media networks. It’s utilized by over 500 million people every day, the majority of whom are under 35 (71%). Instagram is often viewed by its users as a channel for inspiration and discovery of new things, which makes it a great avenue for small businesses to market, and even sell, their products and services.

Due to its somewhat younger field of users, the platform is certainly not for every business. However, for those whose target audiences align with the platform, it can be a valuable tool for building brand awareness, connecting with customers and highlighting your most unique offerings.

According to Instagram, there are 25 million businesses profile worldwide, and over 2 million advertisers who utilize the platform to share stories and drive business results. Additionally, the company reports that 60% of people have found a new product on Instagram.

If you’re looking to incorporate Instagram into your small business’s social media plan, here are a few steps to help you get started.

Download the Instagram App

In order to use the platform, you first need to download the app, which is available on mobile, tablets and computers within the App Store, Google Play and the Windows app stores. The app is convenient for posting content anywhere and anytime and offers additional features that require plug-ins on a desktop.

Create Your Account

When creating your Instagram account, you’ll have two options. The first is to sign up using an email address or phone number and creating a username. The second option, which is recommended, is to link it to your Facebook account. That way, you’ll use the same information to login to both accounts and the content can be cross-promoted on each channel.

Set Up & Customize Your Profile

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll then be able to set up your free business profile. With this profile, you’ll be able to view real-time performance stats on your stories and posts. You can also gain insight into how users are interacting with the content that you’re posting. There are many unique features available to businesses that regular users don’t have access to.

This step is also where you will add in relevant information about your business, including hours of operation, address, business category and phone number. You can also add custom components, like photographs, a company bio and a link to your website.

Get Creative with Your Content

Now that you’ve set up your profile, it’s time to start creating content. Remember, Instagram is a predominantly visual platform, which means that the content you create should be visually appealing. This leaves a lot of room for creativity, giving you’re a great opportunity to really tell your story and bring out the unique components of your brand that set it apart.

The great part about Instagram is that you don’t have to be a photography expert to take quality pictures. You can utilize Instagram filters to breathe new life into your photos. Additionally, there are many different content formats available for businesses. A few options include a carousel post, which shares up to ten images in a single post, 60-second videos, or GIFs (short clips).

Don’t be afraid to repost content from brands that fall into your business category. Just make sure that it fits your target audience and that you receive permission and give credit to the original poster.

Utilize Hashtags

Instagram hashtags help organize and categorize various content on the platform. They also assist in helping users find specific content. A post can have up to 30 hashtags, and you want to make sure that they are relevant to your products and services so that users who search for these hashtags can find your business easily.

To find out popular hashtags, you can conduct various searches on Instagram and see what pops up. You should also look to your competitors and leaders in your industry for the hashtags they’re utilizing most often.  Instagram Insights can even tell you how your hashtags are performing (through likes, comments, impressions saves and reach), so you can determine what works best with your content.

Additionally, you can opt to follow certain hashtags on the platform so you can stay updated on these topics.

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