20 Tips for Using Instagram

June 5, 2014

Instagram continues to grow (150 million active monthly users by the end of 2013), and with the rising impact of visual content, we should expect this site’s popularity to reach even higher levels this year!  So if your target audience is already on Instagram, you think your target audience might start using Instagram, or you want to show a more “personal” side to you/your business, then this is a network worth joining.

The following 20 tips for using Instagram will help if you are just starting out or you are looking for ways to optimize an existing account.


1. Know your purpose

How are you using Instagram? Is your account for content that is personal, strictly business or a mix of the two? Your content goals and strategy are dependent upon the of type account you are maintaining. (The actual set-up is the same no matter how you are using your account.)  

If you are just starting out on Instagram, I don’t recommend two accounts (one personal, one business), just because of the time involved;unless you have a staff to devote to each account.

Tip: Check out a few Instagram profiles of people/brands you follow on other social sites to see how they are using it.

2. Choose a username that will make it easy for people to search for you

Think of using your Twitter username or the company name displayed on your other social accounts.

Then fill out your bio with keywords, calls-to-action and information about what you’ll be sharing on this account.

3. Put a schedule in place to remain consistent

You’ll find that most people post just a few photos each day. I’ve unfollowed several people who’ve posted a large number of photos all at once…I don’t want to see that much from just one account; it’s more fun to see images from a variety of users on Instagram.

I recommend starting out with a maximum of 1-2 photos a day: you won’t overwhelm yourself or your followers.

4. Experiment with different types of content, not just photos

You can use simple text-only graphics for special announcements (sales, offers, blog posts, business events), tips, motivational quotes or even promos for your other sites (e.g. “connect with us on Twitter too @yourusername” ).

Here are a few photo ideas for your business account:

  • Behind-the-scenes photos/video of your company office

  • Photos/videos of your employees and customers

  • Photos/videos of things that are unique to your business or brand (blatant promotion of products/services is frowned upon, so like any other social site, don’t use Instagram for constant self-promotion )

  • A contest: ask Followers to take a photo or video (with a theme), then tag your business profile or use a specific hashtag. See Instagram’s guidelines for running a contest on the site here: http://help.instagram.com/393313264071311/ – Promotion Guidelines

  • Images/video from a live Event (and use a unique hashtag)


1. Get more followers by putting a Badge on your website

Use instagram.com or another web dashboard (like Webstagram or Statigram) to create a “Follow me” badge. You can also use Apps to create an Instagram gallery for your website or an Instagram Tab on your Facebook Page.

2. Use your Instagram account as a quick and easy way to share photos on your Facebook Page

It gives Fans a way to connect with you through images: a behind-the-scenes look at your business, happy customers with your products or your local area/events.

Go to your Instagram Account/Preferences – then go to Share/Sharing settings – then choose the Facebook option – and then choose a Page (Share to).

Photos won’t post automatically; you’ll have to click on “Facebook” when you are ready to share a new Instagram image.

3. Build your Instagram habit into your daily routine

You (or the staff assigned) will become an “amateur” photographer as you grow your Instagram community. If you’re like me, and have never been much of a photographer before, this can be a challenge!

So here are a few ideas to help:

  • Give yourself a goal of taking 1 good photo a day – just like anything else, you’ll get better with practice.

  • Take note of some of the more popular types of photos or themes on Instagram and adopt them – sunrise/sunset photos, #Caturday shots on Saturdays, “throwback” shots on Thursdays, etc.  Use Statigram to check out the most popular “tags” (hashtags).

 4. Add your Instagram content to your editorial calendar

If you go to an event or spend the day at a local landmark, make sure you take several great shots that you can use for more than one day’s worth of posts.

Or set aside time in your schedule to take lots of behind-the-scene shots at your office, and then share them one at a time over several weeks.

Build Your Community 

1. Invite others to your Instagram account

In addition to sharing your Instagram photos on Facebook, Twitter, etc., come right out and ask people to connect with you: “Connect with me on Instagram at (your account link or username), where I share….” Or “Are you on Instagram? Let’s connect – I’m at (your account link or username)”.

You can find virtual Instagram networking events and connect with new users; I’ve attended a few on Facebook (similar to Fan Page Friday events or ladders). In Facebook, search on the hashtag #Instagram to find them.

2. Use hashtags to get more people to see your images

Hashtags are used much more frequently on Instagram than on other sites. It’s common to see users putting 6 or more hashtags in the caption of one photo. Using hashtags will get more people to view your photos, so don’t be afraid to use them. Just make sure that your hashtags have some relevance to the photo.

Be careful of how many hashtags you place on an Instagram image if you share it to another site; 10 hashtags on one post do not go over as well on other sites, like Facebook.

Tip: Check out the most popular hashtags on Statigram and try to use some of them in your posts (if they are relevant).

3. Build Relationships 

When users Like and Comment on your photos, comment back, visit their profiles and Follow them if they seem like a good fit for your account.

Comment on other users’ photos – not many people leave comments, so this can make you stand out (as long as you leave a thoughtful comment and not something that looks like spam).

Tip: To respond/reply to someone who has left a comment on your post, start your reply with @theirusername.  For example, my username on Instagram is @terryleague so if I left a comment on someone else’s photo he/she could then leave a comment (reply) for me that starts with “@terryleague” and then I’ll get a notification.

You can also do a search on keywords or #hashtags and look for people to follow (who are using those keywords/hashtags in their photos/bio).

You can “tag” other users in your photos. Click on the Add People box and tap the photo to start entering username(s). Other users can tag you (or your business) as well. Those photos will show up in the Photos of You tab (on your profile page, the tab with the headshot icon) .

The default setting for the Photos of You tab automatically uploads photos you are tagged in, but if you want to turn off the automatic upload, then turn on the “Manual” option. Here are 3 easy steps:

    1. Go to your profile and tap the icon for the Photos of You tab.

    2. Tap the Android menu icon or the iPhone wrench icon in the top-right corner.

    3. Tap Add Manually

4. Host an Instagram Challenge

Encourage users to post photos based on a theme, using a unique hashtag to “tag” the photos. It can be just for fun or you can turn it into a contest for your business.

Tip: Do some research before choosing a hashtag for your challenge/contest to make sure your hashtag isn’t already in use for some un-related purpose.

5. Join an Instagram Challenge someone else is hosting to make new connections

You can use the Explore tab (or web dashboard like Webstagram or Statigram) to search hashtags like #photochallenge and then check out the results for a challenge you might want to join.

If you participate in a Challenge, check out the other participants and reach out to those who interest you.

6. Share exclusive content

Use Instagram to share coupon codes, special tips, video clips from happy customers, etc…that you do not share on your other social sites.

7. Find industry leaders or influencers

Use the Explore tab to search by topic or username for people/brands that are at the top of your industry; browse their Followers and follow any who seem like a good fit for you/your business.

Optimize your Account (for Business) 

1. Put your website (or most important site) URL in your profile

You get one “clickable” link in your profile, so make sure it is the one you want to drive traffic to. You can edit your website field as many times as you want, so if you are running a promotion/sale, change your website link as needed.

2.  Create a location page if you have a local business 

[New] 2.  Use Instagram Direct to communicate with your community

 [Update 5/20/14: We're adding this tip to replace the original tip #2.] 

You can now send a direct message to up to 15 users at a time, and they do not have to be current Followers. This feature can be used in a variety of ways: to send a thank-you to new Followers, to alert top Fans of specials, to ask for feeedback from top Fans, etc.

3. Use Instagram video to peak users’ interest 

Use the short video function (a maximum of 15 seconds) as a “teaser” for longer videos or products. Create several videos as part of an instructional, how-to series.

If you have the resources and imagination, get creative with videos that build on a theme or show a unique aspect of your business.

4. Use Statigram Iconosquare to analyze your community 

[Update 5/20/14: Statigram is now called Iconosquare]

Two helpful tools on the Iconosquare dashboard allow you to: (1) Compare your current posting habits to the days/times your community interacts and (2) Compare your Hashtag (called “Tags”) usage to the top 100 Tags used on Instagram.

Go to Iconosquare’s Statistics – Optimization tabs and then check out the sections on Best Time to Post and Tag Impact to find out when your followers are on the network and how many of the most popular tags are used on your posts.

View these stats and then make changes in your posting habits to get your pictures in front of your community, while using some of the top Tags (if they are relevant to your photo).

Check out these additional resources

For more information on guidelines, frequently asked questions and business accounts, visit the Instagram blog’s official site and help center:

http://help.instagram.com/477434105621119/  – Community Guidelines

http://instagram.com/about/legal/terms/ – Terms of Service

http://help.instagram.com/454502981253053/ – Instagram for Businesses

http://blog.instagram.com/ – Official Instagram Blog

So take a few of these tips, test them out on your Instagram account and let me know how they work for you!

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