A smart phone sits on a wooden surface. Text reads "Five Ways to Use Instagram As a Business"

Instagram is on its way to becoming the norm for businesses, but it’s not always clear exactly how or if a business should start an account. Now, not everyone needs to be on Instagram, but every business can be. If that’s a choice you’ve made for your business, you may be seeing good results, or you may be feeling like maybe Instagram wasn’t such a good fit after all. I truly believe every business can be successful on Instagram, but they won’t all be successful in the same ways.

Below I’ve made a list of five primary goals a business can have on Instagram that will influence what they post and why they post. Having a clear idea of what your goal on Instagram is will be vital to getting the engagement that you want. To be successful, the goal needs to make sense for your business and make sense for the type of content you can create.

Instagram post by Birdfolk Collective. Features a woman from the waist down holding a gray bag.Direct Sales

Some businesses just naturally work well when it comes to selling things on Instagram. If you have a beauty-related product like bath bombs, earrings, home goods, clothing, or something that just looks beautiful in photos, Instagram is an easy seller. It can work almost the same way a product page on a website does. Of course, we all want our business to be in the direct sales category, but if your customer isn’t on Instagram and your product doesn’t lend itself to being photographed, this one might not be your primary goal.

People love to see smiling faces, beautifully decorated homes, and happy dogs. This kind of content works well for direct sales, meaning you post a photo of your product or someone interacting with your product and it’s going to pique the interest of someone scrolling on their phone. So many brands from Sand Cloud to MeUndies do precisely this, get photos of people in their clothes and using their products and it translates directly to new customers making a purchase. Our local Instagram crush for the Direct Sales category is Birdfolk Collective. Check out their Instagram to see the kind of photos they take and how they make sure their products are Instagram ready to maximize direct sales to Instagram users.

We know Instagram tends to have a teen and twenty-something audience, so if you’re selling a product worn or used by that age group, it makes even more sense to be on Instagram. Get pictures of young, happy people with your product and boom; you’ve got perfect content that blends into Instagram and pulls in the likes. You can do photoshoots and generate content yourself, or you can spotlight your existing customers by reposting their photos, just be sure to get permission and give them credit.

If direct sales is your goal, you want to build a following of the people that want to buy your products. Gaining local followers for a brick and mortar store is a must, or gathering a more global following for online orders. Use links in your Instagram Bio, links in your story, and link tags in your photos. You want likes and follows on each post, but ultimately, you want your followers to click the link and make the purchase. Always give them opportunities to make that click so you can make the sale.

Instagram post by Insightsvt featuring a laptop with an instagram feed.Stamp of Approval

Not every business has a product that makes sense to sell on Instagram. This might mean there are other social platforms for you to focus on sales, but Instagram still has value. Building credibility and maintaining a stamp of approval is actually the primary goal that Insights has when we use our Instagram.

Basically, people might not buy your product or service from your Instagram account, but they might visit it before making a purchase. Think about how it looks when you go to a business account on Instagram and see thousands of followers and a stunning and cohesive set of pictures. It builds confidence and gives the business an extra boost of professionalism. On the flipside, if a potential customer finds only a handful of followers on your Instagram, it immediately lowers the value of your product, business, or service in their mind.

A successful Instagram can speak volumes to how you operate as a business, your modernization, and who knows, maybe a new customer will find you through your account after all. Just because the stamp of approval is your primary goal, does not mean that a few benefits from the other categories won’t fall into your lap. Just focus on building your following and engagement through consistent, quality posts that look cohesive and professional. The InsightsVt Instagram is always full of tips for marketing yourself on social media and turning a service or product into an Instagram post, even when you don’t really have something to photograph.

Instagram post by the Forge Gym featuring a man working out with chains around his torso.Loyalty and Community

We’ve seen this style work for gyms, schools, and other community programs. Parents love to see pictures of their kids having fun at summer camp, gym members like to get inspiration and tips even when they’re at home, and locals want to know what’s happening in the businesses around town.

This type of posting can keep people loyal, happy, and engaged. Don’t always be pushing deals for new members or things people who already use your service would know, but demonstrate the importance of community and why you value the people already in your circle. This will increase comments and engagement.

The Forge Gym is a spectacular local example of building relationships through social media. They constantly post workouts from their gym, re-post their members, and interact with other local businesses on Instagram. Check out their content style for some ideas on how to build a community and create positivity surrounding your business.

If you’re working to create loyalty and community, it needs to be at the heart of each of your posts. They should have a tone of authenticity and service, not begging people to come visit you or buy your product. People value community and if that’s a strength of your business, then elevate the “social” part of social media by building stronger relationships.

Instagram post by West Hill House featuring a bride and groom standing in front of a red barn.Promotion and Partnership

There are accounts all over Instagram who promote specific states or industries and the majority of their content comes from spotlighting existing businesses and Instagrammers that fall into their market. That means that your post and your business can end up on thousands of phone screens that had never even heard of you, let alone followed you before seeing the photo.

If you’re an event venue, post content that popular wedding, tourist, or lifestyle magazine accounts might want to re-post. Use hashtags and tags that they tend to check out. Don’t bother them too often, but be aware of who is being reposted and spotlighted by these popular accounts and take advantage of it. Any time you can reach more than just your followers, your chance for growth skyrockets.

This post by West Hill B&B is one of the many they’ve had shared and spotlighted by Vermont travel pages, wedding venue accounts, and other profiles with thousands of followers. It’s all about creating a post worthy of those bigger accounts, choosing the right hashtags, and then commenting and thanking them for the feature when they do choose your picture to be re-posted.

If you’re hoping to get these types of promotional spotlights from bigger accounts, give what you want to receive. Think about complementing the posts of your competitors, always liking and commenting on the big account Instagram posts, and generally just being an active member of your industry’s social media community.

Instagram Post by Chad Couto Fitness shows a man in workout gear icing his shoulder.Behind the Curtain

Sometimes customers want to see the man behind the curtain. Social media can be a great way to give people a peek behind the scenes of your business and your life. This is all about being authentic, sharing your journey and struggles, and keeping people updated on what you’re doing as a person and as a business.

This post from Chad Couto Fitness shows him recovering from a marathon and offers tips and advice about how to take care of your body post-workout. It gives you a look into who he is and what he experiences, without going too far and making it feel unprofessional. His followers are there to hear from him, and that’s what he delivers.

Now, we need to always be careful here. There is a fine line between sharing your personality in a way that encourages people to engage with you and oversharing so it looks like a personal page rather than a business. Think about your industry and make sure your posts still reflect your brand.

Physical trainers could post about their own workouts and healthy meals they like to enjoy. Homemade goods could be shown halfway through the process; a half-done quilt or a time-lapse video of a t-shirt being printed. You want to avoid things that might make the customer uncomfortable like the cleanup process or a messy back room. Think about things that you value from other industries and things you wish you had more information on. This behind the curtain approach needs to be done in a way that educates your followers without making them feel like they’ve invaded your home. When done correctly, it can build a strong following.

Final Thoughts

Every Instagram is likely to flow between these categories, sharing a behind the curtain photo to build community, making direct sales after someone gets the stamp of approval, or promoting your account once they felt like they know you better. These aren’t rigid boxes to keep yourself in, but an exercise in really thinking about your account and your content. You should know why you are posting and what you want to accomplish.

Still not sure exactly what might be best for your business or how to accomplish the goal once you’ve picked the one you think works best? Give us a call. I wrote this blog because it’s what I love and we’re ready to help your Instagram work for you in ways you didn’t even know it could.