Instagram for Business: Dos and Don'ts

Updated on December 12, 2017
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

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As I continue my Instagram for business experiment, here are some dos and don’ts that I’ve discovered.

DO Try to Keep Your Usernames Consistent and Check for Your Old Instagram Accounts

What username do you use on Twitter, Facebook Business Page, etc.? If available, use that name on your Instagram profile for business, too. This helps build your brand and makes it easier for people to remember you.

Way back in 2010, when Instagram was but months old, I set up an account with my preferred username that I use consistently across platforms.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I pretty much abandoned the Insta-verse since I couldn’t see any relevance for my business at the time. So when I tried to get going again in 2017 via Facebook (which acquired Instagram), the system didn't recognize me as the owner of my original account. I couldn’t remember any of my login info either after about seven years. Duh! So I set up a new account. But then I finally was able to resurrect my old account info. Yay... but now I had two accounts. Boo! And you can’t merge Instagram accounts. Double boo!

I had to invite my newfound Instagram tribe to follow me on my original account with my preferred username. Luckily, I made this switch before I racked up thousands of followers on the second account. And most of my loyal social media pals, from Instagram and other channels, have now started following me on my original account.

I’ve also noticed that other pals in my network have multiple accounts with likely the same problem. As a user, it’s difficult to figure out which one to follow. Generally, I go with the one that has the most posts since that signals activity. I also note that some have both a personal and a business Instagram presence. Depending on the person, I’ll follow one or the other, or both.

So if you think you have an Instagram account floating about somewhere, do your best to deactivate or delete any dormant accounts and direct your followers to the account(s) you want them to follow BEFORE you start building your Instagram presence.

DO Complete Your Profile Bio

As you should do for any other social media channel you want to use for business, PLEASE complete your profile bio! I can’t believe the number of Instagram accounts that are completely blank. When I get a new follower, I always check out their bio to see if it’s someone worth following back. I typically don’t follow someone without a bio since it looks like a scam/spam/bot account.

But here are a couple of "don'ts" when it comes to filling in your profile:

Don't Use Too Many Emojis. Like hashtags, emojis are perfectly acceptable in the Insta-verse. But if your bio is almost all emojis, it would be difficult to figure out anything about you, especially for business. Remember that emojis are meant to replace or enhance conversation, not be a substitute for branding.

Don't Include Useless Statements. Avoid overused and meaningless statements such as, “Seeking love, peace, and joy." Wow, you’re so special. No one else wants that. (*sarcasm*)

DO Monitor What Type of Content Your Followers Like

So far for me, it’s been pretty consistent across the board in terms of likes on types of content: videos, photos, and infographics. Since my follower mix and trends may change, I’m going to monitor the “like” level over time to determine when and if a content change is needed. Suggest you do likewise with your Instagram accounts.

DO Use Hashtags

I’ve noticed that my posts with hashtags get more engagement that those that don’t. Like Twitter, Instagram is a massive search engine and has a culture acclimated to using hashtags... sometimes LOTS of them.

To add hashtags to your posts, start by typing the “#” symbol and a keyword that you think might work. For example, I post about writing and publishing. So when I type in a # and “writer,” Instagram will show a list of hashtags that use it, showing how many posts use it. This can help you figure out which hashtags are most used and could have a significant Instagram community. Then to add it to your post, all you need to do it tap on the hashtag you’d like to add. Repeat for additional hashtags.

I typically use about five to 10 hashtags in most of my posts. But I have friends who use 20 or more in each post!

Because Instagram shows only the first couple of lines of the caption message for your photo or video, add the hashtags at the end of your post. Your followers will definitely see the important part of your message as they scroll through their feeds, instead of a blur of hashtags.

DON’T Use a “Follow Back” Tactic to Build Your Instagram Following

The lame “follow me back” tactic is a throwback to the early days of social media circa 2009. Don’t follow a ton of people in the hopes that they will follow you back. And don’t expect the big celebrities to follow you back either. Follow only users that you really want to see in your Instagram feed, regardless of whether they follow you back or not.

Also, if you follow thousands of people and you only have a few followers, you look like either a bot (robot) or a spammer. Try to keep your follower to following ratio close, at least in the beginning. Later on, you’ll want your follower number to be high (very high!) compared to the smaller, carefully selected number of people you follow.

DON'T Automatically Follow Instagram's Suggestions

Like Facebook, Instagram will make suggestions for you to follow. These can be helpful. But I don’t automatically click the Follow button in the suggestion list. The Instagram algorithm bots are trying to figure out who’s a good fit for you and they can dredge up a lot of accounts that have the remotest of connections to you. Instead, I click on the user’s name to view the profile and figure out if it’s right for me before following.

DO Try Instagram Stories (And Keep Practicing!)

Instagram Stories are similar to Snapchat’s story feature. Posts disappear after 24 hours. For business, this prevents loading up your profile with a lot of posts that are of a temporary nature (for example, an announcement about a sale or special you’re offering). And it gives a bit of “here’s what’s happening now” immediacy to the post.

However, because of all the filter tools of the Stories feature, it does take practice! Good thing the less than perfect posts will disappear after 24 hours. Plus, you can delete them right away if you really don’t like them.

To get an idea of what’s possible with stories, start following some of the top celebrities on Instagram. Many of them use stories every day. So you’ll get some ideas of what’s possible with polls, text, video effects, stickers, etc.

Word of caution: Some celebs and even regular people use Stories way too much! So when you go to view them, they have a string of story posts that take forever to view. If each one post is 15 seconds, and they have 20 story posts within 24 hours, that's 5 minutes of content. Next! I just sit through the first couple posts and then swipe to someone else's story. You can tell how many story posts a user has by looking at the top of their first story post. Each post will be shown as a dash. If the top is a string of teeny, tiny dashes, that means there are a LOT of posts to sit through! As a user, I find that 4 story posts within 24 hours is easily tolerable.

I would say that this has been the most challenging aspect of Instagram so far. As well, I seem to get more engagement with standard posts. But that could change in the future. Stay tuned and follow my Instagram adventure at @heidithorne!

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Donna! Glad you found it useful. At some point in the future, I can so see you jumping in the Instagram pool (in addition to Pinterest where you rock!). Hope you're having a fun and joyful holiday season so far! Cheers!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 4 months ago from USA

      Hi Heidi - I don't use Instagram (at least not yet), but this hub includes great information for beginners and current Instagram users. Great advice about following back, hashtags, and Instagram stories. Thanks for sharing and posting!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks, Linda, for reading and commenting, as always! Hope you're having a great weekend, too!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Bill, I don't see you as an Instagrammer either. But, hey, maybe somewhere down the road. You definitely have an interest in photography and it's tailor made for it. Thanks for stopping by and you have a great weekend, too!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You shared some helpful advice for people who have an Instagram account or who want to have one. I hope you're having a good weekend, Heidi.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never done Instagram and honestly I just don't see myself doing it. I've got too many other things going on right now....but great information and I'll stick this in your folder for later use if I need it. Thank you and Happy Weekend to you!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Flourish, I was so bummed when I learned I couldn't merge accounts. Ack! So I hope it helps some others who inadvertently created multiple accounts over the years. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful weekend!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      Terrific advice and it’s great to know the disadvantages like not being able to merge accounts.

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