The Do's and Don'ts of Instagram for Business
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media networks. This means that many of you who previously dismissed the network because you either didn't have time or didn't think it would work for your business are now signing up. As of writing, Instagram is the network that I get the most questions about (wow, someone finally overtook Facebook!). Here are a few do's and don'ts to help you navigate Instagram for business.
Use apps that auto-follow or auto-comment on profiles
These apps violate the Instagram TOS and could get your account banned or deleted. Here are some snippets from the policy that developers have to follow when making an app that connects to Instagram (formatting is mine):
Don't use the Instagram API to simply display User Content, import or backup content, or manage Instagram relationships, without our prior permission.
Ensure your comments are uniquely tailored for each person. Don't post unauthorized commercial communication or spam on Instagram.
Add something unique to the community. Don't use the Instagram APIs to replicate or attempt to replace the functionality or essential user experiences of Instagram.com or any of Instagram's apps.
By downloading, using, or signing up to the service, even though you are not the app developer, you have now also violated Instagram TOS.
If you're wondering how to spot a 'bad' app or software that violates the TOS, this article is an awesome resource which also gives more details about getting banned and what you can do to get un-banned. More details about how to get un-banned here as well.
DON'T VIOLATE COPYRIGHT WHEN reposting content
From the Instagram Community Guidelines:
Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share.
Instagram would prefer that you only share your own original content, but if someone gives you permission to repost something they've put up, that is fine. There are tons of repost apps out there that will watermark an image so there is no doubt that you are not the original poster, however I have some feelings about these apps:
- the watermark often distracts from the aesthetic of the photo
- they will copy the original caption for you to share (handy!) but they will often automatically tag their own account and add branded hashtags (which you may like, or you may get frustrated trying to delete on your phone)
- technically, making a minor alteration to a photo that is not your own and posting it may be a violation of the creator's copyright (see point #6 here)
So, when you want to repost something, here is what I recommend:
- comment on the original post asking if it's ok for you to share
- if they give permission, download the image to your phone and copy/paste the original caption if you feel it will add to the post
- create a new post and DO NOT add any filters or edits to the photo
- write your own caption, giving credit to the original account (and paste in their original caption if appropriate)
Use popular hashtags that are not relevant to your photo or business
It's easy with a quick Google search to find out what the most popular hashtags are. If you're lucky, some of those might actually be relevant to your business or your photo - if they aren't, don't use them - it looks like you are desperate for attention
Play follow/unfollow games
Some people think that the standard of a good Instagram is to be like a celebrity - which often means having a zillion followers but only following a select few people. To achieve this ratio, they go around following tons of people in the hope that those people will follow back. Then the unfollow all of them and hope that they won't notice, making their ratio look 'better'. Then they repeat the process. If you've ever seen someone repeatedly follow you over and over again, this is what they are trying to accomplish.
Beat them at their own game by using an app that tracks your unfollowers. When someone unfollows you right after you've followed them, feel free to give them an unfollow as well (unless you are legitimately interested in their content!).
Leave your profile blank
If you are a business, and your profile is blank, I don't know what you do. Neither does anyone else. How likely is it that your ideal customer is going to follow your account if they don't know you're offering that thing that they really need (especially if it's not obvious based on your images)
If it's just your name/age/location I'm going to assume you're using Instagram as a dating app.
Have a business account but only post photos of your personal life
This generally happens to people who have been using Instagram personally, and then either go into business or decide to start using their existing account for business.
Let me tell you, there is nothing more annoying than seeing someone say that they are a business consultant and use Instagram to provide tips and info to their audience, and then when you go to their profile it's all baby pictures and sunsets. Ugh.
Put links in your captions
The only place that a link is clickable in in your profile. Links that you put in captions or comments are not clickable, and most people will not take the time to highlight/copy/paste, so you end up looking lazy or like you don’t know how Instagram works. Use the caption space for more valuable things, like a great story and relevant hashtags.
Have a plan
Decide what you're going to post about, how you're going to communicate those thoughts in image or video form, and decide if you're going to have a certain "look" for your account (really, your look should match your brand colours and fonts).
Write a caption that tells the story of your photo
The photo needs to capture people's attention and should tell a bit of a story on it's own. But the caption is where you will keep people's attention. Continue your storytelling here, including relevant hashtags. Don't put the hashtags in the body of your caption - keep them all at the end.
As I mention above, it's easy to find out what hashtags are the most popular. But the key is finding out what hashtags are relevant for your business or niche. Some tips:
- look at what your competitors or similar accounts are using (and pay attention to whether or not they're getting good engagement)
- when you search for hashtags on Instagram, similar suggestions will pop up as you are typing and tell you how many times they've been used
- use a 3rd party research tool like HashAtIt, Keyhole, or Websta
Note: don't just use the most popular hashtags - they are so popular that chances are low your post will pop up in a hashtag search because you'll be competing with potentially millions of other posts. When relevant, make up your own branded hashtags - with enough use, a good strategy, and engaging content you'll find that other people start using it too.
Switch up the order of your hashtags
There is a rumor that if Instagram sees the same hashtags in the same order on all of your posts they may think you are a spammer or a bot (which could get you banned). If you have your hashtags saved in a note on your phone, make several variations and use a different one each time you post.
Give authentic comments
Again, spammers and bots tend to comment on posts with just an emoji, or a generic 'Great post' 'Love it' - so don't do that. Put a little bit more effort into your comments so that Instagram knows that you're a real person.
The added benefit is that the other person will know that you are a real person and you're far more likely to get a reply instead of a delete.
Use Instagram stories to share spontaneous content, or content that doesn’t fit the ‘look’ of your regular posts
If you are going for a specific aesthetic on your account, you may feel like your hands are tied when you want to post spontaneously or come across something that isn't the right look. Use Instagram stories for that!
Set up a business account
Yes, Instagram has an algorithm like Facebook, which means that business accounts have to fight harder for reach and engagement. This has prevented people from switching, or has caused people to switch back to a personal account.
But remember this: from a user's point of view, it is SUPER handy to come to a business profile and a) know that they are a business, b) be able to find directions or contact info with a single click.
Additionally, business accounts have analytics. If you are using social media for your business and have no way to measure if your time & energy is paying off, then I would argue you're wasting your time.
Feel free to delete spammy comments
As hard as Instagram tries, they will never get rid of all of the bots and spammers. So if you see a comment that looks like it was written by a bot, or someone is randomly trying to promote something in your comments, feel free to delete away - after all, it is your post!