How you can capitalise on Instagram for Business

Instagram has made quite the impression in the short 8 years that it has been around. The platform now boasts 800 million monthly active users, 63% of which log in daily. This speedy growth has left marketers scrambling to understand how they can use Instagram for business. Whilst it’s clear that the platform offers an ocean of opportunity for brands to connect with an engaged audience, Instagram strategy implementation sometimes falls short.

To help our clients perfect their Instagram strategy and drive ROI, we invited founder of content agency JBH Jane Hunt along to speak at Meltwater’s February business breakfast. During the event Jane discussed a number of ways that companies can use Instagram for business, focusing on the platform’s much-loved Stories feature.

Instagram for Business : Instagram stories

Here’s a summary of the key takeaways from the “Creative Ways Brands Can Use Instagram Stories” event!

The Gram, The Facts

Need to encourage the boss to care about Instagram for business purposes and fork out the budget to drive ROI? Speak in numbers. It really does help create senior buy in!

  • 80% of accounts follow a business (Instagram)
  • Over 200 million Instagrammers actively view a business profile every day (WordStream)

Instagram Stories is a feature that allows users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Sounds familiar? That’s because this feature was pinched from rival platform Snapchat. Clearly, Instagram saw huge potential in the Story feature to go onto creating its own capabilities – and their effort massively paid off!

  • Instagram stories launched in August 2016
  • 250 million users now engage with Stories each day (that’s half of the daily users) (AdWeek)
  • Instagram Story links get 15–25% swipe-through rates for brands and publishers (MarketingLand)

So to summarise 1. Instagram users actually care about what brands have to say on the platform, and actively go out of their way to listen 2. Brand engagement is easy pickings when using Instagram stories.

Sounds like a match made in heaven, hey? “So how can we start using Instagram for business?” you may be thinking. Below you’ll find a few examples to spark food for thought! The examples can be applied to any organisation, whether you work in B2B or at a small charity.

Creative ways brands can use Instagram stories

1. Offer a peek behind “closed doors”

Stories give your audience a glimpse into your world without interrupting the platform’s feed. The lessened disruption makes stories the perfect Instagram for business tool.

Instagram stories are perfect for capturing a moment in time. Use them to offer a peek behind closed doors – whether that’s a preview of a new product, your attendance at an event, the marketing team’s idea sparring session or a cultural office activity. “Stories represent the perfect opportunity to showcase your company culture, especially if you’re recruiting as candidates can see what kind of company culture you have. What’s going on in the office? What national days or events can you link into? How can you get people away from their desks for an hour to do something fun as a team?” Jane adds.

Instagram for Business tips

2. Get candid with live Instagram stories

Video is at the core of Instagram’s strategy. In order to do well on this platform, video should also be incorporated into your Instagram for business plan.

Live video makes for the perfect Q&A channel. You can use live video to interview sponsors, industry influencers, clients and advocates of your cause.

Live video is also cool to use when demoing a product. The audience can get a real hands-on feel and sense of how it works, rather than a video where all the “bad bits” and blunders have been cropped out. Jane comments, “The worst thing you can do as a marketer or brand is be intimidated by social. Especially video formats. Remember Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours, you can also enable them to be viewed once too! So stop fretting and start playing with the feature and you’ll soon realise that Instagram stories aren’t about a polished look, it’s much more human and fun!

3. Reward with competitions and promotions

Sometimes, the power of referrals is overlooked by marketing professionals. Don’t fall into this trap. Your Instagram for business plan should include surprising and delighting advocates to encourage their continued engagement and positive word of mouth. What better way to reward your engaged audience members than to run a competition! If you make this a regular thing, for example, ‘Give Away Monday’s’ to beat those weekend blues, you’ll encourage a regular viewing audience. Better yet, play on your audience’s FOMO and offer sporadic giveaways and promotions so they regularly check your story.

4. Signpost hot new content

The content distribution hurdle is real. We often try to elongate the life of our content by posting links to our top performing campaigns and content on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn etc – but Instagram is rarely included in this process. Whilst it’s true that you can’t currently add links to Instagram posts, the bio isn’t the only place you can use URLs.  Instagram stories also offer the option of posting links through their swipe up feature if you have more than 10,000 followers. This is perfect for comms professionals wanting to drive more traffic to their website. And it works! Instagram Story links get 15–25% swipe-through rates for brands and publishers.

Instagram for Business : Instagram stories

Top Instagram Story tips to consider

It’s OK not to be perfect

When it comes to your Instagram for business strategy, authenticity is important. Like really important! These days’ consumers don’t just take what brands say as the full truth. They prefer to listen to their community rather than an advert. When we partner this with the fact that people care more and more about how ethical companies are, and what goes into their products, putting transparency and authenticity at the forefront of comms is key. Instagram stories did exactly that! They offer an unpolished lens.

Instagram for business

Here are two photos of Cara Delevingne. On the left, you have a model that’s dolled up to the 9s. Let’s call this “corporate Cara” (although I’m not sure how corporate that dress is…) On the right, you really get a sense of who Cara is and why people love her. The left image is playful and, well, honest. Cara ceases to be a cold shiny brand and commodity; instead, she becomes something we can relate to – one of our friends.

Don’t worry about how professional your Instagram stories look, that’s not what the feature is about. Instagram posts are for posed pics (like the one on the right), whereas stories are used to capture the banter behind the lens and tend to be more light-hearted.

Tell a story, with a Story

That moment in time that you’re capturing through a Story, whether it’s 5 seconds, 15 seconds or 1 minute – needs to capture a narrative. We usually see brands using stories for a shorter length of time, so it’s wise to have an easy to understand story so the message is easily conveyed when rolling our your Instagram for business plan.

Personalise your Story

Inject character into your posts by personalising the message using Instagram’s story editing features. Texts, GIFs and hashtags help to get your message across easier, sometimes this is needed due to the limited length of a Story. The Instagram story poll feature is a huge favourite for brands wanting to increase engagement. Polls also help you get collaborative with your audience, for example, you can ask them to vote for future content they want to see.

Instagram stories example

Instagram takeovers

Content takes a lot of effort to create, yet our community is creating this at a vast speed. Make use of user-generated content and Instagram takeovers if you’re a small department with little resources. We’d recommend taking a look at this step by step influencer take over guide. Use a social listening tool like Meltwater to uncover advances and influential community members. By sharing their content you open up your brand to their wider community.