Gini Dietrich

Doin’ It For the ‘Gram: Six Ways to Use Instagram in Business

By: Gini Dietrich | August 6, 2019 | 

Instagram This past weekend, my Bean had a birthday party for one of her best girlfriends.

As the parents sat around discussing the Bible and drinking grape juice (that was for you, mom!), we learned that one of the dads follows Hugh Jackman on Instagram.

I mean, I do too, but I’m certain for entirely different reasons.

When we started to tease him about it, he said, “What? I’m doin’ it for the ‘gram!”

Do you ever do it for the ‘gram?

Lots of people do. And Hugh Jackman IS a good reason to do it.

As of this year, there are 105 million active users in the U.S. alone.

At first blush, it may seem like Instagram is just for Millennials taking pictures of latte art and craft IPAs, or Instagram husbands, or makeup and clothing brands riding the influencer train.

But there are lots of organizations, from all sorts of industries using the platform to connect with their audiences, their customers, the broader community, complementary or even competing businesses, and team members distributed around the globe.

It’s pretty addictive.

You open the app, scroll through the pictures, and at a glance, without having to read a word, you can see what your friends and colleagues are up to.

It’s popular, and it’s still the rising star of social media.

How Instagram Works

Instagram, owned by Facebook, is projected to account for a quarter of all of the social network’s ad revenue by the end of 2019, and nearly a third in 2020, according to Sprout Social.

And the best part?

Eighty percent of the billion people globally who use Instagram are following at least one business account.

If you don’t want to do the math that’s 800 million people.

Lots of people.

All kinds. 

It makes sense for your organization to be there. 

If you’re new to Instagram, haven’t tried it yet for business, or it’s been a while since you reviewed your strategy, there are different tools and features you can use to your advantage. 

Instagram Stories

Stories are the powerhouse of Instagram.

They’re a series of pictures or video clips strung together in sequence.

They’re a way for you to do more than post and write about a picture, they let you, well, tell a story.

You can have different themes for stories, change it up every day or week, or have regular stories to teach, connect with, and entertain your followers. 

One of the best Stories I’ve seen of late is of a travel agency that provides trips into the Congo to see chimpanzees and their babies (definitely on my bucket list!).

Last week, they had a Story that showed images of the trek into the jungle and then close-ups of my favorite animal.

It immediately went from, “I’d like to see that some day after Ebola and terrorism aren’t an issue” to “OK, maybe we could risk Ebola and terrorism to see this.” 

Of course, not everyone has photos of chimps and their babies, but the point is it’s not super challenging to engage people in your organization with photos or videos strung together.

Using Hashtags on Instagram

At a really basic level, Instagram is a feed of pictures organized by hashtag.

They are any word or phrase or set of initials preceded by, well, a hashtag (#).

Your parents might call it a pound sign.

Whatever you call it, they’re how people search Instagram, and connect their images and videos with those from the rest of the world. 

Some popular hashtags include TBT—or throwback Thursday—where people share an old photo or video.

Or OOTD, which is the outfit of the day.

I don’t participate in that one because my outfit of the day would consist of a different colored tank top and black cycling pants or shorts.

Not super exciting or inspiring, though they do make my butt look good.

Your brand can create a new hashtag for your community to use, or get in on one of the popular ones.

If you’re starting out, try using existing hashtags first, then develop your own as you get comfortable with them.

We use one called #BrainBreak where we ask our community a fun question to get them thinking and give them a little mental reset.

And now is probably when I should mention you should come find us on Instagram!

You can find us @spinsucks, which I’m sure comes as no surprise.

Off-Platform Linking

A pretty standard way to approach social media is to try and get people off social media, and on to something you own, such as your website.

And, depending on your goals, that might be what you want to do with your Instagram followers. 

When you do paid media, the whole point is to link off the platform and draw prospects into your funnel or funnels.

But, like YouTube, Instagram only lets accounts with more than 10,000 followers do this.

Before you hit that number, you get one link in your bio.

Because of this, it makes the most sense to engage with Instagram users ON Instagram.

It builds awareness, provides a fun and easy way to build engagement, and you can still teach them about your organization. 

Now, an Instagram business account, all of this information, and a dollar will get you a whopping one minute of parking in downtown Chicago.

You need followers to be able to do this, and what you post may not always show up in your followers’s feeds.

How does Instagram decide who gets to see what

Like most of the big social platforms, they’re not exactly rushing to provide explicit details of how their algorithm works, but because they’re owned by Facebook, we have some clues. 

Let’s get into some ways you can do that…

Using Instagram In Your Comms Program

If you or your clients sell products, the hyper-visual nature of Instagram will help you showcase the different features, demonstrate how to use them, and share what they look like in different settings.

It also allows you to create user-generated campaigns that are hashtag-focused, of your customers using, talking about, and sharing your products.

This kind of social proof can be challenging to get on other social networks but it is what Instagram is best at.

The uses of Instagram for product-based organizations are pretty clear,  but what about those that don’t sell physical products?

Software as a service, service providers, consultants, freelancers, mission-based orgs…how does Instagram work for them?

There are plenty of options!

Instagram can showcase your company culture by sharing images and commentary on what it’s like to work with you.

This can be a powerful tool when you’re recruiting and trying to attract new talent, and can also help distributed teams feel connected. 

Clients or other audience members who follow your feed will also get an ‘inside’ look at what your company is about, and that can help with how you and your team are perceived.

Solve Problems and Repurpose Content

I will caution you here, though.

There is nothing worse than you not being available to a client or missing a deadline, only to have them see you on social media glamming it up.

Even if it’s something you posted later or during off hours, the perception always becomes, “Oh, I see. They’re off playing instead of doing what I’ve paid them to do.”

You can also build an Instagram account that teaches and inspires.

There are always problems to solve, things people can learn, and new ways for them to think about what some may take for granted.

Instagram can be where you step out of your niche just a little, and connect with people about related war stories and/or personal stories.

Finally, Instagram can be one of the places where you repurpose the content you’ve created for other platforms.

If you have new research, infographics, unique content, or quotable text, they can all find a new life on Instagram, where they’ll be seen and shared by your community.

Or, if you have a podcast, you can take soundbites from it and use it in your Stories or even explore InstagramTV, which we haven’t covered here today, but is equally as important and is the future of communications.

Look at your content archive and see if you can find interesting questions that you’ve posed, turns of phrase you’re particularly proud of, or facts that generated conversation on the other social networks. 

It’s Your Turn!

Are you using Instagram? 

I’d love to hear what works, what doesn’t, which ideas you’ve tried, and which ones you’ve abandoned.

The comments below are yours…

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.