Instagram best practices continue to change. As new advertising, creative, and sales tools come online, brands are discovering new ways to engage users. For breakout success in 2020, you’ll need to keep up with the latest trends and make full use of what Instagram has to offer.

Just consider what your brand is up against.

Last year, businesses spent roughly $20 billion to advertise on Instagram. That’s $5.1 billion more than YouTube earned in 2019. This year, competition for Instagram users’ attention and loyalty will only grow more intense. Instagram Stories alone is expected to earn $1.7 billion in sales in 2020—with 150% revenue growth year over year. 

If you currently use or plan to use Instagram for business, best practices should guide your efforts. These 10 best Instagram practices are key to improving your results in 2020.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

10 best practices for Instagram

Instagram is the place to showcase your brand authority, personality, and heart using the latest and best tools and techniques. Generic won’t cut it on this platform. If your presence is lacking, you’ll forfeit opportunities to connect—and lose out to other brands.

Here are ten ways to take your Instagram presence to the next level.

1. Establish a business profile

Establishing a business profile on Instagram is a crucial first step. You’ll be able to build your brand image, following, and sales funnel in ways a personal profile won’t allow.

To switch from a personal profile to a professional account, follow these easy steps.

Once you’ve made the switch, you can: 

  • Include convenient call-to-action buttons, which visitors and followers can tap to make contact or do business with you.
  • Earn a verification badge from Instagram certifying your authenticity.
  • Access real-time data you need to understand how well your organic content is working for you.
  • Launch and track ad campaigns.

Soon, you’ll be able to see the impact you’re making and double down on what works to drive engagement, traffic, and sales. (We’ll explain in more detail below.)

2. Give your Instagram bio the attention it deserves

If you want your Instagram profile to appeal to users, you need curb appeal. With 150 characters or less and a photo or logo, you’ll need to capture the essence of your brand: who you are, what you offer, and why you’re different.

Whether they’re comfortably established or trying to generate interest, many brands keep their bios basic. SeatGeek and Patagonia use few words but convey big ideas.

Instagram bios for Patagonia and SeatGeek

Like Sabra and HelloFresh, you can use your bio to promote contests, deals, product launches, and more. 

Instagram bios for Sabra and Hello Fresh

If you’re an emerging brand, you’ll need to seem credible to earn trust. An Instagram verified badge can help with that. We recommend applying for Instagram verification.

3. Make it easy to do business with you

Shoppable content is a must for Instagram marketers. Although in-app checkout is not widely available (still in a closed beta in the U.S.), you can tag your products in photos, videos, and Instagram Stories and expose your products to as many as 200 million Instagram visitors daily through Explore. 

In the future, you may be able to run shopping posts as paid ads.

Instagram shopping posts, plus one closeup of a shoppable post for bedding by @landsdownunder

If you’re in the health and beauty, food and beverage, or ticketing business, you can now add an action button to your business profile so users can book an appointment, reserve a table, or buy tickets without leaving the platform. You’ll just need an existing account with one of Instagram’s action button partners to take advantage of this feature.

4. Don’t let your creative get stale

The creative possibilities on Instagram are limitless. By experimenting with post types, media options, and editing tools, you can easily shake up your content routine and refresh your image. 

  • Try new content angles. Survey your followers, ask them to submit questions, or get their feedback on posts. Go behind the scenes, demo products, or walk users through step-by-step tutorials. Share your take on an important topic, or share your followers’ content. Tell stories that amaze or inspire. Do whatever suits your audience and brand.
  • Experiment with color and visual effects. Use the Lux wand and filters to give your photos a distinct look and feel. Play around with video enhancement features like the Create interface in your Stories camera, which offers stickers, templates, GIFs, and more. Strive to make each post eye-catching and uniquely yours.
  • Take advantage of the latest video features and tools. When you upload a new IGTV video, the first 15 seconds will be visible on your feed. For longer videos, you can post a 60-second preview in your feed along with an invite to watch the entire video. If your video is part of a series, viewers can tap on the name of the series to watch other episodes.   

5. Rock those Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories feature photos or short video loops that followers can view at the top of their app for 24 hours. Stories might contain text, links, and even GIFs. 

The new Stories Layout feature offers five new layout options with multiple frames. And of course, there are plenty of great Stories apps for iOS and Android.

Put to good use, Stories is a powerful engagement tool. With Stories, you can:

  • Drive traffic to a new Instagram post or product page
  • Use the “Ask me anything” feature to invite questions and share your responses
  • Conduct a poll to create buzz around a new product or brand development

You can also include Story Highlights (which don’t expire) on your profile page. This is a great way to invite visitors to get to know your brand. 

Here are a few examples of how leading brands are using Instagram Stories.

Here, ThredUP is alerting users to some recent clothing finds.

ThredUp Instagram story

Harry’s is kicking off a Q&A session.

Harry's Instagram story

Fender is giving a shout out to its brand community.

Fender Instagram story

GE is taking users behind the scenes.

GE Instagram story

Instagram offers some valuable tips for making the most of Instagram Stories:

Not sure how to get started with Instagram Stories? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

6.  When setting goals, consider short- and long-term value

Your Instagram posts and campaigns should be designed to appeal to your target audience based on their demographics and interests. To drive results over time, you’ll need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) and determine how you’ll measure success.

Based on our annual survey of more than 3,000 marketers for our Social Media Trends 2020 report, 44% indicated that “driving conversions” is the #1 aim of their social media efforts. 

While this is an important goal that can easily be measured against, conversions are short-term wins. Focusing on building brand equity and delighting existing customers could deliver far more value in the long run.

7.  Create a content calendar 

Spontaneous posts are fine when opportunity strikes. But steady progress requires marketing discipline. Use a content calendar to organize posts and schedule them in advance. 

  • Identify themes. They can be seasonal, reflect current events or trends, or play on your target audience’s lifestyle and/or values. Choose themes that lend themselves to your brand personality and products.
  • Choose the right formats. Would Stories, a photo carousel, a video series, or some other post or ad type best deliver your intended message? 
  • Don’t wait to write captions. You should always be ready to post, even if your publishing schedule gets thrown.
  • Pay attention to timing. Schedule posts based on how much time you’ll need for content creation and the most appropriate time(s) to publish.
  • Establish workflows. Carve out a dedicated block of Instagram time, or determine a daily post quantity—whatever suits your team and business interests.

Not sure what your content calendar should look like? Get up and running fast with this handy template.

8.  Expand your reach with hashtags and geotags 

Instagram users search for content using hashtags (#). They can also follow hashtags. 

By including relevant hashtags (even daily ones) in your bio and your post captions, you’re exposing a lot of potential new followers to your brand and products.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

Get the free guide right now!

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business trying to reach users in your area, using geotags can help you make those local connections.

9. Use Insights to track engagement and conversions

Your Insights page, which you can access through your profile, offers a detailed view of how your content is performing. Insights for Stories are available for up to 14 days after Stories appear.

  • Content: This tab reveals your brand’s most popular posts (as measured by total impressions). You can also see metrics for individual posts including total impressions and users reached.
  • Activity:Here, you’ll find profile visits, website clicks, and information about where and how users are finding your content. 
  • Audience – This tab offers data about your followers (if you have at least 100). You’ll know their gender, age, and location; when they’re most active on Instagram; and how fast your brand community is growing. 

As the insights begin to flow, pay attention to trends and look for outlier posts. Both high and low performers can help you fine-tune your messaging and design. You can even cannibalize winning posts for future content or turn them into paid ads to maximize your ROI on the platform (see below). 

Read more about how to use Instagram Insights to its full potential.

10.  Turn awesome organic posts into marketing gold 

If an organic post is seeing heavy engagement, it could be worth promoting. To get started, just follow these simple steps:

  • Click the “promote” button below the post.
  • Choose a business objective and a call to action (“Learn More,” “Watch More,” “Shop Now,” “Book Now,” “Sign Up,” or “Contact Us”).
  • Choose your audience (let Instagram do it, or create your own).
  • Choose a budget and campaign duration (you’ll see estimated reach next to your entries).
  • Review your order, including method of pay.
  • Once your promotion is approved, Insights will appear in your notifications tab.

Branded content, a relatively new Instagram feature, allows you to partner with individual creators of organic branded content (even Facebook content) and promote their posts as Instagram feed or Stories ads. What a great way to make a splash, grow your reach, and maximize your resources in 2020.

Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.

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