Instagram for Business: A Guide for Newbies

If you haven’t heard of it (you might be hiding under a rock), Instagram is a hugely-popular photo and video-sharing social media platform now owned by Facebook.

As well as posting images & videos to your feed, this year, the popularity of Instagram Stories (see below) has boomed, a time-limited image or video that displays at the top of a user’s feed. Plus, there are advertising opportunities now on offer for businesses that are worth paying attention to.


Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users, and over 500 million daily active users worldwide. This includes 1.2 million users in New Zealand, 57% of which are female and 85% are younger than 45. This is a huge potential target audience for your brand, but if you’re keen to target over 65s, this is probably not the platform for you.

According to Instagram80% of users say they follow at least one business, with 60% of users hearing about a product and service through the platform. In addition to this, 65% of top-performing Instagram posts feature products. Instagram users are primed to hear from businesses like yours.

If you want in on the exposure, follow our tips on how to make the most out of Instagram for your brand below.


Posting high-quality content is always vital, but it’s particularly essential on a visual platform like Instagram. This is particularly true if you’re selling your products online. According to one study, 93% of decisions in the buying process are based on visual appearance. So good images are vital.

Throughout all marketing channels, it’s important to maintain a strong brand, and this doesn’t stop with Instagram. Everything from the style of your images, to the captions you use, and even the time of day that you post needs to be considered.

DID YOU KNOW? 60 percent of the top brands on Instagram use the same filter for every post.

Whether it’s Earlybird, Sierra, or Ludwig, pick your favorite filter and stick with it. For example, check out @indiehomecollective. Their colour palette of black, white, grey and natural tones helps reinforce the brand’s identity on InstagramFacebook and anywhere else they post their images.

Struggling with which filter to pick? Luckily for you, Canva recently analyzed the filters of over one million Instagram photos to figure out which filters are most popular, check out the list below of the top 10 filters.

  • Clarendon
  • Gingham
  • Juno
  • Lark
  • Mayfair
  • Sierra
  • Valencia
  • Walden
  • Amaro
  • Crema


As with any social media platform, it’s vital to talk with your audience, not at them.

This makes your brand feel more human and helps your audience feel valued, which increases the odds that they’ll like your content or leave a comment. Instagram’s algorithm prioritises content with higher engagement, so the more comments and likes the better.

If you’re unsure of the best way to engage your audience try the ideas below:
  • Respond to comments. Responding to comments that people have left on your feed & answering any questions that have been left is an easy way to interact with your audience. A simple ‘thanks’ can go a long way to make followers feel that you value their input.
  • Share your followers’ posts. To generate content you might want to share, try asking fans to share photos of them wearing / using your product or in your restaurant using a specific brand-related hashtag. Stray NZ often share customer’s photographs that have been taken whilst travelling on Stray buses using their hashtag ‘#straynz’
  • Hold a contest to spark enthusiasm. Invite people to respond to your post with a little healthy competition. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
    • “Caption this image”
    • “Share a time when…”
    • “Tell us what your favourite...

Ask your audience for their creativity and make sure you share the best responses

WARNING: It may seem an easy option to use an Instagram bot to automate your Instagram engagement, but bots lack human tone, language, and conversation. Be aware that where bots are obvious, users will spot your lack of authenticity and run a mile.


Instagram Stories is a relatively new feature, which allows you to share video and image content flowing from one to the next in a slideshow. Content shared via Instagram Stories will disappear in 24 hours (unless saved), and is shown full-screen with no captions. For more insight and helpful tips on using Instagram Stories join up to our free Facebook group Social School now.

As these are only available for 24 hours, the content used for Instagram Stories can be more informal than your standard content and don’t need to be as refined. Due to the informal feel of Stories, and the positioning on your Instagram feed, engagement tends to be higher right now.

 Stories also have some cool interactive features that can be used to further build online conversations and relationships:
  • Polls can be created with two answering options, allowing you to ask your audience for opinions about your product or services.
  • Geotags, hashtags, and tagging allow you to use relevant trends, places and people to boost your content.
  • The questions feature allows followers to submit questions for you to answer. A great way to set up a Q&A, or just a fun way to interact with customers.
  • Stickers & GIFs can be added to your images / videos too to emphasise a point or add something fun.

In May 2018, Instagram announced a feature that allows users to share posts directly to their stories. This means that if a client posts a photo of your product, you can share this post directly to your story highlighting both the product and your client!


Hashtags are used to organise and categorise, so users are able to find content that is relevant to them. Users can search by hashtag as well as follow specific hashtags - so it’s important to use the rights ones to make sure your content gets in front of the right people.

They range from generic – #love was the most used hashtag in 2017 – to very, very specific; here are a few hashtag best practices to get you started:
  • Don’t overdo it: five targeted hashtags are better than 25 random ones. Remember, you want to show your content to people who will find it relevant.
  • Avoid overused tags: adding #love or #instagood is as good as useless. Your content will likely get lost in a sea of images.
  • Don’t spam: keep them relevant to the image. Your image ending up in a plethora of irrelevant content is helpful for no one.
With the above in mind, there are three main types of hashtags for your posts:
  • General hashtags: These are hashtags that anyone might use, for instance, #food or #sunset, but these examples are so broad that your content will likely go unnoticed using them. You can use these selectively, but it’s often better to find more specific hashtags for your industry which leads us to...
  • Niche hashtags: These are hashtags that are more unique to your target audience or industry. An example of this would be #foodporn for a restaurant, or #fitnessaddict for a gym. Niche hashtags increase your chances of attracting the ideal audience to your content. To find hashtags for your business, try a quick Google search, or have a look to see what hashtags your existing followers use.
  • Branded hashtags: These are hashtags that are specific to your business. These are great for tracking anything to do with your brand. They can come in particularly handy in campaigns & competitions if you ask followers to tag with a particular hashtag. They could be your brand name, the name of a product or person, or something special you’ve created for your campaign.


Like on other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:
  • Photo ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Call to Action button (Apply Now, Book Now, Call Now, Contact Us, Get Directions, Learn More, Get Showtimes, or Download) in the bottom right corner under the photo.
  • Video ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.
  • Carousel ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.

All three ad formats appear in users' home feeds as they scroll through posts. Advertising can be a great way to build brand awareness, gain app users, increase video views, and get click-throughs to your website.


While you might be new to the idea of Instagram for your business, this post should help you make your first steps on the platform.

Still need a hand? We’ve got you covered. Jump into our FREE Facebook group Social School now and we’ll help you to nail Instagram for your business with tips, more training, and ongoing expert advice.

Keen for our team of experts to manage your climb to Instagram awesomeness? Get in touch and let’s talk about it!