sell on instagram social network

Ultimate guide to using Instagram for small business

Claire Sy

Since its arrival in 2010, Instagram has evolved from a simple photo-sharing platform to a popular online marketing tool for businesses. Today, 90% of Instagram users follow a business and that 50% of its total users become more interested in a brand when they see Instagram ads for it on the platform. 

In other words, without an Instagram account, you could you missing out on valuable connections and interactions with your customers! No matter your business size and niche, Instagram has huge market potential for your business. In this guide, you’ll learn how to use Instagram for business as we break down some of its tools and share some tips on how you should be using it for your business.  

Specifically, read more on how small businesses can use Instagram, find out why Instagram is the perfect choice for SMBs, how to set up and make the most of your Instagram business profile, ways to market with Instagram, tips for taking photos and writing captions, and how businesses of all shapes and sizes use Instagram. 

Instagram statistics 

If you’re still hemming and hawing about using Instagram as part of your social media marketing strategy, maybe these recent statistics will change your mind: 

  • Instagram has over 1.3 billion users globally and over 500 million users are on it daily. A whopping 34% of them are millennials. 

Takeaway: Instagram users are active – very active. Make it a point to start posting on Instagram at least once a day so users will see your photos. 

  • Photos shared on Instagram get 3.5 billion likes per day. Video posts receive 2x more engagement than other posts on Instagram. 

Takeaway: Instagram users engage with the content they see. Use that to your advantage and start building relationships with them. National Geographic writes long comments on their own photos, and many people reply back. No reason why you can’t do that, too! 

  • Users that are 25 and older spend an average of 24 minutes per day on Instagram. Those younger than 25 spend 32 minutes per day. 

Takeaway: Instagram users spend time exploring the site. They look around. They want to interact. Give them a reason to interact with you. Start experimenting with subjects and filters to see what garners the most engagement – and do more of that. 

  • There is a 13% increase in engagement when an Instagram brand post has a hashtag. 

Takeaway: A hashtag is a label (with a # sign before it) used on social media posts to make it easier to find information with a theme or specific content. Hashtags help social media users to explore content that is relevant to what they are searching for. This means that hashtags are an important way to expand your Instagram audience and get more reach.  

  • 72% of Instagram users have purchased a product when they saw it on their feed. 

Takeaway: Get beautiful and updated pictures of your products and services on Instagram. Users love looking at a product in every angle, especially when it’s staged in a pretty picture. The more pictures your customers see, the more confident they are in purchasing a product. 

  • There are 130 million users who tap on product tags monthly. 

Takeaway: When a picture is pretty, it deserves a tap. When users are browsing a business’s posts, they expect that products shown in pictures are tagged and linked to the store. This just makes for easy shopping—and users love it when purchasing stuff online is as easy as 1-2-3 taps 

  • There are 25 million business profiles on Instagram and 2 million monthly advertisers. 

Takeaway: Instagram is ripe for customer reach. Get your share of consumer eyes and create a profile for your business today. 

A person is scrolling through pictures on Instagram on a mobile phone

Why Instagram for small business owners? 

While most of its users own a personal Instagram account, the platform has been catering to several businesses as well. In fact, majority of the world’s most established companies have a business account, proving that both B2C (Starbucks, Nike, Airbnb) and B2B (MailChimp, FedEx, Adobe) companies can use visual content to get results. Of course, it seems easy for large companies to engage loyal fans and drive results, but what about small businesses?  

As a small business owner, you can’t afford to invest time and money in a channel that doesn’t work; and you want to ensure Instagram can help you grow before giving it a try. Here’s a little case study:   

The UK-based organic frozen food company Batch Organics ran a series of ads in Instagram Stories to spark interest and sales. Within a three-week period, the ads got 23% more clicks and a 32% lower cost per click than previous campaigns. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use Instagram to make money online, too? 

Expanding on this, there are five main reasons for small business owners to use Instagram: 

Reach your target audience 

When you’re just starting out on social media platforms, you want to make sure you choose the best channel to reach your potential clients. When it comes to Instagram, there’s no doubt your target audience is on the platform. It is one of the fastest-growing social channels. The number of users has grown 10x times over the last five years, totaling one billion active users.  

No matter who you are targeting – whether teens or adults – your potential customers use Instagram, according to the latest survey by Pew Research. 

Here’s what small businesses can learn: A lot of people are on Instagram. The vast majority of users are under the age of 29, with a fairly close split between male and female users. While Instagram is extremely popular among young adults (ages 18-29), people of different ages spend time on the platform.  

Engage your potential customers 

Social media presence means nothing if you can’t reach and engage your target audience. When choosing a social media platform to focus your efforts on, think about the best one for user engagement. Instagram is second to Facebook (only by 1.5%!) in having the highest daily engagement rate among selected social media apps in Android users in the US. 

The platform not only keeps users engaged, but it also rolls out various updates to help marketers interact with followers in new and fun ways. Over 400 million Instagram accounts use Instagram Stories daily and it shows that camera-based messaging are experiences that people are craving for.  

Businesses have already seen results when using ads in Instagram Stories. For example, Tropicana ran video ads in Instagram Stories to increase its ad campaign brand lift metrics and increase in-store sales of its flagship orange juice product. They achieved a 2.4X return on ad spend, a 1.1% lift in in-store sales, a 4.1-point lift in ad recall, and finally, a 1.4-point lift in message association. 

Instagram engagement is not just about interacting with your followers; it is also about increasing your visibility to avoid getting buried in users’ feeds. 

Here’s what small businesses can learn: Since engaged users are more likely to learn more about your company and buy your products, Instagram is a great choice to spread the word about your business. 

Promote your business locally 

Instagram is not just about selling online, it’s also about gaining exposure. If you run a local business, Instagram has tools to help you promote your business locally like geotags, hashtags, and local influencers. What’s great about collaborating with local influencers is that you gain access to an already-established community of loyal followers.  

Working with local micro-influencers also produces results. Not only do micro-influencers have a higher engagement rate, but they also charge less than more popular influencers. For a small company, it’s a perfect chance to promote your local business in a genuine way. Thus, the above-mentioned ways (geotags, hashtags, and local influencers) are a perfect combo to target local followers. 

Here’s what small businesses can learn: Taking advantage of Instagram’s local features can help you spread the word about your local business and find potential clients in your location. 

Save money on promoting your product  

Who else wants to cut small business costs? With Instagram marketing, it doesn’t take much money to promote your product. Here are two common ways to save money on product promotion: 

Collaborate with micro-influencers: The majority of micro-influencers will do a product review if they are interested in your product. The one thing you need to do is to send your product. 

Run a contest with branded freebies: When you give away branded freebies, you don’t spend much on gifts and attract potential clients who are interested in your business. 

Let’s take My Bright Journal, for example, a company that specializes in interactive books for kids. As a small business, the company doesn’t have much money to spend on working with large influencers who charge on average $250 per Instagram post for social stars with less than 50,000 followers. Instead, My Bright Journal works with micro-influencers who are interested in the product – parents who seek out an interesting way to build deeper connections with their children. Once a product is sent, the influencer shares feedback and the company post the review on the newsfeed. Although the giveaways didn’t receive many participants, the main idea was achieved: the post attracted potential customers who want to test a product.  

Here’s what small businesses can learn: While there are many businesses on Instagram, there are some cost-effective ways to promote your product and attract new customers. 

Sell on the platform 

Another reason why Instagram is great for small businesses is the opportunity to set up shopping on Instagram. This can simplify the shopping process and provide quick access to your products and details.  

Luckily, selling on Instagram is not just for big companies, even small businesses can increase eCommerce sales in three main ways: 

Set up product tags to add a product catalog and sell in-app 

Add product stickers to Instagram Stories to sell with ephemeral content 

Use clickable Stories links to take users to your website 

Just look at the Kinder Garden Tool Kit account. The company sells preschool learning tools for kids and uses Instagram as the main source of eCommerce sales. Visitors can tap on the shopping bag icon to discover all products the company sells on Instagram. When visitors or followers check out your account, they can see tap the shopping bag icon to learn more about the products and purchase without leaving the app. The company also added Stories Highlights to provide quick access to products.  

Here’s what small businesses can learn: Having a business account on Instagram makes it easy to sell your products, optimize for eCommerce, and boost sales. 

Screenshot of's Instagram business profile

 How to set up and make the most of your Instagram business accounts 

As more than one billion people use Instagram every month, Instagram business profiles have the potential to become the social media equivalent of Google My Business. The small businesses that have a business profile on Instagram will have an advantage over those not yet using this platform.  

To ensure you’re ready to launch your business profile on Instagram, we’ll walk you through the key features and components you need to know to make your page as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible.  

Setting up your Instagram business profile 

  1. In settings, find Account and tap Switch to Professional Account. 
  1. Pick a category that best describes your business, then select Business. 
  1. You’re all set, you’ve got an Instagram business account. Now it’s time to create your profile. 

Making the most of your business profile 

There is no shortage of strategies for making the most of your Instagram profile. Applying these strategies to your business profile can help you gain more traction. 

1. Maximize your business bio 

The cap is 150 characters, so you need to include a succinct but catchy explanation of what your business is all about. Who you are, what you do, how you can be of service, and what makes your business unique are all great points to capture in your bio. You can also add a call to action so profile visitors know what next steps to take.  

2. Create Instagram Stories 

With 500 million people a day using Instagram Stories, this is the perfect spot to let your creativity shine by creating catchy and interesting stories. 

3. Share local content 

People love to see what’s going on in their communities, so doing things like highlighting other businesses or talking about local trends will help you build rapport with your audience.  

Be sure to make use of local hashtags, as users will search and browse these to see what’s new and happening in the community.  

4. Be consistent  

With your business profile, you’ll be coming up on search results and people will be visiting your profile with some frequency. To stand out, you want to share content that engages your audience on a regular basis, as nothing will kill trust with a potential customer faster than a post that’s several months old. Create a calendar for each week or month, planning out your posts in advance so you don’t lose out on this opportunity. Make a habit of taking pictures throughout the day so you have images to work with when you sit down to plan out your content.  

Screenshot of an Instagram Story

Four ways to market with Instagram 

Instagram experienced tremendous growth in 2020. No longer just a photo-sharing app, it has expanded to a platform for video content, live events, and other online experiences. Much of the change is attributed to being THE social media platform for businesses. This makes sense as 81% of its users use Instagram to research products and services and 200 million visit at least one business profile daily. 

So, how can you carve out your business’s niche on Instagram? Here are some ways to market your online store: 

Tell a story about your business 

Use photos that evoke emotions and moods related to your brand, such as relaxation for a spa or comfort for a bakery. 

Use videos 

Since video content receive 2x more engagement than other posts, this can really help your brand stand out. For instance, a company that does bicycle tours could show video from the perspective of a tourist. If you don’t feel comfortable shooting a video, search online for apps that let you edit photos together into videos. 

Use hashtags wisely 

Don’t clutter your Instagram photos with too many hashtags but do choose a couple of hashtags to use consistently in every photo, such as your business name, tagline or other relevant phrase. Using hashtags helps categorize your posts, making them easier for people to follow. 

Participate in popular virtual events 

Things like Throwback Thursday. Get creative: For example, a fashion retailer could post pictures of her most embarrassing 1970s outfits, or a pet grooming business could post photos of the owner’s dog as a puppy. 

While big brands are starting to flock to Instagram, there’s still time for your small business to make a mark—so don’t waste a moment getting familiar with this social marketing tool. 

A person takes a photo of a bag through a mobile phone

Tips for taking beautiful Instagram photos 

If you want to take better photos to share on Instagram, it’s time to upgrade your photography skills. As you’ll read below, lighting and angles make a huge difference. Here are 13 tips for taking beautiful Instagram photos: 

Clean the lens 

This is a no-brainer. However, it’s always good to remind yourself that if you don’t have a clean lens, there is no way you can get a decent photo—let alone a beautiful one. 

Don’t zoom 

Zooming can result in pixelated photos, so always move as close to the subject matter as possible before snapping away. 

Turn the flash off 

The flash on your smartphone acts as a flashlight instead of light enhancer. Take advantage of the light you do have by moving around to find a better lighting angle. 

Turn the stable shot setting on 

When you turn off the flash setting on your smartphone’s camera, switch the stable shot setting to “on.” Blurry photos will be a thing of the past. 

Shoot in “broad” light 

Broad light is soft light that hits your subject from many angles and reduces shadows and harsh contrast. Indoors, it is indirect light flooding through a big window. Outdoors, it is sunlight in the mornings and late afternoons/evenings. 

Turn on all the lights 

If you’re taking photos indoors at night or on a dark day, turn on all the lights in the room (and adjacent rooms). This will create broad light. 

Move towards the light 

The closer the light, the softer it is. When you’re shooting indoors, move your subjects closer to windows or lamps. 

Diffuse the light 

On a bright sunny day, you can end up with harsh shadows if you don’t diffuse the light streaming down on you. Either wait for clouds to cover the sun or drape a white sheet overhead. (This will create broad light, too.) 

Use angles to change texture 

Lighting angles can completely change the texture of your photo. Light from the front makes wrinkles and creases almost disappear. Lighting from the side, above, or below emphasize texture. 

Remove distractions 

Arrange the setting to remove all distractions – a stray shoe, empty wrappers, a pile of magazines. Style it for an extra bit of polish – like a vase of wildflowers in the background. 

As food is one of the most popular and specialized categories of images on Instagram, here are a few tips especially for shooting food images: 

Play with your food 

For the best food shots, rearrange the plate for balance and symmetry – the eye is naturally drawn to those elements. Twirl the food on a fork, scoop it up with your chopsticks, anything that might capture the true beauty of the food! 

Position food on a matte surface 

Wood tables, marble countertops, a bed of grass, and a picnic blanket are all matte surfaces that will help your food photos stand out. Shiny surfaces, on the other hand, will compete for attention. 

Frame food from above 

Shoot food from above for the crispest image, and include some negative space, like the rim of your plate. 

A screenshot of one of's Instagram posts with caption.

How to write your Instagram captions 

You might notice that some of the brands you follow on Instagram write long-ish captions, and it is very likely they are doing it on purpose. You see, as an Instagram user, you have 2,200 characters (roughly 400 words) at your disposal. Why not use that space to your advantage? 

Whether you are a B2B or B2C business, it’s not hard to use Instagram captions for marketing. Here are four ideas to get you started: 

  1. Tell a story

Four hundred words provide you with plenty of room to explain much more than what someone sees at first glance. Provide details about when and where the photo was taken, or why you took the photo, or how you managed to capture the image. Then tie everything back to your brand by explaining what the photo means to you. 

  1. Start a conversation

Don’t forget that Instagram is a social media network, and thus a great place to start a conversation, really interact with your followers, and get to know them better (and vice versa). The easiest way to start a conversation: simply ask questions. You could ask how a photo makes someone feel, what they saw at first glance, if they agree or disagree with you, etc. 

  1. Educate

A big trend on Pinterest is creating images that teach, step-by-step, how to do something. On Instagram, you have even more room to do that, so get creative. You can create mini-tutorials that explain anything, like removing paint from clothes or manipulating fondant for cake decorations or how to get through a gatekeeper to a decision-maker. 

  1. Sell

Yes, you can use Instagram for selling, but I would tread lightly here and not ask for a sale outright. If you have products, obviously you can share pictures of them – every once in a while (ahem, not every day) – or your products lined up on shelves at a retailer. If you are a service provider, you need to get a little creative! Share photos of promotional products you give out or the cover of your eBook. You can also share photos of you or someone on your team giving a big presentation. 

A female entrepreneur smiles as she holds her mobile phone.

How businesses of all shapes and sizes use Instagram 

For businesses, the question always is: What on earth am I supposed to share on Instagram? Here are tips for using Instagram based on how other businesses are using it too: 

  1. Share surprising or delightful photos

National Geographic and The Sartorialist both do this. The Sartorialist once shared a black and white photo of himself and a friend wearing an elephant and tiger mask. Silly, surprising, and fun. National Geographic shared a photo of a llama in Montana, complete with a little story about how llamas open up the more time you spend with them. Interesting, huh? 

  1. Share details big and small

When From the Right Bank’s Ally went on vacation in California, she shared detail shots from her trip, like strands of lights against the sky at dusk, a plate of oysters, and a palm-tree lined pool. All gorgeous. Alexandra Design Finds, an interior designer, shares “design finds” from her various trips, like a fabulous room at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art that gives new meaning to “color.” 

  1. Share landscapes

National Geographic Travel and The Sartorialist feed this endless hunger for beautiful landscape photos. Landscapes transport you and create strong feelings of “I need to go there!” You can’t get more engaging than that! 

  1. Share part of your world

All the accounts mentioned in this post shares their world with the viewer – even the photographers at National Geographic. They add thoughtful text describing the scene and how it affected or what it meant to them – a great way to introduce your brand to you. 

  1. Share videos!

Don’t forget that you can share short videos in the form of Instagram reels. Beautiful Destinations provide alluring travel reels from various contributors—and the way they are shot makes you feel that you are right there with them! 

Put your business on your customers’ Instagram feed 

Social media presence isn’t just an option for small businesses these days, it’s a requirement. And if you’re about to choose one platform to promote your company, make it Instagram. With a variety of business-specific features, Instagram can help any size business get to the next level. From higher engagement to in-app shopping, it’s a perfect place to promote your products. 

What are you waiting for? Download the Instagram app and put your business on social media. With this guide, you can boost your business’ visibility on the net, and if you need a little more push on your promotional efforts,’s online marketing tools can give you that little oomph and secure your success on the internet. 

  • Claire Sy

    Claire is a Content Marketing Writer at Although she’s just started her content marketing journey, she’s eager to write compelling articles while learning more about the SEO and marketing world. Growing up, Claire had always loved reading, but she started taking an interest in writing through poetry and stories. She also likes playing chess in her spare time.

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