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The ABC’s of Instagram

7 min

Still putting off Instagram? I had been. But then I saw just one too many headlines about this platform, and so I dove in. After a flurry of research and messing around, here’s what I learned.

  • Setting up an Instagram account for business
  • A few apps to make Instagram even better
  • Instagram etiquette
  • Resources for Instagram continuing ed

Consider this your 10-minute Instagram for business boot camp.

Why Instagram, and Why Now?

First, let me give you the short sales pitch on Instagram. Because if you haven’t already started using it, you’re probably pretty hesitant.

About one in three marketers – 36% – say they use Instagram according to Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. That’s up from 28% last year.

If the trend continues, about half of all marketers will be on Instagram by next year. This is good: You’re getting in late enough to be reasonably sure this is not a fad. But you’re not so late to the party that there’s no hope of getting traction.


Who’s on Instagram?

Ah… there’s the rub. Because of how young Instagram’s demographic is, it might not be ideal for everyone. Pew Research took a look at who was using Instagram late last year, then Sprout Social grabbed Pew’s data and made the nice infographic below.

What’s most important here is that half the people on this platform are 18 to 29 years old. Less than 20% of Instagram’s population is over 50. If you market to baby boomers, this might not be your platform.


Instagram engagement rocks – at least according to Quintly and Forrester Research 

The analytics company Quintly published a much-talked-about study of Instagram earlier this year. The key takeaway? It crushes Facebook and Twitter for engagement. 4.8 times the engagement, actually.

If you want more details on this study, feel free to click through the SlideShare deck below of an Instagram Study from quintly:


Forrester Research also came to similar conclusions about Instagram’s extremely high engagement rates last year. Here’s what their research revealed:


So even though this might be considered a “small” social media platform, with engagement rates like that, it’s as good as being five times larger.

How to set up your Instagram account

 Convinced enough to move forward? Great. Here’s how to do it”

1) Download the Instagram app to your phone.

Nope – no computer download. It can’t be done. This is a phone thing. Here’s where to get the Instagram app

2) Install the app.

3) Click on the Instagram icon on your device.


4) Tap sign up.

You can register with an email address or with your Facebook account.

5) If you choose to register with email:

You’ll be asked to enter that email address, add a password, then fill out your profile information, including adding a photo (or your company logo). To be extra cool, have your username on Instagram match your username on Twitter.

6) Link your Instagram account to your other social media profiles.

Start with Facebook and Twitter.

7) Set up your profile page.

This is your Instagram home base. Spend a little time to make it look nice. The infographic below should help:


8) Go follow at least 30 accounts.

This is important. It’s important because this is social media and so we’re supposed to be social (and interested in other people). It’s also important because following and interacting with other accounts is probably the single best way to learn Instagram fast.

6 tools to make great posts

Let’s get you posting ASAP. Here are six must-use Instagram apps for optimal results:

1) VSCO Cam.

This is a free app available for iOS and Android devices. It edits photos so they look way better. There’s a nice tutorial on how to use it here.


2) Afterlight.

For iOS. For Android. Costs $0.99. Some people consider this the top-tier, don’t-bother-with-anything-else filter app for Instagram. See a cool tutorial on this here. Start at 5:35 minutes into the video, which this link should automatically bring you to.

3) WordSwag.

Free, awesome and possibly even addictive, WordSwag makes creating gorgeous type and images easy. It’s made for Instagram and social media, but can also be for blog posts and even texts.

*Overgram and Quick also get praise for adding text to Instagram images.

4) Pic Stitch.

For iOS or Android. Lets you make collages. There’s also Layout (created by Instagram) and Photo Grid, among many others.

5) Hyperlapse.

For iOS. Not available for Android. Creates time lapse videos. Need I say more? It’s almost cool enough to make you forget about Vine. There’s an interesting article about how 12 brands are using Hyperlapse here. This video is made in Hyperlapse.


6) Latergramme

To schedule your posts for later. For iOS… appears to be buggy on Android based on the reviews. Try CrowdFire for Instagram on Android instead.

 You might also want to follow all these apps on Instagram, just for inspiration. They publish some cutting-edge stuff.

6 Instagram etiquette rules guidelines

1) Use hashtags with abandon.

If you’ve been accused of being a hashtag abuser on Twitter, you’ll love Instagram.

It’s AOK to use a truckload of hashtags on Instagram. And while you can use a truckload, seven might be your lucky number.


2) Don’t act like a faceless machine.

Instagram is supposed to be a bit personal. It’s kind of a photomontage “day in the life” experience. So show them your life. Messy desks, the daily commute, your company mailbox. These are all fair game for Instagram content.

3) Don’t be boring.

This sort of implies that being boring is the equivalent to being rude. Actually, that’s about right.

4) Don’t over-post.

Two posts a day is about right. According to Buffer, “Major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram. There’s no drop-off in engagement for posting more, provided you can keep up the rate of posting.”.

Of course, some brands post more. And if they’re consistent about it that’s OK. But don’t post seven images in an hour just because you have the images. This is kind of the Instagram version of bursting tweets – it’s a good way to get unfollowed.

5) Don’t post just your own content.

This is social media 101, but it applies to Instagram, too. Share other people’s posts or ask your audience to send you their photos. Again, we’re trying to be social here. It’s not polite to talk only about yourself.

6) Be careful of posting delayed content or photos from the past.

This is a bendable rule. But Instagram is all about the now, so don’t spend too much time in the past. Your posts will free more fresh and interesting if they seem like they’re posted the moment they happen.

Keep learning

Now that you’re underway with Instagram, here are a few resources to refine your approach and get more results:


There’s plenty of proof that Instagram can be used for business. And if your audience skews young and your business or content tend to be visual, Instagram may be a natural fit. You don’t even have to create much new content for this platform; it’s okay to repost content from Facebook and Twitter.

Are you using Instagram for your business yet? Is it generating any results? Feel free to give it (or this post) a thumbs up or a thumbs down in the comments.

Pam Neely
Pam Neely
Pam Neely has been marketing online for 15 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and an avid email and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award. Her book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List" is available on Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.