Whether you\u2019re an online or an in-store business, there\u2019s an audience waiting for you to discover on Instagram. In this blog, learn about how this channel is a useful tool to create a community of consumers around your business through the power of visual content. Why Instagram is Good For Business People love Instagram, and so do brands and businesses. Instagram is a platform for visual expression, sharing your passions, a source for daily inspiration, and a means to build and engage a like-minded community. The simplicity of this channel also drives its mass popularity. People visit Instagram to discover things they care about, and increasingly, that is content from brands and businesses. Worldwide, over one billion Instagram accounts are active every single month, and 80% of these follow a business. The daily figure is equally staggering at 500 million active accounts. With millions scrolling this social channel every day, Instagram is the platform you want to market your business on. It can get you visibility, help you convert an audience into customers and money directly off it, and enables you to build trust and credibility through direct engagement with people. Today, if a business isn\u2019t taking advantage of the visual appeal and the inbuilt business tools of Instagram, it\u2019s a missed opportunity in terms of marketing, customer acquisition, and potential sales. Benefits of Using Instagram for Business Increase Brand Awareness: According to Instagram, 60% of people say they discover new products on the social network. Instagram is a platform that people use almost everyday. When you\u2019re speaking to your target audience in an environment that\u2019s familiar and relatable to them, you\u2019re more likely to be seen as an approachable brand, prompting an action from your target audience. Build a Community: Instagram connects people to businesses that speak to their passions. This organic outreach creates a community of followers who you can directly communicate with your business, give you feedback on what they want, and also share their joy after experiencing what your business offers. Giving your current and future customers a community to be a part of is invaluable in driving sales. Inspire Action: You can stir curiosity and motivate people to move forward in their relationship with you as a business through creative and aspirational content. Instagram allows many gateways in its content to sign up people to your email list, make a purchase, check out your website, among others. Humanize your Brand: The nature of content on Instagram allows a business to show its human side. You can promote your business, without the hardsell, by giving Instagram users a behind-the-scenes look at your business, talk about people behind it, the place where the work gets done, the causes that you support, your culture, and so on. Start With an Instagram Business Account If you haven\u2019t yet, set up your Instagram Business Account to access their many tools that will help you measure and amplify your presence. The business account has built-in analytics that gives you a real-time look at how your content is performing in terms of views, reach and engagement. You can learn about your followers, how and when they interact with you, and what they\u2019re looking for. A business account lets you add details about your business, operational hours, location, contact details etc. With such insights, you can repeat what\u2019s working and shape your future content. How to Make Your Business Stand Out on Instagram While Instagram makes it easier than ever to promote your business, it\u2019s all the more difficult to stand out in the eyes of your target customer amidst the clutter of millions of accounts. Engagement is one of the most revealing indicators of how you are performing on Instagram. When your followers interact with your content in the form of likes, comments, views, re-posts, you know you\u2019re reaching the right audience, with the right content. So, to bring more eyeballs to your brand and business, your goal on Instagram is engagement, because that leads to more followers who eventually can mature into customers. Hashtags Hashtags are how you crack engagement. Adding the \u2018#\u2019 symbol before any word or phrase turns it into a clickable topic. When you add a hashtag in your caption or comment, people searching that hashtag get exposed to your content too. Hashtags are like free advertising and one of the most effective ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram. Use a mix of trending and targeted hashtags in your posts and stories. People dedicatedly follow certain hashtags of their topics of interest. So, spend time researching which hashtags your audience follows. For example, if you\u2019re a sneaker brand, #sneakerhead might be a trending hashtag. Hashtags also function as keywords that people will use to search specific content. If your business sells health bars, a common hashtag like #cleaneating will help your post be found by the relevant audience. Hubspot\u2019s Instagram Engagement Report states that when it comes to hashtags, relevance scores over quantity. Their study showed that upto 5 relevant hashtags provide meaningful engagement. Create a branded hashtag that\u2019s unique to your business and doesn\u2019t overlap with other brands. For example, Nike\u2019s #justdoit and Lululemon\u2019s #thesweatlife are branded hashtags. These can also be names of your company, product or a new phrase you coin that elevates your brand\u2019s purpose. Branded hashtags encourage user-generated content. Happy customers or active members of your Instagram community may want to post about your business, share their experience of using your service, or show themselves using your product in a post or story. A community movement gets created around your branded hashtag, promoting your business to an extended audience. While hashtags are an excellent way to capture a new audience, remember you can\u2019t boost mediocre content even with the right hashtag. Instagram Stories Likes and comments are no longer enough to build your audience and gauge their engagement. Instagram Stories have over 400 million active users every day, and one-third of the most viewed stories are from businesses. It\u2019s a proven way to engage people, gain new followers, direct traffic to your website and sell more products and services. How to engage with your followers through Instagram Stories: Question Stickers: Host a Q&A session using this feature and give your followers the opportunity to ask you questions, and learn more about your business and the people behind it. You can also turn the tables and ask your followers their opinion on something. This is a great way to crowdsource ideas. Story Polls: Give your audience a say by conducting a poll in your stories. You can collect feedback on your product, make a them a part of the creation of something brand new, and really understand the pulse of the Instagram marketplace. Location Sticker: Instagram stories are searchable by location as well. So, remember to tag your location in your stories so that users searching a location on Instagram can discover you as well. Hashtag Sticker: To appear on the search page of Instagram, hashtags are as important on your Stories as they are on your post captions. While your Instagram feed is polished and carefully curated, Instagram stories are more dynamic, spontaneous, and let you share real-time content. Instagram Ads You can market your business on Instagram by creating ad campaigns that either run on your stories or your feed. Instagram ads are highly customizable. You can narrow your audience to location, age, gender, language, interests, and other parameters. Ads help you improve the awareness and reach of your brand, but they are useful only after you\u2019ve spent some time creating a range of content on your profile and have a defined audience. Shopping on Instagram Your instagram feed and stories become your online storefront through product tags or stickers. When you set up this feature, users can click on \u00a0product tag, learn more about it, and get directed to your online store to complete the purchase. (5) Good Content Drives Engagement: Instagram is a mobile experience, and you have a few seconds to make an impression before the user scrolls onto another image or video. How do you make them stick and interact with your content? What kind of posts engage an audience? The answer to that is, good creative content. Instagram is a highly visual experience. You need to consistently post high-quality content to attract new followers and encourage existing ones to engage with you. These are a few basic guidelines to help you build a community of your target consumers on Instagram. Types of Posts: People respond to great content, be it from a friend or a brand. But if they repeatedly see the same kind of posts from you, they\u2019ll skip you in their feed. Break the monotony of product posts and infuse some diversity in your content by posting about your customers, their testimonials, your employees or team members. Working in the field and behind-the-scenes posts add authenticity to your social presence. Motivational quotes also prompt many to repost. Contests to Gain Attention: Asking users to share a photo or a video as part of a contest creates an emotional connection between you, the business, and the consumer. You\u2019re also generating authentic marketing content through your customers that you can showcase on your profile as an endorsement. Contests build momentum in the run up to a product launch, they help you go viral, and give your community a reason to engage with you. Photos and Videos: Incorporate your logo and brand colours for a consistent look and feel in your content. The images and videos should be shot aesthetically, in good lighting, with an adjoining call-to-action. Think about your target audience to create a user persona, and tailor your images and videos to catch their eye. Focus on posting video content regularly because they perform better than other types of content. Hubspot\u2019s Instagram Engagement Report found that video posts receive on average the highest number of likes, and more than double the number of comments on static image posts. Ensuring the Success of Your Instagram Content Instagram prioritizes content from accounts that you\u2019ve interacted with in the past through a like, comment, tag or a direct message to arrange your feed. The Instagram algorithm sees this interaction as an indicator of interest or a relationship, and will show you these accounts first in your feed or stories bar. That\u2019s why engagement is so important to remain visible to your audience. Instagram Insights: To ensure you\u2019re seen by your audience when they\u2019re online, take a look at the Insights feature of your Instagram Business Account to see how your content is performing on different days and at various times. Insights show you numbers on profile visits, website clicks, the time and days your audience is most active on your page. It also breaks down the age range, gender, and location of your audience. Scheduling Instagram Posts: When you\u2019ve determined the time and days when your posts perform the best, get ahead with planning your Instagram content by using scheduling platforms like Later, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Buffer, Sprout Social, among others. Depending on the advanced nature of their features, these post schedulers charge anywhere between $10 to $100 a month per user. This could be a useful investment as your Instagram community grows and demands fresh content daily. Today\u2019s consumer is highly discerning and wants to be heard. They are more likely to purchase your product or service if they\u2019ve experienced a personalized and authentic social interaction with your business. There is value in nurturing your existing niche community of followers who interact with your business regularly, instead of investing all your resources in chasing new ones, who may just remain silent followers. As we emphasized earlier, focus on improving the engagement rate of your content. Also, reinvent your content from time to time and play around with how you interact with your audience in order to retain them. This core pool of loyal followers can organically spread the word about your business to newer audiences. Happy \u2018gramming!