The ultimate Instagram tips and tricks checklist

Small Business Guides

8 min read

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with millions of people using it every day. It’s made for mobile devices. It’s visual. And it’s free.

12 steps for Instagram success

Every day, more and more businesses are signing up to Instagram to reach new audiences and market their brands in new ways. Read these 12 Instagram tips to help you do the same.

1. Set clear goals

If you have specific goals, you’ll be more targeted in the way you use your Instagram account – and more likely to succeed.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your primary goal to attract more followers?
  • Do you want to create a small but highly engaged community that stays with you?
  • Do you want to completely change the way people see your business?
  • Do you want to show a more human and approachable side of your brand?

Identify your goals. Then think about how you’ll use visually pleasing and creative imagery to achieve them. Refer to your branding or social media strategy to make sure your goals stack up.

2. Use clear branding

It’s important to clearly brand your new account. This will help your customers recognise and find you on Instagram.

All Instagram accounts need a profile. So make sure yours includes:

  • your brand name (where it says to add your account name)
  • your logo (where it says to add a profile photo)
  • your tagline and web address (where it says to add a description of who you are)

Check out global brands like Pepsi. You’ll see their brand and logo are clearly visible in all Instagram posts.

Other firms prefer to express their brand through the style of photography. Stylist and author Sibella Court is one example. She treats Instagram like it’s her own lifestyle magazine. Every photo is beautifully composed and has a consistent look and feel.

3. Tell a great story

Instagram is an excellent platform for visual storytelling. Use it to your advantage. Start with your audience – and what they like and what interests them. Then use Instagram to show your customers who you are and what you do.

If you’re about to launch a product, upload photos of the planning and lead-up to the launch. During the event, tap into opportunities to keep the story alive like some movie promoters do. See how Zoolander2 used Valentine’s Day as an angle, for example.

4. Celebrate and humanise your brand

Celebrating is huge on Instagram. Every celebration gives you an opportunity to humanise your brand. Photograph your customers doing clever and creative things with your new product. Or go behind the scenes and show your employees enjoying a company event.

New York City tourism venture behindthescenesnyc did exactly that in this post of their team in Vail, Colorado.

5. Engage your audience in different ways

Different methods of engagement will work well with different audiences. Sometimes asking your followers a thought-provoking question or providing a motivational quote works well.

Rewarding followers with freebies, entries to events and promos will keep people interested. If you’re planning on hosting or running a promotion, you’ll have to follow certain Instagram rules.

Try different things to see what works. Respond positively to comments on your posts. Reply to feedback. Have a conversation – that’s what engagement’s all about.

6. Post high-quality images

Beautiful imagery is the holy grail of Instagram. The trick is to make sure your photos are well composed, have a clear focal point, and make interesting use of colour and contrast.

Use high-quality images to set a mood and tone.

  • Funny, goofy or silly images show you’re human.
  • Brand images keep your company identity firmly in focus.
  • Snapshots of an exclusive event show you’re on the scene and well connected.

Chicago-based flower service Flowers for Dreams gets a special mention on Instagram’s website for the quality of its imagery.

You can achieve similar results by using Instagram’s filters. Or take photos using a DSLR camera, then upload them to Instagram. Use apps to make your photos pop.

Some good image apps include:

7. Be active and post regularly

Posting one to three times a day will keep you visible on Instagram. Post at the times of day when your followers are more likely to see them. Check this using Iconosquare (it analyses your followers’ activities and reports back with the best time to schedule posts).

8. Use hashtags

Use hashtags to get your content found, improve your search engine optimisation and boost your followers.

There are three main types of hashtags:

  • Brand and campaign hashtags
    These are made by you for your own business to promote your brand and business. Usually these are unique to you and can be used by you and your followers at any time. Fashion retailer Topshop uses #topshopstyle and #threesatrend
  • Content hashtags
    These are common hashtags used in your posts to get noticed by people searching for or using that hashtag. Common examples used by Topshop include #streetstyle and #catwalk
  • Trending hashtags
    These are hashtags that have shot to popularity in real time. Anyone can use them to join the conversation and to get their message noticed by a huge audience. #londonfashionweek is one used by Topshop (and many others).

Here are four popular trending hashtags. Follow these Instagram tips on how to use them.

  • #photooftheday Take a behind-the-scenes photo and share it as a #photooftheday.
  • #tbt or #throwbackthursdays Use Thursdays as a day to reminisce about your company and make a #tbt post.
  • #motivationalmonday Use Mondays to share quotes or life lessons.
  • #widn (What I’m Doing Now) Share what people at your company are doing right now (like taking a yoga break, drinking chai tea at their desk or strolling through the local park).

Check out to find the best hashtags to reach your audience. Consider adding hashtags or a logo to your images so, when people share your posts, the image travels but your branding remains. Use Instagram’s Explore feature to find posts relating to popular hashtags. Look for examples to use in your daily posts.


9. Build your following with searchable and shareable content

Tagging, following and sharing your content will build up your reach. Make your content searchable by tagging your location and the people appearing in your images. Use hashtags. Follow your followers. Share things you like on Facebook and Twitter – it’ll encourage others to do the same with your content. Download an app to regram (repost) images on Instagram while giving credit to the original owner of the photo.

10. Partner up for more followers

Partnering up with other Instagrammers is another way to pick up more followers. You can partner up for free or pay to do it.

Use these Instagram tips to partner up.

  • Find popular Instagram accounts that reach your target audience.
  • Identify accounts with a similar reach to yours. Contact them to see if they’re keen to partner up. Suggest you share each other’s content and encourage your followers to follow each other’s account.
  • Identify accounts with a much bigger reach than yours to see if they’re interested in receiving payment from you for partnering up (you obviously need a budget for this option).

11. Learn from others

Take a lead from other businesses like yours. They can be the best source of Instagram tips. Pay particular attention to brands that have a strong following.

Look at:

  • the type of images they use
  • how regularly they post
  • how they engage with their followers – do they ask questions or run targeted campaigns?
  • their branding
  • how they promote their website and link other social media

Research some of the world’s most successful brands for ideas and inspiration. Read Instagram’s own business portal for tips and advice on how to get the best from Instagram.

12. Track your efforts

It’s important to know if all this fun and effort is worth it in the end. Find out by using a third-party tracking tool to identify what works and doesn’t work on Instagram.

Here’s a list of free tracking tools to get you started.

Another option is to set up a unique, easy-to-remember web address used only on Instagram (in your profile and in comments) that allows you to track traffic from Instagram. Alternatively, change your settings to get notifications when people like your posts. It’s a less analytical approach, but it may work well when you’re starting out.

It always comes back to great content

If you produce beautiful visual content, you’ll always attract followers who want to engage with your brand and champion it.

Recognise that Instagram is evolving all the time – and so are Instagram tips – so keep up and be prepared to change when you need to. Use Instagram as a way to learn about social media marketing and have fun at the same time.

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