Learn how to use Instagram for business to meet potential clients and grow your account organically.
Table of Contents
Before I started copywriting, I managed Facebook and Instagram for business owners across different niches.
I had clients with small accounts (under 1K), and others with 20K and up.
Today, I’m going to share with you some “secrets” I learned along the way, and peel the curtain back on my organic Instagram strategy. I’m going to share my best tips to use Instagram for business (without feeling inauthentic or following gimmicky tactics).
- How to decide if Instagram is your ideal platform
- How Instagram’s algorithm actually works
- The key to creating content people pay attention to
- How to find potential leads in your niche
- How to increase visibility with direct messages
This post isn’t about skyrocketing your follower count, but rather how to create a sustainable strategy that doesn’t suck up time and helps you meet potential leads for your biz (authentically).
Should I Use Instagram For Business?
Instagram isn’t for everyone. In spite of what the “gurus” tell you, you don’t *need * to be on Instagram to find clients and be profitable.
You do need to find ways to connect with your ideal clients or customers, and if they happen to hang out on Instagram, it’s worth taking the time to show up there.
You can decide if Instagram is right for you by answering a few questions:
🤔 Does my target audience “hang out” on Instagram or do they prefer other platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn?
🤔 Will I be consistent with my page? (if not, what’s the point?)
🤔 Can my business be just as profitable without Instagram?
Off the bat, there are a few business niches I can think of that can benefit from being active on Instagram:
- Thought leaders
- Coaches and speakers
- Virtual assistants / freelancers
It all comes down to this—who are you trying to reach and what social media platform are those people using?
Takeaway: Don’t follow the crowd—decide if Instagram is actually right for you!
Understanding Instagram’s Algorithm
Algorithms are constantly changing, but we do have some first-hand information from Instagram that gives us insight into how its algorithm works.
In case you don’t know exactly what an algorithm is, it’s the process that search engines and social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest use to decide how content is prioritized on a feed.
So how does Instagram’s algorithm work? In a blog post posted by Instagram, The Head of Instagram shared:
He also said:
☝️ This explains a lot as to why some accounts have tens of thousands of followers, but low engagement on each post.
Being successful on Instagram is no longer about how many followers you can get.
Even with a small account, you can authentically increase visibility on your content with the followers you do have, and still bring in sales for your business.
Here are a few things that can help you understand how Instagram works so that you can increase your visibility…
According to Instagram, there are thousands of data points that it collects to predict the kind of content you want to see. These data points are called “signals.”
Signals include engagement like comments, shares, likes, but it can also be factors like:
- Interest. Based on your interactions, Instagram tries to predict which posts you might like and show you those on your feed.
- Relationship. Instagram prioritizes posts on your feed from people you regularly interact with.
- Timeliness. How recently your content was published (hint-hint: Instagram wants to serve its users the latest, freshest content).
- Frequency. If you use Instagram often, you’ll likely see more content on your feed. If you don’t use Instagram often, you’ll likely see highlights of posts published since you last logged in.
- Following. The more people you follow, the fewer posts you’ll likely see from each person you follow. This is because Instagram has more options to choose from and tries to guess the posts you want to see.
- Usage. As with frequency, the more you use Instagram, the more data it collects to make the best guess at the content you want to see.
“The more likely you are to take an action, and the more heavily we weigh that action, the higher up you’ll see the post,” said Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri.
Takeaway: A person’s behavior impacts the content they’ll see on their feed. Authentic engagement will breed more engagement.
I can’t say this enough—algorithms are always changing. That’s why you might hear people complain about a drop in their engagement, or find it much harder now to grow your following than when Instagram was first started.
It’s also why you should never have all your eggs in one basket and need to diversify your marketing channels!
How To Set Up An Instagram Funnel
Because you don’t actually own your Instagram account, it’s important that you funnel your Instagram traffic to channels that you do own, so you can stay connected with your audience.
One of the best ways to do this is to create a high-value lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a free resource that visitors can access in exchange for their email address.
It has to be something of value to your audience that relates to what you offer in your business. It should give them a taste of what it’s like to work with you.
I have other opt-ins on my site, but I tend to promote those the most.
One of the ways to share your opt-in is in your bio link.
A lot of accounts I see have a link that opens up a landing page, and they share several links to click on. This can work too, but I want my traffic to be concentrated into one place…so I share my opt-in.
You can test out both options and see what works for you.
(If you decide to create a landing page, I recommend creating a mobile friendly landing page directly on your website rather than a third-party tool like Linktree.)
Another way to share your opt-in is through your content.
Some of the content I post is is meant to be entertaining, but most of it is educational–I want to give my audience actionable advice that’s going to help them grow their business.
When my followers see the value I’m providing I want them to take the next step in my funnel, which is to visit my website.
That’s why within my social media posts, I’ll share a link to an opt-in related to what I’m posting about, or a blog post that has opt-ins linked inside.
You should use your content to create multiple “entry points” for people to give their email in exchange for something of value (that’s where the lead magnet comes in).
To do this, I use a combination of posts, reels, and stories–I recommend for you to use a mixture as well.
Posting Content Your Target Audience Actually Wants
Want to know the best way to find content ideas your audience actually cares about?
Create customer-centric content that solves a problem.
If you want to do this, you need to do a bit of social listening (in copywriting we call that “voice of customer research”).
Cause ‘yup…I even use copywriting principles to create social media content (and it works).
Find users that fit your ideal audience, and see what they’re talking about…
What are their pain points? What goals do they have? What problems do they have that you can help solve?
One of the best ways to find out this information is to have actual conversations with people who fit your customer avatar (I’ll share more on that later).
Once you understand what your audience needs, you should create content that speaks to those pain points and desires they have.
Second, let your followers see themselves in the content.
You should create content that mirrors your audience. They should be able to see themselves in what you’re posting.
Even if your content is promotional, you should make it personal.
Here’s an example. It’s a post that talks about my free Cold Pitch Email Template. I could have created a post that just said “Free Cold Pitch Email Template” on the graphic, but I think people would have easily glazed past it.
Instead, I lead with the problem I’m solving. A lot of copywriters experience rejection when they’re first pitching themselves, so my audience can relate to that.
The twist here, is that I overcame the problem I solve for other people. I share exactly how I overcame, so my audience can experience a breakthrough as well.
That’s truly the difference between having content that comes off as promotional, and content that solves a problem for your audience.
The late Dr. Myles Munroe once said, every problem is a business opportunity. (How true.)
If you make your business (and content) about solving problems, you’ll thrive in business.
Growing Your Instagram Organically
I want to emphasize that Instagram followers don’t equate to more clients.
You can have 1K followers and still be more successful than some people who have 10K+ followers.
Here’s why: It’s not so much about the quantity of followers you have, but the quality.
10 loyal followers in your target demographic are worth more than 100 followers who aren’t interested in your business.
With that said, don’t focus so much on growing your following that you start going out of your target market. It can actually hurt you because if a follower is not really interested in your content, they won’t engage and you’ll have a low ratio of people viewing and engaging with your feed.
Target people who are a right fit for your business because they’ll be the ones interested and engaged with your content.
Remember—the more engaged people are, the more that Instagram will show your content to other users.
Takeaway: The amount of followers you have isn’t as important as having quality followers and authentic engagement!
How To Find Hashtags For Your Posts
Many people get confused about which hashtags to use, but it’s not as complicated as you might think.
You want to target hashtags that people are actively using and searching for, but still aren’t too popular (because then your content gets buried under a million other photos—literally).
When looking for hashtags, aim for a combination of tags within different ranges of posts.
So for example, you can do a few hashtags which have 1K-10K posts, a few more which have 10K-100K posts, and then a few which have 100K-500k+ posts in them.
You can find related hashtags by searching keywords in your industry, or looking at competitors to see what they use.
(Also, while I do use hashtags, I don’t depend on them to get eyes on my content.)
How To Meet Potential Leads On Instagram
Now for the *juicy* part that everyone wants to know…how do you actually find leads on Instagram that are a right fit for your business?
Here’s my simple, step-by-step strategy.
- Find several small to mid-sized accounts that complement your business.
They can be as small as 1K followers, to 20K. These should be accounts that share the same audience as you, but are not your direct competitors (for obvious reasons).
- Focus on one account at a time, and start targeting users that either follow or interact with that account.
Avoid spammy or inactive accounts. Then engage with 3-4 touch points for each account (for example, leaving two comments, liking a photo, and replying to a story).
I recommend leaving thoughtful comments that are 1-2 sentences. If you plan to comment with an emoji or 1-2 words, you might as well not waste your time.
For best results, set aside at least 30 minutes for engagement, and you can choose to do this every day or a few times a week.
My secret to doing this successfully is engaging naturally without expectations. If you do that, you won’t be so tied to the results, and your interactions will be more authentic.
As you continue doing this, you’ll notice that some of these accounts will interact back or follow you.
Once you have them as a follower, they’ll see your content and you can take next steps to nurture and convert (more on that later).
How I Use Reels & Stories To Increase Visibility
Earlier I mentioned how Instagram decides what content to show on a feed. Now I want to talk about how I use Instagram Reels and Stories to increase visibility for my content (so you can do the same).
Instagram says the intent of reels is to entertain people.
Instagram also says it uses signals to predict whether a particular reel will be entertaining or funny. That’s why the more people engage with your reel, the more likely more new people will see it too
My strategy with reels is to share content that’s funny or entertaining, but also relatable. (Here’s an example.)
What I love about reels is that it exposes you to a new audience, so it’s great for smaller accounts. I typically post 1-2 reels a week, but you can do what’s manageable for you.
Anytime I publish a new post or reel, I almost always share it on my Instagram stories as well.
When you share an Instagram story, it bumps you to the front of the “que” on the top bar where stories are found (also taking into consideration who interacts with your content).
Aside from sharing my own posts, I also create original videos just for stories (usually a quick, actionable tip).
It’s a great place to share behind the scenes content, share high-value tips, and even share other people’s content.
I really love sharing other people’s content on stories for a number of reasons….
I think it’s good to be supportive of other businesses.
Also, it’s a great way to build relationships and show other people in your network that you find their work valuable.
(What better complement can you give than sharing someone’s work with your audience?)
With both reels and stories (as with my regular posts), I typically relate it to a recent blog post or one of my opt-ins. Here’s an example.
The great thing about sharing direct links to your website is you can set up Google Analytics and track how much traffic comes from social media.
This will help you decide what’s working and what’s not.
For me, nearly half of my organic website traffic is coming from social media at the time of this blog post. That shows me my content is “working,” and it’s something I want to continue doing.
Takeaway: Take advantage of all aspects of Instagram if you want to increase your visibility organically.
How To Increase Visibility & Nurture Leads With Direct Messages
One of my favorite ways to increase my visibility on Instagram is through direct messages.
When you have mutual interactions via DM, it sends a signal to Instagram that you have a relationship with that person. In turn, it makes your content more visible to them in their feed.
That’s why anytime you get a new follower, you should send them a welcome greeting to establish a relationship and also help your chances of them actually seeing your content.
You can start an authentic conversation by asking a question that gets them talking about their business. (It’s not meant to be a pitch, but an ice-breaker.)
Here’s an example:
Hey [name], thanks for connecting with me!
I see that you [insert something they do]. Tell me more about your biz.
Once there’s mutual dialogue, you can ask questions that give you insight about your audience’s problems and how you can help solve them.
(Remember, we talked about “social listening?”)
This is also the perfect time to share a free opt-in to get them on your email list (if it’s appropriate).
Remember, you have to nurture and build trust first.
This strategy I’m sharing with you isn’t like cold emailing where you’re going for the sale upfront. The goal is to have authentic conversations that give you an opportunity to share about what you do, and build a real relationship with your audience.
Takeaway: DM interactions increase visibility for your content, and also are a way to get personal conversations going with potential leads.
How To Use Instagram For Business & Save Time
One of the myths I want to debunk right now is that Instagram takes up too much time.
It’s almost always the way people use the platform that eats up their time.
With a little planning and intentionality, you can work smarter and invest just a few hours each month into your Instagram page.
Here are my best tips:
- Create a plan. Decide what you’ll work on, when you’ll work on it, and plan out the content you want to create and post ahead of time.
- Batch your content. Instead of creating one post at a time, batch your posts.
- Auto-schedule your posts. Since you now have several pieces of content ready to go, you can schedule them in advance to auto-publish. That means no more guessing what to post last-minute or writing captions on the fly.
- Outsource. You might think outsourcing help is going to cost an arm and a leg—but it’s not. If you hire the right person, they’ll give you a return on your money because now you have more time available for high-level tasks in your business.
The key is hiring someone who knows what they’re doing—make sure to see your potential candidate’s portfolio and ask for testimonials.
Takeaway: Batch creating your content and being intentional with your time makes Instagram more manageable.
If you want to learn how to create quality social media content quickly, check out my post, Social Media Calendar: Plan Content Quickly That Attracts Clients.
Conclusion On How To Use Instagram For Business
Do you want to increase your visibility on Instagram?
If you practice this strategy consistently, it’ll help you increase visibility for your content, build authentic relationships, and generate organic interest in your business.
Let me know in the comments, what Instagram strategy have you tried before? Did it work well or not?
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Social Media Calendar: Plan Content Quickly That Attracts Clients