Note: this is a very long and very informational guide to Instagram, so we have broken it up into two separate blog posts. Click here for part two.
Instagram. It started as a simple photo sharing app and evolved into a massive cultural phenomenon. It’s a place for sharing photos with friends, for businesses to market their products or services, for customer service, for networking, for sharing recipes, for making friends, and for so much more.
When I created my Instagram account back in the summer of 2011, it was a very basic app. I took some artsy photos and edited them with cheesy filters and borders. I would get so excited if I got 11 likes because that’s when it would switch from a list of usernames to “11 likes”.
The platform has evolved exponentially since I first downloaded the app. Especially when it was sold to Facebook (for 1 billion dollars). If you’re new to Instagram in 2019, I’d imagine that it feels very overwhelming. Maybe you’ve had a personal account for a while but now you’re ready to learn how to use it for your business - there is a big learning curve there!
Here at InstaCrush, we’re Insta-obsessed. We want you to love Instagram as much as we do and we want to make it as simple for you as possible. This blog post is a compilation of everything you need to know if you’re starting an Instagram account today, especially if you’re using it for your blog or business.
creating your instagram profile
First thing’s first, you need to create your account. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to set up your profile. One mistake we see is people starting to follow and interact with other accounts before optimizing their own. You want everyone who looks at your profile to know who you are, what you do, and what they can expect from your account.
Creating a Business Profile
Why do you want a business profile? Business profiles provide you with tons of features that are not available with personal Instagram profiles, such as:
Swipe Up Links in Stories
Advertise & Promote Posts
If you’re creating your Instagram account for a blog or business, you’ll want either a business account or a creator account. To do this, you’ll need a Facebook Page. For us, we created our Girlcrush Collective Facebook page prior to our Instagram so we could easily connect them. And if you have no intention of using your Facebook page, that’s totally fine. You just need to create one to connect to your Instagram.
Business Profile vs. Creator Profile
Creator profiles are new in 2019. Instagram has become a huge platform for influencers and content creators and this new profile option is meant for them. Influencers (Instagrammers with large followings who have “influence”) are almost replacing traditional Instagram ads. Brands pay influencers to promote their product or service to their followings and it’s been a very effective marketing tactic.
With a creator profile, influencers are able to better collaborate with brands by letting Instagram know if they’re partnering with a business for a specific post. This allows both the influencer and the brand to see the post’s statistics.
Creator profiles also have a more simplified messaging platform that helps filter direct messages and have better control of their messages. They also allow followers to make purchases directly from their posts, a feature that used to only be available to product-based businesses.
So which should you choose? That’s up to you. You can start with a business profile and switch over to a creator profile at any point if you feel that would be a better fit. When you start out, it does not matter too much, as long as it’s not a personal profile.
Switching from a personal profile to a business profile
If you created your account as a personal profile, no worries. You can switch to a business profile very easily. All you have to do is go to your settings and scroll down to “Switch to Business Profile. This will prompt you to connect to your Facebook page. Then just fill out your business contact details and you’re all set!
Your username is also often referred to as your handle. It can be changed at any point in time, so don’t stress too much. But you want your username to be memorable and straight to the point. Avoid using numbers at all cost - this is fine for a personal profile, but it looks unprofessional and potentially scammy if your account is for your business.
There are over 100 million Instagram accounts as of June 2019, according to Statistica. This obviously makes it hard to get your desired Instagram username, but there are always ways around it.
For example, when we created our Instagram account for Girlcrush Collective, @girlcrushcollective was already taken. As was @girlcrushco. So instead of doing something like @girlcrushco123, we added a period - @girlcrush.collective. This keeps the username clean and memorable without looking unprofessional.
Consider adding a period (.) or an underscore (_) in your username if your desired name is already taken. You can also reach out to the existing account by sending them a DM and asking if they’d consider letting you have the username. We don’t recommend this if it’s an active Instagram account, but if the account has only a few posts or hasn’t posted in over a year, it’s worth a try!
Your name is different than your username. It’s visible only in your profile or when someone is viewing a list of users. It’s the bold name under your profile photo. It is searchable, so you should jam-pack it with keywords. Your username is searchable too, so it’s not necessary for you to put your business name in your name if it’s already in your username, but that’s totally up to you.
For example, if you’re an organic pet food brand, you should say that. Your name should not be cutesy as that will not benefit you. Platy around with your name, see what keywords you can fit there - you only have 30 characters. Basically, think about what your ideal audience will be searching and include that somewhere in your name or username.
Your Instagram Bio
People with personal Instagram accounts usually do not take their bio very seriously. But as a business, it’s your first shot at connecting with your potential audience. Your bio should explain what your business is, what you do, what your followers can expect from you, and a call to action. The tricky part here is that you have to do all of this in just 150 characters, so make every word count!
Your bio is not searchable, meaning that if someone searches for “grain free dog food”, your profile will not show up just because those words are in your bio. However, you can include hashtags in your bio. So you could say “Premium Dog Food #GrainFree” for potential exposure to users searching that hashtag.
If you’re not sure what you should include in your bio, use this formula:
This ensures that anyone viewing your profile will know what they need to know, and it will encourage them to either visit your site, download your freebie, or join your email list (depending on what you use your link for).
Note: formatting your bio is tricky. Instagram does not allow you to put line breaks in your bio when editing it from your profile. We suggest writing and formatting your bio in the notes app on your phone, then copy and paste it into your profile.
Your Profile Picture
This one is tricky. What you should use as your profile photo is going to be different for everyone. You definitely want to use either a close up photo of your face or your business’s logo. The main thing is to make your account easily recognizable.
If you have a business that is mainly service-based and personal, a photo of your face is best. It makes your account more personal and will help your audience connect with you. If you do not personally represent your company, your logo is the way to go.
One thing we see too often: logos that are too complex or too small to be seen in your little profile photo. For example, on the Girlcrush Collective Instagram, we used just the girl part of our logo. If we used the full Girlcrush Collective logo with the text and the girl, no one would be able to see it or read it. Plus, our name is already all over our profile, it doesn’t need to be in our profile picture. Consider the size of your logo when choosing a profile picture - maybe you want to just use a smaller asset from your brand.