Instagram for Small Business - The Definitive Guide



Instagram now has ONE BILLION users! For us at Mastered Marketing, we believe Instagram is the #1 way to build a community and a local following for small businesses. So how can you get the most out of Instagram? This guide has EVERYTHING you need to know to use Instagram for Business, from getting started, to creating content, building your brand, advertising and more. Let’s get stuck into it!

 We're Going to Cover... 



Creating a Strategy



Creating Your Account


How to Choose Hashtags


Posting Like a Pro


Increasing Engagement



Instagram Stories


Direct Messaging


Influencer Marketing


Instagram Advertising


Instagram TV



Before you set up your account and start posting, you need to get clear on the reason why you’re doing this in the first place. Set up a clear plan and strategy before you do anything else on Instagram, otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time just winging it!

Ask yourself the following questions...

What’s the Goal?

Why are you doing this at all? Why are you even reading this!?

Before you start, it’s critically important that you have clear goals set up.

Primarily because you can’t achieve a goal you don't have, but also because your goal will determine the metrics you measure when using Instagram for Business (more on this in a moment).

Common goals for using Instagram are to:

  • Increase brand awareness

  • Drive traffic to your website

  • Increase product sales

  • Increase customer satisfaction

  • Attract top talent

  • Create relationships with influencers.

What Defines Success?

Once you have a goal, you’ll know what things to measure. As I'm sure you're probably aware, the amount of data you get from analytics can be overwhelming.

If you know what metric defines success, you can focus on just one or two metrics, and ignore the rest. For example…

  • Brand Awareness = Reach, engagement and followers.

  • Drive Traffic = Website traffic coming from Instagram.

  • Product Sales = Revenue generated from Instagram.

  • Relationships = Collaborations with influencers.

If your goal was to generate brand awareness, you wouldn’t look at sales as the success metric, otherwise you’re measuring the wrong thing!

That would be like starting a diet plan to lose weight, but then seeing how flexible you were, and saying the diet didn’t work because you can’t touch your toes.

They’re both about health, but they're not the same thing and would give you an inaccurate picture.

Who’s the Audience?

If you don’t understand your audience, I can almost guarantee you will fail. Not just with Instagram, but with anything!

(For more social media mistakes to stay away from, watch this video).

Having a deep, legitimate understanding of your audience and what they want is crucial, because if you don’t know exactly who they are, everything will be off. Have a think about things like:

  • What is their age and gender?

  • Where do they live?

  • What are they interested in?

  • What are their current problems?

  • What are they looking for right now?

  • What questions do they ask?

  • What other accounts do they already like? Why?

I won’t delve too deep into customer avatars right now - but at the very least, answer the questions above so that you can post relevant content.

What’s the Theme?

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote “jack of all trades, master of none”.

Now more than ever, it’s so important to go niche. Being a generalist creates average content that doesn’t really resonate with anyone. SO! Ask yourself….

  • What is your page going to be about? (E.g. minimal interior design / NBA basketball / craft beer)

  • What kind of content will you post? (E.g. design inspiration / quotes / short videos / mixture)

  • What style of photos will they be? (E.g. minimal / designer / colourful / bold)

Your account needs to look consistent and give followers a reason to follow you. If your account does a bit of everything there’s not really a need... 

If you want to succeed with Instagram for business, make it about a specific topic and be consistent with that.

Some Examples...

starbucks instagram account

Take a look at one of my all-time favourite Instagram accounts @starbucks. They have a vibrant, colourful and 'happy' account that is consistent throughout. Not only that, they have mastered the art of creating engaging content that is talking about their product the whole time, without being boring! 

three birds instagram.jpg


Another great account that has nailed the theme and consistency is @threebirdsrenovations.  From their content to the brand style to the captions, they are consistent to a tee! As you can see, this niche account has generated a large following and with good reason.



Okay we’ve got our strategy down, now it’s time to use the actual app! Whether you’re starting from complete scratch and don’t even have the app, or you’ve had it for a while, this section will show you how to set it up like a pro.

Installing the App

If you don’t already have one, setting up an Instagram for business account is easy.

  • Download the Instagram app (from the App Store for iOS, from the Google Play store for Android). Once the app is installed on your phone, tap to open up that bad boy.

  • Tap ‘Sign Up’, enter your email address and press ‘Next’. Alternatively you can tap ‘Log in with Facebook’ to sign up with your Facebook account.

  • You’re in. Wasn’t that easy?

How to Create a Business Account

Now that you’ve created an account, you’ll want to convert it to a business account. Here’s how:

  • Tap your profile photo on the bottom right hand side of the screen.

  • Tap the three dots (...) in the top right.

  • Scroll down to ‘Account’

  • Tap ‘Switch to Business Profile’

  • Keep pressing ‘Continue’ through the prompts.

  • Connect your Facebook Page (if you have one. If not, tap Skip).

  • Review and confirm your contact info

  • Done! 


Choosing a Profile Photo

Your business’ profile photo is the first thing your audience will see, so make it count! Make sure it ticks all three boxes... 

  • You have a great photo. Use a clean logo for a business and a headshot for a personal profile.

  • Make sure it fits correctly in the space, no cropped sides or an awkward-looking picture. Also if you have text in your logo, consider removing it if it’s too hard to read.

  • Make it consistent across all social media platforms. Use the same image and layout for your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc.

 A few examples... 



Often referred to as your handle, a username is the name a person uses on Instagram to define their profile address.

You have 30 characters and you can include letters, numbers, periods and underscores in your username - here’s a few things you want to do:

  • Make it clean, simple, unique, and easy to remember. 

  • Ideally, the shorter the better.

  • The same username you use on other social media platforms for discoverability.

Read your desired username before finalizing it - some words, when combined without spacing, may be read differently or inappropriately.

If you’re cramming a big name into one word it can be tricky to understand, so consider shortening it or adding an underscore.

Account Name

This is often an area people forget to optimise! 

You've got 30 characters here as well and you should make the most of it, like including words to help you get discovered. It should:

  • Explain the concept of your business in seconds.

  • Include keywords in account name. (e.g. ‘Social Media Agency’)

  • Have proper capitalization and spelling. 

I included the keyword ' Social Media Marketing agency ' because more people will search for that then my exact business name.

I included the keyword 'Social Media Marketing agency' because more people will search for that then my exact business name.


Instagram Bio

A good bio describes your business and what you do. There's an art to making your bio pop! Here are some elements of a killer Instagram bio:

  • Short, succinct and straight to the point.

  • Include things that make you and your product/service stand out.

  • Says exactly what you do and who you do it for.

  • It speaks to the target audience and calls out the customer.

  • Includes a call to action to your website (ideally this should be a landing page).

  • Includes a. hashtag to help you get discovered (more on hashtags coming up!)

 Instagram Bio Hack - If you want your bio to 'stack' on different lines, create your bio in the notes section on your phone and then copy-paste it here to make it look schmick! 


Regular Bio



If you’re new to the digital media landscape, you might be confused when you see the pound sign combined with words, such #goals or maybe #fitspiration. These are what you call hashtags - and they're super important!

What are Hashtags?

Keywords with the pound sign, or a hash, turn to searchable links that allows one to track discussion and organize content based on a keyword.

You can look for hashtags in the search tab. The search tab is in the bottom part of the app, with the magnifying glass icon.

How Can You Use Hashtags?

Hashtags can be used for getting discovered, creating branded tags, and for special events so everyone using  a certain hashtag can be added to a public feed.

And as of recently, users can now follow certain hashtags about things that interest them. Businesses can use these hashtags so that they’re even more visible to their target audience.

Which Hashtags Should You Use?

  • Use hashtags relevant to your business. However, make sure that the hashtags you are popular enough to have people searching for them, but not so popular that it’s over saturated where you'll never be seen.

    It’s better if you use hashtags that describe your brand, type of business and target market. 

    For example if you're a restaurant in Melbourne, you can use #melbournefood. If you just did #food you'll be drowned out.

  • Do hashtag research. Use hashtags that are full of high-quality content. The use of hashtags with random and spammy content can negatively affect your brand. You can also use apps that help you choose the best hashtags for your post, like Tailwind.

  • Create your own hashtag, in case of special events and for different types of content.

    For example if you're hosting a live event or a fundraiser, create a hashtag and encourage people to use it in their posts, to create buzz and also so you can re-discover photos from the event later. 

instagram hashtags 2.jpg

With 165 million pictures, it's extremely unlikely you'll get discovered for this tag!

instagram hashtags

Something specific like this is much better. Lots of people searching, but not too many.


Bonus Pro Tips on Hashtags...

  • If you’re just posting a couple of hashtags, sprinkle them in the caption.

  • If you’re posting a lot, comment on the picture and copy paste.

  • Customise the tags based on the post. Don't use the same thing every-time.

  • Don't over-do it. If you copy paste the same 30 tags on every photo, Instagram can potentially see your account as spammy.

  • You can also use hashtags to discover other relevant brands and create engagement.

    Here’s how: Search a hashtag relevant to your business e.g. #brisbanebusiness View the posts that come up, and join in the conversation.

brisbane hashtags.jpg


Now that you’ve learned the Instagram basics, let’s get down to posting. Your Instagram account’s content is essential - it’s the reason why people are following it after all!

Posting Tips

Make It Beautiful

Instagram is an incredibly visual platform, and you need to make it beautiful! It’s often a good idea to use the same layout, filter and colour scheme to keep your account consistent with a visual aesthetic.

Avoid Hard Selling

Obviously the goal here is to grow your business, but you can’t do that by shameless self promotion. That won’t work on any platform! Keep your content valuable, interesting and beautiful so you can build a community. That way, they will be much more likely to take action when you do have something to sell.

Show What You Do In A Creative Way

Instagram is the perfect place to get creative. Share photos that showcase your culture to build a relationship with your fans. Are you funny? Are you all about the team? Are you motivated? Whatever it is, share your culture on Instagram in a creative way, using your own unique voice.

Ask QUestions & Use Call to Actions

If you can figure how to get engagement, you’ll will. To do this, ask questions, tell people to drop a comment and encourage conversation, then reply to comments quickly. Getting people engaging and talking is the most important thing for Instagram success!

What Makes an Awesome Post?


Everything should always be high quality. If it’s not useful, interesting or entertaining, don’t post it!

It's Native.

Make sure your post is optimised for Instagram. Don’t just screenshot things or share other content without editing it. Make sure it’s the correct dimension, text isn’t too hard to read, make it Instagram friendly!

It's Consistent.

Aim for 1 page post a day, and try to use Instagram Stories daily as well (more on Instagram Stories coming up). Aside from consistency of posting, make sure the posts themselves have the same look (remember we spoke about theme? Wink wink).

It Uses a Geotag.

Tag your location in photos! When you do this, you can get more engagement and followers. In the same way that people can search for hashtags, they can also search for locations where you can pop up.

Share Videos!

Photos are great - but videos are better! 80% of internet traffic is now video, and if the video content is good it will outperform regular photos 9 times out of 10.

You can definitely post things that aren’t video, but when you can, make video content a preference.

When is the Best Time to Post?

There's so much information on this subject that it's overwhelming. Ultimately, it depends on the type of business and your target audience’s demographic. That said - here are some guidelines to help you:

  • Post on off-work hours rather than all throughout the day. Since most people would not be on their phones while at work, it would be best if you post in times that they are. That would be on lunch breaks (11am - 1pmpm) and evenings (6pm - 8pm).

  • Post for your most active time zones. If you have followers all over the world, post multiple times a day at the most popular time

  • Post important stuff on weekdays. For some unknown reason, engagement isn't great on weekends!

However, those tips are not foolproof - the best thing you can do is good old trial and error, then posting content based off what you discover.

Source -  CoSchedule

Source - CoSchedule

Posting Tools

Creating new posts and sharing them every single day might be tedious, especially if you're trying to run a business.

But don’t worry, here are some tools that could help you!

  • Canva: Free design tool to make fun, beautiful and engaging posts.

  • Buffer: Free scheduling tool to prepare content in advance so you aren’t scrambling.

  • LinkTree: Free tool to put multiple links in your bio so you don't have to keep changing it! 

buffer for instagram.jpg

Engagement is the best way to grow your account, and is also one of the best ways to measure your Instagram's success. Even if brand awareness is not your end goal, it will still indicate if your account is popular. Engagement is becoming harder and harder due to algorithm updates and general saturation, so here's a few tips to keep those likes and comments coming in...

The #1 Way to Get Engagement

Instagram is a two way street - and the best way to get engagement is to engage with others. There are bots that like, follow and comment on pictures, but we believe in genuine human interaction (it pays).

This is the #1 way to build a community on Instagram. If you’re not engaging with others, they won’t want to engage with you! Simple as that.

 Find People to Follow

  • Go to competitors, similar pages and influential accounts. Follow the people that follow them.

  • Search for locations that are near your business and follow people that often visit there.

  • Search for usernames that are somehow related to your business, see if the user really is a part of your target audience, and then follow them.

  • Search hashtags related to your business and follow people who are using those hashtags.

  • Find new posts and accounts and join in the conversation.

  • If they commented an answer to one of your posts, answer them sincerely. People want some genuine interaction and brands should do that to grow.

  • Leave relevant comments not just an emoji or a comment that says ‘nice!’. Bots do that, and you’ll just look like spam.

Run Tap & Tag Contests

Contests work a treat on Instagram, and they’re easy to do. Put together a prize worth $50 - $100, where the terms are they have to like your post and tag a friend (where ‘tap and tag’ comes from). Boost it for $50 and watch the engagement roll in!

 Encourage Commenting

  • Post interesting puzzles and quizzes to entice followers to answer.

  • Ask questions. Ask them their opinions, or how their day was, or other questions.

  • Post fill-in the blank questions. E.g “If you could time travel, you would __________.”

An example post from one of our clients  @darcylordproperty

An example post from one of our clients @darcylordproperty

10 Minute Engagement Plan

This is a method to keep your Instagram account active and engage with your followers. It only takes ten minutes of your time each day, so it’s easy to do. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 1 Minute - Like and comment on 5 posts in the feed.

  • 4 Minutes - Search location or tags. Like, follow & comment on 10 posts.

  • 1 Minute - When following someone new, like 5 of their photos.

  • 2 Minutes - Go to similar page and follow 50 of their followers.

  • 2 Minutes - Each week use the Followers App to unfollow people who aren't following back.


Instagram Stories enable users to post photos and videos that is appear after 24 hours and won’t be seen in the main feed of Instagram. Instagram Stories can help brands reach consumers without putting them off, as it looks authentic and not very marketing-ish. Also, like with the main feed’s algorithm, people that could be interested in your business might see your Stories.

How Do You Share an Instagram Story?

  • Swipe right from your home screen or tap the camera icon in the top left corner of the screen to open the Instagram camera.

  • Take a photo by tapping the record button or a video by pressing down. Videos last up to 10 seconds.

    You have the option to use boomerang, stop-motion, superzoom, rewind, type, hands- free, and a live option. You can also post photos or videos previously taken by swiping up or down.

  • Tapping anywhere on the screen will bring out a text tool. You can modify the colour, font, and size of the text. Type ‘@’ to tag another account, or the ‘#’ to add a hashtag. We love this feature - make it funky!

  • Swipe up or tap the sticker icon on the top right of the screen to see stickers you can add. You can also add your location for discoverability. 

  • If you don’t want to add text, you can doodle! Just tap the pen icon in the top right of your screen. You can modify the color and style of the pen. You can also use the eraser tool to delete your doodles.

  • Once you’re satisfied, tap ‘Done’. It’s located in the top right corner of the screen.

  • To apply different filters, just swipe left or right until you find a filter you like.

  • When you’re done, tap the ‘Next’ button to share your story!

  • And your story is out there for all your followers to see!

Source -  Buffer

Source - Buffer


What Content Can You Post?

With the casual nature of Instagram Stories, you will never run out of content you can post! 

Behind the scenes content

Making-of videos, behind the scenes interviews, and daily happenings in the office are the kinds of things you could post. 


Announce new products or promos through Stories. 


The stickers also show a poll option - you can edit the question and the two options! 


Putting up a question is an awesome way to build trust and also social proof. Put up a question and ask people to send in theirs, then answer it in your future posts. Our client Ben Wakely does this really well.

New content

Links or new products, with the link button on the top of screen. This feature is only available in Instagram Business. 

Funny stuff

This adds the ‘human’ factor in your brand because all people experience funny things, right?

instagram stories

How Often Should You Post Stories?

There are no exact number of posts and timeframe in which one should post - it’s all up to you! Whether it's one or fifteen a day, just make sure they are useful, entertaining or interesting. 

Your best bet is to post at least one a day, or a few stories every week. If you want immediate engagement, post when your followers are most active. 

Instagram Highlights

Even though Instagram Stories 'disappear' after 24 hours, you can add older stories to your 'highlights' which show up underneath your bio.

We love this feature because you get to cherry pick all of your best Stories that you've put up over time, and also group them together into different categories. Here's an example... 

Squarespace uses Instagram Highlights to showcase different features and special events.

Squarespace uses Instagram Highlights to showcase different features and special events.


Direct messaging, or "DM", is a private messaging feature that allows a user to share text, photos, links, and videos to another individual user or a group. Businesses can use direct messages to connect with their target audience better. 

How Can You Send DM's?

There are two ways you can send direct messages. 

Option One

  1. Go to your account and tap the paper plane icon at the top right corner of the screen.

  2. Tap the plus button on the top right corner. On the ‘To:’ bar, search the account you want to message.

    Accounts you have previously messaged will appear below. If they’re the ones you’ll send a message to, you can simply select them.

  3. Type your message on the message bar. Or if you want to send pictures or videos from your camera roll, tap the landscape icon on the right side of the message bar.

    You can also send a disappearing picture or video, just tap the blue camera on the left side of the message bar.

Option Two

  1. Go to the account of the person you intend to message.

  2. Tap the three dots at the top right corner of the screen.

  3. Choose the ‘Send Message’ option.

  4. Then type your intended message. 

Source -  Instagram

Source - Instagram

Why Should You Use DM's?

DMs can help business boost interaction  and build relationships with their customers. However, you would have to do it differently.

Because DMs are private, people won’t want flashy promotions to pop up in there. If you do that, the audience would block you instantly. Here are things you can do: 


Ask your customers to leave reviews on your brand in DMs. This way, they would be honest with their reactions.

Testimonials are powerful in marketing and you can utilise Instagram DMs to get those. 

Give solutions.

Look into hashtags connected to your business. Pick a person that fits your target audience and see if they have a problem that your brand could fix.

Message them about their problem and tell that you can help them. 

Customer service.

Customers now utilise social media for brands to easily see their grievances, especially the comments section. Use Instagram DMs for you to know more about their complaints better.

Leave a comment under the comment that you have DM’ed them about their grievance. Through this, they would know that your brand responds to complaints fast. 


But not the ordinary promotions you typically see. Promotions in Instagram DMs should be more personal. 

Say thank you.

Show your appreciation to your customers!


Influencer marketing is an effective way of increasing engagement. Your brand would be introduced by a reliable source - an influencer. Through this, influencers remove traditional advertising in the equation. Also, because of the new Instagram algorithm, influencers play a big role in getting brands to audiences. 

How Can You Use Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is all about going where your customers already are - and that's with influencers. You can team up with influencers to:

  • Get more followers.

  • Drive more sales.

  • Build brand awareness.

  • Establish authority and social proof.

  • Reach new audiences. 

instagram influencers.jpg

How Do You Do It?

When it comes to Instagram, there's a few things you want to do. 

Step one - Think About The End USer

Before you create a list of influencers, think about who you are trying to reach. Ultimately this (again) comes down to understanding your customers.

Once you know who you are trying to attract, you can create a list of influencers who have that audience. 

Step Two - Create a List of Influencers

One of the quickest and easiest ways to find influencers is by searching hashtags.

For example if you want to find an influencer in the fashion space, you could search #mensfashion and see who shows up in the 'Popular' section. 

Check their engagements, and the quality of their followers. If they have a HEAP of followers but not much engagement, that's a red flag and a waste of time. 

Step Three - Reach Out to Them

Reach out to each influencer individually. Make it personal, let them know you love their account, and you'd love to work with them. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM. 

If you have 500 followers and they have 500,000 they aren't going to do a mutual shout out. You'll need to offer them either a gift (like a sample of your product) or sometimes just cash.

Think about what they would want, and then what you could offer to make it worth your time and theirs.


Instagram advertising is a FANTASTIC and cost-effective way to take your account to that next level and accelerate your results. Whether you want to get more engagement, drive traffic, sell products or generate leads, Instagram Ads can help to make it happen.  

Why Use Instagram Ads?

Instagram is owned by Facebook, so you get access to the amazing, laser-targeting capabilities of Facebook Ads (in fact you often run Instagram Ads through the Facebook Ads Manager).

In my personal opinion, Facebook & Instagram Ads are the most effective marketing method that small businesses have ever had access to in the HISTORY of.... everything.

For as little as $5 - $10 a day you can reach thousands of potential customers with relevant content and offers. 

How Do Ads Work?

So you know what you're doing, it's important to explain how ads are organised. It works like this: 

  • Ad Campaign. The objective.

  • Ad Sets. The targeting, budget and placement. 

  • Ads. The ad itself - these are the things the audience see on Instagram. 

How to Create an Ad?

You can place Instagram ads easily through two channels: Facebook Ads and Instagram app.

However, you still need to link the Instagram account to your business’ Facebook page (which is why we setup your business account in chapter two). 

Through Facebook Ads:

  • Choose your marketing objective. There are 8 available objectives for Instagram - Brand awareness, Reach, Traffic, App installs, Engagement, Video views, Lead generation, and Conversions.

  • Name the campaign.

  • Choose the targeting.

  • Set the budget and schedule.

  • Select placement (deselect Facebook and choose Instagram, be it on the feed or on Stories).

  • Publish! 

Through the Instagram App:

  • Choose the post you want to promote.

  • Choose the objective. Unlike Facebook Ads, Instagram only has two choices: visit your website or call/visit your business.

  • Set the action button, audience, budget, and duration. 

instagram advertising

How Do You Track Results?

Remember it's all about knowing why you are running an ad. Then, no matter which method you used above, you can see how each ad is doing on Facebook Ads Manager.

The Ad Manager’s reporting table makes it easier to see if your ads yield the results you want to achieve. In the table, you can see all sorts of stuff like: 

  • Results. The goal you want to achieve through the ad, such as engagement and views.

  • Cost per Result. How much does it cost to achieve that goal? (MOST IMPORTANT).

  • Reach. How many people saw this ad?

  • Total amount spent. How much did you spend all throughout?

You can choose to see and compare how well the campaign, the ad sets, or the ads are doing through the folder-like navigation of the Ads Manager.

You can also export the data by clicking on the ‘export’ button on the right of the screen. To keep it simple, just look at your spend and cost per result!


Instagram TV or IGTV is a new video-sharing platform that allows for longer videos What differs it from other platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo is the orientation of the video - it’s vertical. As the makers say it, “IGTV is built for how you actually use your phone: vertical and full screen.” Also, unlike the videos you could post on your account or on Stories, videos on IGTV could go up to an hour! 

How Can IGTV Help Businesses?

The most obvious benefit of IGTV is the length of videos can be significantly longer.

Additionally, in the same light as Instagram Stories, Businesses can give the audience less edited content - as the videos on IGTV are meant to be shot through mobile phones.

This means that what the audience gets is raw, more genuine content, which is what they want more nowadays. 

instagram tv.jpg

What Can You Share?

We covered some examples in the Instagram Stories section - the main difference with IGTV is the length and the mindset.

People open IGTV expecting to see longer videos (like YouTube) so the content style can be different to a Story. 

  • Tutorials

  • Behind-the-scenes

  • Interviews

  • Events

  • Demos

  • Educational Videos 

How Do You Create a Channel?

  • In the Instagram home feed, tap the IGTV logo located near the top-right corner of the screen.

  • Tap the gear corner on the right side of the screen.

  • Tap the ‘Create Channel’ button at the bottom of the screen.

  • You’ll see an introduction of IGTV - tap ‘Next’ on the first and second screen, and then tap ‘Create Channel’ on the third screen.

  • Congrats! Your channel is now created! You can now upload videos.

Instagram is not only an app where businesses can post pictures and videos, but also presents a goldmine of opportunity for businesses to establish stronger connections to customers, gain new ones, and grow their business more. Time to get started! If you'd like some help with your small business marketing, check out our social media marketing services here. 

Mitch Hills