How to Make Instagram Work for ANY Business [5 ways]

I have been doing a lot on Instagram this year, on both client sites and on my own. Instagram is becoming super popular and here are 5 ways to make it work for ANY business, gleaned from my experience.

Demographics matter.

This is true of all social media and you should research your target audience. But here is the thing, Instagram is exploding right now and more and more older people are on it.

The first commercial account I worked on was for extreme sports and it took off like a rocket with huge engagement and numerous leads originating from the account. The demographic was perfect, as we were selling gear for an extreme sport. Instagram is full of young guys wanting to show off how extreme they are. It was a match made in heaven.

The next account I worked on was for a high end restaurant, and it did not work as well. The engagement was lower. Although it got responses, a lot of the response was from people who were already following the client on Facebook.  They’d seen the Instagram posts on the Facebook page, then headed on over to Instagram to follow the client on that platform, too.

Therefore, the account was not finding new leads. Instead, it was engaging existing customers. It was still worth having but it was nothing like the exploding success of the first account I worked on.

Instagram is global, but you don’t have to be.

The second thing about the demographics (and this cuts both ways) is: Instagram is international. Can you sell to people everywhere? Or are you limited to the USA or even a physical location.

The bigger the area you can deliver to the better Instagram can be for you. But this shouldn’t mean you should skip Instagram if you are promoting a physical location. The one thing that offsets your limitation is the shear volume of people you can reach on there.

I have worked on several campaigns which were promoting tours on the island of Key West where I live, and the accounts produce leads. Some of those people we were reaching out to in all corners of the world would later end up on the island booking trips.

Frankly if your customers are young like under 35 then being on Instagram is pretty much required.

What is this a photo of? Someone swapped faces with their wife?

Of course the photos matter.

You have to have good photos. This seems obvious but after working with a bunch of small businesses on their Instagram accounts, I know that its not obvious to everyone. If your photos are not good the account will not grow organically.

You can have interactions with thousands of people on Instagram and you will get some followers and likes but your growth will be severely limited if your pictures are ugly. People might feel indebted to because you liked their photo so they like your crappy photo back, but they are not going to tag their friends or anything.

What you really want is to be posting photos that elicit enough response so that people tag their buddies and you can get more followers. This seems pretty easy when your account is all about showing pictures of hot girls or guys, not as easy when it’s something people don’t usually get too passionate about.

Push your phone number.

You are going to see a lot more success from Instagram if you push your phone number. Instagram doesn’t allow links anywhere except in the bio, which again is a knife that cuts both ways for me. It makes it almost impossible for spammers to stuff their feed full of affiliate links but at same time legitimate brands can’t link out to helpful URLs.

I see a lot of people directing followers to click the url in their profile  When I tried this approach, it did increase click throughs, but what really seems to work is putting your phone number right in the post. People are viewing Instagram on their phones 99% of the time and if you give them a great photo of what you are offering with your phone number next to it, there is more chance they will just call, than if you make them go to your profile and dig through whatever you are using as a website in order to email you.

Closeup portrait, smart pretty young female in gray white suit, dumbfounded flabbergasted by what she sees on cell phone, isolated indoors office background

I can’t believe this account has so many followers and its only a week old!

Don’t be fooled by fake followers.

I see a lot of accounts on Instagram that are swollen with fake followers, and they stand out like a sore thumb, at least to me. I totally see the allure of padding an account with some fake followers to get it started or just to appear a bit more important. That actually might not be a bad plan: to get a new account a few fake followers so it doesn’t look new, but to me when you have thousands of obviously fake followers it just looks bad.

The way I spot them is that the account’s engagement rate is astronomically low. Your engagement rate is a percent based on the number of followers you have vs how many engagements your posts get. There are different ways to count engagement, like some people say you should only count comments or whatever but what I am talking about is likes and comments.

When I first started working on Instagram a couple years ago, it was wide open. You put a good photo on there and if you had a decent following you could see a 10% even 20% response rate. Like for example if you had 1000 followers you would post a photo and get 100 to 200 likes and comments on it. It was insane.

Then as the ads rolled out. Now if you have a really good account and you post a great photo, you are lucky to get 10%. You more likely to get 3-5%. There are a bunch of internal changes at Instagram causing this but it’s not important for this article so let me get back to what I saying about the fake followers.

When you have an account that has 1000s of followers and then you look at its post and you see it got like 27 likes and no comments on their last post from two days ago, guess what?  They probably have fake followers, and to me I go from being jealous at their huge following to thinking they are a joker.

So essentially, how do you know if Instagram will work for you?

You don’t! There is no way to know until you get on there and try. But if you have younger customers (although not required), you can deliver what you are selling over a wide area, you can answer the phone and you can take/buy great photos, you’ve got a great chance of Instagram working for you.