This month in my series designed to help you get your small business on social media, even if you can’t afford a social media manager just yet, I’m returning to Instagram. I already wrote about using it for small business before I started this series, so now I want to really break down the basics.

I will be covering Stories in another post; this one is long enough as it is!

Your Profile

I recommend you switch your profile to a business profile, this allows you to connect your Instagram to your Facebook Page, use scheduling tools, access analytics/insights and run ads, among other things.

Once you’ve switched to a business profile and linked it to your Facebook page, if you have one, you need to fill it out.

Profile photo: This is the small, circular image that represents you across Instagram, including when you leave comments. Keep in mind that Instagram is especially mobile-centric and your profile picture will appear very small next to comments; a smiling face looks far better teeny tiny than a logo.

Username: Ideally this should be the same across your social profiles, preferably your business name or some variation of it. Make it as easy to remember as possible.

Website/link: Instagram allows you one clickable link and this is it. You can either change it every time you have a new blog post/video/product, etc, create a landing page on your website for social and add all relevant links there, or you can use one of the many third party tools out there.

In my opinion none of those options is inherently better or worse, so pick one and run with it! Remember that keeping a landing page or the link itself up to date can take a lot of extra time though.

Bio: You have 150 characters to play with here and I see so many businesses adding extra links in their bio which people can NOT click, please stop wasting space!

So what do you put in your bio? Who you are, what you do, who your target market is. This of it as an elevator pitch, only the elevator is only going up 1 floor and at lightning speed. Be creative; use emojis to save space and only provide the essential info.

Category: Select a relevant category for your business.

Contact options: Add all relevant contact details here; email address, telephone number, physical address and, if appropriate, add an action button to your profile. The action button will be added to your profile allowing people to take a specific action (action buttons are in partnership with other tools and depend on your location.)

Shopping: If you sell products, apply for shopping on Instagram. This will allow you to tag products and sell through Instagram, a fast growing market at the moment.

What to post

Many types of post perform well on Instagram depending on your niche. Flatlays, videos, personal posts, tips and tricks, let your imagination run wild. The key is a high quality image followed by an engaging caption. Dark, grainy, blurry images won’t perform as well. It is worth taking the time to create some graphics in a tool such as Canva, hunt down some awesome stock photos and/or set aside a bit of time every few months for Instagram photo shoots.

Captions can be long or short, but make sure the opening lures people in. I personally dislike the formulaic approach to captions but if that helps you to write captions that work, run with it.

If you’re selling products, make sure you also include products in your posts regularly.

Hashtag love

I feel like I bang on about hashtags all the livelong day but hashtags are where it’s at on Instagram. You can follow hashtags, meaning you can appear in feeds of people who are not following you but who are following a hashtag you use.

That said, using any and all hashtags is not the way to go. Use hashtags relevant to what you are posting, not only because people can report posts as being irrelevant in hashtag feeds but also because why do you want to reach people who aren’t interested in that post? Mix up your hashtags and keep saved packs of 25-30 organised by post type or topic so you can easily copy and paste them each time.

Top tip: Following hashtags is also amazing for outreach engagement.

The Instagram basics tl;dr*

Use a business profile, get your hashtag on and ensure you’re using high quality images on this very visual network.

If you want extra info and worksheets to get even more out of each blog post, like the Instagram cheat sheet for this month, plus even more useful social media tips appearing in your inbox twice a month, sign up to the Forest.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.