Instagram has over one billion active monthly users, with over 500 million of those active every day. These users are not only following their friends and influencers but are also connecting with businesses.
According to the image-based social networking app, 80 percent of users follow at least one business account. This has enormous potential for brands to be able to connect with current and new audiences who want to learn more about their products, services, and company.
Many businesses haven’t attempted to use Instagram as part of their social media efforts simply because the striking emphasis on design and visuals seems a little overwhelming. However, thanks to today’s tools and resources, it’s possible to have a beautiful Instagram account without having to hire a graphic designer or spend hours creating the perfect post.
Video/Image Editing & Creation Apps
Having high-quality posts is the cornerstone of every great Instagram business account. Below are some of the easiest to use tools and apps that allow you to make beautiful posts without much design knowledge or ability.
Pablo by Buffer
Social scheduling app Buffer is usually known for it’s inventive “queue” feature, which lets people schedule posts into a queue rather with specific dates. However, it also has a great image creation tool that makes it easy to add text to images. Once you select a format, you can either import your own image or choose a stock image from thousands of free options. From there, you can format your text over the image, then download it or schedule it to publish in Buffer, if you have an account.
Canva is likely one of the most popular “user-friendly” editing tools available online. With pre-defined layouts and graphics, it is extremely easy to create graphics based on dimensions. You can use Canva’s free options, import your own images, or pay $1 per element to use their paid graphics if needed. Once you’re happy with your artwork, you can download it and then publish onto Instagram.
If you like the pre-defined image creation tools, but don’t want to spend the time choosing a layout yourself, the WordSwag app is awesome for creating great graphics really quickly. The app is available on Android and iOS and has paid features. You simply enter in the text you want to incorporate on the image, and WordSwag “automagically” creates a perfect square graphic ready for Instagram. You can choose from available options, but the process is much faster than Canva since it’s already in an app.
VSCO is likely the most popular image editing app. People love it so much, they add its own unique hashtags– #vsco and #vscocam to images created with the app. VSCO has free and paid versions and allows you to edit your images with specialized presets and other elements like HSL, borders, and saturation. Using the VSCO hashtags on posts created with the app will also expose you to the community of content creators that are using the app and following the hashtag — a good brand awareness opportunity.
Instagram owns Boomerang, but it is a standalone app, currently not native to Instagram. You can create fun looping videos that last a few seconds. Once you create one you like, you can publish it to Instagram or download it for later use.
There are also several other Instagram video apps that make videos out of photos, like Flipagram, if you want to do more of a slideshow format. It’s also possible to record and publish video (and add filters!) straight from the Instagram app as well.
Hashtag Research Apps
Creating a great image or video is only half the battle. The next part is writing the caption and adding hashtags. Hashtags are a good way to get your content seen by more people. Just make sure you are using relevant hashtags. The below tools will help you find hashtags to add to your posts. Instagram currently allows 30 hashtags per post.
This website lets you find and analyze the popularity and related terms of top-level hashtags. It’s free to use and offers several hashtags across multiple social media platforms (like Twitter), which may show you hashtags that you haven’t thought of before.
This app is available on iOS and Android and uses data from Instagram to show you related hashtags to your top-level search term. You can choose in the apps which ones you’d like to use in the list, then click “copy” to save them so you can paste them into your Instagram post. It’s free and fairly easy to use.
This website also uses Instagram data and also shows you the popularity of your top-level hashtag being used with their recommendations. It has a wider variety of hashtags than Hashtagger.
This app for iOS and Android is similar to the above tools, but they use a combination of human research and an AI ranking algorithm to suggest hashtags.
Monitoring & Engagement Tools
Finally, after your posts are published, you can use these tools to monitor the success of your posts or to drive more engagement.
Woobox’s contest platform makes it perfect for running Instagram contests. The User-Generated contest format allows you to view submitted entries from one screen and gallery. You can even set up judging and voting options to choose a winner.
You can schedule posts in Buffer to run in a queue format (as mentioned above) or at preset times. Buffer will send a push notification when the post is ready to publish to the app on your phone. Once you go to schedule, it will save the image and caption to your phone so you can easily publish it to Instagram. Once a post is published, you can view how many likes and comments posts got on the Analytics tab. It also lets you sort by most and least popular so you know what content is working.
This paid service is similar to Buffer but has more advanced analytics, such as click tracking. It also lets you monitor hashtags and conversations across most social media platforms, so you can respond to questions or track hashtag usage.
In addition to the above tools, there are also several features of Instagram that are beneficial to businesses.
Instagram Features for Businesses
Besides basic profile options, there are several different features that can help you connect with your audience in new ways.
Even though Instagram currently only has a single clickable URL field in profiles, you can use a link shortening service like Linktree, Like2Buy, or SHORBY, which allow you to create a landing page for your Instagram website field. This landing page can be updated with articles or products you’ve mentioned in your post. Here’s an example from sustainable clothing brand Reformation, who uses Like2Buy:
In addition to adding links to a bio URL landing page with the above services, verified personal accounts or business accounts with over 10,000 followers are able to add direct links in their Instagram Stories. This is a huge opportunity for brands to share ongoing new links to their audience on a daily basis. The links can be accessed by users “swiping up” from the bottom of the screen when they are viewing a story that has a link attached to it. Besides the bio link, this is the only way to share a direct link with your Instagram audience that they can click on.
Paid ads on Instagram (which are run through the Facebook Business manager ad platform) are also getting more robust with better options for businesses. Most recently, Instagram announced that brands can use polls in their Instagram Stories Ads to get better engagement with their audience. Users can vote in polls, which not only results in more time spent on company media but also gives companies data about what their paid Instagram audience likes and prefers.
Instagram is continuously rolling out new features, and with the continued growth and popularity of the platform, it’s easy to see why millions of businesses are using the platform to find and retain new audiences. If you think Instagram could work for your business, start creating some posts using the tools and options above to test the waters and see what works best for you.