Back to Marketing & Social

Marketing & Social

Top tips for using Instagram for business, direct from Instagram

with Gord Ray, Instagram


Of the billion+ people on Instagram, 90% follow businesses on the platform. It’s an incredible place for businesses and has made starting a business and finding an audience more accessible than ever – in fact Holly & Co was born on Instagram and our community has been built there too!

That said, it can be a minefield of algorithms, updates and new features, all with no black and white guide on how to use them. Everyone has their own best practices and much learning happens peer-to-peer, or by the good old fashioned “try it and see” method! I wanted to bust some myths and get some solid tips, so I sat down to chat with someone on the inside.

Gord Ray is Instagram’s Brand Development Lead for Northern Europe and a huge supporter of small businesses! He answered my burning questions and shared heaps of tips and advice too – from where to stay up to date with the latest updates to the “blue tick” and hashtags.

Is it possible to over post? What does Instagram WANT us to be doing? How can we make the algorithm work for us? Read on to find out all this and more…

In our chat, Gord and I focused on how small businesses can best utilise Instagram as a tool for marketing and building a community. We looked at what support and features Instagram has designed with small businesses in mind, tools available on the platform, best practices for posting and how to learn and develop what works for YOU.

‘You’re like this one little drop of rain in potentially an ocean. So having more drops gives you a better chance of being seen. And also drops in more places. Like stories, IGTV, lives…’

His advice and insights are a rare opportunity to “peek under the hood” with an Instagram insider and expert. Here are my top takeaways and I highly recommend you watch the full interview for more!

Please note that most of these features are only available if you have a professional account – this can be a creator or business account but you won’t get these features if your account is still set as a personal one. Don’t worry, it’s easy to switch if you don’t, just go to settings, click “switch to a professional account” and follow the steps.

One of the most asked questions I see in the community, get asked and wonder myself is how often to post and where! So I asked Gord for his advice…

‘It depends on so many things. An important one is what you’re actually capable of being able to keep up! But there is no data that shows that you can overpost. The algorithm will determine if you are posting too much for certain followers and it will not share as much with that person, but there’s also people that love a particular brand and they just want more, more and more! It’s important to remember that many people are following a lot of accounts now. They are coming to Instagram because it’s a place where they can interact with the things and the people that they love. And that’s often many things. So posting a lot allows more people to see you. You’re like this one little drop of rain in potentially an ocean. So having more drops gives you a better chance of being seen. And also drops in more places. Like stories, IGTV, lives… because some people will only look at IGTV for a couple of days in a row because they just want video, or they may only swipe through stories when they have a few spare minutes. So make sure you’re showing up in different places.’

Another question that’s always doing the rounds is how many hashtags to use?

‘Using hashtags is very important. They help your posts get discovered because many people follow and search hashtags. We do often say no more than three, because there’s just a psychological impact when you start to use more, and don’t put any tags that are not relevant to your post.’

In terms of which hashtags to use, it depends on what you want to achieve with them. In terms of discovery and reaching new people, I’ve found it’s a fine balance of finding ones that are highly relevant to your content but not too saturated OR too niche. If someone is browsing a hashtag with millions of posts, yours is likely to get lost. But if you find one that is relevant but not too flooded, your posts are more likely to be discovered.

There’s also occasions where you might want to “own” a hashtag that’s relevant to your brand or a campaign you’re running, so that people who get involved can follow and browse that hashtag and not see a load of random content in amongst it. I do this quite often for campaigns such as #FemaleFoundersUnite or #CampaignShopIndependent. To choose these tags, search a few that you like and see if they have any posts on them already. If you find one you like that’s not been used or only has a few posts on it, grab it quick and start filling it with your content!

‘There’s no evidence that indicates that if you have the blue tick you’re therefore considered to be somehow better than someone who does not, I know it’s emotional and we all feel it.’

Does tagging people in your posts and stories do anything?

‘Tagging people is very important too. If you’re featuring people in your posts, tag them because it gives your post the ability to show up in more places. For example, it may be featured in the explore section by certain people that are following the other person you’ve tagged.’

Another thing that many people seem to want to know is how to get the blue tick on their profile and believe it establishes trust between them and potential customers. I asked Gord if there’s any truth in this…

‘The verification tick is a constant question. I’ve been at Instagram for more than five years and I get asked about it every week. I think what’s happened is that blue tick has morphed into something like a kind of badge versus what it’s intended for. It’s really intended for high profile people or celebrities who have the risk of being impersonated. Or for brands that have trademark infringement issues. But there’s many ways to build trust without the tick. Firstly, you can always apply for it and see what happens. It’s in the app. You press settings and then you can go and apply for verification. Secondly, in your own profile you can indicate who you are and what you are about. And that is what really matters to people! There’s no evidence that indicates that if you have the blue tick you’re therefore considered to be somehow better than someone who does not, I know it’s emotional and we all feel it. And there’s sometimes feelings that it does probably carry more weight than it really does. But I would say without it there’s many, many things you can still be doing to build that trust.’

Finally, that pesky algorithm! What is it and how can we work with it?

‘The algorithm is a very complex series of code that’s been written over years. People are on Instagram to connect to things and interests that they have, and friends, family and people that they love. So the algorithm is always learning what is going to matter to you most. That’s why things like your family, in my case my mum who’s in her late seventies is on Instagram and she doesn’t post that often, but when she does, I’ll see it because immediately I will comment, I will look at it, I will watch the videos and the algorithm will learn that I really care about that particular person. Just like particular brands that I will spend more time on and read the whole post and engage with it. And it starts to learn these types of behaviour. So there’s no way of tricking the algorithm. It goes all the way back to the points above. Put out content that is relevant to your business, try different things and mix it up to see what works with your community. Know what it is that you want to be saying about your business and to your community. And those tags I mentioned are important because the algorithm can find a way of using things like the hashtags and the tags to help.’

So there you have it! And to find out what new features are launching, stay up to date with the latest Instagram news, and for tips and advice Gord said to make sure you’re following @instagramforbusiness.

Hashtag dishes by The Letteroom Ltd. Instagram Feed bottles by Vinegar & Brown Paper.

Four founders share their top tips

Using Instagram for business can seem like a thousand piece puzzle with no logical place to start – where are those corner pieces?! Find out how these founders have built their entire businesses starting on Instagram!

Share this article

Back to Marketing & Social