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Gord Ray’s top tips for using Instagram for business

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With Gord Ray, Instagram’s former Brand Development Lead


Gord Ray, Instagram’s former Brand Development Lead, shares his top tips for using Instagram for business. Learn about posting frequency, hashtags and working with the algorithm (yes really!) from an expert. Read on to boost your business on Instagram…

Instagram Like by Tara Collette

How to use Instagram for business and how it can help

Gord Ray told us that of the billion+ people on Instagram, 90% follow at least one business 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 was largely built there too.

That said, as we know, 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. Yet to bust some myths and get some solid tips, we spoke to someone on the inside.

Meet Gord Ray, who launched many of the features for businesses on Instagram

At the time of interview, Gord Ray was Instagram’s Brand Development Lead for Northern Europe and a huge supporter of small businesses. He spent eight years with the social media giants and knows all the ways independents can best utilise Instagram as a marketing tool and to help build a community. Here are his expert tips…

How to promote your business on Instagram for free

Gord sat down with our founder Holly Tucker MBE on an Instagram Live (which is still available and features a good ‘peek under the hood’ to find out more about how they operate if you’re interested). For now though, here are some answers to key questions that could really help your business flourish.

Instagram business vs personal accounts: why you should switch to a business account

In short — yes. Most of the best 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 (and 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). And if you want to reach more customers, read our ‘How to get more Instagram followers for your business’ article for tips.

How often should you publish on Instagram?

Gord says, “It depends on so many things. An important one is what you’re actually capable of being able to keep up with! 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 are also people that love a particular brand and they just want more, more and more. Also, 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.”

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.

How many hashtags should you use on Instagram?

Gord’s advice is that, “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.”

Choosing the right hashtags on Instagram

“It depends on what you want to achieve with hashtags,” Gord says. “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.

Hashtags: should you create your own?

There are 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. At Holly & Co, we 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, and invite others to as well.

What is the benefit of tagging on Instagram?

Gord says, “Tagging people is very important. 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.”

Holly Tucker on her iPhone wearing a pink top
Tagging people is very important. If you’re featuring people in your posts, tag them because it gives your post the ability to show up in more places.
Knitted iPhone with icons on screen

The Instagram algorithm: how best to use it to your advantage?

We all know the algorithm can be hard to compete with. Why is this? Gord says, “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.” Gord also offers four key pieces of advice:

  • 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 followers.
  • Follow @instagramforbusiness to find out what new features are launching, stay up-to-date with the latest Instagram news or for advice.

Instagram for business: key takeaways…

There are many ways to use Instagram to grow your business…

1. Use Instagram features to maximise your business's reach and engagement:

From Stories to Lives and interactive features, explore the diverse array of tools Instagram offers to enhance your brand presence and connect with your audience.

2. Understand the algorithm:

People sometimes make it out to be a dark art but ultimately the Instagram algorithm is the set of processes Instagram uses to understand what users like.

3. Be trustworthy and authentic:

The best way to attract new followers who will shop with you is to be uniquely you.

Images: Hashtag dishes — by The Letteroom Ltd, Instagram like button — by Tara Collette, Stitched mobile phone — by Sew Your Soul

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