On October 6, 2010, a new image-based social network emerged. By December of that year, Instagram already had more than 1 million active users, so clearly people were loving the opportunity to quickly share photos of their day-to-day activities with friends and followers.

One year later, and it was boasting more than 150 million uploads, 10 million active users, and a newfound status as the iPhone’s “app of the year.”

In just 8 short years, Instagram has grown into a powerhouse marketing tool that savvy entrepreneurs are embracing.

  • 800 million monthly active users mean that your market is almost certainly using Instagram—and your competitors are, too.
  • 35% of US adults use Instagram, so while it doesn’t have the reach of Facebook (yet) it’s definitely a platform worth leveraging.
  • A younger crowd—more than half (64%) of Instagram users are under 29, and 95% are under 49—if that’s your market, Instagram is the place to be.
  • 49% of users check their Instagram feed at least daily—that’s a lot of eyes on cell phones!

Not only that, but the platform has enjoyed double-digit annual growth, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Clearly, now is the time to embrace Instagram, and the power it promises, as a part of your overall marketing plan.

But Instagram presents some unique challenges, too, and those might have you wondering if it’s worth your time. It’s image and video-centric. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, text (called captions on Instagram) is secondary—although Instagram is quite generous with their character limit. Keep in mind that even on other platforms, images typically outperform text-only updates, so focusing on images in your marketing is probably not a bad thing.

So how can you put Instagram to work in your marketing?

Create your Instagram Profile

It all begins with a profile and your first task is to optimize your profile to reach your target audience.

As with any social platform, Instagram asks you to create a profile. This is where new followers will find out more about you, who you serve, and what your personality is like. It’s your chance to shine…in 150 characters or less.

It’s rather like trying to explain your entire business in a Tweet. And much more difficult than you might imagine.

Your Instagram User Name

If you’re new to Instagram, your first task is to decide on a username. Both real (first and last) names and business/website names are acceptable, so you’ll probably want to go with your normal branding. If everyone everywhere knows you as jane_smith, then, by all means, snag your name on Instagram the same way. If you’re known by your business name, go with that. And if you maintain multiple social profiles—one for business and one for fun on other platforms—then you can do that as well.

Basically, choose a username that:

  1. You’re comfortable with
  2. People will instantly recognize as you. Both styles work, it just comes down to your branding and personality.

Chose a great photo.

Again, this is going to largely depend on how you’re branded on other platforms. Do your fans, followers and clients know your logo, or do they recognize you by your smiling face?

Generally speaking, a headshot is almost always a better choice, unless you’re Coca-Cola or Nike or some other giant brand.

For your profile pic, be sure to choose one that shows off “your best side.” By that, I mean don’t choose a photo of you squinting into the sun or sweating on the treadmill— well, unless you’re a health coach. Instead, choose a photo that shows off your personality while remaining professional and business-like.

Create an awesome bio.

Take a look at how the influencers in your market are crafting their bios—not to duplicate them, but to use them as inspiration.

Carrie Wilkerson, for example, uses a series of adjectives to describe herself: “Encourager, joy-spreader, speaker, and business-growth strategist.”

By contrast, jewelry business mentors and coaches Tracy Matthews and Robin Kramer use keywords and calls to action in their bio: “Jewelry Business Experts, Mentors to jewelry designers, FREE trainings, Online courses, Best designer community, Join us for our FREE 14 Day Virtual Sales Amplifier Bootcamp”

Lastly, always include a link back to your website. In fact, power Instagram users take this opportunity to create and link to an Instagram-specific landing page. Offer a freebie of interest to your Instagram followers, and grow your mailing list, too!

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Want to know more about how to set up your Instagram account? Download my Instagram Marketing Planner today for free! This planner will give you step by step instructions to set up your Instagram account and start marketing today. Click here for your copy.