The Curaytor Guide to Instagram for Small Businesses

So you want to use Instagram but just don’t get it? We’re here to help!

Since been acquired by Facebook, Instagram has been on the rise. You won’t want to miss a beat—in fact, most businesses aren’t. According to Sprout Social, 70.7% of US businesses are using Instagram in 2017 and there are precisely 8 million Instagram Business profiles on the platform, with small businesses currently making up the majority of them. 

If that isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps these stats will:

  • In March 2017, over 120 million Instagrammers visited a website, got directions, called, emailed, or direct messaged to learn about a business based on an Instagram ad.
  • 60% of users say that they have learned about a product or service on the platform.

Simply put: Instagram is exploding— and we want your business to blow up with it.

Getting started

After you’ve signed up for your Instagram account, you should first decide whether you want a personal profile or a business profile. If you’re having a hard time deciding between the two, take this brief quiz from to help you decide which option is best for you.

First impressions leave a lasting impact on social media. Make sure your brand stands out with a high-quality image for your profile photo, whether that’s your company logo or your best headshot. Couple this with a captivating profile bio. Who are you? What do you do? Where are you located? What’s your website address? All of this information should be readily available for your viewers and potential customers.

Figuring out what to post on Instagram can seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Instagram focuses on visual data, which is great for your business considering 65% of your audience are visual learners, and 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. So have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to get creative with your content.

Popular first posts include shots of landscapes or food, both of which perform consistently well on the platform, but it’s photos featuring faces that get higher engagement. Social Media Today found that posts featuring faces get 38% more likes than those without and because the app focuses on appealing to viewers visually, quality matters. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a professional photographer, but high-resolution, eye-catching photos are simply more engaging. Small things, like the use of good lighting or enabling Portrait Mode on your iPhone, can make a big difference. 

Take advantage of Instagram’s internal photo editing tools and filters or consider utilizing third-party editing apps, like VSCOcam or Snapseed, to enhance your images. 

Timing is everything.

When and how often you post can affect your engagement, so it’s recommended that you adhere to Instagram’s optimal times for posting. Keep in mind this will vary individually over time, but generally speaking, photos posted on weekdays— Mondays, specifically— were found to have the highest engagement. OurSocialTimes suggests posting at 2 a.m., 8 a.m., and 5 p.m. and steering clear of posting at 3 p.m., which was found to be the least optimal. 

After familiarizing yourself with the app, try experimenting with your posting schedule to see if the change yields different results. Those of you with a business profile can get really technical by accessing your Instagram Analytics. This will give you a more comprehensive look at your activity and overall engagement to better help you plan your strategy going forward.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. 

Success on social media requires planning, especially for busy professionals and high-performing businesses. Organize your ideas by creating an Instagram Content Calendar that reflects your company goals. 

Lucky To Live Here Realty’s Director of Marketing, Ashley Allegra, provided an example of her calendar: 

Ashley’s goal is a high level of activity and engagement on Instagram, so she opts for posting 3-4 times per day, 5 times a week. Your calendar may not be as active, and that’s okay. Figure out what’s best for you by matching your level of activity to the needs of your business, then fill up your calendar accordingly.

Content planning is a process specific to you. You can plan as far in advance as you want (yearly) or keep things spur of the moment (daily). For a happy medium, consider creating your content calendar at the beginning of each month, with adjustments being made as necessary. Use your internal company calendar as a reference and take note of event dates, promotions, holidays, etc. going on that month that should be featured on your social media. Then, decide what type of content to turn that information into. The celebration of a holiday, for example, would make for a good graphic, while a keynote speech at a conference can be edited into a sharable video clip. 

For scheduling content, Instagram has a convenient “Drafts” feature that allows you to edit and save posts to be uploaded later, and services like Hootsuite allow you to organize future posts with just a few clicks.

Growth Hacking/Optimizing Posts

Growing a following on Instagram takes time, but these proven growth hacks will help you on your way. 

Hashtags ###

Optimize your Instagram posts by using relevant hashtags that will make your content searchable to the public. Can’t figure out which hashtags to use? A simple google search will bring up tons of websites dedicated to providing you with trending Instagram hashtags for any given category. 


Location, location, location. An Instagram study conducted by SimplyMeasured found that posts that include a location receive 79% more engagement than those without. Bonus: It’s common for businesses to share geotagged content on their pages and Instagram Stories, so next time you’re at your favorite restaurant? Geotag them! They just might share it.


Instagram allows you to connect your account to other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, making it easier than ever to cross-promote your content. Sharing your posts on other channels can help build your audience and drive traffic to your IG.


Re-posting content from other users or companies can raise your brand awareness on Instagram significantly. Re-post apps do most of the work for you, so all you have to do is simply paste the caption (which the app will already copy and optimize for you!) and post.

Engaging with others

Communication is key on social media. The more that you interact with other people’s content, the more likely people are to engage with yours in return— but be genuine about this. There’s no bigger buzzkill than an account that follows you just for the follow back (and then unfollows you when you don’t.) Browse Instagram for content that appeals to you and engage with those posts by liking, commenting, sharing, or even following the account that posted it. Forming genuine connections with other users will not only help build your following, but it’ll make your Instagram experience more enjoyable overall.


Instagram is a visual platform, but your messaging can be just as powerful. Come up with enticing captions for your posts that will get your audience’s attention. Maybe share a useful fact with them, or ask a question to get them involved— and don’t forget to use emojis. These eye-grabbing emoticons are being used in 50% of captions and comments on the platform, so join in on the fun! 😎🙌💯


If you’re eager to share links on your Instagram, think again. Links in captions are currently not supported by the app, so your best bet is to provide the desired link in your profile bio and direct users that way. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for traffic. Still, most users are so accustomed to this that they’ll have no problem checking your bio, so use this trick sparingly. 

Co-Branded Contests

One of the quickest and most effective ways to build an Instagram following is to run quality giveaways with a co-brand that people love. Something as simple as offering tickets to a local sports game or a gift card to a local restaurant can draw people in immediately. When using this tactic, you want to ensure you have a great visual promotion to go along with your offer, as well as the specifics on how to win.

Instagram Stories & Instagram Live 

One of Instagram’s latest and most fun features is Instagram Stories. A rip-off of Snapchat? Sure, but think of Stories as a more professional version of that. Instagram Stories are temporary moments available for your audience’s viewing for only 24 hours.

As soon as you log in to Instagram, you’ll see stories from other users at the top of your feed. To add your own, click the camera icon located on the top left-hand side of your homepage. This will open up your camera in IG Stories mode where you can select from the following options: 

  • Live
  • Normal
  • Boomerang
  • Rewind
  • Hands-Free


or upload a previously saved image or video from your camera roll. You can decorate your IG story posts by adding embellishments, emojis, text, drawings, and more. 

Instagram also gives you the ability to share live videos by using their Instagram Live feature. Your audience can interact with you in real-time by liking and commenting on your live stream, providing you with the benefit of instant engagement. Once you’ve concluded your broadcast, the stream will no longer be visible in the app, unless you choose to share the replay on your IG story.

For more direct communication, you can connect with other users through Instagram messages which allow you to have one-on-one or group conversations and send private images or videos. Use this feature wisely, as it can be a very powerful networking tool. 

For more information on Instagram, click here to listen to Calls with Chris - Episode 35: “Instagram: The Juggernaut”.