Instagram Marketing: The Ultimate Small Business Guide for 2023

photo showing instagram on a mobile phone

Videos and photos have changed the way businesses market. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and other popular social networks have created new opportunities for businesses to reach their target audience.

Although many businesses have experimented with Twitter and Facebook, fewer have developed a strong presence on Instagram and TikTok.

We recently published the ultimate small business guide to marketing on TikTok. Read that guide if your business can produce videos and targets a younger audience.

But if you want a mix of videos, photos, and stories, Instagram may be the better choice for your business. In fact, 71% of US businesses use Instagram.

Over the past fifteen years, our team has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses build their visual brands on Instagram. We’ve frequently discussed Instagram strategies at webinars and conference talks and regularly help early-stage companies develop visual strategies for social networks like Instagram. This guide shares the actionable insights, tips, best practices, and expertise we’ve developed after helping over one hundred thousand brands.

Here’s everything you need to know to execute your brand strategy and market on Instagram.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is one of the largest social networks worldwide, with over 1 billion active monthly users.

It’s a place where people can be creative and connect. People share videos, photos, and stories on Instagram. And, because of its extensive reach, it offers opportunities for businesses to market their products and services in a friendly, authentic way without engaging in hard selling tactics.

Instagram can help your business grow brand awareness and introduce new products and services. According to Instagram, 130 million accounts engage with shopping content every month.

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How does Instagram work?

Instagram is known for in-app photo editing tools, hashtags, and Stories – short videos you can post on your profile that last 24 hours.

Instagram continues to innovate and has added Instagram Reels (short-form videos similar to videos on TikTok) and Instagram MarketPlace (where businesses market). If you want your business to succeed on this platform, you must take advantage of these features.

Why Market on Instagram?

Instagram offers visually rich marketing opportunities and lets you share stories and videos. If your products or services show nicely through photos or videos, Instagram is the best platform to showcase those products or services.

Types of Instagram accounts

Instagram has three types of accounts. We’ve listed the pros and cons of each account type to help you pick one that works best for your business.

Personal Account. This is a basic account and is not appropriate for businesses or creators.


  • It contains all basic features such as Instagram Stories, posting on Feed, Reels, and IGTV
  • It can be public or private
  • Can be verified
  • Can link to a website page or bio


  • No advanced features, such as insights or analytics
  • No contact information
  • Can’t monetize

Creator Account. This is a professional account fit for content creators and public figures looking to promote original content or work with other brands.


  • Contains all features of a personal account
  • Can be verified
  • You can add links to Instagram Stories if the account is verified or you have 10,000+ followers
  • Access to Creator Studio on a desktop computer
  • Access to branded content tools
  • Creator-specific insights and analytics
  • Direct message filters and quick replies to connect with fans/brands better
  • Ability to manage and create promotions
  • Ability to choose creator category
  • You can set up a profile to look like a personal account or a professional account with contact details


  • Allows only one Facebook Page link
  • It can’t be private

Business Account. This professional account is tailor-made for businesses and has more advanced features than a creator account. This is the account you should pick for your business.


  • Contains all features of a personal account
  • Can be verified
  • You can add links to Instagram Stories if the account is verified or you have 10,000+ followers
  • Access to Creator Studio on a desktop computer
  • Access to branded content tools
  • Business and contact details
  • Ability to run ads
  • Ability to choose a business category
  • Direct message filters and quick replies to connect with customers better
  • Ability to manage branded content and promotions
  • Access to advanced business features such as insights and analytics
  • Access to Instagram Shopping (allows you to tag products in your posts)
  • Access to video chats in direct messages


  • It can’t be private
  • Allows only one Facebook Page link

You can easily switch among account types by clicking “Edit Profile” on your profile and tapping the “Switch to Professional Account” option.

Now that you know which type of account is appropriate for your business, let’s get started.

1. Download Instagram on your phone

You can only post on Instagram through your smartphone. So, go ahead and download the application. It’s available in iOS and Android formats from each platform’s app store.

2. Create an account using a business email address

Instagram allows you to use your Facebook account to register. But we don’t suggest doing so.

Set up an email address specifically for your business as it’s more appropriate and saves you the hassle of sorting through updates and emails on your personal email account.

Using your work email address, your contacts can still find you using Instagram’s “Find Friends” feature.

3. Setup a business profile and username

The next step is to create an appropriate username and password for your account.

Ensure that the username of your business account is the company’s name (or something reasonably close). After all, you want people to quickly identify and find your business on Instagram, and your company’s brand identity must remain consistent across social channels.

Instagram automatically generates a username for you, depending on the name you input on your profile. You can easily change that username and pick something custom.

4. Connect to your Facebook friends and contacts

When you finish setting up your business profile, Instagram lets you connect to your Facebook friends and contacts.

This option allows you to reach people immediately. You can also opt to do this after you’ve created your profile.

It’s best to have a completed profile before connecting with people.

5. Choose an appropriate profile photo

Your profile photo is the face of your Instagram account. A business account must choose the correct profile photo.

Your profile picture should be a company logo or something closely related to your brand. If you’re the face of the brand, use a professional-quality headshot.

You can do this by clicking “Add a photo” on your profile. You will then be given options on where to import your photos.

If you need to edit your profile photo (or other images), use an online photo editor to create the perfect image.

6. Complete your business profile

Make sure people can easily contact your business.

Fill out your bio with a short business description and provide the correct contact information.

Your business profile is the only place to put your website’s link; it is the first thing people see.

Giving people easy access to your contact information will make transactions more accessible and help boost customer satisfaction.

7. Explore “Try Instagram for Business Tools “

Your business profile has a “Try Instagram for Business Tools” option. Play around and familiarize yourself with these features, as they are necessary to run a successful Instagram business account.

Here’s a short demonstration from Instagram on how to get started with these tools.

8. Link your business’s Facebook page

Many small businesses have a Facebook page. If your business doesn’t have one, we recommend creating one, as Instagram will require you to connect your business Facebook page to have full access to Instagram for business tools.

9. Start posting

Now that you’re all set up, you can start creating content.

Your first few photos and stories will set the theme of your account. Post photos and stories that are share-worthy and fit your brand.

It’s best to post one or two photos or stories before you start following and engaging with Instagram users. People are less likely to follow an account with no content. That’s why it’s important to post regularly. You can use various tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or a Hootsuite alternative to schedule your social media posts and keep your audience engaged.

Businesses usually start with a photo of their brand logo with a caption introducing their company. This creates a foundation and helps people remember your company.

Instagram marketing strategy tips

You can’t just post photos of your products or services on Instagram and expect to succeed. Nobody wants to hear sales pitches all day, every day. You need engaging content that doesn’t sell anything and occasional marketing content.

Here are eight Instagram marketing tips that will help your brand succeed:

Use the correct hashtags. Although Instagram didn’t invent hashtags, they have turned hashtags into a powerful messaging tool. Hashtags on Instagram offer one of the fastest ways to get your content seen by people. Use hashtags appropriate for your content to help you reach the right audience.

Work with influencers. Influencer marketing is significant. Companies leverage influencers to reach bigger audiences for their products and services. People trust influencers because they are relatable. You can leverage these existing relationships to build trust for your brand.

Upload high-quality photos. People love pictures on Instagram. So, uploading high-quality images is a must for people to trust your brand. People are less likely to follow and trust a company that uses low-quality pictures because your lack of attention to the quality of your photos can reflect on the quality of your products or services.

Sell on Instagram stories. People like casual content and generally don’t love over-produced content. Instagram Stories offers an opportunity for your business to share everyday content. Stories tend to be viewed more than regular posts on Instagram. This happens because stories are typically less intimidating and more intimate. You can take advantage of this and use stories to share interesting content and occasionally talk about your products or services.

Have a good landing page. Your landing page must be attractive, easy to navigate, and represent your brand consistently. Your profile is the first thing people see and the only place you can link your business website. Make this count by having an excellent Instagram-specific landing page.

Create sponsored ads. You can also grow your Instagram audience through sponsored ads.
Regular posts and Instagram stories will rarely reach your entire audience on Instagram. That’s because Instagram’s algorithm limits that reach. Sponsored ads can help get your content to a bigger audience.

Post product teasers. People are generally curious. You can feed this curiosity by creating teaser posts or stories about an upcoming new product or service. This strategy can help increase engagement and followers on your Instagram page.

Utilize Instagram for business tools. Instagram for business tools can help you market your products or services successfully. Create an Instagram marketing strategy and assess analytics and insights to see whether that strategy is working.

Instagram brand marketing examples

Instagram is at the forefront of social media marketing. Its vast reach and opportunities continue to attract businesses looking to reach a bigger audience on the platform.

Here are examples of successful brands on Instagram to help inspire your marketing strategy on Instagram:


Vans’ Instagram marketing is top-notch due to its high-quality, eye-catching product posts. The brand is known for its amusing product promotions that leave people thinking.

Vans has evolved from a popular skateboarding shoe brand to a casual fashion icon that younger generations sport for style. Vans show that you don’t have to stick to one type of branding forever. Your band should adapt and adjust to the times to thrive and maintain its success.


Wendy’s is more than just a fast-food chain on Instagram. The company takes food visuals to the next level.

Wendy’s successful Instagram marketing is centered around high-quality and interesting content editing. The company has made its Instagram account into a food art gallery.

So, don’t be shy about elevating and creatively promoting your products or services on Instagram. You should invest time in making your content pop to help attract customers.


Chipotle takes on social media smartly. The company is well-known for its innovative use of memes on social media.

Chipotle’s Instagram focuses less on direct product promotions and more on entertaining its followers and the occasional marketing – the perfect formula for success.

The company shows that humor gets you exposure, relatability, and the audience your business needs. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with humor in your brand marketing strategy.

Instagram is not a simple platform to navigate, especially for newbie small business owners. But with the right marketing strategy, patience, and drive to succeed, it can be a powerful platform to help you build a bigger audience and grow your business.

Don’t be surprised if it takes you time to build your audience. Don’t expect many people to engage with your first few Instagram posts. You must experiment to find the right voice, content, and strategy. Every successful Instagram brand has gone through this process. But if you succeed on Instagram, it’s a worthy investment to help you grow your business.

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