How To Get Started On Instagram

Instagram is a social media platform that exercises your visual senses and stimulates the mind. Like many social media platforms, it can be confusing at the beginning but, with 1 Billion Active Monthly Users, the benefits of Instagram are huge. You can use it to make people aware of your business and interact with the most important people to it, your customers.


These tips should allow you to get through the first ceiling and establish your business as a knowledgeable, proficient presence on Instagram. Enjoy.  And to make things that little bit easier, we’ve created a FREE Checklist which you can download and work through while you get comfortable with this fantastic social media channel.


Download our FREE Instagram Checklist



Setting Up Your InstagramSimple. Enter your email, name, username and a password and you’re signed up. Your username will reflect your brand so choose wisely. Make it catchy and easy to remember.

Instagram hit  500 Million Active Daily Users in 2018 so here is a strong possibility, that the user name you want will not be there.

Use something that will relate. Do not complicate things by adding zero’s where “O” should be or adding random numbers. Our handle is HowGMW, it directly reflects our business’s name and is easy to remember.

My own Instagram account is @Finola_Howard. Gary Vaynerchuk’s is @GaryVee and Seth Godin’s is @SethGodin. Keep it simple.


Use your profile to punch home the most important things about yourself.  Share what counts and add a human touch with emojis. Never underestimate the power of emojis, particularly on Instagram.  This is an opportunity to share who you really are with your visitors – use it. Make it warm. Make it human. We all want to interact with humans. Check out Gary Vee’s instagram. It’s punchy, hard hitting and still warm. 

How To Get Started on Instagram - Gary Vee

And of course, use a high quality photograph in your profile. Don’t rely on that wedding pic. Take a photograph that has you “on brand”. In Gary Vee’s case being “on brand” was a pic of him is his Jet’s Jersey and this is recognisable to his audience. For you, it might be something else.



If your instagram account is for a company or a brand, you can still make it human and of course it needs to be “On Brand” too. Starbucks, Oreo and ShakeShack all do this very well. They’ve identified a core message; each of them different but all on brand. 

Starbucks Instagram Profile

Starbucks used their mission in their profile and their link at this point is to a page about what Customers need to know about their response to the Covid-19 Crisis.

And of course they added a coffee emoji. Perfect.

Oreo Instagram Profile

Oreo, again is on brand. Their profile tells you what you will find in this account. It’s an invitation to fun, you know you’ll want to accept. The link goes to their home page.

Shakeshack Instagram Profile

With ShakeShack, we’ve got the emojis, a link to a delivery service and a DIY Burger Kit.


In each case the profiles were to the point, You know exactly what the prime message is and what they want you to do. And so, the links were used differently in each case yet each were appropriate.

Ask yourself, what’s your core message to your customers?

How can that be best expressed here in your profile?


You have the ability to share one link on your Instagram account and that is in your bio. The default is to link to your website but as you can see from our examples above you have other options:

  1. Link to a specific campaign you’re running e.g. a webinar or course you are promoting.
  2. Use a service such as LinkTree, LinkinProfile or Later and create multiple links.
  3. Create your own Link Landing Page so that you have control over what you share. We did this with our Instalinks  Page which we link to in our Instagram account.


You’ve chosen Instagram as one of your social media channels. Why did you choose this channel and what will you offer your community of followers?

You must offer your #community something of value. Something that can help them. #smm #instagram Click To Tweet

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to sell them stuff here. That’s not what social media is about.

Perhaps you are trying to build awareness of who you are and what you do. What kind of content can you offer that tells them that? Take some inspiration here:

  • Food Business
    Use Recipes, Posts showing where you source your ingredients, show farm to fork examples, meet the supplier etc.
  • Consulting Business
    Testimonials, Before and After Branding, Inspirational Quotes, How To Pieces etc.
  • Beauty Industry
    How to Videos, Product Shots, Before and After Clients, Client Testimonials, Celebrity Inspiration, Styling Examples etc.

Remember to add something that is unique to you. Oreo’s make us smile, Starbucks share their mission. How do you do you? Bring that in.


This is a concept that’s been used by a number of social media experts over the years but has been best articulated by Gary Vaynerchuk. Simply put, it means document what you do in video, audio or visuals. Check out Gary’s article on this self same topic here.


This approach is authentic and tests well with Instagram and it’s  quick and simple. It should be reflective of the reality of what you do for your customers. Start by taking a photo or short video (less than 60 seconds) of something you do and upload it.


Simple things like this make your business seem human and that’s the secret of great marketing – keeping it real and accessible. It can help customers relate to similar experiences like the one you’ve shared and hence see themselves working with you.

Show people what you’re doing as you do it. Don’t create content, document it. Click To Tweet

Another application of this idea is in showing your team at work. Brands like to do this to show what it’s like to work with them and boost recruitment initiatives. It’s a great technique for small businesses too and one worth considering.  It’s all about showing the human faces behind the business.


You need to have a plan in place for what you will be doing on Instagram, this can be done by Blue Printing it. This means you are consciously choosing the elements of the story you want to tell and you’re transforming that into a repeatable process. You are even including the live engagement pieces as part of your blue print. Your blueprint includes

  1. The amount of content you produce a day
  2. The types of content you produce
  3. The times they go live
  4. The times you go live
  5. How each piece flows to the next in a connected way.
  6. The visual identity of how the overall channel looks.
  7. How your brand is expressed in this channel.

Once your activity is blue printed, both you and your team will have a plan from which to work.


Random posts will create inconsistency and create holes in the message your business is trying to get across. So,  like your profile, make sure everything you post is “on brand” and “on message”.  

Beautiful Photo on InstagramConsistency can reinforce your brand’s identity and keep it top of mind with your followers. Ideally they will start to look forward to your posts and engage with them each and every time.  In short consistency is a critical ingredient for success on Instagram.


Instagram is a platform that appeals to the visual senses. Posting visually appealing photos will make your followers want to engage with your page and return to view similar content. This is arguably the most important aspect of Instagram and applies to posts that link to your blog, videos etc. Get this right and followers and engagement will follow.


Hashtags are your beacons. Hashtags allow customers who are searching for topic specific content to group all posts with that tag in the one place.

A simple #hashtag can make you a #CustomerForLife as someone discovers your business and falls in love with it. Click To Tweet

Statistics show that posts with hashtags get an average of 12.6% more interaction

Build a list of hashtags that are relevant to your audience and keep them in an excel spreadsheet so you can reference them every time you create a post.

Hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags like the one displayed above have grouped 100,540 posts to the one place.


If they are overused they can become visually impairing and quite frankly annoying. Only use hashtags that are relevant to the post you are tagging. Using hashtags that do not relate to the post in question are pointless at best and may in fact be considered spam.

  • You can use up to 30 Hashtags for any post but really you should consider the post itself and the nature of it’s content. Use the right hashtags for that post not every post. Aim for between 5 and 11. Check your analytics to see what works best with your audience. If you have to use more ask yourself why?
  • You should start identifying hashtags that your competitors and other similar accounts are using. Have they identified hashtags you should be using?
  • You can search Instagram to find hashtags related to your industry. Open up the app and go into the search feature. Type in a keyword with the “#” symbol before it and Instagram will give you some suggestions containing that word, as well as how many posts there are for each suggested hashtag.
  • Take note of which  hashtags are a fit and store them in an Excel sheet with the amount of searches to keep note of what hashtags are useful and attain a high search volume. These hashtags could also be split into groups, using various topics they relate to or other defining traits.


Like any social media channel, this is an opportunity to build relationships with customers, influencers and potential colleagues. You can’t do that if you don’t engage. So take some time and respond to other’s posts and become part of the community. It’s the old rule of networking you have to give to receive. It’s a way for everyone to get to know you. If you’re silent they won’t.


Scheduling Tools
Scheduling any social media is critical to maximise your time. In the case of instagram it’s actually better to use an Instagram dedicated too. Check these out. 

  • Planoly
    This one is my personal favourite. You can see how your feed looks before you post and that is invaluable in such a visual medium. You can add hashtags with ease and even schedule Instagram stories etc. Check it out.
  • Buffer
    Great for working with your phone and your PC and makes posting and reposting so much easier. We love the analytics too.
  • Tailwind
    Much loved by those more familiar with Pinterest, tailwind is another app that makes this process easier.

Image Editing Tools
We all want our images to be great for Instagram, so often you’ll want to do a little more to them than what you can do on your phone. Below are some of the tools we love:

  • Canva 
    This is a great graphic design tool which has an easy to use drag and drop interface. We use it here all the time. You can use it for free or try the Canva for work option which allows you to upload your own fonts and brand imagery.And Canva has a great mobile version which you can use on the go which is pivotal for social media and instagram in particular. It’s also particularly useful for Instagram stories and the fact that you can attach your branding straight from your phone.
  • Picmonkey 
    This is a free online photo editor and much loved by Pinterest and Instagram enthusiasts and it’s mobile too.



If your customers are on Instagram, then you need to be there too. It’s one of the most engaging channels out there and is an opportunity to have direct access to your customers. Instagram is an opportunity to grow your business. Take it. It’s a lot to take in and that’s why we created this FREE Checklist that you can download and use to help you get started.


Download our FREE Instagram Checklist



Then you’ll like this article too:

  • Instagram Stories: What They Are And How To Make Them – Click Here.

I love to work with businesses, both large and small to help them create sustainable business dreams... Brand and Strategy are at the heart of everything I do and that gets rolled out digitally and across any channel where your customer lives.

4 responses to “How To Get Started On Instagram

  1. Well done! Your article was really clear and helpful. We’re a CDP based in Sheriff St, D1, always looking for new ways to reach out to our community. Quite active on FB and Twitter but not on Insta yet. Our website needs an upgrade, so I won’t post the link here. If you or fellow readers can recommend good developers with a feel for the community/charity sector, let us know. We’ve a budget, but it’s modest!
    Let us know if you guys plan any seminars in Dublin area. Cheers, Gail (Social Media Admin. & Community Fundraising). Email: [email protected] No spammers pls

    1. Hi Gail

      So glad you found it useful. We do try to make everything practical and implementable. Can I suggest our own online program which you can take the free trial for here – It’s an end to end program that shows you how to build an effective marketing process and it’s also supported by an active facebook group where you can interact with other people on the journey.

      Wishing you all the best.

    1. You are most welcome Anne – our next article is on Instagram Stories which you might also enjoy next week. So make sure to subscribe and it will come straight to your inbox.

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