how to use instagram to grow your business


Instagram: We eat, breathe, live, and love the app. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Plus, it’s an invaluable tool for marketing whether you’re managing ads, photographing content, or carving out a marketing strategy for one of your clients.

You better believe whenever Instagram comes out with a new feature, we’ll be the first ones testing + optimizing and sharing our findings via a blog post.


IG takeovers film easy how to best of

Instagram (IG) Takeovers: Our favorite way to form lasting brand-to-consumer connections. Inviting a guest to take over a brand’s Stories for 24 hours helps viewers put a face (and personality) to the brand and expand their reach exponentially.  

It can happen between any two users: founders of a company sharing what a day in their life looks like, an influencer endorsing a brand, or a customer sharing their overall experience with a product. 
Now, we’ve compiled a few of our recent finds to share with you! Plus, we’ll speak to why this varied marketing approach elevates each brand’s overall strategy.

1. Bustle – Be My Guest
Lead consumers to website (to purchase)!

Bustle’s Be My Guest IG Takeovers “[take] you inside cool homes so you can gather design and decor inspo for yourself.” Each IG Takeover is linked to an article that Bustle has published on their site, including this one featuring Summer Rayne Oakes’ luscious plant house.

We love this IG Takeover because it serves viewers a digestible version of a larger piece of content while enticing users to move away from Instagram (an outpost) and onto Bustle’s site (their homebase, where content and ad distribution is fully theirs).

2. Belletrist – STACKED (show your shelf)
Individualize offering + nurture customer loyalty. 

Belletrist is, “an online platform that celebrates great books and the people who read them,” hosted by co-founders Emma Roberts (kweeen!) and Karah Preiss.

They promote their newest book of the month by welcoming the author to share their book collection via an IG Takeover. This not only puts a face to a name, but adds a human element back into this remote book club experience (a service that competing book clubs may not offer).

To stay in the loop, users are encouraged to join the Belletrist email list that features more original interviews as well as “promos and recommendations of things we think you will enjoy.”

With brand loyalty obtained through the exchange of free content, users will more readily subscribe and participate in those promotional offers (free author interviews = soft lead magnets).

3. Serenity Kids – Parents Share
Boost credibility (and retention).

Serenity Kids recently welcomed @mamaknows_nutrition onto their Insta Stories – a Toddler Dietitian whose Insta feed mostly consists of educational infographics. Results were twofold – 

1) Brand awareness: lead Kacie’s +104k audience to Serenity Kids baby food.

2) Boost credibility: With her reputation for thoughtful, educational content, Serenity Kids got a big stamp of approval that will live on their Instagram Stories Highlights for any new consumers to view overtime.

4. Birch Benders – Leanne Vogel
Educate audience. Promote unique product.

Birch Benders has quite the varied SKU of nutritionally dense pancake and waffle mixes appealing to diet-specific audiences in particular (paleo, keto, and vegan consumers).

Inviting Leanne of @healthfulpursuit to lead an IG Takeover focused on her positive experience with a ketogenic lifestyle speaks volumes to viewers searching for a healthy diet – specifically those who’ve already tried vegan or paleo diets with so-so results.

In this way, consumers are directed from one of Birch Benders products to another. They’ve covered all their bases and leveraged Leanne’s experience to drive existing purchasers to their keto-specific mix.

As you can see, Instagram Takeovers do everything from emphasizing a brand’s credibility to individualizing one’s services. Like the cherry on top of a sundae, it’s fine if you leave it aside – but, will you really have the best dessert without it?

If you’re ready to boost your overall marketing strategy with an IG Takeover of your own, we just came out with a guide that’ll cover all of your bases (email templates and infographics included for FREE) – check out The Complete Guide to Running Amazing Instagram Story Takeovers: Use Influence to Attract New Customers.

So you wanna engage like a pro? Or, you’re wondering what the value of engaging across social media platforms really looks like. We’ve seen firsthand how it can make waves, so we’re excited to provide you with a breakdown that we personally apply on the daily!

Engaging with users shows people that you’re a real brand: You care about your customers and want their business. You wouldn’t let a customer service email go unanswered – right?! Same thing here – if someone mentions your brand or floats a question, it’s essential that you step in and field those mentions. People you’re engaging with will start to perceive your brand as friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. This translates to an increase in followers, substantial brand loyalty, and lifetime customers.

Plus, it’s a compounding strategy to gain more clients or sales as social channels favor posts that have more likes, comments, and shares – that’s the social media algorithm at work! When you consistently show up, more people end up seeing your brand and how well you interact with others.So, play nice!

Through years of trial and error, we’ve boiled down our tried-and-true strategy to three points that fuel impactful engagement: Listening, Engaging, and Interacting.

1. Listening

There are two core arenas that we recommend you pay special attention to: 1. the web and 2. all social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.).

For the web, here’s how to setup a Google Alert.

How to Set Up Google Alerts
  • Log in. Visit
  • Select keywords unique to your brand
  • Select the frequency – real time or when I have time. If you want to receive notifications in close to real time, select “as it happens.”
  • Choose your sources. Google Alerts doesn’t cover social media, but you can choose whether to track news, blogs, videos, or books.

For most brands, Facebook and Instagram are the two giants that you’ve got to have your brand tapped into. Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are a tad more nuanced. If you’ve got extra time, research how similar brands are engaging on those platforms to understand if your brand has a community that it could also support there.

To be a good listener, you have to remain present. This means getting on the choice platforms for your brand Monday through Friday, even popping in over the weekend, to see what your audience is talking about + how they’re engaging with your recent posts. You may choose to set up various notifications via Google, Instagram, and Facebook, so you’ll receive an alert relevant to hashtags, other brand accounts, or influencers that are in line with your brand.

We include a short activity to get you thinking more about who you should be listening to here: “Engaging with Social Content”.

Engaging on Instagram

2. Engaging

Take note of positive and negative comments.

If the comment is positive, find a natural way to respond that feels genuine. Record especially good testimonials to utilize in future marketing materials.

As is the way of the internet, negative commenters are inevitable. You’ll have to decide if the comment is customer service related and needs real attention or just a troll trying to get the best of you – in which case, we’d suggest ignoring it, hiding it, or blocking the user if future harassment seems likely. If it’s a true customer service complaint, take care to reply on the platform the user commented on, letting them know you have DM’d or emailed them so you can move the conversation off your public channel into a private channel.

3. Interacting

Create a few hashtags related to your brand. If you’ve got a long brand name, consider abbreviating it. You could also employ an adjective related to what the brand’s experience is or the mission behind it.

For example, the brand @hailmerrysnacks created their branded hashtag #sinkyourteeth, because it’s more relatable and more likely to be used by fans.

  • Include branded hashtags in every post, encouraging users to tag their own content with said hashtag.
  • Comment and like those using your hashtags – thank them for being a fan!
  • Interact with other hashtags that relate to what your brand does. For a gluten-free snack brand, this could be #healthyeats or #whole30.

Users that click in to your custom hashtag will view a plethora of posts with your product front and center.One of the most challenging aspects of engaging is knowing how much time to pour into the different relationships you’re building. We like to focus on these three core relationships:

  • Influencers – an individual who has the power to impact purchase decisions of others because of their established following. This could be at a micro (less than 5k followers) or macro (more than 5k followers) level.
  • Like-Minded Brands – brands with similar qualities to your own, oftentimes prospecting the same audience. Careful not to interact with a direct competitor (example: you both sell matcha-based energy bars).
  • Potential Customers – your ideal demographic in age and interests.

Start to schedule time in your day for engagement, dividing how you engage based on which relationships matter most to your brand. Experiment with different ratios, like half an hour for influencer + like-minded brand relationship building versus an hour sifting through relevant hashtags. It can get pretty complicated, so we did include a timetable that breaks down how + where to invest your time in our   Create a Winning Instagram Giveaway: And Get Tons of High Quality Followers! 

And that’s it! We hope you found this overview helpful to jumpstarting your brand’s ongoing engagement strategy. Get out there and learn how to best engage with your audience one comment at a time.

So you want to learn how to create an Instagram giveaway – and not just any Instagram giveaway, but one that’ll earn you authentic followers truly interested in your brand.

We’ve been there and asked the same questions we’re sure you’ve got, like what kind of Instagram giveaway rules do I set or how do I connect with other brands? In this post, we’re giving you a free taste of all the juicy goodness packed into our agency’s in-house guide:   Create a Winning Instagram Giveaway: And Get Tons of High Quality Followers!

1. Pick A Goal

Do you want to grow your follower count, email list, or something else entirely? Free advice: If you’re starting at follower count zero, building out your follower pool is the way to go. Then, you’ll have a greater network to interact with if you’d like to collect emails in the future (product familiarity alone often sways users to forfeit their email in the hopes of a potential discount).

2. Find Brand Partners

If you spend anytime at all on Instagram, you’ve likely got a handful of potential brands you’d love to partner with. Start there and see what happens. There are SO many ways to build out a list of brands – this is just a jumping off point, but we’ve got a few more suggestions within our guide as well.

3. Make Contact

Start with a simple DM. Show a little love for the brand you’d like to team up with and share important details regarding the kind of giveaway you intend on hosting as well as when you plan to launch it. If you’ve hosted a giveaway before, take care to hint at past areas of success.

4. Take Photo + Create Copy

Whether you buy participating brand’s products on your own, have free product shipped over, or design some sort of graphic that represents those brands, now is the time to snap a photo or pop into Photoshop. Situate all the subject matter so it fits inside of a square to look good in the feed, use natural lighting, or invest in some photography lighting to ensure products are adequately lit. Use bright color backdrops when you can to make the image shine!

Then, get to typing up a killer caption. The main thing here is that you state instructions for participants in a very clear manner with a call to action while including a gentle disclaimer that protects the brand you represent from legal allegations.

You can borrow our Instagram Giveaway Legal Disclaimer Template:

We’ll randomly pick a winner next week. Open to US residents only. Must be 18+ with a public profile to win. By entering you acknowledge that this giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by Instagram and release Instagram of all responsibility. Good luck!

5. Set Dates + Amplify Reach

Nail down a date. We bet you’re wondering: “How long should I run an Instagram giveaway?”

The optimal length of time may vary, but three to five days is pretty standard. We share more info like this in our guide.

After you launch your giveaway, it’s time to promote it accordingly. Share it via Stories – add it to a highlight. Then, budget for the dollar amount you’d like to put behind boosting your post. Note: boosting often makes a HUGE difference! Take care to optimize your post by sending people to “Your Profile” and select Target Audience to “Automatic” – we’ve tested this and got the highest amount of new followers this way!

6. Choose a Winner

Contact the winner(s) and obtain their address, ensuring they receive their prize.

Take time to appreciate your newly acquired followers – follow up with a discount code or email to solidify a connection.

Don’t forget to share the giveaway results with the brands you’ve partnered with! They’ll be eager to learn about the results + you may want to work together again in the future.

As mentioned, we’ve got so much more info to share on planning, launching, and wrapping up a giveaway. We dive into the details – little nuggets of giveaway planning gold – AND think picture by providing you with essential resources: checklist, organizational spreadsheet, and messaging templates.

We’ve spent YEARS and TENS of THOUSANDS of DOLLARS perfecting giveaway strategies. And before you ask, we’ve used these strategies across multiple verticals (from supplements to kimchi) – and it proves effective every time!

We put in the work to save you time and money – purchase our guide to grow your brand today:   Create a Winning Instagram Giveaway: And Get Tons of High Quality Followers!

Why You Should Be Using Instagram Story GIFs

It starts with a simple question: “Who the heck decides which GIFs are available for use via Instagram Stories?!”

Instagram story gifs how to use

And then, if you’re anything like us you’re asking yourself, “Okay, now how can I get a GIF on here for my brand and clients??” If you’re not thinking like this yet, you should be: It’s free exposure! When it’s done well, you’ve got hundreds, even thousands of users utilizing your branded GIFs.

A little background – Instagram’s GIF function is powered by Giphy. A huge bank of GIFs & animated stickers. So, they make the rules when it comes to Instagram’s interactive GIFs.

The rules go like this

You’ll need at least five GIFs to get your official Giphy Brand Channel activated. You must have an official Giphy Brand Channel for your GIFs to populate through the Instagram GIF search function.

If you don’t already have someone on your team that’s familiar with GIF creation, we recommend connecting with an experienced freelancer. We’ve had great luck finding freelancers on Fiverr or Upwork.

Giphy Brand Channel activation

giphy brand channel application instagram stickers
  1. Create a new account using a brand-designated email address. Examples: or

    Your GIPHY username must accurately reflect the name of your business. Get rid of any non-applicable numbers, underscores, or other special characters – anything “off” may fail your application.

    Add a working link to the website field. Social accounts do not qualify – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Your website must be public.

    Add an avatar, preferably your brand’s logo. 250×250 JPG, PNG or GIF files are all supported.

  2. Upload five GIFs minimum.   Take care  to fill out their tags section with   branded key words and common phrases that apply to the product or service you’re spotlighting.

  3. Apply for a brand channel. Here’s the application.

  4. Wait 1-4 days for your application to process. If your application is approved, GIFs will populate on the Instagram GIF search function. If they’re not appearing or your application was denied, connect with Giphy support – they’ll walk you through the necessary steps to get your app approved.

Ideal GIF export settings

Something extra! If you’re making these GIFs on your own in Photoshop, use these settings to export clean transparent images:

  • Colors: 256
  • Dither: 88-100%
  • Diffusion Transparency Dither
  • Adjust as needed to export your GIF – if you’re met with an error message, decrease dither to 88% or and colors to 128.
best gif export settings transparent dither
Check your stats

Observe the impact of your work by  reviewing your Giphy  analytics. In the top right-hand corner, select your username > Dashboard >   Channel Activity. Here, you can review weekly, monthly, and all-time results. This is especially useful to gauge impact on GIFs for special events or timely releases. 
giphy brand channel analytics

IG Story GIFs can be easily overlooked. But, they make an appearance across thousands of Stories every day. It only makes sense to get in on the fun and create a set of five branded GIFs for your own brand + clients.

branded instagram gifs

Looking for more ways to elevate your IG presence? Consider hosting an Instagram Story Takeover. Our education The Complete Guide to Running Amazing Instagram Story Takeovers: Use Influence to Attract New Customers has all the step-by-step instructions you need to kill it.

instagram line breaks spacing how to

When you start to look out for them, you’ll see Instagram line breaks everywhere! And, you’ve probably noticed you can’t just hit enter to make one in your own caption.

how to add spacing to IG captions
@Milkimchi uses spacing to isolate giveaway instructions, highlighting how simple it is to participate.

The story behind line breaks

Users share photos on Instagram with a short, descriptive caption. At least, the platform started out that way. Until, influencers, brands, and everyone in between took to their captions to share full-blown stories, step-by-step tips – you name it!

As IG captions expanded in size, the want + need for a way to break up paragraphs became apparent. Why? To increase readability! But, you can’t just hit enter on your phone while creating a post through the Instagram app – this function isn’t currently supported.

That’s why a number of workarounds have been thought up. You’ll see influencers, brands, and even your average Joe using hashtags, periods, characters, or emojis to create line breaks.

how to add spacing to Instagram bio
Really yummy IG account here: @thedefineddish! It’s your call as to whether or not you use a character or blank space as your line break. Always better to have the choice by learning this Instagram formatting hack.

This works for the most part, but doesn’t always translate the same on desktop. Plus, you may not want an added element distracting from your post – why use an emoji when you could instead have a clean distinction between paragraphs?

How to add spacing to your Instagram captions or bio

You simply need the right number of spaces to achieve a clean line break. And, here they are –

[                                                              ]

While you could copy-paste the space within these brackets wherever you’d like a line break, there’s something even easier you can do!

Create a shortcut on your phone that includes this spacing. Here’s how…

For iPhone –

  • Tap Settings, General, Keyboard, Text Replacement, then tap the “+” button in the top-right corner of the screen.
  • In the blank next to “Phrase,” type in [                                                              ]. Then, in the Shortcut section, name it Linebreak.
  • Tap the “Save” button.

For Android –

  • Tap Settings, Language & Input, “Personal dictionary,” then pick a language or choose the “For all languages” option. (Note: the exact settings may differ depending on the make and model of your Android phone.)
  • Tap the “+” sign in the top-right corner of the screen, then enter [                                                              ].
  • In the Shortcut section, name it Linebreak.
  • Tap the Back key, and you’ll see an entry for the shortcut you just added.

Now, you’ll just have to type in Linebreak and the optional shortcut will pop up. Just delete the brackets afterward.

Important: Take out any extra spacing between the last word or punctuation before adding your line break! Also, try drafting captions on your phone’s notes app to see your lengthy caption as a whole + double-check for spacing errors.

instagram line break shortcut [⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀]

So easy, yet a heavily neglected Instagram formatting tip! How will you put it to use? Tag us on Instagram @umaimarketing to keep the conversation going.

which instagram profile do I pick

What’s a Creator Instagram account exactly and should you have one??

There are three kinds of Instagram accounts: Personal, Business, and Creator. Instagram began with Personal accounts. But it wasn’t long before creatives + brands desired analytics and deeper insights to measure their performance. 

The Business account option – while sufficient – has served as a catch-all for brands, influencers and every kind of artist under the sun. Now there’s a better, more specific option: the Creator account.

The Creator account was added at the end of 2018. It’s a Professional Instagram profile that allows users to access more features to control one’s online presence, understand growth and manage messages.

Is a Personal, Business, or Creator account right for me? 

The names for these accounts speak for themselves! Are you using Instagram for personal, business, or creative reasons? Here are some more questions you should ask yourself… 

The Personal account is right for you if –
– You use Instagram to stay in touch with friends, family, or specific communities.
– You’re not earning an income from day-to-day activities on IG.
– You get some Direct Messages (DMs) but have no need to sort them.

The Business account is right for you if –
– You operate a more traditional business by selling a product or service.
– You get a lot of DMs but mostly just the same FAQs.

The Creator account is right for you if –
– You use Instagram to run a business, but you or your specialty craft is your business. In some cases, your face or influence drives profit.
– You get a lot of messages – these vary a ton because you offer multiple services or handle a high volume of unique commissions.

At the moment, there are no special requirements you must meet to switch over to the Instagram Creator account. If you’re a creative on the hunt for 1) insights on your IG growth + performance or 2) managing a ton of varied DMs, then this account type is likely for you!

Also, there’s Creator Shopping! With this feature, you can create shoppable posts to support the brands you love + those you’re partnering with. Users can directly purchase through a link displayed on your photo. Just another way to measure ROI and convey your value as a content creator!

instagram creator profile

Finally, you’ll also gain access to the Instagram Creator Studio, “an easy-to-use dashboard management tool that allows you to see all your Facebook and Instagram analytics (that you’d otherwise access in the app) – on your desktop,” (Keyhole).

How to make the switch

Here’s your step-by-step instructions –

  1. Go to your account and tap the menu icon in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Select Settings by tapping the gear icon.
  3. Select Account.
    – If you currently have a personal account, choose Switch to Professional Account and tap Creator.
    – If you currently have a Business profile, choose Switch to Creator Account.
  4.  Choose a category that best describes what you do – so many options!
  5. Option to connect to your Facebook Page
    – If you have a Facebook Page you would like to link to your account, select it from the list that appears.
    – You’re also able to skip this step.
  6. Review contact information. At least one contact is needed to proceed. You will have the option to display or hide this on your profile.
  7. Choose your profile display options. You can decide whether to hide or display your category and contact details on your profile.

Note: “If your personal account is private, completing these steps will make it public. All pending follow requests will be automatically accepted when you go public,” (Instagram).

All in all, it’s exciting to have more options on this often times influencer-driven platform! Let us know if you made the switch and stay tuned for additional updates on this relatively new Instagram account type by following us @umaimarketing on IG.


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