How startups can make the most of Instagram

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world. The blend between personal and brand posts is virtually seamless – over 200 million people visit a business profile on a daily basis.

There’s a common misconception that Instagram only works for companies with attractive products. And while hospitality, fashion and beauty businesses thrive on the platform, there are also plenty of opportunities for businesses that aren’t naturally visual.

A big business example is email marketing platform Mailchimp, which has built up a 123k following on Instagram. The trick? Focusing on customer profiles and inspiring graphics. 

On the small business front, there are plenty of great accounts to follow from past Pitchers. Chilli paste makers Mak Tok post regular how-to videos of Malaysian recipes. Creative comms studio Buttercrumble mix personal profiles with brand tips to offer plenty of value to followers. Sexual wellness business HANX has an Instagram feed full of empowering quotes and imagery.

We’ve put together a quick list of tips to help you make the most of Instagram.

Switch to a business profile

Changing to a business profile gives you access to Instagram Insights, where you can learn more about your followers and see how your content is performing. This includes:

  • Profile visits and website clicks
  • How many people see your content
  • Where people find your content
  • Growth in followers by day or week

A business profile also gives you the option to add contact details into your bio, so you can include directions, a phone number and/or an email address. 

Use Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are deleted after 24 hours, so there’s less pressure for high-quality photography. It’s a great way to share images or videos of your business that don’t necessarily align with your Instagram feed. 

The main benefit of Instagram Stories is that they will appear at the top of your followers’ feeds, rather than disappearing into Instagram’s algorithm. Adding your location and using hashtag stickers will also help more people discover your account.

Use Stories to:

  • Offer a behind-the-scenes look into your business
  • Showcase your company culture
  • Interview a guest
  • Run a competition or promotion

Be authentic

After decades of perfectly polished marketing, customers are increasingly drawn to images and messages that feel authentic and human – which is good news for small businesses.

When you’re faced with an audience looking for real, human connections, corporate messaging tends to fall flat. It’s hard to feel relatable when you’re a multi-million-pound company. 

Small businesses can feed this desire for authenticity. It’s a chance to build relationships with customers and encourage brand loyalty. Customers care about who is behind a brand and what their values are – use your Instagram account to show it. 

Follow the rule of thirds

Make sure there is variety in your Instagram feed. Since Instagram is presented in a grid format, it’s immediately obvious if you’re repeating posts. The rule of thirds is a useful way to vary your posts:


Spend a third of your time on Instagram showing the personality behind your brand. You might post about yourself or a team member or talk about your journey with the business. These posts help to humanise your business and build a connection with followers.


Spend a third of your time trying to offer value to your customers. Think about questions you’re often asked and things that would be useful for your customers. For example, if you run a craft business, you might demonstrate a sewing technique or post a list of useful substitutions for hard-to-access materials.


The other third of your time can be spent on promoting your business, whether it’s a new product or an event you’re running. 

Instagram doesn’t let you include links in your posts, but you can point users towards a link in your bio. Use an app like Linktree that lets you list different links under one overarching bio link.

Bear in mind that people will be reluctant to exit the Instagram app, so don’t post a link and expect an external landing page to do the hard work. Your marketing messages need to convince people within the Instagram ecosystem. 

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Kat Haylock
Kat is the lead writer at Inkwell, the company behind The Pitch. She’s worked with small businesses for the last six years, championing Britain’s startup scene and anyone who has snacks.

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