Posted January 29, 2014 by Devani Janssen

Instagram presents some exciting challenges for marketers. You can’t include links in captions or comments. You can’t copy and paste inactive links from captions and comments. Users can’t easily share your content to their personal networks. Even search is limited, mostly to hashtags.

So why should marketers be scrambling to build a presence on Instagram? Because that’s where peoples’ eyes are.

There are over 150 million monthly active users, more than half of which are active every day, and more than a third of which are active multiple times per day. There are over a billion daily likes and over 1,000 photo comments per second. When Instagram launched video sharing in June of 2013, over 5 million videos were shared within the first 24 hours.

Leveraging this huge user base to grow your brand’s community and build context with your customers through native advertising is massively opportunistic in today’s mobile-centric world. Here’s how to optimize your presence.


Your Username

If your brand name is available as a username, take it. If somebody has already done so, consider using another extension of your brand, such as your tagline (as long as it’s short!) or another phrase associated with your company. If you’re an individual looking to build your personal brand, you’ve got even more freedom to experiment with unique usernames.

Some of my favorite usernames from people I follow on Instagram and Twitter:

@pineapplebanjo, @poopsplat, @spaceagecrystal, @poeticmask, @thisisdork, @mindnovelty, @thomasbeta, @thebigshotprof, @moneyball, @temporaryhuman, @jackandnow, @aboundlessworld, @teeheehee

A Few Other Tips

  • Try to use the same username across social networks. This makes it easier for your community to find, follow and communicate with you.
  • Your username automatically becomes your URL address:
  • Avoid numbers and underscores
  • The shorter the better
  • It’s always displayed in all caps or all lowercase
  • Be unique
  • Be easy to spell
  • Be memorable

Your Profile Picture

It’s small and round. Users will never see a large version of this picture, so use something that works well in a small format.

The display picture size on your Instagram web profile is 180 x 180 pixels, slightly larger than the profile picture in the mobile app. Uploading a photo at this size will help maintain high resolution in both places.

Your Name

Your name should go here, but it’s not necessary. There are two main places that users will see it—on your profile and in search results within the application. If your username already contains your brand name, I’d consider experimenting with putting something else as your name, such as your tagline or some other extension of your brand.

SmartShoot’s name is displayed as “We <3 featuring creatives”. This is what it looks like in a search result within the application. You’ll notice that our name is still displayed since it’s our username.

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Your URL

Include the link to your website. This is the only opportunity that Instagram gives for brands to direct traffic through a link from within the application. In photo captions and comments, all URLs are broken. Copy & paste features are also disabled.

If you don’t have a website, use another place on the web that’s an extension of your brand. Do you have a twitter account? Facebook Page? Do you support an interesting cause? Use the URL space to give users another piece of your brand’s story.

Your Bio

What’s the most important thing that you want users to know about you? What kind of vibe do you want to have? What’s makes for a great first impression of your brand? Include these things here. With room for only 150 characters, you’ve got no choice but to be short and strategic. Here are some examples of bios and why they’re awesome or not.

It’s motivating and implies that with a sharpie, you have the power to start something, a positive and awesome thing to have associated with the brand. It’s also short and sweet.

The capital letters. Social media is a casual scene. There’s no need for title-like capitalizations and formalities. Users are there to chill and browse neat visuals and ideas. Ya know, in their pajamas probably.

Adventure seekers will resonate with this. And they learn some background information on Quiksilver—quality products since 1969.

It’s a mouthful. I’d shorten it to “Here to inspire new adventures. Supplying boardriders since ’69.” It’s a great practice in social media to get your point across in as few of words as possible.

They took a main Instagram feature, filters, and used the word in context with their brand. A Game of Thrones player will easily relate.

I usually think that stating that you are the official version of yourself is unneeded. Although in the more extreme cases it can be helpful for users searching for the real you. Only use it if you truly feel you need to. Otherwise, use this space as a place to give users something more valuable. Also, stating in your Instagram bio that this is your Instagram profile is wasted space and a given.

This is a bold statement that invites users to associate past hardships with a sense of community and acceptance. It’s a great way to build context.

I’d end the phrase with one period instead of three. I think it would be read with a more confident tone.

Giving users a reason to Instagram your product is a huge win, especially if you exchange value with them by liking, commenting on or featuring their photo with your product. ‘Thank you’ goes a long way in social media.

Again, I’d shorten this. “Fueling athletes since ’65. Show us how you #WinFromWithin.” Hashtagging a photo with a brand name or phrase is far from a new concept in the world of social media. I’m confident that users would know what to do with this shortened version and be more likely to read it.

Personality. Here’s a tip for when you’re typing messages on social media: stop overthinking and type what you’d say as if you were standing there in person. It’s okay to type things like “whoooaahh, cray.” if it’s something you’d say in real life. Social media is real life. Too often brands type things that sound like they were spit out of a newspaper headline machine from 1950.

Nothing. I’m #MADDABOUTIT.

Nothing, I’m mad about it.

If you’re unfamiliar with Qdoba’s stellar queso burritos, you’d have no context with this brand upon viewing their bio. They’ve simply stated the obvious.

I don’t know any women who don’t want to live free and through at least one of following: fashion, art, music or travel. Do you? Context.

A beautiful bio to read, if you get past the first sentence. Something that brands can do is type ‘Official’ right in their name. The name ‘freepeople’ shown above the bio could become “Official Free People” and the bio could stand alone as only the second sentence.

Your Settings

There are a couple settings that can help you better manage your Instagram content and presence on other social networks.

Share Settings
If you have other social accounts such as Facebook or Twitter, a great practice is to connect these accounts to your Instagram profile. Then, when you create an Instagram photo, you’ll have the option to automatically share it to your connected social networks with a direct link back to your Instagram. Doing this some of the time is a great way to cross-pollinate your social networks with your content and build awareness for your Instagram community.

Save Original Photos
Turning on this setting allows your phone to save copies of your Instagram photos in your phone’s photo album. This can be a timesaver when you’re trying to use your Instagram content in other media without automatically posting it from your Instagram account.

Are you ready to optimize your presence? Hit me up with any questions below!

About Devani Janssen

Devani Janssen is the community development and social media manager at SmartShoot. She loves startups and working on her Instagram palette. For more thoughts on social and how the world works, sail with her on Twitter.

Keep in touch: @thoughtsailor

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