More Than a Pretty Picture: 4 Tips for PR Pros to Master Instagram

Instagram More Than a Pretty Picture

By Elisabeth Wraase & Elynsey Price

Instagram  More Than a Pretty Picture

It’s no secret that our society is becoming increasingly visual with each passing day. With this in mind, it’s also no surprise to PR practitioners that Instagram now serves as one of the most engaging social media platforms. According to a recent report, Instagram has an engagement rate of 15 times more than Facebook (Fast Company, 2015).

So, how can PR professionals help brands utilize this platform to the fullest? Jenn Herman, Instagram guru, shared in a webinar some of her top tips on how brands can successfully leverage Instagram to tell their stories. Below are our four key takeaways, as well as a few examples of how some of our own clients are successfully implementing these pointers.

Craft a bio with personality and clarity

Instagram-Bio-Sprint-e1439573936678Within Instagram, you can only be found and followed through a search for your username or your direct first and last name. Your username should be consistent or at least familiar so if people want to find you on Instagram via Twitter or Facebook, they easily can.

(Note: your profile picture should also be the same across all channels; for most brands, a logo does the trick.)

Directly underneath your name and picture is your bio—primarily what people use to answer the question: to follow or not to follow?

You have 150 characters (a little more than a tweet) to convey who you are and what you do.

  • Keep it short and simple. Consider using bullet points to summarize.
  • Include key words but be personable.
  • Have a little fun with it—you want to give your account personality. You can use emojis. It’s allowed!

Most importantly, because links are not embeddable within Instagram posts, your bio is the only place to directly link to your brand’s website. Your bio should also be fresh and kept up to date.

  • If there’s a sale, promote it and include a direct link.
  • Drive traffic to a new blog post.
  • If you have a new promo code, be sure to mention it here.

Including a link is the best way to directly drive traffic to your website. But be aware: Google Analytics does not track from Instagram. Instead, we recommend a link to track how many people have visited from your Instagram account.

Post content that humanizes your brand


Instagram creates an opportunity to showcase what’s happening behind-the-scenes with your brand. It’s more than a logo—it’s about the people. Post images of:

  • Employees.
  • The office where you work.
  • Community involvement.

And remember, Instagram is the most engaging social media platform because of its hashtags—so be creative and come up with something that is unique to your brand.

Include call-to-actions that connect with your audience and expand your reach


It’s true that Instagram—like any social media platform—gives clearance to promote your brand. Instagram has recently begun inserting sponsored images and advertisements within its newsfeeds. The algorithm behind these ads is the same as Facebook, who owns and operates Instagram. Within Instagram’s new ads, brands can target their audiences with short videos, images, and a carousel, which allows you to post up to four images that rotate. The ads feature clickable action buttons in the corner; however, the company is still beta testing, so there is not much information out about its advertising platform just yet. Our advice: be cautious; don’t rely only on ads to grow your following. Keep in mind the following guiding principles:

  • Brands must be organic and authentic to reach new audiences.
  • Not all posts should be promotional or include a call-to-action, so vary your content. That’s what makes an Instagram account valuable to followers.
  • If you are looking for people to view your blog post or download an app, be clear and concise and tell the individual what to do. Remind them to look for the link in your profile.

Consider engaging your audience to expand your reach. Ask followers to tag a friend and spread the word, or to use a particular hashtag. This will allow you to easily re-share their post and reach their followers outside of your own.

Do use multiple, targeted hashtags; but don’t overdo it


One of the most popular features of Instagram is its hashtagging ability. Hashtags allow you to reach new followers and share your photos with more people, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to pepper your posts with hashtags galore. If you’re targeted with the hashtags you choose, you’ll find that your Instagram posts will reach the targeted audience that matches your brand.

  • Discover keyword popularity (i.e. whether 6 million people have used them in posts, or just 300).
  • Create a custom hashtag gallery for your brand and a few go-to hashtags to use in each post.
  • Combine popular, moderately popular, and custom hashtags when you post. Don’t “hashjack.” If there’s a popular hashtag that is currently trending and it applies to your brand, go ahead and use it. If it doesn’t, skip it.

An average of 11 hashtags can earn the most engagement, but there should be at least five to 10 hashtags attached to each image. Some users include hashtags in a comment right after they post, but in those four seconds it took them to post and add a comment, they’ve already lost some of their target audience. Include comments within the caption to help your target audience find you.

Brands that can creatively capture moments and show some personality beyond what individuals already know will no doubt ensure a strong Instagram presence. What tips do you use to embrace Instagram for your brand? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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