With 500 million daily users and more than 80 percent of Instagram accounts following a business account, it's crucial that marketers include Instagram as a part of their social media marketing strategy.
It all starts with your Instagram profile.
The best Instagram profiles have a few things in common, including easily identifiable usernames, a recognizable profile picture, a steady stream of Instagram Stories and photos, an informative yet delightful bio, a link to a relevant landing page or campaign, and more.
Keep reading to learn how to customize your Instagram profile so it looks good, tells your potential followers who you are, and gives them a reason to follow and engage with you.
The Anatomy of a Perfect Instagram Profile
1. Public (Not Private) Profile
By default, your Instagram profile will be public -- meaning anyone in the world can view your profile and posts on Instagram.
If you're creating an Instagram profile for business, then that's what you want: You want anyone to be able to view your posts and follow your brand if they want to. (Otherwise, if you keep your profile private, anyone who visits your profile won't be able to view your photos, which could deter them from following you.)
To ensure your profile is public: Open "Options" (the gear button on iOS, or three dots on Android) and make sure "Private Account" is turned off.
2. Recognizable & Searchable @Username (i.e., Handle)
Start by making sure your username is recognizable and easily searchable, like your business name. If your business name is already taken as a username, try keeping your business name as the first part of your username so that people searching for your business are more likely to come across your account. For example, the Australian activewear line Lorna Jane uses the username @lornajaneactive.
To edit your @username: Go to your profile page and click the "Edit Profile" button to the right of your profile photo.
Next, click on the text or open space to the right of the person icon and enter your desired username.
3. Easily Searchable Business Name
Next, make sure to add your full business name to the “name” section of your profile. This will appear under your profile picture and under your username in search.
To edit your business name: Go to your profile page and click "Edit Profile." Then, click on the text or open space beside the clipboard icon at the top and enter your desired business name.
Instagram Profile Picture
4. An On-Brand Instagram Profile Picture
Your profile photo is one of the first things people see when they visit your Instagram profile, as it's displayed prominently in the top right-hand corner. It should be something easily recognizable -- something that's on-brand with your other social networks.
For most companies, this will be your company logo.
Now, notice that HubSpot's profile photo in the image above is a circle. That wasn't our choice; Instagram actually crops your profile photo into a circle (110 pixels in diameter) when you upload it to the app.
You don't have to create the circle image yourself. In fact, since you'll have to crop your photo into a circle in the app, you'll ideally want to upload a square photo with your logo in the center, placed so that the corners of the photo can be cut off without a problem.
For reference, keep in mind the minimum profile picture size for Instagram is 110 x 110 pixels -- a perfect square. Don't deviate too far from this minimum; staying below 200 x 200 is encouraged so users don't see a blurry or stretched photo when visiting your profile page.
In the example below, you'll see the corners are shaded, meaning Instagram will cut them off in the actual profile photo:
You can move that circle around or pinch-to-zoom until it's cropped just the way you like it.
To add or change a profile photo: Go to your profile page and click "Edit Profile." Then, tap "Edit" in the top right. (This will appear under your current profile photo if you have one.)
From there, you can import a photo from Facebook or Twitter, or choose one from your library. (We don't recommend taking a new one on the spot.)
Also consider the seasonal trends that take place over the course of the year, and don't be afraid to alter your image temporarily to honor a monthly theme. For example, because June is Pride Month, we gave our logo a temporary color change. Here's what it currently looks like on desktop:
Cool Instagram Profile Pictures
This Instagram, which highlights different cats on Instagram, hosts a profile picture which looks like that of a hipster cat.
Unlike most brands on Instagram, JetBlue shares a unique, but on-brand, color pattern rather than just their logo.
Kylie Cosmetics, which has a logo that features lipstick dripping off of voluminous lips, shook up its main image with some added holiday flair for. By simply added a Santa hat to the lips, the company instantly looked more festive.
5. Delightful, Actionable, Informative Bio
Like your profile photo, your "bio" (i.e., the description at the top of your profile) is one of the first things visitors to your profile will see.
You have a max of 150 characters: Use them to let people know what you're about and give them a reason to follow you. Include who you are and what you do, and be sure to add a hint of personality.
Here are a few examples for inspiration:
- WeWork: "WeWork provides you with the space, community, and services you need to make a life, not just a living."
- Oreo: "See the world through our OREO Wonderfilled lens."
- Califia Farms: "Crafting, concocting and cold-brewing up a delicious, plant-based future. Califia Farms Loves You Back"
- Staples: "We make it easy to #MakeMoreHappen"
You can also use this space to encourage some action, like using a certain hashtag or clicking a link in your bio. Here are two examples:
- Lorna Jane: "Welcome to the home of #ActiveLiving - be inspired to #MoveNourishBelieve EVERY DAY. Show us how you live active - tag #lornajane to be featured 💗"
- HubSpot: "All-in-one marketing & sales platform. We help businesses GROW. Follow for content, contests & more. Tag photos with #HubSpotting to get featured! ⬇️"
6. Trackable Link in Your Bio (That You Change Regularly)
One of the biggest frustrations people have with Instagram -- especially businesses -- is that it isn't exactly a great platform for driving traffic away from the app to a website, a Twitter page, or somewhere else. That's because clickable URLs aren't allowed anywhere except the single "website" box in your bio.
That's why you'll want to add a link to the "website" box in your business' Instagram bio. This makes it easy for people to go straight from Instagram to your website, blog, or a specific campaign.
One sneaky way to get people to click the link in your bio? By referring to that link in individual photo captions. Ever seen captions that say something like "Link in bio"? They're trying to direct you to their profile page so you click the link in their bio.
Engage users by updating that URL frequently to point to your latest blog content, YouTube video, product, or offer. For example, are you running a contest, or want to increase subscribers to your blog? Just change the link, and then post a photo that mentions the new link in its caption.
To change the link in your bio: Go to your profile page and click "Edit Profile." Then, simply insert the URL of your choosing into the URL box.
You can change the URL on your profile page as often as you'd like.
Note: I've read before that shortened links often get blocked by Instagram, but we haven't had that problem at HubSpot. In fact, we recommend using shortened links that include UTM tracking codes so you can see how much of your traffic came from your Instagram page. (Learn how to create UTM codes to track your URLs here.)
Once you've changed the URL, simply publish a photo related to the URL with a caption that references the link in your bio. Here's an example below, where we wrote in the caption, "FMI about Grow With HubSpot, visit the link in bio."
7. Enabled Notifications
Before you call it a day, check your "Options" settings to make sure notifications are enabled so you can see when people share or comment on your photos. This'll let you engage with them more quickly and easily, just like a lot of companies do on Twitter.
To enable notifications: Go to "Options" and then "Push Notification Settings."
Select "From Everyone" for every category. (Except perhaps "Friends on Instagram," which automatically sends a friend request to your Facebook friends who also have Instagram, and "Instagram Direct Requests," which accepts photos sent from individual accounts. That could get a little spam.)
8. High-Quality Photos
High quality photos are a huge part of an optimized Instagram profile. When people visit your profile, chances are, the first thing they'll do is scroll through the first ten or so photos in your feed. The quality of those photos will be a big factor in whether or not that person follows you or not. Your Twitter followers might forgive a few bad tweets, but you do not want bad photos on your Instagram account.
So, always be thinking of your Instagram photos this way: If you don't have anything beautiful to post, don't post anything at all.
The ingredients for a beautiful Instagram photo are threefold: an interesting and relevant subject, a well framed and well shot photo, and a solid editing job.
Ingredient #1: An Interesting & Relevant Subject
When you're picking a subject, think about your buyer persona. What would they find interesting in a photo? Coca-Cola's target market includes young people who value fun, friendship, and sports, for example. That's why they post pictures of young people doing fun, adventurous things -- like DJing at a concert, or snowboarding on a beautiful day. (With bottles of Coke in hand, of course.)
Image Credit: Coca-Cola Argentina
Another great way to garner Likes, comments, and followers? Make people laugh. Sometimes, funny photos are the most memorable and the most shareable.
Image Credit: Baddie Winkle; Jeremy Veach
Check out this list of 16 of the best brands on Instagram for more photo inspiration.
Ingredient #2: A Well Framed, Well Shot Photo
Don't worry ... you don't have to have a background in photography to take really awesome Instagram photos. All you really have to do is take some time to learn the best practices, like lining up your shots, finding interesting perspectives, and taking advantage of symmetry, patterns, "leading lines," and more.
What are these best practices? Start by reading this blog post on tips for taking great pictures on your smartphone.
Ingredient #3: A Solid Editing Job
Instagram has some basic editing capabilities, but oftentimes, they aren't adequate to make a picture really, really great. Most of your photos should go through at least one or two other photo editing apps on your mobile phone before you open them in Instagram for the first time.
But don't worry: Once you have the right apps downloaded, editing the photos isn't that complicated. It just takes a little bit of practice. (Trust me, it's well worth it.)
Start by reading this blog post for a step-by-step tutorial on editing your Instagram photos. That post will teach you how to take advantage of Instagram's best editing tools, and it also lists the two or three essential photo editing apps you'll need to take your photos from good to great.
For a list of more advanced editing tools, read this blog post for a list of the 11 best photo and video editing apps for mobile devices. These apps will let you do everything from sharpening specific parts of a photo to brightening certain hues to make your photo look fresher.
9. Consistent, Regular Posts
An optimized Instagram profile is an active one. Because photo quality is so important, you don't need to worry about posting to your Instagram account multiple times a day like you do for most other social media networks. Instead, focus on creating high quality content -- and then posting them at the right times for your specific audience.
To make sure you're posting consistently, download this social media content calendar template and start planning out your Instagram posts. Over time, you'll want to build up a backlog of photos for times of need, like the weekends or when you go on vacation.
So, what time of day is the best time to post to Instagram? Because Instagram is primarily an app for use on mobile devices, users tend to use the network all the time, any time -- although research shows that many users engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday.
The very best times to post on Instagram were Mondays and Thursdays at any time except between 3:00–4:00 p.m. for the time zone of your target persona. (For a United States audience, your best bet is to combine Eastern and Central time zones, as they represent almost 80% of the U.S. population. For audiences located outside the U.S., use whichever time zones your target audience uses.)
However, you'll want to experiment with these to see if they work with your audience.
Editor's Note: This blogpost was originally published June 5, 2018, but was updated in November 2019 for comprehensiveness.