Instagram Etiquette For A Shiny, Professional (and on-brand) Profile


Instagram for small business marketing can either be your biggest money maker or a total headache–it all depends on how you use it. The platform is constantly changing, with an ever-evolving algorithm and viral trends taking over weekly. But one thing remains constant (at least for the near future): businesses benefit from consistent engagement on Instagram. Take a look: 

  • Instagram boasts 1 billion active users a month, half of which access the app on a daily basis.
  • 71% of US businesses are currently using Instagram.
  • 7 out of 10 hashtags on Instagram are branded.
  • Engagement rates on Instagram are 15 times higher than those on Facebook, this number comes before Facebook implements it’s new algorithm change to feature less brand posts and more from friends and family. Once the new Facebook algorithm is in place, this number will skyrocket.
  • Instagram has 58% more engagement per follower than Facebook. 


While there’s plenty to gain with an Instagram for your business, there are some major do’s and don’ts business owners should follow to see real success. Whether you’re new to Instagram or you want to step up your social media marketing game, play by the rules with these 16 tips for Instagram etiquette for businesses. 


#1 Smart Captioning

Don’t: Only post professional content Instagram etiquette for business professionalism has morphed quite a bit over the last few years. Don’t rely on professional photos and stock photos to keep your engagement up. Show the personal side of your business with behind-the-scenes footage and authentic photos and captions.

Do: Use Instagram to Drive Users to your Blog. If you have bucketfuls of knowledge to share, start a blog and use your Instagram as a platform to build a readership. Post the link to your blog in your bio and promote the new post in your feed. The caption will direct your followers to engage with your brand beyond the ‘gram.

You can also attach blog links to your Instagram story. Simply direct your followers to swipe up to be taken directly to your blog. Now you’ve got a platform to express yourself and more Instagram content.

#2 Photo Etiquette

Don’t: Steal Pictures. We all learned this lesson in kindergarten: don’t steal. It’s really that simple.  Content creators work incredibly hard to perfect their craft and spend thousands of dollars on their equipment to produce though high quality photos. Taking their work under the assumption that it is “just a picture” is a huge slap in the face.

Skateboard photographer Max Dubler puts it best on PetaPixel.com: “You do not get to take my work, use it to advertise your business, then decide you don’t have to pay for it after the fact any more than I get to walk into your shop, take a brand new board, skate it around the block a few times, and put it back on the rack…”. Don’t steal.

Do: Get Permission and Give Credit. If you see a photo that you want to use, reach out to the owner and ask permission to repost with a photo credit. While you may have to pay for the use of the photo, you may also get a green light with no fee involved. Paying for permission to use a photo is much better than facing the wrath of a scorned brand or photographer who can (and probably will) use their sphere of influence to tell the world about your transgression.

The aforementioned Max Dubler, for example, told his followers about a company who stole his photos, his followers then sent him videos of them throwing away and burning products from that company while vowing to go to that company’s competitors for their needs. All over a $25 photo. Yikes.

#3 Be Human

Don’t: Let Emoji’s Do (all) the Talking. Chances are you’ve gotten a comment from some brand you’ve never heard of that reads “🙌 😍 ”. Emoji-only comment or caption are inauthentic and lazy. It’s also not memorable. Auto-bots are known for commenting emojis only, and you don’t want to be associated with that. Take a second and say something authentic

Do: Use your words! You’re a person, so show it off with your ultra-human vocabulary! A few emojis to accentuate your enthusiasm are absolutely encouraged when accompanied with a thoughtful, genuine caption. While you don’t want to go too crazy with the word count, say enough to communicate your brand values and personality. 

instagram etiquette for business

#4 Invest in Your Photos

Don’t: Go filter crazy. Filters are loads of fun, and they were great in the beginning stages of the platform. Now, the rules have changed. Using filters too often can present an inaccurate aesthetic from your brand and annoy your followers. 

Do: Take better photos! Take high quality photos and edit them outside of the app. Your photos should be good enough that you won’t need to dramatically adjust the composition. If you do find yourself constantly adding filters and making sweeping adjustments to your photos, consider hiring a photographer to stage a photoshoot every few months so you constantly have a backlog of high-quality pictures.

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#5 Focus on The Bigger Picture

Don’t: Neglect your grid. Your Instagram “grid” is the tiled organization of all your photos. This is the first thing to capture a user’s attention when they’re brought to your profile. A messy grid confuses followers, and a confused mind never makes a decision. 

Do: Curate Your Photos as if your Instagram is an exquisite “you” museum. Curate your grid to present a consistent aesthetic representation of your goods, services, and identity. When someone visits your profile and is greeted with a beautifully curated grid, they’re more likely to follow you and trust in the professionalism of your brand.

#6 Hashtag Responsibly

Don’t: Force feed hashtags to your followers. Hashtags are crucial in gaining exposure on your posts, but that doesn’t mean your followers need to see them. Don’t try to squeeze the allotted 30 hashtags into your photo caption–it’ll take away from the caption itself. A caption crammed with hashtags also makes your brand look less concerned with posting quality content and more concerned about increasing your influence. Try to limit the hashtags in your caption to the three most important to your brand or photos. 

Do: Hide hashtags in the comments. Get the most out of your hashtags without inconveniencing your followers by adding them to your comments section. Your comment won’t appear in your followers’ feeds but the hashtags will still be tracked, increasing your post’s reach.

#7 Authentic Engagement

Don’t: Ignore your fans. Your fans follow you because they like you. They want to see and hear from you. If you’re posting rad content, your fans will let you know with likes and comments. If you ignore these comments, you’re less likely to see these people comment again. These people give you their attention, don’t take it for granted. 

Do: Interact with them! Show your fans that you appreciate their time and attention by interacting with them! Reply to their comments (with more than just an emoji), like their photos, maybe even follow them. Interacting with your fans gives them a sense of validation, that you genuinely care about them and are grateful for their support. This creates a more personal connection between your brand and your fans which turns into more brand loyalty.

#8 Finding the Posting Sweet Spot

Don’t: Post more than three times a day. Even your biggest fans will unfollow you if you’re constantly posting photos all day long. Focus on quality over quantity. No one needs to post four or five times daily–this is a sign that you’re not being concise or potent with your messages. If you’re tempted to post several times in a day, try to accomplish in one post what you originally planned to do in three.

Do: Take advantage of Instagram stories. Instagram stories are the perfect solution for posting more than once when you’re covering an event, product launch, or big announcement. Instagram stories are also the best route for businesses wanting to connect with their followers and share more authentic, behind-the-scenes content.


Still Have a Headache? Hire a Professional Agency

Instagram takes time to execute effectively, and it’s completely understandable if you’re too busy running your business to worry about grids, hashtags, and what emoji best conveys your excitement for a new product. That’s where we come in! Contact us today and we’ll tell you all about our social media offerings.

How many of these rules apply to Facebook? Learn more about the new Facebook algorithm and how to stay on top of the news feed.