How to grow your business on Instagram


How to grow your business on Instagram

By Katie Cross, founder of Cake or Death

Cake or Death bake delicious vegan chocolate brownies, delivered to your doorstep. They have over 21,000 followers on Instagram and have used the channel effectively to grow their business. Here, Katie Cross, founder and owner of Cake or Death, shares her insights. Katie is a Starling business customer.

In the last three years, I have grown my letterbox brownie business from a start-up in a shared community kitchen, to a flourishing business with its own premises and tens of thousands of customers. I credit a lot of this growth to Instagram - a free online social media tool that has enabled me to spread the word about our products, gain fans and grow a loyal community of followers and customers.

Marketing through social media is absolutely key to growing my small business and this is a short guide to how you can grow your Instagram account.

Starting out

How to set it up

Start by setting up your account. You need a profile picture, which may well be your logo. To set up a business account, go to Settings, then Account, select ‘Switch to Professional Account’, and choose ‘Business Account’.

Fully complete the profile information, with searchable terms in your biography. Look at your competitors to see how they describe themselves. Ensure all your contact information is up to date.

Use your logo as a profile picture

What are the different parts of your account?

The Grid: This is the main display of your posts and something a new follower might scan. The photos on the grid should be high quality and give a good overview of what you do.

Stories: these are shown at the top of the page and last for 24 hours only. People typically use these for daily commentary, behind the scenes photos and polls and questions. You can also repost other people’s stories if they tag you. If a customer features our brownies in stories, I will often repost the story as it shows people using our product and enjoying it.

If you want to save an Instagram story you can do so in Highlights, which makes them permanent. You can categorise your highlights under titles like ‘Reviews’, ‘Fans’, ‘Behind the Scenes’ etc.

Reels: this feature allows users to create video content and is becoming very important. Reels will also publish to your grid. Instagram is no longer just a photo sharing app and business owners are having to become adept at making videos - I’ll explain more below.

Use videos to engage people

Some tips as you’re beginning your account

  • You need a phone that takes decent pictures - although you can have the best phone in the world and still take bad pictures! I bought a top of the range iPhone and found this out the hard way - so I signed up for some of the free courses Apple offers at their stores, which teach you how to take good photos.

  • Follow inspirational accounts in your areas and by your competitors. You’ll keep up with the latest in your industry and sometimes you can learn information about businesses that can be really useful. Also follow a few major content creators as they will guide you towards trending audio for reels - which helps you get in front of more people.

  • Be consistent with posting and publishing content to stories, so your audience knows they can always look to your account for something interesting.

Curate your images to create a look
  • Interact with your community - Instagram judges on who to send content based partly on interactions, so always reply to comments on your own posts (even if it’s just an emoji). Once you get a bit more confident do the same on other accounts too, that way people who might be interested in your product may see you and follow.

  • Don’t panic if your follower numbers don’t grow quickly. You can have a successful business with a small number of very engaged followers.

  • Follow some Instagram specific accounts for tips on how to improve. I like @Sydniclairestudio and @rebuildagram

  • Keep a spreadsheet of content ideas and ideally plan them a couple of weeks in advance so you don’t get the panic of what you should post.

Building your account

  • Be (a bit) candid, have fun, make people laugh if you can. I like to keep a fun and light feel to my Instagram focusing on the product with some behind the scenes.
Have fun with some of your images
  • Identify the four key messages you want to send out and focus your posts and reels on those.

  • There’s no fixed rule on how often to post, though some advise 3 - 7 times per week. It’s important to be realistic about how much time and resource you really have though.

  • You can spend time curating your images and making your grid look wonderful, but it’s probably best to get stuff out there and post regularly - Instagram likes this.

  • Use your stories as the place to publish behind the scenes content.

  • Don’t be scared to talk to camera. As a business owner, people love to see you. I know a lot of our customers think of me when they think of Cake or Death - and it’s the big difference you get between a small business and a big one - you feel connected to the founder.


You can use analytics to understand how your audience engages with your content. If you have an Instagram business account, the free Instagram Analytics feature can identify patterns of engagement and help show you what kind of content resonates. This may give you pointers as to what content works well, and what is less successful. There are other analytic tools out there too. It’s worth exploring what’s on offer, though for some of them you may need to pay to use.

Video vs photo

Instagram used to be a photo-sharing app but it’s much more focused on video now, to compete with TikTok. These videos are called reels and get much more traction than photos. You should keep them short and aim to use trending audio so they get shared more widely.

  • I did a course on how to build reels run by @rebuildagram and this was very useful. There will also be plenty of free information out there on YouTube for example.

  • The best reels are either funny, educational or feature really beautiful or delicious looking content.

  • Keep them short. Under 10 seconds is ideal.

  • Watch other reels and you may be able to use music from those by saving the audio - if it has a little arrow on it that means it’s trending.

Working with others

I built the Cake or Death account in large part by working with others - in particular influencers. There are lots of individuals running Instagram accounts who’ll happily review your product and feature it on their stories and sometimes their grid for free. This way you access their followers. You can even do giveaways with them or offer them a personalised discount code which can work well.

You can also work with influencers via an affiliate network where influencers get paid per sale they make. Don’t ignore accounts with smaller numbers of followers. I have worked with accounts of 10-15K followers and got brilliant engagement because their audience really listens to them.

Also look at collaborating with other like-minded companies. You can do this via giveaways (offering a product from both you and the other company) which are timed posts that ask followers from both accounts to enter the giveaway and follow both companies. Thousands of my followers come from this route and I mostly work with other vegan companies to ensure we have overlapping audiences.

And remember

Instagram was an absolutely amazing tool during the pandemic when everyone was sitting on their phones. My account grows much more slowly now and I am focusing on quality interactions rather than rapid growth.

Don’t ignore the other channels. Facebook is important for an older audience and TikTok for a younger audience. You may feel that Twitter will work for you if you have less strong imagery, like a service-based business. But lots of service-based businesses do very well on Instagram so find them and take inspiration from what they are doing.

Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool

Also get onto Linkedin, especially if there’s a corporate audience for your product. It can build your reputation among the business community, which could be useful later, and you may get invited to talk at events or even write blogs, which all helps build your business.

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