Ultimate Guide

Instagram Messaging for Business: The Ultimate Guide (June 2021)

Serene Tan
Content Lead, Respond.io
June 24, 2021

Are you looking to use Instagram Messaging for Business? In this article, we’ll discuss all you need to know about setting up an Instagram Business Account and connecting the new Instagram Direct Message API to a CRM like respond.io. We’ll also cover the ins and outs of starting a chat and responding to messages according to Instagram’s best practices.

Already have an Instagram Business Account and want to start messaging customers? Head over to our documentation for a step by step guide to connecting your Instagram Business Account with respond.io.

What is Instagram for Business?

Instagram was first launched in 2010. At that time, the app was merely a social platform to share pictures and videos on mobile devices. In just two years, user growth exploded and Facebook acquired the business just prior to its IPO in 2012.

Today, more than a billion people use Instagram every month to showcase unique content. It’s not unusual to see successful accounts with thousands or even millions of followers.

Should I Use Instagram for Business?

With the potential to reach so many people, Instagram is an excellent and valuable platform to get to know your customers, listen to their needs and speak to them in a way that relates to them.

This pictures describes why you need to use Instagram for Business. There are more than 1 billion monthly active users globally and there are 200 million Instagram Business accounts with 90% of Instagram users following at least one business account on Instagram.
Why You Should Use Instagram for Business

Knowing this, Instagram launched its business arm called Instagram Business in 2014. To date, there are about 200 million business accounts and around 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform.

One advantage of having an Instagram presence is not just about the sheer number of people you can reach. Instagram Business Accounts provides access to an array of professional tools and features you won’t find on a Personal Account.

Instagram Business Account Features

If you want to bring your audience through the entire customer journey on Instagram, it requires a Business Account. From generating awareness and interest, down to the consideration and conversion stage - Instagram Business has the tools for it.

For top-funnel campaigns, the account comes with a professional dashboard. This feature provides valuable insights into your marketing performance, especially with how your ads or content resonate with your audience.

This picture describes Instagram Business Features. Businesses can use Instagram ads, Instagram Shops and Instagram Messaging for their business on Instagram.
Instagram Business Account Features

At the bottom-funnel level, selling is made easy thanks to the Instagram Shop feature. Similar to WhatsApp Catalog, the Instagram Shop allows businesses to list their products with descriptions and pricing.

Customers in the US can Checkout on Instagram using Facebook Pay on the Instagram Shop. For businesses outside the US where Checkout on Instagram is not yet available, businesses can link the products to their website for customers to checkout.

This picture shows how Checkout on Instagram and Facebook Pay looks like.
Checkout on Instagram | Credits to Instagram Official Blog

While this is relevant for brands with a shorter sales cycle, those that deal with high-value items take longer to convert a prospect into sales. In such cases, the sales team can benefit from using Instagram Messaging for Business to follow up with the prospect.

To get all these benefits and features when using Instagram, you’ll need to set up an Instagram Business Account.

Types of Instagram Accounts

Instagram has two main types of accounts - Personal and Professional. The Professional Account is made up of the Business Account and Creator Account. Here, we’ll look at the purpose of each account and why businesses should use the Business Account.

The Personal Account is for regular users to upload content on different topics of interests either privately or publicly without monetizing. It is also used to follow other users, influencers or public figures and businesses that interest them.

Instagram has two main types of accounts - Personal and Professional. The Professional Account is made up of the Business Account and Creator Account.
Types of Instagram Accounts: Personal, Business and Creator Account

For influencers and public figures, Instagram has a dedicated account called the Creator Account. The Creator Account gives influencers and public figures insights into their account's analytics to better understand their followers’ interest and browsing habits.

Lastly, we have the Instagram Business Account. It has a lot of similarities to the Creator account, except the Business Account has additional professional tools and features for business that a Creator Account is missing.

For example, the Business Account allows access to the Instagram Direct Message API. Without API access, businesses cannot integrate third-party software such as a CRM which is essential for marketing, sales and customer support.

How to Create an Instagram Business Account

Now that you know why the Business Account is important, here’s how you can create an Instagram Business Account. To start, sign up through the Instagram app or go to instagram.com on the Desktop and click the Sign-Up button from the main page.

1. Fill in your email address, full name, desired username and password.

Instagram sign up page on desktop
Instagram Sign Up Page on Desktop

2. Enter a birthdate. This is to ensure no underage users are registering for an account. The date would not be shown on your public profile.

Enter your birthdate when you sign up for an Instagram account.
Enter Birthdate During Sign-Up

3. Enter the confirmation code sent to your registered email address and now you have an Instagram Account.

Enter the confirmation code sent to the registered email address.
Enter the Confirmation Code Retrieved from your Registered Email

By default, the account created will be a Personal Account. You’ll need to change it to a Business Account.

4. Go to Settings and click Switch to Professional Account.

This picture shows you how to switch from a personal Instagram account to an Instagram Business account.
How to Switch to a Business Account on Instagram

5. Choose Business and click Next.

Select Business account when you switch from a personal account from Instagram settings page.
Choose the Instagram Account Type: Business Account

6. Select Business Category.

Select a relevant business category when you sign up for an Instagram Business account.
Choose a Relevant Business Category

7. Review the Contact Information and click Save.

Review your contact info to ensure it's accurate when you create an Instagram Business account.
Review your Contact Information to Ensure it’s Correct

8. Done. Your Instagram Business Account is ready.

This is what it looks like when your Instagram Business Account is ready.
Instagram Business Account is Ready

Or if you’re using a Personal Account for business, simply convert it to a Business Account by following the same steps to access all the business tools and features as mentioned.

Now that your account is ready, it’s time to connect your Instagram Business Account to your Facebook Business Page and Facebook Business Manager.

Instagram Business Account Multiple Users: Connect Instagram Business Account to Facebook

Although you can use Instagram Business without linking it to Facebook, it is recommended so you can assign multiple users to manage your inbox messages and comments, access business insights and schedule posts with the Creator Studio.

First, ensure you are an admin of the Facebook Business Page you want to associate with the Instagram Business Account. Then, go to the Facebook Business Page Settings > Instagram > Connect Account and follow the rest of the instructions on-screen.

Connect your Instagram Business Account to Facebook Business Page.
How to Link an Instagram Business Account to a Facebook Business Page

Once that’s done, your Instagram Business Account is connected to your Facebook Business Page. The next step is to make sure your Facebook Business Manager Account owns your Instagram Business Account so no one else can claim it as theirs.

To do this, head on to your Facebook Business Manager. Make sure you are a business admin, then go to Settings > Accounts > Instagram Accounts > Add and follow the instructions on-screen.

Add your Instagram Business Account to Facebook Business Manager Account.
Add Instagram Business Account to Facebook Business Manager

Next, assign roles to different users and add any relevant assets like an Ad Account to your Instagram Business Account.

Now that your Instagram Business Account is linked to its relevant Facebook Page and Facebook Business Manager Account, let’s take a look at an extra feature you can potentially add to your account - the Instagram Verified Badge.

Instagram Verified Badge

Having a Verified Badge is a way of helping people find authentic accounts of public figures, celebrities and brands they’re interested in. It’s worth noting that having a Verified Badge does not mean your account has access to any extra business tools.

It simply means Instagram has verified that these accounts are notable and authentic. In other words, the only advantage of having a badge for your brand is to ensure your customers are interacting with the right account on Instagram.

This image shows the requirements to get an Instagram Verified Badge.
Instagram Verified Badge Requirements: Verify Instagram Business Account

Larger businesses, popular brands or public figures are more susceptible to having their accounts forged or duplicated. This could jeopardize a brand’s credibility and reputation which inevitably leads to revenue loss.

If you’re wondering what it takes to qualify for a Verified Badge, there are no exact requirements. Instead, Instagram’s official guidelines state that:

  • The brand needs to be authentic, notable, unique, complete and public.
  • They review the account based on how popular and highly-searched the brand is.
  • It helps if the brand has been featured in multiple news sources. However, they do not consider paid or sponsored media as credible sources.
  • There is no specified number of followers or posts to qualify for verification

Submitting a request for verification does not guarantee your account will be verified. But if your business meets the guidelines mentioned, it’s worth giving the application a go.

The application for a verified account can only be done via the Instagram app. Simply go to Settings > Account > Request Verification.

This image shows the steps to apply for an Instagram Verified Badge or how to verify your Instagram account.
Verify Instagram Business Account

Enter your full name and provide the required form of identification such as a government-issued photo ID or official business documents. Then, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Best Practices

Now that your business is on Instagram, customers would require a reliable method to reach you. Being a social platform, Instagram has more than one ways to connect customers with businesses. Here, we’ll discuss how to use Instagram DM for business.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Starting a Chat

As social consumers, we love engaging, exciting and informative content. Knowing this helps businesses plan their social media and content strategy to get their followers to engage with them.

Customers have the option to like and comment directly on your content. They may also send a direct message to your inbox if they’re addressing a more personal concern like giving product/service feedback or making a purchase that would require chatting 1:1.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram offers several ways for customers to start a conversation with you in your inbox. These include both free and paid methods, such as In-App Search, Profile Link, QR Code, Social Posts and Click-to-Chat Ads.
Instagram Messaging for Business: Best Way to Start Conversation on Instagram DM for Business

In fact, many businesses prefer to direct customers to their inbox as it's easier to track and resolve conversations. With comment threads, it can be difficult to track and manage conversations as they tend to get lost in a sea of other comments.

Thankfully, Instagram offers several ways for customers to start a conversation with you in your inbox. These include both free and paid methods, such as In-App Search, Profile Link, QR Code, Social Posts and Click-to-Chat Ads.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram In-App Search

The simplest method to find and reach your business for free on Instagram is through In-App Search. Your customers can easily search for your Instagram Business Account via username and/or profile name.

The simplest method to find and reach your business for free on Instagram is through In-App Search. Your customers can easily search for your Instagram Business Account via username and/or profile name.
Finding an Instagram Business Account via In-App Search

Using your username is more reliable because it’s mandatory for all accounts and every username is unique to each account. It cannot be used twice so nobody else can have the same username. While profile names are optional and can be duplicated.

To help people find your business easily, choose a username that is similar to your business’ actual name to make it instantly recognizable. That way, those that know your brand can find you without even knowing your actual Instagram username.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram Profile Link and QR Code

To help new users find your account, sharing your Instagram profile link and QR Code is another way of directing people to your page and message you. Simply share the link online and place the QR code in your brick-and-mortar store where there’s foot traffic.

Instagram Messaging for Business: To help new users find your account, sharing your Instagram profile link and QR Code is another way of directing people to your page and message you. Simply share the link online and place the QR code in your brick-and-mortar store where there’s foot traffic.
Instagram Direct Messaging for Business: Instagram Profile Link and Message Button

Your profile link is available on the desktop and you can easily generate the QR code from the Instagram app. Unfortunately, there's no click-to-chat link to your Instagram inbox so you can’t generate a QR code for this link as well.

Luckily once they are on your account, they’ll find the Message button conveniently placed at a location where it’s highly visible. Clicking on it will bring your visitors directly to your Instagram DM inbox.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram Social Posts

Another effective method of increasing customer engagement is to use Social Posts. With a strong CTA and the right content marketing and hashtag strategy, it’s possible to get both followers and non-followers to start a chat with you.

To reach non-followers, append hashtags strategically to your posts to increase their visibility outside your existing followers. This improves the chances of getting new followers and receiving a message from them if they’re interested.
Example of an Instagram Post with Hashtags

To reach non-followers, append hashtags strategically to your posts to increase their visibility outside your existing followers. This improves the chances of getting new followers and receiving a message from them if they’re interested.

For your followers, publish value-added content on your newsfeed, Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels regularly. This is an opportunity to connect with your audience, address their concerns and showcase your product and services in a unique way.

Instagram Messaging for Business: In cases where followers repost your Stories and tag you, simply thank them or drop a follow-up message through the inbox. Plus, any replies to your Stories will appear in your Instagram DM inbox as well.
Replying to a Story Mention when a User Mentions You via Instagram DM

In cases where followers repost your Stories and tag you, simply thank them or drop a follow-up message through the inbox. Plus, any replies to your Stories will appear in your Instagram DM inbox as well.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Also, when you post on the newsfeed or create Instagram Reels, people can send you a message directly to your inbox from the post. This handy feature informs businesses of the exact post or content that has piqued the audience’s interest.
How to DM on Instagram: Sending Businesses an Instagram Direct Message from the Newsfeed Post

Also, when you post on the newsfeed or create Instagram Reels, people can send you a message directly to your inbox from the post. This handy feature informs businesses of the exact post or content that has piqued the audience’s interest.

Now that we’ve covered the free methods of reaching both your followers and non-followers, here’s what you can do to get more customers to message you with a paid solution.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram Click-to-Chat Ads

Creating ads that lead to your inbox is a great way to get people to start a chat with you. This method is more efficient than using hashtags because you can build your target audience based on their demographics, location, interests and so on.

Instagram Messaging for Business: This image shows an example of an Instagram click-to-chat ad.
Instagram Direct Message: Example of an Instagram Click-to-Chat Ad

To start, create Click-to-Chat Ads from the Facebook Ads Manager and place these ads in your Instagram Feed or Stories. Use this opportunity to offer support, answer questions or even close a deal when someone slides into your DM. 😉

Now that you know how to get customers to send you a DM on Instagram, let's discuss the different ways you can reply to them.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Types of Instagram DM Inboxes

For Instagram Business, there are three different options to respond to your messages - the Instagram Message Inbox, Facebook Business Suite Inbox and Instagram Direct Message API.

With the different types of inboxes available, you might be wondering which is the best option for your business. In the next section, we’ll discuss the features for each inbox, the business size it caters to and how it meets their respective needs.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Inbox for Micro-Small Businesses

For micro to small businesses with 1 or 2 users dealing with a low volume of messages daily, the Instagram Message Inbox is ideal. It’s free and easy to set up. Once the account is ready, businesses can start messaging immediately via the app or desktop.

Instagram Direct Message: For micro to small businesses with 1 or 2 users dealing with a low volume of messages daily, the Instagram Message Inbox is ideal. It’s free and easy to set up. Once the account is ready, businesses can start messaging immediately via the app or desktop.
Instagram Message Inbox on the Desktop: Basic and Simple to Use when Messaging on Instagram

As you’ll be answering the messages alone or with a co-partner, there might not be a need to assign users and track conversations with specialized CRM tools. In this case, the Instagram Message Inbox with basic messaging features serves its purpose.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Inbox for Small-Medium Businesses

If your business has expanded and now you have a higher volume of messages daily, it’s time to consider the Facebook Business Suite Inbox. As long as the Instagram Business Account is connected to Facebook, you’ll be able to access this inbox.

How to see Instagram DMs on PC: If your business has expanded and now you have a higher volume of messages daily, it’s time to consider the Facebook Business Suite Inbox. As long as the Instagram Business Account is connected to Facebook, you’ll be able to access this inbox.
Facebook Business Suite Inbox: Instagram DMs on PC and How to Monitor Instagram Direct Messages

The Facebook Business Suite Inbox comes with additional tools to organize the contacts and conversations such as labels and agent assignment. There’s also an option to mark a Contact as Follow Up or move them to Done once the conversation is resolved.

Instagram Messaging for Business: Inbox for Medium-Large Businesses

But as your business grows and the number of messages increase, you’ll need a more advanced solution to manage your Instagram messages at scale. Hence, Facebook recently launched the Instagram Direct Message API for medium to large businesses.

As the API is just a pipe that transmits information to and from Instagram's network, you’ll need to connect it to an inbox solution or business messaging platform like respond.io to start messaging.

Instagram Direct Message API: This is how using Instagram Messaging for Business via the Instagram Messenger API looks like.
Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram Direct Message API on respond.io

With the right inbox, businesses have access to specially designed features to support third-party integrations, automate workflows, keep track of a large volume of messages, assign Contacts to relevant agents and monitor agent performance.

By now you would have an idea of which Instagram inbox is suitable for your business. The rules for the Instagram Message Inbox is quite similar to how you’d use a personal account and we have covered all about Facebook Messenger in our other article.

Therefore in this article, we’ll be focusing on the best practices and rules when using the Instagram Direct Message API for business.

Instagram Direct Message API

Before you start, make sure your account meets the following requirements to connect to the Instagram Direct Message API:

  • Your account is an Instagram Business Account. The API cannot access Instagram non-Business Accounts like the Personal Account or Creator Account.
  • The Instagram Business Account is connected to a Facebook Page.
  • You have enabled Allow Access to Messages in the account settings.

Previously, Facebook only allowed Instagram Business Accounts with a certain number of followers to access the API. Starting 16th August 2021, all Instagram Business Accounts are eligible with no minimum followers required.

Once you’re sure the requirements are met, it’s time to look at how messaging works with the API. If you've used Instagram on a Personal Account or on the Business App, you'd be keen to know the feature differences when using the Instagram Messaging API.

Instagram Direct Message API: 1:1 Messaging Features

In terms of 1:1 Messaging, messaging with the Instagram Direct Message API is quite similar to the app but it comes with a few differences and extra features added in to meet the requirements of larger businesses.

Instagram Direct Message API: Instagram messaging features include rich media content and allowing users to read message status.
Instagram Messaging for Business: Instagram Direct Message API 1:1 Messaging Features

Like the app, users can send and receive messages in the form of text, images, videos, stickers, voice notes and files. Both the sender and recipient would also receive a read receipt when a message is read.

Plus, the Instagram Messaging API comes with extra messaging features such as generic templates and product templates. Generic templates are structured messages with images, text and button. While product templates are structured messages with product details pulled from the Facebook Product Catalog.

This image shows an example of Instagram DM template when they use the Instagram Direct Message API to send Instagram product template and Instagram generic template.
Left: Generic Template Message | Right: Product Template Message

These robust messaging features make it convenient for customers to interact with your business. But to ensure businesses provide premium customer service on the platform, the Instagram Messaging API has some additional messaging rules.

Instagram Direct Message API: 1:1 Messaging Rules

If you have the unfortunate experience of trying to resolve an issue by chatting with a bot, you’ll know how painful it is. To avoid this, every customer’s messaging experience using the Instagram Direct Message API requires an escalation path to a human agent.

Some acceptable methods include enabling human agent handoff, leaving a phone number, following up via emails and prompting in-store visits. By making it compulsory for businesses to provide an agent to resolve concerns improves customer satisfaction.

Plus, Instagram is also particular with how quickly a business responds. Anytime a Contact sends a message, a 24-hour timer starts and you must reply within the messaging window.

nstagram Direct Message API requirements for 1:1 chats. It requires an escalation path to a human agent within the chat thread and it has a 24 hours messaging window.
Instagram Messaging for Business: 1:1 Messaging Requirements for Instagram Direct Message API

After 24h, businesses can no longer reply to the message. This can be problematic if your business is closed during the weekend and the message goes unnoticed. Luckily, with the Human Agent Tag you can continue messaging the contact within the next 7 days.

If you’re wondering how to use the Tag or where to find it, we’ve done all the hard work integrating it for you. When you connect the Instagram Direct Message API to respond.io, you’ll be able to use the Human Agent Tag by default.

However, after 7 days you can no longer send a message to the Contact unless they message you again. Unlike Facebook Messenger, there are no other Tags available to restart a conversation via 1:1 chats or broadcasts with the Instagram Direct Message API.

Connect to Instagram Messaging API to Respond.io

To chat directly with your customers again after 7 days, the only option is to use an alternative channel like email to send them a message. Luckily, respond.io supports email as one of the messaging channels on the platform.

Respond.io supports integrating Instagram Messaging API and other messaging channels.
Instagram Direct Message API: Respond.io Supports Multiple Channels

Getting started is as simple as registering for a respond.io account. It’s free and all you need is your work email to sign up.

After your account is set up, go to Settings > Channels > Select Instagram > Connect with Facebook > Select Instagram Business Account > Click Done.

Connect Instagram Business account to a CRM like ja.respond.io to send Instagram DMs using the Instagram Messenger API.
Connect Instagram Business Account to Respond.io

Once your Instagram Business Account is connected to respond.io, you’re ready to start messaging. When a new customer sends you a message, respond.io can automatically request their email address and add it to the customer’s contact details.

Tying this back to what happens after the 7-day messaging window, businesses can simply send a message to their contact again via email by switching the channel dropdown to email when sending a message.

This way you can connect with your customers no matter which channel they're on. If they're using other messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram, LINE or WeChat, simply add them to respond.io and manage all your conversations on one platform.

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