Instagram for Business Covid-19 Playbook

by | Apr 3, 2020


How brands can take action during a crisis

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people, communities and businesses around the world are facing a difficult time adjusting to a new way of life. For the world’s businesses, the health, safety and wellness of their employees and customers is a critical priority. We also recognize that in this complex climate, companies are facing major challenges as their business-as-usual operations are disrupted.

Businesses are dealing with uncertainty about how to reach and serve their customers in authentic ways that provide value and reassurance. According to a Kantar survey on what consumers expect from brands in the time of COVID-19, brands that were able to deliver purpose in an ethical way saw their value grow twice as much as average brands. People expect brands to deliver real value, act responsibly and do right by the community, including their employees.¹

In this playbook, we’re sharing some creative ways for you to be purposeful in this time of social distancing by doubling down on digital tools, authentically engaging with your community and keeping open lines of communication with your customers. To help you get moving as quickly as possible, we’re also sharing tactical “how to” guides to get you set up with Instagram tools.

At Instagram, we understand the gravity of this challenge, and we want to do everything we can to help your business connect with your communities and customers. Let’s get started.

For more information from Instagram & Facebook on building resilience for your business during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit our Business Resource Hub.

1. COVID-19: What do consumers expect from brands?” by Kantar, Feb 2020. The study is based on an online survey of 3,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 60 across six countries in the region: Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Thailand. Fieldwork was conducted between 25 and 27 February 2020. Kantar’s panel data and social media analysis over the period between 18 Dec and 27 February 2020 complements the survey.


Expand your business and services digitally

As physical distancing becomes a reality for people and communities around the world, businesses need to communicate with customers in creative ways using digital platforms. Instagram can help businesses stay relevant and keep giving people the things they love in this uncertain time. That means bringing communities together in the moment, offering further ways to shop online instead of in-store, and providing a place to educate and entertain customers with interactive video experiences.

  • IGTV

Bring your community together in the moment with Instagram Live

At a time when it’s best to create space apart, we can connect together online. Bring events online or host a Q&A with Instagram Live, and you can even ask a friend to join. We’re seeing creators, public figures and businesses go live to educate and entertain people. Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled within a week in Italy2. To get as many viewers for your Instagram Live as possible, tease it on Feed and Stories before you go live, and post your Live video to Stories when you’re done so it shows up for 24 hours. You can also save your Live video and upload it to IGTV.

  • Nail polish brand Olive & June (@oliveandjune) is hosting live mani bootcamps, sharing manicure tips and asking followers what they want (free shipping, nail challenges, etc.).
  • Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton (@wendymac) is showing kids of all ages how to draw.
  • Custom wedding dress company Anomalie (@anomalie)is going Live to talk about how to deal with a canceled wedding.

Offer ways to shop online versus in-store

With people spending less time outside their homes, allow them to shop online and find the information they need via Instagram. Make sure your website URL is listed in your business bio on Instagram. If you have closed your store or have limited hours, this is also a good place to share this info. If you offer gift cards, let your followers know so they can support your business now and enjoy later.

If you sell products, use Shopping Tags so that people can shop your products directly from Feed and Stories. By doing this, your products will also populate in your Profile Shop, where people can browse products that matter to them while on your brand’s profile page. Here are steps for setting up Instagram Shopping.

  • Cake shop Butter& (@butter_and) is offering a small “PSA” cake for local delivery in San Francisco with CDC advice stenciled on top like “wash your hands.”
  • Writer Helen Rosner (@helenr) is sharing merchandise from small businesses that people can purchase to show their support.
  • Chipotle (@chipotle) is now offering free delivery and promoting this service on Feed and Stories, along with going Live for lunchtime concerts with musicians such as Luke Bryan.

Take a look at Instagram’s @shop page for creative ideas on making your profile shoppable.

Use IGTV to share long-form content to educate and entertain

If you want to share longer-form content, try IGTV. It allows you to engage deeper with your audience by sharing longer, serialized content that people can tune into any time. Create content around topics related to your business.

  • Barry’s (@barrys), the high-energy exercise class, is creating daily classes on IGTV for their community to follow along at home.

Get your message out and connect to your community

Instagram can help you reach your audience—whether you are currently open, closed, changing your business model, sharing items in stock, offering discounts or helping your community. Brands are also using Instagram to reinforce their commitment to their community and show care and positivity during an uncertain time.


Share your important messages on Feed

Feed can be used to share communications and highlights that your community will be able to see over time. It’s a place for important messages that will live on your business profile. You can also share #calmingcontent in Feed to help people stay positive and inspired. Consider running ads to expand the reach of your important messages if you want to target specific audience segments.

  • Michelin-starred Canlis Restaurant (@canlisrestaurant), is changing their service to offer takeout and delivery of family meals.
  • Recipe box company Gousto (@goustocooking) is committing to their community and promising those who are vulnerable that they will still be able to deliver fresh food, donate to food banks and give discounts.
  • Shoe brand Rothy’s (@rothys) is sharing Feed posts about the steps they’re taking to close stores and keep the community safe.
  • In Los Angeles, Nike (@nikelosangeles) is pivoting their digital content to showcase how Angelenos are staying active in their homes, encouraging their community to share stories with the hashtag #playinside.

Use Stories to share your story

Use Stories to humanize your brand and drive entertaining engagement with your community. Stories is an ideal surface to share timely messages during this rapidly evolving situation. Since Stories are viewable for only 24 hours, you can use them to keep your followers up to date on the latest news from your business, like changing hours or inventory in stock.

Use interactive stickers like the Polling sticker and Questions sticker to engage with your audience by finding out what they want to hear from you and what they need from your business. Use the new Instagram “Stay Home” shared Stories sticker to encourage your followers to keep the community safe by staying home. Engage your followers on Stories with daily content and challenges using the “Stay Home” sticker—for example, posting recipes, workout routines or daily quotes.

The authentic nature of Stories makes it a great place to go behind the scenes of your business to show your customers what’s really happening and how you’re feeling in this uncertain time.

  • Clean olive oil company Brightland (@wearebrightland) is sharing home recipes from their community.
  • The LA County Museum of Art (@lacma) is using the Questions sticker to find out what people want to see, then sharing relevant pieces of art.
  • Cookie company Oreo (@oreo) is using Stories creative to remind everyone to “stay playful” and connected using video chats.

Communicate with your customers

If your Direct inbox is flooded with messages, you can stay on top of communication by effectively managing your messages and also setting up FAQs to answer common questions for your customers.


Use Direct to keep a dialogue open with your customers

Manage your Instagram Direct messages straight from your account inbox or use our business tools within your Facebook Page inbox (note that you must first connect your Facebook Page and Instagram account). You can also use Quick Replies to save time when responding to frequently asked questions.

Use other Instagram surfaces to answer FAQs you’re seeing in Direct

You may not have time to answer every message in your Direct inbox, so share the answers to the most frequently asked questions on Feed or Stories. Consider creating a Highlight with answers to FAQs.

  • Florist Flower Bodega (@flowerbodega) acknowledged all the messages they were receiving in their Direct inbox via a post in Feed, and shared their answers to frequently asked questions about how to support people during physical distancing.


We’re sharing detailed guidance to ensure that you are making the most of our tools in your efforts to communicate to, serve and connect with your customers using:

  • Instagram Live
  • Instagram Direct
  • Stories
  • IGTV
  • Instagram Shopping

How to use Instagram Live to connect with people in the moment

Instagram Live allows you to easily connect with your community in real time. You can use Live to maintain this direct line as people are increasingly isolated during the COVID-19 situation.


To start a Live video, make sure you have a strong Internet connection. Swipe right from Feed to open the Stories Camera, then tap “Live” then “Start Live Video.”

You can go Live for up to an hour, and you’ll see when new people join. The longer you stay Live, the more time your fans have to join. Your most engaged followers may receive a notification that you’re Live, and your Story will move to the front of their Stories bar at the top of the Feed. Here’s some tips to help you before, during and after you go Live:

  • Test Instagram Live on a test account to make sure you’re familiar with the functionality and set-up.
  • Give followers advanced notice (try using the countdown sticker in Stories or posting on your Instagram Feed).
  • After your first live stream, try going Live at certain times during the day/week so your audience knows when to look forward to tuning in!
  • Make sure you have a strong Internet connection to keep the stream as high quality as possible.
  • Go Live with a creator or another business. Using “Live With” prompts a notification to your collaborator’s followers, so it’s a great way to reach new audiences.
  • Try a Live Q&A. Either ask for questions during the stream or use the Questions sticker in Stories to source questions beforehand.
  • Turn on comment moderation to facilitate a positive community experience.
  • If you are on iOS, try the Media sharing button (to the bottom right of your Live recording screen), which allows you to share any video or image on screen.
  • Save your Live video and upload it to Stories.
  • Answer crowdsourced or customer questions.
  • Host an Instagram Live Q&A about your products, and invite in members of the community to talk about the different ways they are using them during self-isolation.
  • Livestream your service.
  • Invite a brand ambassador or a creator who values your brand to help amplify your message.
  • Post process-style content, such as making your product or going behind the scenes of your business.

How to use Instagram Direct to answer questions and provide reassurance

Instagram Direct is an easy way to communicate directly with customers, respond to questions and provide support. During this unprecedented time, people likely have many questions they’re asking you on Instagram. Instead of responding to each one in Instagram, try managing your Instagram Direct messages from your Facebook Page Inbox on mobile or desktop.


You’ll need to connect your business Facebook Page and Instagram account. To do this, you need to have admin or editor access to the Facebook Page as well as the username and password of your Instagram account handy. See this guide for more information.


Start by downloading the Facebook Pages Manager app from the App Store or Google Play. If you’ve already downloaded the Facebook Pages Manager app, be sure to install the latest update.

  • Click the Inbox tab at the bottom of the screen, then click the Instagram Direct tab.
  • If it’s your first time connecting your Instagram account, click the “Connect Account” button.
  • If you have previously connected your Instagram account, you’ll need to reconnect. Click the “Reconnect Account” button.
  • Start by navigating to the Inbox tab on your Facebook Page, then click the Instagram Direct tab.
  • If it’s your first time connecting your Instagram account, click the “Connect Account” button.
  • If you have previously connected your Instagram account, you’ll need to reconnect. Click the “Reconnect Account” button.
  • Create Quick Replies related to the current situation of your business to save time when responding about why there may be closures or delays in your normal services. See here to learn more.
  • Use other Instagram surfaces, such as Feed and Stories, to answer frequently asked questions to a broader audience.

How to use Instagram Stories to foster authentic connections

In this time of physical distancing, Stories can help you foster real connections with your customers. That’s because Stories allows you to interact with your community in authentic and engaging ways.


Swipe right to easily access the camera to capture and share photos and videos to your Story. Pull down to upload photos and videos taken from your camera in the last 24 hours. You can see what’s in your Story by clicking “Your Story” on the left of the bar at the top of the feed.

Drawing, text and stickers within Instagram Stories let you personalize your moment. You can also tag other accounts, and verified accounts have the ability to add links to their Stories.

Your Instagram Story will appear in a bar at the top of Feed. People can also access your Story from your profile by tapping on your profile photo.

With Stories, interactivity is key. These tools help you engage with your followers:

  • Questions sticker: Answer community questions, or ask questions of your own.
  • Poll and Quiz stickers: Involve your audience in engaging ways.
  • Countdown sticker: Build anticipation for any moment your followers want to know (e.g., upcoming Q&A in Live).
  • View, reply-to and share Stories About You: Access these @-mentions through your activity tab.
  • Use the Questions sticker to find out what people want to hear from you about during this time.
  • Provide daily reflections and tips for customers.
  • Create a Highlight of your COVID-19 updates.
  • Create a Highlight featuring your most relevant products to make it easy for people to reference and find the things they need right now.
  • Create fun challenges for people to reshare in their stories and @mention their friends.

How to use IGTV to entertain and engage people

With less options for things to do, people are looking for ways to be entertained online. IGTV is a way to go deeper with your audience by sharing longer videos around topics related to your business or your community’s interests.


IGTV is full screen (vertical or horizontal), and videos can be up to 1 hour long. You’ll have your own channel on IGTV that gives you more opportunity to be discovered by new fans and customers. When people open IGTV, they’ll see multiple channels filled with videos from creators and businesses they already follow on Instagram and others they might like based on their interests.

Make sure you publish original (not repurposed) content, and use sound, editing and graphics techniques to make your IGTV stand out. Engage the viewer in the first 3 seconds. Always use Feed Preview to increase your IGTV views. The new IGTV cropping tool allows you to select a thumbnail image so it looks good on your Instagram profile grid.

Also consider using the Series tool to share episodic themed IGTV content.

  • Share updates on how you’re feeling and/or preparing your business during this time.
  • Share a content series featuring your products that people are finding most useful right now.
  • Provide challenges to your audiences and fans as they’re likely to have more downtime at home to participate in.
  • Consider creating a longform Q&A video.

How to use Instagram Shopping to make it easier for people to shop

With Instagram Shopping, businesses can make it easier for people to shop during this time. Businesses can direct customers to products that are relevant right now, show them different ways to shop and co-create by inviting people to post about their favorite products.


First, set up Instagram Shopping.

Here are some suggestions for making the most out of your Instagram Shopping posts:

Make content actionable: Use Shopping Tags to highlight products that are featured in your content and provide as much information as possible upfront, so it’s easy for people to take action. If you are not a business that is already actively using Shopping Tags, now is the time to upload your Product Catalog so you can begin to use tags. Or, use content to help educate people on how they can shop for the things they need.

Own your brand story: In your own voice and visual aesthetic, communicate the various ways that people can still shop your products across several shoppable placements, such as Shoppable Tags in Stories and in Feed. Be sure to reply to comments and Direct Messages from people in the voice that is most on-brand to your business while remaining cognizant of the sensitive time period.

Create full-funnel strategies: Businesses who are on Instagram Checkout can develop brand concepts to reach new people and drive instant shopping. For example, use Shopping Tags to add value with utility-driven digital experiences. Or, provide value through entertaining content as people are spending more time on their phones. Naturally weave in key products that matter most to drive transactions in-app.

  • Curate products that align with what is happening in the world currently into shoppable Stories in order to provide followers relevant content and drive action. Use the Stories Highlight tool to pin this shoppable content to your profile after your Story expires.
  • Co-create user-generated content with your followers. Invite them to post about their favorite product of yours, then choose your favorites and post to your account using Shopping Tags.
  • Invite Creators to curate a kit of their favorite products to share across Feed and Stories. Be sure the content includes a clear CTA directing people to your Profile Shop for more information on the products featured.

For more information and inspiration, please follow @instagramforbusiness.

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