Let’s get a few things clear: the old, outdated Instagram marketing strategies like:
- Uploading beautiful images on your Instagram timeline
- Reposting engaging posts from Instagram Influencers
- Following and unfollowing random people from your niche
- Commenting on other people’s posts based on hashtags or interest-based IG profiles
no longer cut it.
That’s because that’s what everyone is doing.
They might be enough to dip your toe into the world of Instagram marketing, but not quite enough to help you stand out from the crowd.
You need more. You need a planned and well-thought-out Instagram marketing strategy.
Figure out how you’re going to establish yourself as an influencer or authority figure on the platform, and you’ll be halfway there.
Much on that later, but first – you know the drill, we have to begin by covering the basics:
What’s Instagram Marketing?
Instagram Marketing is the practice of using different strategies and tactics to promote your business or products on Instagram.
By promoting we mean, accomplishing any goal that your business might have.
While there are dozens of different ways to use Instagram to market your business, everything can be broken down into two broad activities
- Using Paid Marketing Tactics such as Instagram advertising and Influencer marketing
- Using Unpaid Marketing Tactics such as creating organic content and actively engaging with Instagram users’ content
Typical business goals include gaining more Instagram followers, selling your products or services, boosting brand reputation, and building your relationship with other businesses and customers.
How Instagram Algorithm works
To run an effective marketing campaign on Instagram, you need to first understand how the Instagram algorithm works – not master it, but to at least have a basic understanding of how the system works.
Contrary to what most marketers feel, the Instagram algorithm isn’t your arch-enemy, but a friend when you come to think about it.
If anything, its ultimate goal is to deliver relevant, engaging, and entertaining content to users.
They do this by carefully analyzing users’ behaviours and activities. They’ll then use the information they have gathered to make informed guesses on what might interest the user.
If you can figure out how to pass this test, then that automatically tees you up for success.
We could write a whole book about the Instagram algorithm, but the key takeaway is that you should always focus on delivering value. Focus on delivering quality content and the algorithm will not hesitate to serve it to more of their users.
No spammy comments or posts or just creating content for the sake of it. Rather, be strategic and careful with everything that you post, making sure to inquire from your audience about what they want and how exactly they would like it to be served to them.
Why You Should Market Your Business on Instagram
Instagram has an enormous user base – boasting over 1 billion monthly active users.
Instagram is designed to facilitate good relationships with prospects and customers.
For some reasons, customers just enjoy connecting with brands through the network — with 90% of its users following at least one brand.
Worth mentioning are the selling acceleration opportunities on the platform.
According to a Facebook study, 65% of Instagram users say they have visited a brand’s app or website after seeing their post on Instagram. 46% of those interviewed say they have even purchased from a brand after seeing their post on Instagram.
Another reason people advertise on Instagram is to take advantage of its vast audience. Bear in mind that this is one of the most active audience you’ll ever come across online.
4 Benefits of Marketing Your Business on Instagram
Instagram is the go-to platform for sharing lifestyle photos or glitzy photos of sunsets and pets.
With it came a new crop of internet stars or influencers – the internet stars with thousands of followers, and who used clout to milk money from brands.
But that’s the Instagram we knew, not the one that exists. Today, businesses and advertisers aren’t just using the platform for virality, they’re using it to make bank instead.
That said, here are four ways Instagram Marketing can benefit your business:
Strengthens Your Brand
Instagram is an excellent choice of social media network for building your brand.
According to Facebook, 83% of users admit Instagram has helped them discover a new product or service. More interestingly, most of them say that they have gotten to trust a brand better after seeing it on Instagram.
74% of users say brands with Instagram accounts appear more relevant, while 78% consider them popular. In contrast, a company that doesn’t have an active Instagram account is more likely to be avoided by potential customers.
Instagram is one of the best platforms for maintaining a good relationship with your customers. Every new post that you make allows you to get immediate feedback from customers through comments and likes.
Use captivating content to engage your followers, notifying them of any special offer you have, and more.
Instagram users purchase willingly.
As a matter of fact, Instagram accounts for the biggest share of the buying audience – 11% of social media users who shop online are on Instagram.
Instagram understands this, and they even tried to help businesses make the most of the platform.
First, they have a host of tools that enables users to shop directly on the platform – among these tools are the links in shopping tags, Instagram stories, ads, and more.
Opportunity to Grow Your Audience
Instagram offers varied targeting options that you can use to define your target audience.
You can use their ad manager to pinpoint a suitable audience for your ad based on demographic data, behaviour, interests, and more.
They also provide robust retargeting options, which can be used alongside their targeting options to not only help you drive qualified leads but also nudge the leads from other channels down your sales funnel.
6 Steps to Getting Started with Instagram Marketing
Setting up a new business account on Instagram is a bit of a lengthy process, especially since you have to familiarize yourself with a few sales, marketing, and analytics tools.
We’d like to walk you through a few necessary steps you should take to unlock Instagram’s true potential.
Step 1: Start by Setting an Instagram Business Account
You need an Instagram business account for your company or brand (and not a personal one).
So, if you haven’t created one, then that should be the first thing that you do before moving on to anything else.
Follow these steps to create the account:
- Go ahead and download the Instagram app on your phone
- Sign up for an Instagram account. You’ll be prompted to provide your email address.
If you have a Facebook page, it helps to connect it with your Instagram account. In which case, you’re to sign up by tapping on “Log in with Facebook.”
- Choose your preferred username and password.
- Next, tap on “setting’ and then scroll down to “Switch to Business Account” to be directed on how to set up a business profile.
- Enter all the requested information to complete your profile, especially your business hours, physical address, email address, and phone number.
If you had already created a personal account for your business, then you don’t need to create a new business account. Just follow the fourth and fifth steps to convert the account into a business profile.
Step 2: Optimize Your Profile
After you’ve created your Instagram business account, it helps to optimize it so that it looks good and performs better.
For your profile’s photo, a better idea would be to upload your company’s logo.
Come to think about it, your company’s logo is like a face to your business. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions your company or brand.
The picture must have a minimum size of 110p x 110p. Even more important, choose a picture that looks great both on mobile and desktop. The recommended size for this is 320p x 320p.
Your profile bio is your essence.
It should convey your identity and highlight all the things that you’re looking to achieve as a brand.
Note that you’re limited to only 150 characters. So, make sure you’re straightforward and succinct.
And yeah, there’s nothing wrong with using emojis on your bio. Besides adding a little bit of flavour and liveliness to your bio, they also help to save character space.
Remember to also utilize breaks and spacing to make your bio more friendly to the eye.
Here’s an example of a sweet bio:
Website and CTA
A business account allows you to add your website and various CTA buttons to your profile.
You can add buttons that invite your follower to call, make reservations, book appointments, buy tickets, and more.
Step 3: Choose Your Style
Your Instagram Business profile has to stand out.
If you want to impress your followers, you should figure out how to turn your Instagram profile into an organized and interconnected grid of images and videos.
You need a unique Instagram visual content style that reflects your brand identity.
To develop an exemplary content style, we’d suggest that you answer the following questions:
- What colours would you like to be associated with your brand?
Choose two or three colours that you will be using predominantly for all your Instagram posts.
- What Type of Content Will You Be Posting?
Will you be posting pictures of your products, close-up faces, sceneries, or videos with people?
The point isn’t to limit yourself to only one type of pictures, but to develop a more general idea of the type of content that might work with the audience you’re targeting.
- Is There a Specific Filter You will be Using?
You should develop a recognizable theme for your Instagram account. For this, you want to begin by choosing a specific filter that you’ll be predominantly using on your pictures.
This is how you develop a signature style for your Instagram profile.
Step 4: Create a Content Plan
Take a moment to think about the whole content mix you’re planning on posting daily (videos, stories, images, photos, etc.).
Try to keep things interesting by mixing up your content, instead of just sticking to only one type of content.
You need a content calendar to help you reach your goals. It will also help you stay organized and generate better results.
Here are a few examples of the type of content to integrate into your Instagram content strategy.
- Sharing Facts and Stats
Start sharing statistical facts in some of your posts. They’re great for driving engagement and shares.
Here’s an example of such a post from HubSpot:
- Pictures of Pets and Animals
With Instagram, you have to learn to loosen up a bit. It can’t be just business all the time. Have some fun.
A simple approach would be to post a picture of an animal, pet, or furry friend. Bonus points if you can’t find an otter.
If not for anything, these photos make a great ice breaker. They’re great for driving engagement.
Here’s an example of such a post by Madewell:
- Themed Content for Events and Holidays
National and novelty holidays can be a great source of inspiration for your Instagram content.
All you need to do is to start creating themed content for holidays and events.
Here’s an example of such a post from Buffer:
- Educational Tips and Advice
Educational tips and advice are great for building trust.
Here’s an example of an educational Instagram post from HubSpot:
- Motivational or Success Quotes: You can make a motivational or success quote, such as this (from Dove):
- Your Products Highlight
Instagram is a great platform for highlighting your products. Brands do this all the time.
In fact, brand products are so common on the platform, with 80% of Instagram users following at least one brand.
An even better approach would be to show your product in action. GoPro has perfected this simple act:
Alternatively, you could highlight one of your products, just like ASOS did on this post:
Tools to Help You Plan Your Instagram Content
The first tool you’ll need to plan your Instagram content is Spreadsheet. If you’re collaborating with others, then consider using Google spreadsheet.
You can also use a project collaboration and management tool such as Trello (available in a free and paid plan, which starts at $12.50 per month).
Try searching for “Trello social media calendar” and you’ll be presented with a few ready-made content calendars you can use.
While Trello can’t help you schedule your content, it comes in handy during the initial stages of planning your content.
You can use it to define the type of content to post and when to post them, and even record some of the ideas your team members come up with.
You might also need high-quality stock images and videos. There are both free and paid online resources to find stock images.
Here are a few of these sites to check out:
For Instagram Imagery, you want to use a tool such as Canva (they have both free and paid plans, which starts at $12 per month). The free plan comes with a lot of helpful features and dozens of free templates you may use.
Canva is an intuitive drag-and-drop editor that’s not only easy to use, but also comes with tons of free and paid images that you can directly access from the editor. It’s a handy tool for creating motivational and inspirational images, adding watermarks to your images, adding CTAs to your posts, and enhancing the overall look of your images through filters and other editing features.
Their paid plan gives you access to even more features. It also allows you to save your templates and collaborate with your team members.
Step 5: Create Instagram Posts
Instagram is one of the most visual social media networks out there.
Meaning, all your posts have to stand out visually for you to succeed on this platform.
Your products don’t necessarily have to be beautiful, but everything has to feel cohesive. You also have to make sure your pictures are well-lit and high-quality.
Here are a few pointers for uploading Instagram pictures:
- Lighter images perform better than darker ones. According to one study, lighter images were found to garner 24% more likes compared to darker ones.
- Images with more background space also perform better. They’re less busy and more likely to receive 29% more likes.
- Make sure one colour gets to dominate in all your photos. Images with a dominating colour are likely to receive 17% more likes.
Here’s an Instagram account that perfectly fits all the three bills above:
Their pictures are well lit and further lightened during the editing process. Their backdrops are also light and sparse.
The Instagram page, in general, looks cohesive, more like an attractive set of high-quality photos, not just random pictures.
Step 6: Choose the KPIs that You’ll Be Using to Measure Your Instagram Success
Key Performance Indexes (KPIs) are the number of data you use to measure your goals. They include things like the number of followers, engagement rate, reach impressions, likes, and more.
For example, let’s say you’re an ecommerce store owner. Things like product button clicks on your Instagram shop can make great KPIs for your business.
You can also measure your success by looking at the number of people that shared or saved your post.
Engagement Rate: Engagement rate can also make a great KPI provided it’s authentic. For instance, if the responses you’re getting revolve around, “nice post,” “loved it” etc. then I’m sorry to say they don’t look authentic.
Such engagements are usually from people who didn’t take time to engage with your post. Some are even bot-generated, and many times, they’re a cry for “comment back, simply because I commented on your post.”
After sorting out the basics, it’s time to zero in on your Instagram marketing strategy. This is where you make things happen.
If done well, Instagram can help you generate leads, grow your brand, and boost your revenue.
However, you can’t recycle the same strategy that you used on a different social media network and make it work for Instagram as well. It’s never enough to just create a profile and throw in a few hashtags – if anything, that’s what a majority of self-proclaimed Instagram marketers are doing.
The only way you’re guaranteed results is if you can figure out how to make yourself stand out. You need to market your business the right way.
This simple guide should help you get started:
Set Your Goals
You can start by preparing clearly defined goals for your Instagram marketing strategy.
It’s the only way to ensure you’re not doing anything blindly.
You need both long-term and short-term goals. A long-term goal is an overarching goal that all your Instagram marketing goals feed into.
For instance, if your long-term goal is to increase brand awareness, then you don’t have to measure your success by only looking at the number of leads coming in.
You begin by locking in the long-term goal and then proceed to align your Instagram marketing strategy to it.
Here are a few examples of Instagram goals you can come up with and the strategies that lead to them:
- Build Brand Awareness
- Grow your followers
- Increase engagement
- Cross-promote your business or brand on other marketing channels
- Generate Leads
- Promote opt-in CTAs
- Leverage influencers
- Run Instagram ads
- Boost Sales
- Feature customers
- Promote your products or services
- Run sales promotions
Without goals, then you’re at risk of turning your Instagram account into a miscellaneous collection of haphazardly created posts.
Target the Right Audience
After outlining your goals, the next thing you want to do is define your target audience. Remember that you can’t please everybody. You just have to focus on the right audience.
We’d like to assume that you know what marketing personas are, let alone developed one in the past.
If you don’t know what personas are, you might want to go through the following guide:
After you develop the personas, you have to give them another look and compare everything to your Instagram demographics. This should give you a better picture of the kind of buyers to expect.
For instance, female millennials with an annual income that ranges between $50, 000 and $80, 000 tend to use Instagram way more than any other demographic.
So, say, you’re a software company with two personas – Jenny, a 29-year-old HR assistant, and Mark, a 67-year-old HR director. If you’re using Instagram to target these two audience groups, then your priority should be on targeting Jenny.
Identify Key Instagram Accounts and Hashtags
After nailing the basics, now it’s time to start working on building an audience.
The easiest way to go about it is by first identifying your competitors. Try to analyse their followers or the type of people that engage with them. The next thing you want to do is engage that same audience or find a similar one.
You can start by leveraging the influential power of influencers. They can help you grow your following and tap into relevant audiences.
See if there’s any way you can get influencers’ attention. You could tag them in some of your pictures, hashtag their company names, and so on.
And as you work on building a relationship with them, check to see if there’s the opportunity that you can cross-promote each other to gain new exposure for your content.
Consider Running a Series of Marketing Campaigns
Run serious marketing campaigns. There’s no shortage of ways to run these campaigns, and here are a few strategies to help you get started:
- Influencers: Instagram and influencers go hand in hand. Some people have invested their time and resources to building a significant following in this platform, and the only logical thing to do for any aspiring Instagram marketer trying to expand their reach is to reach out to these people and tap into their audience.
There are so many ways you can work with influencers. The first one is by offering them affiliate deals, where they pocket a share of the sales they make through the platform.
If your following is also big, you could ask them if it’s possible to cross-promote each other’s content.
Lastly, you could just pay them to advertise your products on their account. See if they also run sponsored content.
- Contest and Giveaways: You can also promote your business by running contests, like inviting your follower to share your post and tag their friends or families.
The one who garners the most shares, likes or comments wins.
Here’s an example of such a contest by Happy Plugs:
- Run an Instagram Ad
Instagram has one of the most developed ad systems, boasting tons of targeting features you can exploit.
Instagram ads are efficient in growing your audience and selling your products directly.
Instagram Marketing Tools You’ll Need
There are a few Instagram marketing tools that can help you generate the best marketing results.
You also have a few automation tools that can help you minimise both the time and effort of running your marketing campaigns while also helping you maximise results.
- The first tool we recommend is Buffer, which helps you schedule your post.
- Whalar offers to help you find the right influencers for your marketing campaign.
- It goes without mentioning Canva for the second time, which helps you create beautiful imagery for your Instagram posts.
- You also need All Hashtags to help you track, create, and analyse hashtags.
Keyhole is another hashtag tracking tool that lets you monitor and analyse your hashtags in real-time. The tool goes for $29/month, but they have a 7-day free trial that you can use to sample it out.
Use Optimal Caption Length
The length of your caption will depend on the type of post you make.
If all you’re doing is promoting a link to drive traffic to your blog or website, then you must keep your caption short and simple. Don’t make your followers dig through several paragraphs of texts before they can spot your CTA.
However, if you plan to educate your followers, then there’s no harm in using a lengthy paragraph.
Here’s an example of a lengthy caption from Ted Talks:
Not every single one of your posts will require a CTA, especially if you’re only publishing them for entertainment or engagement.
But generally, you’re better off adding a CTA with every chance you get. After all, that’s the only way you can get your followers to take action.
Here are a few places you can add your CTA:
- Your caption
- Your Bio
- In your Imagery
Whatever action you’d like to see your followers take, you have to specify it in your content and caption – whether it’s checking out your website, buying your product, visiting your landing page, following you, or leaving a comment behind.
The Best Instagram Apps
Instagram comes with tons of editing tools and features that you can exploit. But if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, then it helps to look beyond this social media app for extra functionalities and features.
We’ve identified a few Instagram apps that you’ll certainly want to add to your Instagram marketing toolkit:
Photo Editing Apps
We’ve already talked about Canva and how much it can do. But there are other apps out there that could help you perfect your pictures.
Here’re are our favourite photo-editing apps we suggest you check out:
Snapseed (Available for both Android and iOS)
Snapseed can help you adjust your photos for colour temperature, saturation, and exposure, especially if you’re only looking to adjust certain components or elements of your photo.
VSCO (Available for both Android and iOS)
VSCO is one of the most advanced photo editing apps you’ll ever come across anywhere.
First, it’s because of its movie-like photo editing features and filters that, by far, beat all of Instagram’s in-app offerings.
You can use the app to enhance skin colour, darken edge, adjust contrast, and so much more.
Afterlight 2 (only available for iOS)
Allows you to add typography and text to your images and photos. It’s a great photo editing app if you’re looking to promote or create some hype around your products.
Instagram Videos Editing Apps
Here are more Instagram apps for editing your video clips. You can use these apps to trim your clips, reduce noise, and generally create professionally-looking videos for your Instagram account.
A Colour Story (for Both Android and iOS):
A Colour Story is best known for its filters. To be more specific, the app contains over 300 filters (both free and paid) that you can use to edit your video clips and give them a professional touch. Also featured on the app are advanced effects such as lighting flares, fogs of colour, grainy effect, and lighting leaks.
Anchor (Available for both iOS and Android)
Achor is a great app for making Instagram videos from audio clips. If you use podcasts as part of your Instagram marketing, then you might need a tool such as Anchor to help you convert some of these podcasts into Instagram videos.
It can also record your podcast audio (not the best quality though).
Adobe Premiere Rush (Available for both iOS and Android)
Adobe Premiere Rush is more of an all-in-one video app for Instagram. You can use it to shoot, edit, and share your video clips, all within the app. Their free version limits you to only three edits.
Their editing options include trimming, adding audio, enhancing colour, transitions, titles, noise reductions, and voice-overs.
Animoto (Available for both Android and iOS)
Animoto is a great tool for making slideshows. If you have tons of photos that you’d like to convert into an Instagram video, then this is the app for you.
It also allows you to directly share the editing videos on Instagram.
Their free version allows you to edit any number of videos, with the only limitation being you can only edit less than 10-minutes videos.
After you figure out the right time to publish your posts, you’ll need to schedule your posts.
You can choose between one of the post scheduling tools listed below:
Later (Available for both Android and iOS)
Later is one of the simplest tools to use on the list. All you need to do is upload your media file from your phone to your Later dashboard and a schedule calendar will pop up allowing you to choose when exactly do you want to publish the post.
Hootsuite (Available for both Android and iOS)
Hootsuite lets you decide on when to post your content – now, later, or manually schedule it?
In addition to that, you can use the app to measure your content’s performance and follower growth.
Sprout Social (Available for both Android and iOS)
You can schedule and post your videos and images directly from the Sprouts Social app.
You’ll also be provided with a calendar that lets you see all the posts you have scheduled across different social media networks.
The only way to win with Instagram is to try and publish posts that stick out. You need an Instagram content app such as the ones listed below to help you out with this:
Story Luxe (Only Available for iOS)
Story Luxe is a great app for applying stylish templates, filters, textures, and colour to your Insta stories.
It has some of the trendiest filters, colours, and templated, inspired by modern cinematic photography.
Layout (Available for both Android and iOS)
Layout is a feature-rich image mixer that lets you layout up to 9 different images to create a collage.