Instagram Marketing: Tips and Strategy Guide
Instagram attracts more than one billion people per month, and marketers are eager to tap into its popularity. The numbers don’t disappoint — 62 percent of Instagram users report becoming more interested in a brand when they see it featured in an Instagram story, and 130 million accounts engage with shopping posts on the site every month.
Whether your goal is generating new leads, nurturing existing prospects as they move down the sales funnel, or making the final push to close a deal, these statistics show that Instagram is a powerful social marketing channel for reaching a broad group of users. In this guide, we’ll show you how Instagram marketing works.
In this Instagram marketing guide:
- What is Instagram marketing?
- How does Instagram work?
- 20 Instagram marketing tips
- Frequently asked questions
What is Instagram marketing?
Instagram marketing refers to using Instagram to grow brand awareness and launch new products. Instagram allows you to build your brand and connect with followers in a personal way.
Today, Instagram is a global platform that allows brands to humanize their content, recruit new talent, showcase products, and inspire their audience. As a result, brands of all sizes learn how to use Instagram for marketing.
When you start, you should focus your Instagram marketing efforts on crafting content that is engaging, aligns with your marketing agenda, and makes it easy for prospects to recognize the value of your offerings.
How does Instagram work?
Instagram is a social networking app for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone. It started in 2010 and was acquired by Facebook two years later. Instagram’s popularity has skyrocketed with businesses, influencers and everyday users battling to get noticed.
Instagram is like a simplified version of Facebook, with an emphasis on mobile use and visual sharing. Like other social networks, you interact with other users by following them, letting others follow you, commenting, liking, tagging, and private messaging.
You can also save photos you see on Instagram. When you post an image or video on Instagram, it displays on your grid, or profile page. Your followers will also see your posts appear in their feed. Likewise, you will see posts from accounts you follow.
20 Instagram marketing tips.
Ready to get started with Instagram? It’s worth learning how to create top-quality content first. Here are 20 best practices for marketing on Instagram that will help you stand out from the pack.
1. Start by creating a business account.
Instagram offers three types of account profiles — personal, creator and business.
Business accounts have several key advantages. They allow you to:
- Set a category for your company, which will help Instagram users find you when looking for a certain type of product or service.
- Verify your account to prove your brand identity.
- Display your contact information so your followers can get in touch.
- Run ads and access tools to develop branded content.
- Track and analyze key data so you can easily see which types of customers are engaging with you and which content generates the greatest engagement.
2. Clarify your objectives.
Before diving into Instagram marketing, you need to define your objectives.
As a starting point, it’s a good idea to identify:
- The types of users you want to reach
- What your goals are for when you engage them
- How you will track your success as you achieve those goals. For example, lead generation or prospect nurturing.
Having a clear set of goals in place is particularly important given that Instagram is most likely not a perfect representation of your business's overall target market. It skews heavily toward a younger crowd.
3. Create a winning profile.
A well-built profile is vital to stand out from the crowd on Instagram. Essential items to include in an Instagram business profile include contact information and a link to your website or online store.
A profile picture is also a must-have. In most cases, your brand’s logo is the best image to use for your profile picture. You may consider using a mascot instead, if you have one that consumers will readily identify with your business.
A great bio is also a powerful asset for a business profile. The bio should be short and sweet (remember that most users are going to skim it) and clearly convey what your business does and why it's valuable to the users you’re targeting on Instagram.
4. Build a cohesive brand and look.
Your profile isn't the only part of your Instagram presence that should be consistent with your brand's messaging and style.
All the content you share should align with your overall brand strategy. When selecting images to share, choose those that include the same colors, style, or fonts as your brand.
When creating captions to contextualize or enhance images, keep your language style consistent with your other marketing efforts.
Being consistent in your Instagram marketing will help you achieve an integrated marketing strategy across all your channels. This can help drive higher conversion rates and reinforce the brand image that you want to convey.
Nike’s Instagram account plays heavily on their slogan ‘Just do it’. Its profile features a simple, inclusive message: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” All posts feature different athletes and individuals of all levels and an anecdote about their story and how they “just do it”.
5. Add and edit photos and videos.
Images and videos are the bread and butter of Instagram. The platform's focus on visual content is what sets it apart from most other social media sites, so they should be at the core of your content strategy.
Wherever possible, strive to make your photos and videos original, rather than simply resharing content from other accounts. If you don't have the resources to create images and videos from scratch, you can at least edit those from other sources to add originality, which goes a long way towards distinguishing you from competitors.
Audi are a great example of an Instagram business account done right. With its polished, aspirational imagery and video, they’ve picked up more than 4.4 million followers.
6. Use shoppable posts.
Shoppable posts are an Instagram feature that allows users to shop for products directly from within your Instagram posts. Given that more than 130 million users engage with shoppable posts every month, they are a great asset to include in your Instagram marketing.
Shoppable posts are easiest to use if you sell physical goods that can be featured in an image or video. Create content that shows people the experiences they will have when they purchase your services, or that addresses a pain point that your service or product solves.
7. Try Instagram Live.
Instagram Live allows you to share live streaming video on the platform. Live video is a powerful way to personally reach consumers — 82 percent of whom say they prefer a live video over static content from a business.
Using Instagram Live generates a feeling of authenticity in a live video. It’s an opportunity for you to create engaging live videos by interviewing a happy customer, showing off a new product or service, or providing a fun glimpse of an ongoing event.
Many fitness instructors and gyms used Instagram Live brilliantly during Covid-19 lockdowns. Their employees led live fitness sessions for their followers and customers.
8. Explore IGTV.
IGTV is a standalone app that users can install to view longer videos than those supported on Instagram itself.
It's a great place to share lengthy content that users would be unlikely to view in full when scrolling through their feeds. An educational video that demonstrates how to use a product is a good candidate for IGTV, as is a long-form interview or product review.
In addition to the opportunity to post lengthier content, IGTV is valuable because the production of videos posted through this channel doesn't have to be as sophisticated as that of the short, high-touch content that you post on Instagram itself. When viewers are consuming a tutorial or interview, they aren't expecting quite as much polish.
9. Consider influencer partnerships.
Partnering with influencers who have large Instagram followings is an obvious way to boost your brand's visibility. It also lends credibility to your brand in the eyes of consumers who trust the influencer.
Because influencer partnerships can be expensive, be sure to use this marketing tool strategically. It can be particularly effective when you launch a new product and want to build a following for it quickly, or if you’re a startup brand and want a quick way to create more visibility relative to large competitors.
But that’s not to say the big brands don’t get in on the act. When Sony PlayStation developed a new VR headset, they hooked up with a range gaming and tech influencers to help them promote the rollout by sharing branded posts. It’s a great way to build engagement.
10. Attract more followers.
The more followers you have, the more eyeballs you can attract with each piece of content you share via Instagram. For that reason, building a large group of followers is one of the most effective ways to supercharge your Instagram marketing strategy.
Some practices for increasing your number of followers, such as using hashtags and crafting effective stories, are discussed in greater detail below. Others include posting content consistently, so users want to follow you on an ongoing basis. You can also use Instagram analytics data to determine which types of content lead to large increases in followers, then tailor your strategy accordingly.
11. Create Instagram Stories.
An Instagram Story is a post that disappears after 24 hours. They're a great way to post less polished content that feels authentic to users.
Videos that offer a behind-the-scenes look at your office or celebrate a business anniversary (such as your tenth year in operation) are good examples of content to post as Stories.
By giving users the sense that they are getting a behind-the-scenes look into your business, Stories generate deeper engagement, while also providing an opportunity to show off the nuances of your brand.
NASA does a great job at leveraging the strong content and information it has readily available to create unique Stories about space. NASA recognized that the visuals of space were the perfect fit for creative content.
12. Use hashtags.
Using hashtags is another way to ensure that your content reaches more users, especially those who are not already following you. When you include a hashtag in your content, Instagram will add it to aggregated feeds of all content with that hashtag. In turn this will attract users who are interested in the hashtag, even if they have never engaged with your brand before.
But don't go overboard with hashtags. Including more than one hashtag per post tends to decrease engagement rates. Make sure you select hashtags that are popular but not so widely used that your content will lack visibility when tagged with them.
13. Craft compelling captions.
Although Instagram focuses on visual content, captions allow you to offer users some context for the photos and videos you post. They could include more information about a product or reinforce a brand message.
The best captions are concise but meaningful. Although Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters in a caption, users must click on a caption to see more than the first few lines.
Ensure your message is clear and punchy from the start, and only write an essay if you really have something to say. Include calls-to-action in your captions as well, which ask your audience to engage further with your content.
14. Take advantage of user-generated content.
Re-sharing Instagram posts created by your followers or customers helps to build connections and demonstrate your brand's commitment to its community. It also happens to be a quick and easy way to add content to your feed.
Only select user-generated content that is consistent with your brand's style and messaging, though. Ideally, someone scrolling through your feed won’t find much difference between user-generated posts that you share and your own original content.
FedEx relies heavily on user generated content to spread the word about its brand. Its account often shares colorful photos taken by its fans, usually featuring a FedEx vehicle of some variety out doing its thing. The result is a personable content stream.
15. See if Instagram ads make sense.
Running ads on Instagram can help boost your content's visibility. This is especially useful if you don't yet have a large community of followers, or if you are trying to target a new audience.
Compared to running ads on many other social media sites, the process for placing Instagram ads is quite easy. You simply indicate that you want to "boost" a post, and Instagram can automatically choose the best audience for promotion.
Or if you want to target a specific audience, you can select to focus the content on certain users based on factors such as their age, location, and interests.
16. Post at the best times for your business.
You should post content on Instagram when your target audience is most likely to see it. As a rule of thumb, the best time to post is between 9am and 11am. The best way to identify the ideal post times for your business is to study Instagram analytics to determine how engagement with content varies depending on when you share it.
17. Analyze your data.
Analyzing your Instagram marketing is crucial for building a data-driven marketing strategy.
Instagram itself lets you track information, such as whether videos or photos receive stronger engagement, how many posts drive traffic to your other marketing channels, which content is best for gaining new followers, and more.
Without analytics, your Instagram marketing strategy will be ad-hoc at best. When you lean into analytics, you can understand your performance in a systematic way and continue to improve it over time.
18. Connect your Facebook page.
Be sure to connect your Instagram content to your Facebook page. Doing so increases the integration of your marketing channels. It also provides an opportunity to share content via Facebook that would be difficult to share or would not perform as well on Instagram, such as text that is not linked to a picture or video.
19. Convert your followers.
While Instagram is a great platform for building general brand awareness and generating leads, you can also use it to convert followers who are already interested in what you offer.
Methods for converting followers include offering discounts or promotions through your Instagram content. Product teasers can also help nurture leads toward a conversion, as can personalized messages you leave for your followers.
Abercrombie and Fitch often uses Instagram to call attention to offers and products. They capture their audience’s imagination and generate sales with great photos.
20. Get the most out of Instagram with marketing automation.
Instagram marketing is a complex process. You’ll need a deep understanding of the audiences you’re targeting and the best ways to reach them through Instagram content, while also integrating your Instagram presence effectively into your broader marketing strategy.
Attempting to balance all these factors by hand is unrealistic. Marketing automation is a must-have for managing Instagram marketing and aligning it with other marketing channels.
Marketo Engage provides the marketing automation tools you need to leverage Instagram as an effective marketing platform. Marketo makes it easy to engage with users across different social media platforms, track analytics data to understand the performance of social content, personalize social media marketing, and more.
To learn more about how Marketo Engage can help you get the most out of your investment in Instagram marketing, request an interactive tour.
Frequently asked questions about Instagram marketing.
Is marketing on Instagram free?
You won't need to invest much money to get started on Instagram. You will need to invest some money down the line once you're ready to scale, spend money on ads or influencers. But this isn't as much money as you would spend on a dedicated social media manager.
How can Instagram be used for marketing?
Instagram is a great space for positioning your products and brand with great images. It’s a huge platform and used widely by younger audiences. Since its launch in October 2010, Instagram has seen a meteoric rise to one billion active users, making it one of the top four social networks worldwide.
Is there a way to schedule Instagram posts?
You can’t schedule posts directly on Instagram — you need to use a separate social media management tool. Finding the right tool for Instagram scheduling and publishing is not the easiest task. Some tools don’t have access to Instagram’s official API and only offer workaround solutions.