Instagram marketing

You can find relevant businesses and individuals to partner with by signing up to influencer marketing platforms . These are online tools that automate the discovery, vetting, and reporting processes, enabling you to focus more on developing influencer relationships and planning memorable takeovers.

IG story example

The Complete Guide to Growing Your Business with Instagram Marketing

Instagram is one of the fastest-growing – if not the fastest-growing – social media platforms out there. Since its launch, its user base skyrocketed to 1 billion . Also, Instagram has won the battle for engagement – the platform generates 4x more interactions compared to Facebook. These statistics indicate why so many businesses are keen to jump on the Instagram marketing bandwagon.

But let’s get one thing straight: getting Instagram marketing right is no simple task. You must learn the ins and outs of the platform to run campaigns that bring in conversions. The good news? This guide will take you through the moving parts of Instagram marketing in an actionable, clear-cut way.

Instagram Marketing Definition

Instagram marketing is a type of social media marketing in which marketers use the Instagram platform to promote their business. If “promote their business” sounds broad, that’s because it is: Instagram marketing can involve a number of different strategies and tactics, used to accomplish all kinds of goals a business might have.

Typical business goals might include selling your products or services, getting more followers and engagement, building relationships with potential customers and other brands, and generally boosting a brand’s reputation.

Marketing on Instagram: The Importance of the Algorithm

You may have heard the term “algorithm,” which is a widely misunderstood term. You don’t need to be a master of the Instagram algorithm, but a basic understanding of it can help achieve your goals faster and with fewer headaches.

While some marketers feel that the Instagram algorithm is their arch enemy, it’s actually a friend. That’s because its ultimate goal – like every other online algorithm – is to deliver relevant, entertaining, and engaging content to each user.

Algorithms do this by carefully studying their users’ activities and behaviors, then using this data to make informed guesses on what those users will want to see in the future. If your content happens to pass the “test,” you’re teed up for success.

No spammy posts or comments, and no content just for the sake of creating something. Be thoughtful and strategic, while constantly asking what your audience wants and how you can serve them through your efforts.

What You Need to Start Marketing on Instagram

Before you dive into Instagram marketing, make sure you have a proper business profile – not just a regular personal profile. This way, you can reap the benefits of Instagram business marketing features and Instagram Insights, which we’ll discuss later in this post. Plus, it’s more credible in the eyes of your audience.

How to Create an Instagram Business Profile

create Instagram profile

Switch to instagram business profile

Instagram Marketing Strategy

1. Set your goals

Start crafting your Instagram marketing strategy by setting goals. Goals will underlie everything you do on Instagram, from defining your content formats to using advertisement mechanics. Popular objectives brands try to leverage through Instagram are increasing brand awareness, reputation management, building a community, sales acceleration, getting customer and market insights, and more.

2. Define your target audience

Determining your audience is an essential step; miss it, and all your efforts to achieve business goals will fall flat. A pro tip here is to craft a buyer persona. Learn who your typical customer is, their age, gender, occupation, location, income level, and so on. The better you know your customers, the better results you will get.

A major mistake to avoid here is crafting a make-believe persona. Use a data-driven approach instead of guesswork. To get information about your potential customers, you can explore Instagram hashtags related to your business. For instance, if you are marketing an event agency, you can examine #eventplanner, #events, or #eventstyling.

Take a closer look at profiles that use these hashtags. Then try to learn more about the people who interact with these accounts – what reactions they share, what comments they write, what they love and loathe about the profiles. To learn more about creating customer profiles and other techniques, follow our comprehensive guide.

3. Analyze your competitors

To get your head around Instagram marketing, research your competitors’ profiles. Find out who they are, what kind of content they post, how they interact with their audience and other brands or influencers. You can also research your rivals’ branded hashtags to get a hint of how popular they are.

Try to focus not only on successful tactics but also spot the things your competitors might be missing. This will help you come up with effective and unusual tactics for your brand promotion. Imagine that you are marketing a psychologist’s practice through Instagram. Typical doctors on Instagram publish static images with instructions on diagnosing psychological conditions. Thus, to stand out, you can entertain your audience and post videos with interesting psychological experiments.

Researching competitors through Instagram is painstaking work. Luckily, you can alleviate some of it with social listening services or CRM systems. For instance, Sprout Social can compose competitor research automatically. Follow our compilation of great CRM systems for more information.

4. Get a business account

Instagram offers its users two types of accounts: personal and business. The latter gives you a lot more benefits and opportunities. For instance, you can track your performance in real time, learn more about your followers’ behavior, add information about your company, and more.

Instagram bio

5. Design your content

Content is king anywhere on social media, and especially on Instagram – users are finicky both for visual and text parts of it. So, the platform provides a wide variety of content formats and opportunities to win the audience.
Start by thinking up the main theme and the message you want to deliver. You may opt for showcasing your products, focusing on your company’s culture, or entertaining your customers.

The next step is to decide which content formats to use to leverage your goals. You can make use of static pictures, galleries, short videos, or longer video formats with IGTV. Bear in mind that images receive 27.55% more likes than videos, but both of them gain almost the same amounts of comments. However, it might not work for you the same way, so play around different formats and monitor engagement statistics.

6. Build a consistent aesthetic

Another point to consider is your visual consistency. The pictures on your Instagram profile should make an impression of unity. You can achieve this by using certain Instagram filters or presets. Look how Hootsuite uses its branded style for Instagram and creates consistency with visuals.

7. Configure an editorial calendar

An essential condition of your Instagram success is delivering content consistently. Your audience expects you to post updates regularly. On average, brands publish content 1.5 times per day. To keep this pace without going insane, create an editorial calendar.

For higher efficiency, keep your calendar in special post scheduling services. They allow you to not only be aware of what and when to post but also keep the visuals, posts, and hashtags on hand. Better yet, these tools automate your posting, provide useful insights on the posting time, help obtain in-depth analytics, and more. Read our list of scheduling and other tools for social media to get more information.

Instagram marketing FAQ

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. With over one billion active users on the platform, it’s a great channel for creators and entrepreneurs looking to grow organically.

How do I start Instagram marketing?

To get started with Instagram marketing, you’ll need to set up an Instagram Business account or Instagram Creator account. Begin by setting up a personal account, then follow the instructions above to create your business profile.

How do I promote my business on Instagram?

What is the best way to use Instagram for marketing?

WIth Instagram rolling out ecommerce features like shoppable Stories, Instagram shops, and in-app checkout, you can build an entire sales funnel on Instagram. It’s best to find ways to keep people interacting with your brand on Instagram and occasionally prompting them with deals and shoppable posts to encourage sales.

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Instagram marketing

Tracking your performance and results is essential to any social media strategy. This enables you to decipher which types of content your audience finds most engaging and allows you to optimize your strategy as you move forward.


First things first: Why use Instagram for business?


Social media has been proven to influence purchase decisions. And if you can find the right mix of content, your audience will soak it up – and even buy from you – without the need for a hard push or sales pitch. It’s the marketers dream.

What marketers are saying about Instagram

The numbers and research above all sound great, but what are marketers – the people who use Instagram to drive business results – actually saying about the platform? Here’s what marketers from brand like Birchbox, and Ben & Jerry’s have to say about the platform:


The formula for Instagram success

Madewell is a great example of creative Instagram marketing. The fashion brand has amassed a hugely engaged audience on Instagram (over 700,000 followers and 7,000 to 10,000 likes per post). The platform has become a key marketing channel for them, enabling them to connect with thousands of potential customers on a daily basis.


So, how do Madewell and other successful brands stand out on Instagram? We put together this guide to help you craft your own Instagram marketing strategy that’s based on a clear vision and results that you can measure.



Why are you on Instagram? Choose 1-to-2 main goals

It’s best to choose one or two goals for your Instagram profile, either from the above list or a custom goal of your choosing. To help decide which goals make sense for you, it can be good to consider the following questions:

To ensure we reach that goal we have a set target of reaching out to and featuring the work of four-to-six Buffer community members per week. If we do that 52 weeks per year that’s between 208-to-312 people that we’ve connected with one-on-one.

Currently, our engagement rate (avg. engagement per post/number of followers) is about 1.75% which is a bit higher than industry standard. We’re focusing on producing the highest quality Instagram content so that our engagement rate stays at or above this benchmark.

Which members of your audience are on Instagram? Search the demographics

Instagram user demographics - Pew research

Age and gender of internet users on Instagram

Location of Instagram users

Instagram education demographics

Instagram income demographics


Why Use Instagram For Marketing?

#1 Create an Impressive Profile

In addition to this, make sure your profile looks professional with a specific theme. Look at the example above and notice how almost all the pictures on the page use shades of pink. Over the years, Instagram’s user base has grown rapidly and continues to grow. Having evolved from a place where tourists share their travel photos, Instagram has become a haven for businesses used by more than 1 billion users, influencers and advertising of all kinds.

#2 Keep an Eye on the Numbers

Instagram has now stopped showing the number of likes a post gets for some users . While some might find this controversial decision in poor taste, some are in support as it reduces pressure. Still, brands or page owners have access to a lot of analytical details that followers may not be able to see.

#3 Work With an Influencer

Almost all kinds of brands ranging from big names like Audi to startups work with influencers. You will find influencers on almost every platform but Instagram is said to be the Mecca of influencers as it is credited for giving birth to the industry.

There are both micro and macro influencers. Micro-influencers typically have about 10,000 followers. They are suitable for local businesses as they have a small reach that is often limited to a specific geographical location.

Most micro-influencers are willing to negotiate and some might even work for free if you offer them publicity or free products in return. There are many influencer databases like Afluencer where you can reach influencers and negotiate with them.

On the other hand, working with macro-influencers can be quite tricky. They can have more than a million followers. Some of the top influencers include Kim Kardashian and Dwayne Johnson, both rumored to be charging about 800 million per sponsored post.

If your brand can afford to work with a top influencer then get in touch with them and finalize the deal. The ROI can be as high as 500 percent given that you choose the right influencer, i.e.: someone who enjoys a good reputation and is followed by your target audience.

#4 Strengthen Your Hashtag Game

The platform even allows users to search for emojis. However, if you’re serious about using hashtags then we’d suggest that you use a third-party hashtag tool that can suggest trending hashtags based on your niche or industry.

#5 Post Captions That Sell

Your captions should contain a maximum of 2,000 characters. However, you don’t always have to use long captions. Short descriptions can be effective as well. The key lies in writing captions that are relevant, easy, and fun to read.

Whatever you post, make sure to include a CTA in your caption. Your readers may not always know what you’re trying to achieve. There’s no harm in providing some clarity. This can be done by adding hashtags like #buynow or a request to click your link in the bio.

#6 Offer Giveaways and Organize Competitions

#7 Form Connections with Others

This option can be a little difficult for brands since there will be a lot of legalities and other issues involved. You can’t partner with another brand without proper research. However, influencers and individual users can easily form connections with other users and leverage their following.

Most influencers are willing to collaborate with others to create interesting content. Logan Paul, one of the most popular social media stars, has formed partnerships with several other Instagrammers and social media stars like Bradley Martyn.

You can also be direct and offer collaboration but such a trick might not always work. Also, work with people who are in the same niche as yours. For example, if you are a fitness expert then you should work with a nutritionist, fitness model, gym owner, etc.

#8 Use Third-Party Tools

#9 Use Instagram Live

It is possible to go live on Instagram and interact with your followers. It can be a great option for businesses as Instagram Live allows streamers to add one guest and have a one-on-one conversation that can be viewed by everyone. However, rumors suggest that the company is planning to introduce an option to add multiple guests into a session.

There are a lot of creative ways you can put Instagram live to use. You can stream live events, have product unveiling, interview clients or partners, etc. This option is commonly used by influencers but businesses are now also utilizing Instagram Live to stay connected and update fans on what’s happening behind the scenes.

#10 Advertise on the Platform

You must have a business profile linked to a Facebook page to be able to advertise on the platform. Still, it’s worth the effort as the platform offers five types of ads that are integrated into the feed or Stories.

9 Kicksta

Instagram marketing tool - Kicksta

Kicksta is an Instagram marketing tool that helps you get more followers. Normally, users would have to manually go through accounts liking and following everyone they think might follow their account back. This process is time-consuming and usually results in a significantly lower ROI than most people expect.

When you use Kicksta, you can search tags and rival profiles for your target audience. For instance, if you’re an email marketer, you might look up the hashtag #EmailMarketing. Now you can set parameters around who you want to follow under that group. The AI technology used with this program helps you fine-tune your Instagram strategy and reach your target audience.

Instagram marketing

Videos are indeed becoming one of the most popular types of visual content, and it’s no surprise. They are engaging, attention-grabbing, fun, and give lots of information to the viewer. However, again, we have numbers to back this up: Instagram videos get around 21% more interactions than static posts.

Rule of thirds grid

Why Should You Sell on Instagram?

The simple answer is, everyone is on Instagram. Being one of the top 5 social media platforms globally, Instagram sees millions of visitors and pieces of content every day. People and brands go there to see beautiful photos, watch videos, interact with brands, research products, or get their share of attention by posting something themselves. Here are a few numbers to back our claim:

10 Step Instagram Marketing Strategy to Drive More Sales - A person holding a mobile phone with Instagram open. Two small hamburgers in the back.

Using Instagram strategically allows thousands of brands daily to reach millions of people worldwide and forge meaningful relationships with them. The platform is also a goldmine for critical feedback and enables you to perform competitor analysis , while engaging your audience with creative visual content. It’s also crucial that you have a specific sales funnel for Instagram in place, in order to reach your goals.

10 step Instagram marketing strategy to boost your sales

Creativity, Creativity, Creativity

10 Step Instagram Marketing Strategy to Drive More Sales - Creativity Picture shows someone holding an Ice-cream cone, and clouds as the ice-cream.

To stand out, the first and most important thing that you need is creativity. Because Instagram is a visual platform, this can be achieved, first and foremost, through your visual content (design style, color schemes, overall branding.) Luckily, this is now more accessible than ever: you can make a logo and create your entire branding online in minutes. However, it’s key to remember that the idea behind the design matters just as much, if not more.

Humor, motivation, educational content work well on Instagram. Define your main goal and understand what you want to achieve with a specific post, or even for months. Then based on that information, create something memorable that will stand out in the feed and make people stop scrolling.

2. Focus on Product-Related Posts

One of the most complex pieces of owning a business on Instagram is content. You may have even asked yourself a couple of times what you should post. One relatively simple answer to this question is the posts about your product.

Product-focused content is one of the most popular content types on Instagram. Your customers may follow you because of the valuable content you provide, but they are also interested in your brand’s products and services. So, make an effort to present them in the best light, and do this frequently. However, avoid being too pushy or "salesy." Instead of speaking about how great your product is and what its latest features are, show prospects all the ways they can benefit from purchasing it and how it can solve their problems. Later on, you can use startup marketing automation techniques to make the processes faster and more productive.

The visuals also matter: instead of posting lifeless photos of shoes, think of something more fun, e.g., include bright colored props or a stop motion animation of the making of said shoes. No matter what it is, just make sure it centers the attention towards your product.

3. Use Hashtags

Research relevant hashtags for your business niche, narrow down the important ones and go with the trendy hashtags of the moment. Avoid using too generic ones, such as "makeup," "fashion," "lookbook," for example, and go with more specific ones. They may have less coverage but will help you reach those who are genuinely interested in your offer. Make a habit of researching and updating your hashtag list every week or at least twice a month. You can make this a part of your social media onboarding checklist so that everyone in your team is on the same page.

Moreover, you can add up to 30 different hashtags to Instagram posts and up to 10 hashtags to stories; however, try not to spam your audience with too many hashtags. In addition, don’t think of hashtags as an alternative to captions – hashtags are not the be-all and end-all of your content.

4. Leverage The Power Of User-Generated-Content

User-Generated-Content (or UGC) is the most extensive testimonial your brand can have on Instagram (and other platforms, for that matter)! The truth is, although all your marketing efforts count and add up to establishing your brand, as a whole, customer feedback and testimonials make one of the most effective tactics because people trust other people more than they trust brands.

Photos and videos your customers create about your brand and product are pure gold from a marketing perspective. While discovering these videos and images may be time-consuming (unless they tag you, of course), the result is worth the effort. Looking through hashtags is one way to do it. So, every month, take time to fill in your content marketing calendar with UGC for a chance to grow your audience and increase their trust in your brand.

Additionally, you can encourage the creation of UGC through giveaways and contests or encourage the users to share a photo of your product for a chance to be featured. The only limit here is your creativity. Another benefit is that the more high-quality user-generated pieces of content you have, the fewer resources you’ll have to spend on creating content yourself.

5. Use Stories To Sell

10 Step Instagram Marketing Strategy to Drive More Sales - Zoom-in picture of a mobile phone showing Instagram Stories

An Instagram story is a piece of content that lives on your profile only for 24 hours. Because of this, they are more informal than posts and don’t always require a lot of planning. For example, if you have a funny backstage situation during your latest shoot, or someone brings their pet to the office – just take a quick photo and share it!

How to use Instagram for business

There are dozens of social media platforms for marketers to choose from, with each and every one offering different features, opportunities, and nuances. For marketers, it’s all about understanding where your audience lives and what platform will enable you to best reach it.

With the growing popularity of Instagram marketing over recent years, the value is clear. If the features we listed above didn’t convince you of Instagram’s appeal, this might: the photo-sharing app recently celebrated 1 billion monthly active users. More importantly, these users are incredibly engaged, with more than 60 percent logging in every single day.

Instagram’s high levels of engagement

Mentioned above, more than 60 percent of Instagram users are logging in every day. Do you know what that means? Your customers could already be using Instagram to reach you or to talk about your business without you even knowing about it! In fact, 75% of Instagram users take action after seeing a business post. Meaning, they’ll maybe search for the product, tell a friend about it, or even buy your product or service.

If you’ve scrolled through your Instagram feed recently, I’d be willing to bet you saw at least one post of a tasty-looking meal from the trendy restaurant that just opened up down the street. In fact, you probably saw many more than just one post like that. It’s a fact – people love sharing their best life on Instagram. I don’t remember the last time I was at brunch where anybody took a single bite of their food before whipping out their phone for a picture.

If you work at an upscale, trendy restaurant or stylish boutique, it’s likely your offering has already been the subject of a customer’s Instagram post! Find more opportunities for engagement by interacting with customers who have tagged you, and don’t forget to tag people on Instagram posts you share, too.

Advertising on Instagram

Did you know that 2.2 percent of Instagram users will interact with an ad. This tops all social media networks, with Facebook coming in second at 0.22 percent. Additionally, b y 2020, more than $4.5 billion in mobile ad revenue will be generated by Instagram alone. Other social media networks don’t even come close to this.

Instagram reaches new audiences through hashtags

When you include a hashtag on your post, it creates a link that leads to every post that has been shared with that hashtag. This is why it’s essential to take advantage of hashtags in order to increase your ROI for the platform.

I need two hands (and probably some of my toes) to count how many brands I’ve discovered on Instagram, thanks to its use of hashtags and influencer marketing. Something as simple as taking advantage of trending hashtags can be an effective aspect of your Instagram marketing strategy.

Create content for your other marketing channels

This can be even tougher when it comes to sourcing images for your Facebook and Twitter accounts. As marketers, we know that social media users love a post with visuals. In fact, they regularly see more engagement than posts with only text. However, we don’t want to slap up a stock photo with every Facebook status or include a subpar picture in a tweet just for the sake of having an image.

What’s so unique and valuable about Instagram is that it allows you to simultaneously create content for your other marketing channels. You can either save images and repurpose them later or link your Instagram account to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, sharing them directly.

Ready to take your Instagram to the next level?


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