Instagram Marketing

How to Create Captivating Visuals, Grow Your Following,
and Drive Engagement

It’s hard to believe it's only been 7 years since Instagram introduced us to filters and square format photos. Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has taken the world by storm. It seems like everyone -- and their dog -- is on the platform. You may be thinking, I love scrolling through my personal feed, but I don’t know if my brand is the right fit for the social network. Well, take a look at these stats: 28% of all U.S. adults use Instagram, and more than 75% of the app’s user base is made up of people living outside the U.S. With more than 700 million active monthly users, the platform isn’t just for personal use anymore. Instagram is a full-fledged, global platform that allows brands to humanize their content, recruit new talent, showcase products, and inspire their audience.

Not only does Instagram have a lot of users, they’re engaged. More than half (51%) of the platform’s active users visit the site daily, and 35% say they check it multiple times a day. The photo and video sharing app has quickly turned into a top social media site.

Instagram is great for growing brand awareness and introducing products. 70% of Instagram users have spent time looking up a brand on the platform. Instagram allows you to promote your brand and product in a friendly, authentic way without directly selling to your customers.

  • Instagram has

    700

    million monthly active users.

  • Over

    95

    million photos and videos are shared on Instagram every day.

  • More than

    75%

    of Instagram’s user base consists of people living outside the U.S.

Okay, so you’re officially fired up about Instagram but maybe you’re unsure about how to get started. No problem! We understand that a visual, in-the-moment platform like Instagram can be a little intimidating at first. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate Instagram marketing guide.

Read along, email it to yourself for later, or jump to the section that interests you most:

How to Create an Instagram Business Account


So you’re ready to be instafamous? Great, we can help get you on your way. Before we begin, it’s important to note that Instagram is meant to be the place to share visual content the moment it happens. To stay top of mind, you’ll need to invest time in regularly posting photos and videos to the platform. If you fail to keep your profile up-to-date, you’ll start to lose followers and your engagement will drop. Be sure to follow along to learn the best tips for maintaining a successful profile.

1) Download the Instagram App

Okay, let’s do this. First things first, you need to download the app. Instagram does not have a desktop version that includes all the functions of the app. For example, you can view content on Instagram’s website, but you can’t upload it via your desktop. Instagram is available for free in both the Apple App Store and Google Play

Instagram App Store

2) Create an Instagram Account

Once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s time to create your account. When you open the app, you’ll have two choices -- Log In With Facebook or Sign Up With Phone or Email. Don’t be tempted by the Facebook login! Sign up with a business email to ensure your profile isn’t linked with your personal Facebook account.

Login with Phone or Email

Next, enter your details. Your Full Name is the name that will be displayed on your profile; it isn’t your account username -- or handle. Enter your actual business name so your profile is recognizable to visitors.

Add IG Business name

3) Pick a Username

You’ll then be prompted to choose a username. Your username is unique to your profile and allows other accounts to engage with your brand. Pick a username that is recognizable and easy to find. If your business name is taken, try to keep the first part of your business name in your username. Note: You can update your username later in your account settings, so don’t worry if you want to change it in the future. 

Create IG username

4) Choosing the Right Profile Photo 

Now it’s time to choose a profile picture. Your profile picture will be one of the first things people see when searching for and visiting your profile so keep your image consistent with your branding and visual markers. Consider using your logo or another familiar image. Notice that your profile image is circular. Instagram will automatically crop your photo to fit inside the circle so leave room around the corners of your image. 

Add IG Profile Picture beforeAdd IG Profile Picture after

5) Optimizing Your Instagram Bio

Your profile is coming together, but don’t start posting yet! You need to optimize your Instagram bio. Instagram bios have a 150-character maximum so you’ll need to be direct and concise. Tell your audience who you are and what you do using a hint of personality. Don’t worry about trying to use keywords and hashtags because they aren’t searchable on your bio. 

You can also encourage users to take a specific action like using a certain hashtag or visiting your website. Your bio is the only place where you can feature a clickable URL and drive traffic to an external site. It’s common for businesses to update their featured URL to align with their most recent post. If you decide to add a link, be sure use a link shortener like HubSpot's Tracking URL builder or a tool such as Bitly or Goo.gl to keep your profile from looking cluttered and to better understand the amount of traffic the social network is driving to your campaigns or website.

refinery29 ig examplewework ig example

Click on the “Edit Profile” button on your profile to make revisions to your profile photo, profile name, username, bio, or URL.

Basic IG ProfileUpdate IG Profile

6) Managing Your Settings 

Last but not least, be sure to update your account settings. Click on the small gear (dots if you’re using an Android) icon in the upper right-hand corner of your profile. There you’ll be able to do things like change your password, check out posts you’ve liked, enable notifications, and much more. Here are a few things you should check out right away:

Story Settings: You can manage who can see and reply to your Instagram Stories in your “Story Settings.” We recommend allowing all your followers to see and reply to your Stories to increase brand engagement.

IG Story Settings

Switch to Business Profile: Last year, Instagram unveiled its new business tools feature. The tool allows users to identify themselves as a business, making it easy for their audience to contact them. Business profiles also provide more in-depth insights and make it easier for you to promote content. Note: Your business must have a Facebook business page to switch to an Instagram business profile. 

patagonia business account example little leaf business account example

To switch to a business profile, view your profile, and click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner to view your settings. 

IG profile gear

Scroll down and click on “Switch to Business Profile.”

switch to a business profile on ig

Log in with Facebook, and allow Instagram to manage your Pages.

login with fb on ig

Select a Facebook Page to connect with your Instagram profile. Note: You must be a Facebook page admin to connect the two platforms.

choose fb business page

Instagram will automatically import relevant information from your Facebook page for you to edit.

edit business profile info

You now have an Instagram business profile. Be sure to check out your profile insights and account settings!

Private Account: Instagram will automatically set your profile to public -- do not adjust this! If you’re a business, you’ll want users to be able to automatically see your posts and follow your business without any obstacles.

ig settings

Comments: Receiving comments on your content can be exciting and encouraging, but certain comments may go against brand values or offend your audience. Instagram can automatically hide comments that contain certain keywords or phrases. For example, you may way to hide comments that contain offensive expletives. To do this, you must enter the specific words and phrases into your Instagram settings and turn on the feature. 


ig comments settings

Adding Additional Instagram Accounts: Do you manage multiple accounts? No problem! Instagram allows users to add up to five accounts so you’re able to quickly switch between them without logging in and out. They also allow you to have multiple people logged into the account at one time. Just be sure you have an up-to-date editorial calendar so everyone is aware of what to post and when to post it. To add an account, click on the gear to reveal your settings. Scroll to the bottom and click “Add Account.” Enter the username and password of the account you’d like to add. To switch between accounts, go to your profile and tap your username at the top of the screen. Simply click on the account you’d like to switch to.

add accounts on ig instagram-switch-accounts-1.png

Instagram Post Types


Now that you’ve created your account, it’s time to fill it with awesome content. Instagram allows you to post several types of content including photos, videos, and Stories. Let’s talk about the different Instagram post types and some best practices for encouraging engagement.

Images

The most common type of post on Instagram is an image post. When creating image posts, it’s important to post a variety of photos. Try to capture the culture of your brand with lifestyle shots and behind-the-scenes looks. Avoid posting too many photos of your product. Instagram users are looking for genuine posts from brands, not blatant advertisements. For example, Nike includes photos of its products, but the majority of the images show athletes, concerts, and other types of content that focus on its brand personality.

nike account example

As you start to explore the platform, you’ll see there are countless kinds of images you can post to your account. Get creative! Take note of any concepts or styles you think would work well for your brand. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list with some of the most successful Instagram image types.

1) Behind The Scenes Posts

These posts are designed to offer a glimpse into a part of your business or brand that people don’t normally see. It’s important that they do not look staged as authenticity is key. Aeronaut Brewing Company provided an inside look at its company culture by showcasing its employees at work.

aeronaut-brewing-instagram-behind-the-scenes

2) Repost From Employees

Sometimes you don’t need to look any further for great content than your own employees. Reposting great photos from your employees is an easy way to curate authentic content and help humanize your business. Not only will your audience engage with your brand, they’ll start to “bond” with your employees. For example, Fenway Park often reposts images from its grounds crew preparing the stadium for a game. Just be sure to tag or credit the individual who posted the media first.

employee repost ig

3) Educational Posts

Educational posts offer quick tips on how to do or make something. The photos or videos usually present the instructions in a way that is quick and easy to follow. The popular Tasty recipe video series from Buzzfeed is a fantastic example of how you can be educational yet entertaining.

Edu post example

4) Influencer Posts

Influencer posts piggyback on the fame of a celebrity or well-known public figure to draw attention to your brand. These posts often include a visual of the influencer using or interacting with your product. One of the benefits of influencer posts is that you gain the attention of another audience.

For example, this post from Goal Zero shows renowned rock climber and photographer Alex Honnold using one of its solar power charging stations in the field. Not only is Goal Zero reaching its own audience, it's also reaching Alex’s more than 499,000 Instagram followers.

influencer post ig

5) Motivational Posts

A motivational post usually combines a simple visual with some kind of uplifting text or quote overlaid on top. They can be a great way to encourage your audience and amplify your brand values. While effective, try to post these sparingly to avoid looking cheesy. Apps like Quipio and Typic can help you add text to photos in a way that’s consistent with your brand guidelines.

motivational posts ig 

6) User Generated Content

Similar to employee posts, user generated content is curated content from your fans and followers. Take a look at your tagged photos or posts using your brand hashtag and consider reposting high-quality images that capture your brand’s style. Not only does it make the original poster feel good, it shows that you truly care about your customers -- just be sure to @mention the original poster in the caption. To repost user generated content, screenshot and crop the original post or use a reposting app like Repost for Instagram.

WeWork conducts an annual #DogsOfWeWork campaign where it puts the best submissions together into a calendar each year. Although it doesn’t repost every image on its Instagram account, the popularity of the campaign helps create a tremendous amount of additional reach and engagement for the company.

user content ig

7) Newsjacking

It seems like there’s a “holiday” for everything these days! Fun events like National Sibling Day and National Ice Cream Day generate a ton of engagement on social media. Join in the fun by participating in a local, national, or world trend. A newsjacking post is a great way to post humorous content that relates to light-hearted events.

Check out this fun post by Cava Mezze Grill about The National’s Opening Day. The American restaurant chain tapped into a popular American pastime.

newsjacking ig

Instagram Photo Size

Now that we’ve explored what you can post on Instagram, let’s go over some tips for success. Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram’s simple profile layout forces you to focus on the content. While this is great for engagement, it also means that can’t hide mediocre content. As a result, it’s important to use high resolution images on your Instagram feed. For the most part, images should be 1080 px X 1080 px -- a square. The site also now allows for landscape photos or photos with an aspect ratio of 1.91:1, but viewers will have to click on the image’s thumbnail to view the full photo. In a feed, the image will appear cropped to a square. You can also post portrait photos that have an aspect ratio of 4:5.

How to Take a Great Photo With Your Smartphone

Okay, you might be thinking “How am I supposed to capture the perfect, high-quality shot without a high-quality camera?” No worries! The phone camera technology has become so advanced that it now rivals cameras worth thousands of dollars. You no longer have to be a professional photographer to take photos like one. You can take great photos your audience will love using a tool you already have in your hands. Here are some tips to drive follower growth and Instagram engagement:

Follow the rule of thirds

Are you hoping to improve your photo composition? Turn on your camera gridlines. When composing your photo, you should aim to place your subject at the intersection of one set of vertical and horizontal lines. This technique, known as the rule of thirds, was first popularized by painters and illustrators but also applies to photographs. By placing your subject off center, it creates a slight imbalance that will catch a viewer’s eye. To switch the grid on in an iPhone, go to "Settings," choose "Photos & Camera," and switch "Grid" to on.


rule of thirds
 

Focus on a single subject

It is sometimes said that a photographer’s job is to create simplicity from chaos. A crowded background with multiple subjects in the frame will distract from the focus of your photo and can even confuse your audience. Instead, try to focus on a single subject in each photo and remove distractions by cropping them out or finding a clean background to shoot against.

focus on a single subject
 

Take advantage of negative space

Negative space is the empty space around your subject. Allowing for empty negative space around your subject will draw attention to the desired focus of your image and prevents it from looking crowded.

negative space
 

Look for interesting perspectives

People are used to seeing the world from eye level. To create interesting and fresh photos, National Geographic photographers commonly use shots from different perspectives to break up the monotony. Try to shoot from up high to capture a bird’s eye view or from down low to get a worm’s eye view. Experiment with different angles to find new perspectives on common sights.

different perspectives
 

Symmetry

The human eye is naturally drawn to symmetrical shapes and objects. For symmetrical images, it’s sometimes best to break the rule of thirds and center the scene in your frame so it's a perfect match on each side. Leading lines are another more specific form of symmetry that pulls the eye into the photo. 

symmetry

Patterns

Just like with symmetry, people are also drawn to patterns. Sometimes a pattern could be man made, such as a tiled floor, while other times it could be natural, such as petals on a flower or vines on a wall. To make things really interesting, break up the pattern with your subject.

patternsUse natural light

Overhead electric lighting creates harsh shadows and highlights that can create unwanted dark and light areas in your photos. Try to use soft natural light wherever possible to prevent this from happening. Try taking photos next to a window where diffused light from outdoors spills into a room. For outdoor shots, the half hour just before and after sunset and sunrise often offers the most striking lighting because the sun is low in the horizon.


natural light

Adding Filters and Editing Photos

Why do some photos just look so good? Chances are it has a lot to do with the edit. Editing photos only takes a few minutes and can have a huge impact on the quality of your photos. Thanks to Instagram’s built-in tools and filters, editing photos is simple. Be sure to follow these tips to make your homemade lunch look like a culinary masterpiece. Fortunately, you can also start editing like a pro in a few simple steps.

First, start with a great photo. No amount of editing can fix photos if they have poor composition or lighting. Next, try editing in apps other than Instagram. Snapseed is a great free editing app that allows you to apply effects like HDR and tonal contrast as well as pinpoint specific areas of a photo to adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation. VSCO is also a popular editing app with numerous free filters designed to emulate popular film stocks.

When you upload your edited photo to Instagram, the platform will automatically crop your photo to a square. To change it back to the original width, press the “Expand” icon (the two outward facing arrows).

expand an ig image

Try adding additional Instagram filters -- but don’t go too crazy. Each Instagram filter has its own personality that can drastically change a photo.

ig filters adjust filters

Next, try adjust your photo lux. According to Instagram, “Lux balances the exposure, provides much needed brightness” to photos. This make can make your image more vibrant and bring out details. To do this, press the sun icon at the top of the screen and adjust the level.

adjust photo lux ig photo lux

Make any final tweaks using Instagram’s editing tools. Press the “Edit” button to adjust your photo’s alignment, brightness, contrast, structure, and more. Press “Next” when you’re done to add final details and publish.

ig photo editing

Videos

In addition to photos, Instagram also lets you upload videos up to 60 seconds in length. You can download videos from your computer that were edited using professional editing software or edit together videos yourself using mobile apps. Splice is a popular free editing tool from the makers of GoPro that allows you to cut together multiple clips and add transitions, titles, and even music.

When editing your video, keep in mind that Instagram videos begin playing without sound. So make sure your videos don’t need sound to be understood or prompt viewers to turn on the sound in your caption. Purina has a great example of a video that delights viewers with cute dogs. 

 

Boomerangs/GIFs

When you swipe right to take a photo within Instagram, you can switch between the normal camera, live stream, Boomerang, and hands-free mode. Boomerangs and GIFs allow you to put a quirky spin on traditional video by adding repetitive, looping motion. A Boomerang post takes a burst of photos and then converts them into a perfectly looping short video that plays over and over again. These kinds of posts are great for anything with repetitive motion like someone jumping, toasting glasses, or high-fiving.

Hyperlapse

Do you have a longer video that would make a great post on Instagram? Check out Hyperlapse! Hyperlapse from Instagram is a separate app that allows you to condense lengthy videos into shorter, engaging content. It also creates smooth, time lapse videos with built-in stabilization. To create your own Hyperlapse videos, begin by downloading the free Hyperlapse app on your mobile device. If prompted, allow it to access your camera. Tap the circle once to begin recording, and again to stop. Once you’re done recording, you can choose a playback speed between 1X and 12X. Save the final Hyperlapse video to your camera roll to upload later.

Stories

Instagram Stories allow users to post at a higher frequency without overposting and clogging up your main feed. Stories are great for behind-the-scenes content and usually feature less polished images and videos. Like Snapchat Stories, your Instagram Story disappears after 24 hours.

Remember to be authentic. While your profile feed should feature polished photos, Stories can be a little more raw. Use the feature to give a behind-the-scenes look at your brand or showcase your company culture. Do you have dog-friendly office? If so, Stories are a great place to share photos and videos of all the cute dogs running around. Stories are also a helpful tool to showcase live events your business hosts or attends.

How to Post to Your Story

Instagram offers three options for posting to your Story. You can tap the camera in the upper left, tap the Your Story + button above your feed, or just swipe right.

how to add to your ig story

Take a photo by tapping the shutter button or press and hold it to take a video. Like your typical phone camera, the thunderbolt lets you control the flash and the arrows switch the camera view between front and forward facing.

how to take a pic in stories

Add some personality to your content! Select one of the pens to add a doodle. To choose a precise color, press and hold one of the colors.

how to choose ig story pen color after using story pen

Press the “Aa” symbol to add text or an emoji with your keyboard and the smile icon to add stickers. You can then swipe to the left or right to add a color filter.

ig story symbols ig story stickers

Instagram also allows you to tag another account in your Story. This is a great way to connect with other businesses and marketing partners. To tag someone, type the “@” followed by the username of the person or brand you’d like to mention. When someone views your story, the username will appear underlined indicating that they can tap it and be directed to the profile. You’ll receive a notification if you’ve been mentioned in someone’s story.

tag someone in stories -1.png finished ig stories tag

When you’re ready to publish, press the Your Story + icon or save it to your camera roll to publish it to your Instagram account later. Stories appear at the top of the Instagram feed and in your profile picture. To see who viewed your content, swipe up when viewing your Story.

finished story

You’ve probably realized the similarities between Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Yes, it’s a Snapchat competitor. And yes, Snapchat does has facial recognition and Lenses (or filters). But Instagram’s active user base combined with its search capabilities provide a great opportunity for businesses to be discovered. So if you’re wondering if your business should use Stories, the answer is “yes.”

Instagram Live 

Instagram also has a live video option to share content with your audience in real time. To start a live video stream, open up the camera within the app, select the “Live” option from the menu at the bottom of your screen, and click the button to “Start Live Video.” Once you start the live video, any of your followers who are currently on the app will receive a notification so they can watch. Live viewers can also comment on the the live video using the built-in chat feature. Live video should be used sparingly to showcase exciting, real-time content or engaging moments like Q&As.

ig live

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How to Write an Instagram Caption


Okay, let’s talk about captions. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there’s something to be said about the context words bring.

We get it, writing good Instagram captions is a lot of pressure! That’s why we’ve come up with some tips to prevent your caption from becoming an afterthought.

First of all, you can’t rush the process. Try writing several drafts and asking your friends or co-workers which caption they like best. While it’s important for your content to be timely, you also want it to be engaging. In fact, Instagram changed its algorithm so that a user’s feed is curated based on what they’ll likely find engaging. The visibility of your posts will depend on the number of Likes and comments it receives. Take the time to create content that will delight and engage your customers. 

Second, consider your caption’s length. The maximum character count for a caption is 2,200 characters. That’s pretty long considering that Twitter only gives you 140. But remember, users will only be able to see the first 3-4 lines of the caption before they are prompted to view “more.” Put your most important language at the beginning of the caption to keep it from getting cut off. That being said, don’t be afraid of long captions. Instagram can be a great way to share a story. For example, Humans of New York writes longer captions with quotes from the people they photographed. 

hony caption example PX

Include a call-to-action in your caption. Encourage your audience to “like” your photo, comment on it, or share it with their friends. Finally, remember how Instagram allows you to add a link to your bio? Ask your audience to check it out. For example, you can encourage customers to check out a new product or blog post by using your caption to direct people to the link in your bio. Just remember to change out the link so it corresponds with your most recent post. Tip: Use shortened tracking links in your URL so you can see how much of your traffic came from your Instagram account.

Also, be sure to include a geotag. Did you know that posts tagged with a location see 79% higher engagement than posts without one? Adding a geotag to your posts gives users another way to find your content. If more people view your content, you’re more likely to have higher engagement.

Finally, find your Instagram voice. It may sound silly, but every social platform has a distinct voice. What may work on Twitter may not translate to Instagram. Posts with a lighthearted, authentic tone tend to perform the best. Try experimenting with emojis and other fun tools to give your brand a distinct feel. Don’t give up if you don’t get it right the first time. It can take a while to develop your brand’s voice.

Still struggling? If you’re ever in doubt about what to write, keep it short. There’s little correlation between caption length and engagement, but short captions allow your visuals do the talking.

How to Use Hashtags on Instagram


You’ve seen them before and you’ll see them again -- hashtags have taken over the internet. Originally made famous on Twitter, these can now be seen on multiple social networks. Hashtags are a keyword or keyword phrase that are spelled without spaces and prefaced with a pound (#) sign. They are generally used to reference events, conferences, pop culture, entertainment, or reoccurring themes and are a great way to make your content more visible.

How Hashtags Are Used on Instagram

Like most social platform feeds, Instagram feeds are always changing. This makes sense considering that 80 million photos are shared everyday on the platform. With that much content, it can be difficult for your account to get noticed. That’s where hashtags come in handy.

On Instagram, hashtags connect posts from users who aren’t otherwise connected into a single feed. This means if your account is public, anyone searching the hashtags you used can see your post.

Instagram’s hashtag feeds are very simple and make it easy for users to find related content. They’re split up into three parts -- top posts, most recent posts, and related hashtags. Top posts appear at the top of a trending hashtag or location feed and feature nine posts that have seen a lot of engagement. Most recent posts features a live stream of every post that has used that specific hashtag in chronological order. If you’re using a popular, trending hashtag, your post will move down the cue pretty quickly. Related hashtags is a great way to find other hashtags people are using to discuss a topic. For example, if you’re planning on tagging your post with #coffee, you may want to tag related hashtags like #latte, #cappuccino, #icecoffee, or #coffeebreak to broaden your post reach.

ig hashtag example

Using hashtags is easy! Simply create hashtags using characters, numbers, or emojis and add up to thirty to your post’s caption or comments. Just remember, your account must be public for your posts to appear on hashtag feeds.

Choosing an Instagram Hashtag

Okay, now that you understand how important it is to use hashtags on Instagram, you’re probably wondering how to choose the right ones for your post. Brainstorming keywords and researching trends is easiest in the Instagram app itself. If you’re searching from the beginning, your best option is to start in the “Explore” tab. There you can click on popular posts to see what hashtags were used.

If you already have a hashtag in mind, you can also use the “Explore” tab to find popular, related hashtags. To do this, click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of your app and type the hashtag in the search bar. Filter your results by “Tags” to see how many posts have used that hashtag and other related hashtags.

researching ig hastags

Be sure to pick a mix of general, popular hashtags and more specific hashtags to increase your post life. In some cases, you may want to create your own branded hashtag. Businesses have created their own hashtags to roll out a new product or Instagram campaign, promote an event, and much more. If you’re planning on using your own hashtag, be sure to do some research to make sure it’s not being used for another purpose and encourage your audience to use it.

create your own ig hashtag

Formatting an Instagram Hashtag

You’ve chosen the perfect mix of hashtags and you have a great piece of content -- all that’s left to do is figure out where to incorporate those hashtags in your content. First, don’t be spammy. Hashtags should feel natural in your caption. In a study of 100 top Instagram brands, captions averaged 2.5 hashtags per post. Aim to use 1-4 hashtags to avoid overwhelming your audience.

If you’re having a hard time fitting your hashtags into the language of your caption, put them at them at the end of your caption or in the first comment. Don’t feel pressured to incorporate them directly into your caption copy -- they work the same no matter where they’re placed.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy


You know you need to be on Instagram, you want to be on Instagram, but you don’t know what to do once you’re on Instagram. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Many businesses feel pressured to be on every social media platform without thinking through their strategy. Since Instagram is very different from other popular social sites, it requires a different marketing strategy. Think through the topics below to start developing your brand’s own unique style.

Determine Your Instagram Audience

Just like on any other platform, it’s important to determine the audience you want to reach before you begin marketing on Instagram. If you already have other marketing strategies in place, you can draw from those to help. Some helpful factors to consider when narrowing down your target Instagram audience are age, location, gender, income, interests, motivations, and pain points.

Don’t know where to start? Monitor popular event and interest hashtags that are related to your business. Find out who’s using and engaging with the hashtags and check out their profiles. You can also take a look at your competitor’s followers. Sometimes determining your audience is easier than you think.

Competitive Analysis for Instagram

After you determine your Instagram audience, do a competitive analysis to see what other marketers in your field are posting. If you already know your top competitors, start with searching for their Instagram profiles. If not, try searching for terms related to your business or industry to find similar accounts. Conduct a quick audit of related accounts to see what types of posts are getting the highest amount of engagement, what popular hashtags they are using, what kinds of captions they are writing, how often they are publishing, and how quickly they are growing. This information will serve as a benchmark as you start growing your own account.

While you’re auditing your competitors’ existing content, be sure to take note of any opportunities they might have missed. Adding unique content into the mix will help your business to stand out from the rest.

Setting Up an Editorial Calendar

On average, brands post about six images per week on Instagram -- that adds up to over 300 posts per year! With that many posts, it can be difficult to keep track of all the content you need to post as well as what you’ve already posted. Creating an editorial calendar is a helpful way to cut down on the amount of time required to manage your Instagram presence. You can fill in your calendar with some of the popular Instagram post types discussed earlier and plan out your captions, hashtags, and posting times in advance. Your editorial calendar is also a great place to record any key events you want to highlight on your Instagram account such as new product launches or special offers. Without an editorial calendar, you can be left frantically trying to find any content to post instead of keeping an eye out for real-time opportunities.

Building a Consistent Brand on Instagram

Random or disjointed content will confuse your audience and will likely cause your account to lose followers. To prevent this, it’s important to maintain a consistent brand aesthetic on your Instagram account. To determine what this looks like, start by thinking about your brand personality. What are your brand values? Are you bold, playful, gritty, adventurous?

For example, Apartment Therapy took the popular concept of #foodporn, delicious looking meals laid out in an appealing way, and applied it to apartments. Its brand personality is bright, clean, and organized, and its account reflects all three of those traits. Ideally, someone should be able to see a picture in their feed and instantly know that it’s from your brand just by looking at the photo.

apt therapy ig

Taco Bell is another great example of sticking to a brand aesthetic. Its feed focuses on the bold, on-the-go lifestyle of its millennial audience and features fun images to drive engagement with its target.

taco bell ig

Once you determine your brand personality, you can begin to refine your content to match. This can even apply to the color palette used in your photos.

You should also aim to post images with your brand narrative in mind. Including compelling stories in your captions can make your brand more relatable. For example, Red Bull’s feed features plenty of high-energy images and videos that add to its brand’s story.

red bull ig

How to Convert Instagram Followers Into Customers

Once you establish a dedicated follower base you can start to convert those followers into paying customers. There are several ways to do this including:

1) Promotions: Deals, discounts, BOGOs, and other promotional offerings are a great way to drive first-time sales with your Instagram audience. Be sure to mention exactly what is needed to receive the promotional offer and include when the offer expires to create a sense of urgency. 

2) Contests: What’s a better way to make someone a customer than letting them try your product? Promote contests by asking users to follow your account or post content with a specific hashtag to enter.

3) Charity: According to a recent survey, 81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to giving back. Doing so can build affinity for your brand and help turn followers into customers. For example, Gap partnered with The Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa. Since 2006, it has helped raise over $130 million.

4) Teasers: Instagram is a great platform to show your audience glimpses of new products before they become available. While you don’t want to spam your followers’ feeds with only product photos, a few images can build excitement.

5) Launch a Product Live: For certain launches, it may even make sense to showcase a new product or service using Instagram Live. You can quickly drive users to purchase by including a purchase link in your bio.

How to Get More Followers on Instagram


You’ve created all the right content and used all the right hashtags -- now you’re probably wondering how to get more followers on Instagram. Whether you’re an established business with thousands of followers or you’re just starting out, growing your following takes serious time and energy. You may be tempted to take the easy way out and buy followers -- don’t do this. Purchasing followers won’t get you any future engagement, which is exactly what you need to make sure your posts are seen in a user’s feed. Luckily, there are a few things you can focus on to start gaining more followers the right way. Let’s get started!

First and foremost, make sure your username is recognizable and searchable. If people can’t find you, they can’t follow you! Next, fill out your bio. It’s the last thing someone sees before they make the decision to follow you so be sure to include who you are and what you do.

Once your profile is optimized, start posting! It’s a good idea to get a solid number of posts up (15 or so) before you really start engaging people and working hard to get followers. If users visit your profile and find it empty, they likely won’t follow. Since you’ll only have a few posts up, be sure they’re all high quality. Your Facebook and Twitter followers might overlook a couple of subpar posts, but your Instagram followers won’t. If you post a bad photo, it could throw off your whole profile.

After you’ve posted some content, start following accounts that interest you and relate to your business. Think of Instagram like a community -- look for other businesses in your area or influencers who might enjoy your product/service. After you follow an account, interact with their content. It’s the most natural way to draw attention to your own Instagram account without coming across as spammy. When you follow or interact with an account, the account owner will get a notification. This could prompt them to check out your account and start following you. Remember to appreciate your followers by responding to their comments and engaging with their content.

Next, encourage others to share your content. Invite brand ambassadors to share your account or collaborate with similar accounts. For example, a local store could partner with a well-known stylist to highlight the season’s latest styles.

Last but not least, be sure to promote your Instagram on other channels. Include an Instagram social share button on your website or encourage your followers on another platform to follow you on Instagram. Sometimes the fastest way to gain more followers is to simply ask for them!

6 Little-Known Instagram Hacks


Now that you’ve gotten the hang of the basics of Instagram, it’s time to explore a few little-known Instagram hacks to really make the most of the platform. We recommend downloading the latest version of the app to follow along. 

1) The Best Time to Post on Instagram

Because Instagram is a mobile app, users are on the platform at all times of the day. However, there are a few optimal times to post on Instagram for peak engagement. The best times to post are Mondays and Thursdays at any time except between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. for the time zone of your target audience. Many users tend to engage with more content during off-work hours on weekdays.

2) How to Link Instagram to Your Facebook Page

One of Instagram’s unique features is that it allows you to share your content seamlessly across other social networking sites. While this may seem like a good idea, we don’t recommend automatically linking to your other social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. What works on Instagram probably won’t yield the same results on other channels. It’s important to tailor your content to each platform. However, linking your Instagram to your other social accounts like Facebook does increase the number of eyes on your posts. Note: Your Facebook Page will already be linked to your Instagram if you set up an Instagram business profile.  

If you do decide to do this, Instagram makes it pretty easy. To link your Facebook page to your Instagram account, start in your Instagram profile by going to the gear in the upper right corner. In the “Options” menu, scroll down to “Settings” and look for “Linked Accounts.” If you’re not already logged into Facebook on your phone, you’ll be prompted to do so, and then you’ll need to pick the Facebook Business Page you’d like to link. Next, you’ll be directed to the “Share Settings” menu. The Facebook logo should be blue to indicate that sharing is on.

3) How to See Posts You’ve Liked

Ever wish you could easily find all of the post you’ve Liked on Instagram? You can! Check out all the posts you’ve Liked in the “Options” menu of your profile. Press the gear icon and select “Posts You’ve Liked.” Then scroll down until you find the photo or video you’re looking for.

posts you've liked ig

4) How to Reorder Instagram Filters

To save time when uploading photos in the future, Instagram lets you reorder filters so you can position the ones you use most often at the beginning of your options. To reorder or hide filters, begin editing a post like you normally would. Scroll to the far right in the filter options and click the “Manage” gear icon. Hold your finger down on the three gray lines and drag the filter up or down. To hide a filter, uncheck it on the right side of your screen.

manage ig filters moving ig filters

5) How to Insert Line Breaks in Your Captions

You might have noticed that when you write a caption on Instagram the “enter” or “return” button is missing on your keyboard. The trick to reveal the button is to press the “123” key and the “return” button will, well, return. Remember, Instagram only shows the first three lines in a caption and forces users to click “more” to see the entire caption so use the enter key sparingly.

6) Hide Posts You’ve Been Tagged In

If someone tags your brand in a post, it will show up when you click the person avatar in right icon on your profile. To remove a tagged post, click the three dots in the top right corner and choose “Hide Photos.” Select the posts you want to remove and click “Hide Photos” again. This won’t remove the posts from Instagram, but it will remove them from your profile.

manage your ig photo tags

If you don’t want to have to remove tagged posts, you can manually choose just to include the ones you do like. Click the three dots again and press “Tagging Options.” You can then choose to  “Add Manually.” From here on out, you’ll be notified when someone tags you in a photo. When that happens, tap on the photo you were tagged in and choose “Show on Profile.”

tagging options ig

Instagram Analytics


Unfortunately, Instagram does not yet have an in-depth analytics platform built into the app the same way Facebook does. Once you switch your account to a Business Account, you do gain access to some limited analytics like follower growth, impressions, reach, and engagement by clicking on the “View Insights” option below your uploaded images and videos. You can also track impressions, spend, and engagement on ad campaigns through Facebook’s Ad Manager. While helpful, these metrics are limited to individual posts and campaigns and don’t tell the full story.

The good news is that you can access more in-depth Instagram metrics with a range of third-party apps. Iconosquare and Simply Measured allow you to track additional metrics such as followers and engagement over time, optimal post time based on previous posts, and your performance compared to selected competitors. Although both platforms require you to pay to use them, you can start with a free trial to see if their analytics offerings are right for you.

Although the individual metrics you track on Instagram will vary depending on your goals, some key metrics to keep track of are engagement (Likes and comments) and number of followers over time. If you are posting content your audience finds valuable, your account will steadily gain followers and the number of Likes, comments, and video views should increase with subsequent posts. Even if you don’t require or have the budget for more in-depth analytics tools, it’s important to track these metrics to make sure your account is performing well and is growing.

Okay, you’ve been regularly posting engaging content and you have loyal followers -- now let’s get started with Instagram advertising. Instagram advertising offers a unique opportunity for brands to engage with their persona. Since Instagram ads appear in the feed like any other post, they aren’t as obvious or disruptive as typical ads. They provide a natural way to encourage users to learn more about your business or product.

How Create an Instagram Ad

If you’ve ever set up a Facebook ad, you’re almost there! Even though your ad will run on Instagram, the setup is all done through Facebook’s ad platform.

To begin creating your ad, select the post you’d like to boost in Instagram or create a new one in Facebook Ad Manager. If you haven’t run ads through Facebook before, you’ll be prompted to set up an account. You’ll also need to claim your Instagram Business account to link it to your Facebook page.

promote an ig PX

To claim your Instagram account, go to your Business Manager and, on the left side of the page, hover over the menu to click “Instagram Accounts.” Then click on “Claim Instagram Account.” Add your account information and click “Next.”

claim in ig account

Next, pick an objective and name your campaign. While Facebook offers many different objective choices, only a few include Instagram advertising as an option. To ensure you’re on the right track, pick from any of the following options:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Reach
  • Traffic
  • App Installs
  • Engagement
  • Video Views
  • Conversions

ig marketing objective

Once you’ve selected your objective, you’ll be prompted to name your ad set.

ig ad set

If you select the “Traffic” option, you’ll be prompted to select a destination for your traffic. Facebook lets you pick between a website and an application.

Next, you can target your ad using a range of demographic and psychographic factors, including age, gender, location, language, work, financial status, behaviors, and connections. You can also load previously used custom audiences.

ig audience

After you’re done honing in on your target audience, select “Edit Placements” under the placements options and select “Instagram” under the available platforms. Don’t forget this step! Otherwise your ad will only show up on Facebook. If you only want to run your ad on Instagram, check to make sure that no other placements are selected.

ig ad placements

After you select Instagram as your placement, you’ll be asked to set the budget and schedule for your ad. You can set a daily spend budget or a lifetime budget for the ad and indicate start and end dates for your campaign. If you do not set a start and end date or a lifetime budget, your ad will continue to run indefinitely with the daily budget you allocate. You can also access more budget and scheduling options under the “Advanced Options” drop down. Here, you can  schedule your ad to run only during certain hours of the day or set your ad to generate results as quickly as possible using the “Accelerated” delivery type. This option is useful for ads focused around timely events.

ig budget and schedule

Next, you’ll set up the content of your ad. You can boost an existing post or upload a new image and caption to run as your ad. Instagram allows you to create ads using a Single Image or Video, a Carousel Ad, or a Story Ad that runs as a sponsored ad in Instagram stories. To maximize ad delivery, Facebook recommends using images that are at 600 px X 600 px for square format ads, 600 px X 315 px for landscape ads, and 600 px X 750 px for vertical ads. Facebook recommends avoiding too much text on the image or video thumbnail.

Once your ad creative is uploaded, you’re all set to place your order and start running your first Instagram ad campaign!

How Much Should You Spend on Instagram Ads?

The total amount you should invest in Instagram advertising campaigns should be tied to your campaign goal. If you are trying to gather more leads, you should consider the cost per lead and how that compares to other channels and your customer lifetime value. This is different for every business and industry. This also applies to other goals like increased website clicks and sales. No matter what your goal, it’s important to monitor and optimize your Instagram ads to make the most of your budget.

Conclusion


With 700 million monthly active users, there’s no denying Instagram’s power and reach. What was once a simple photo sharing app has transformed into an immersive experience that allows users to explore a company’s visual identity.

It’s important to keep in mind that Instagram users value high-quality content. Create photos and videos that provide your audience with interesting information or showcase your brand in a new, unique way. Optimize your content by writing entertaining captions that encourage engagement.

The thought of creating and maintaining a platform that captures your brand’s visual identity may be intimidating at first, but Instagram makes it fun and easy. Follow our guide and get inspired to make the most out of your Instagram marketing strategy.

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Created By

  • Alicia Collins

    Content Strategy @ HubSpot