In addition to sharing your personal photos with your friends, Instagram can be a powerful marketing outlet for your business. The social media platform has around 800 million active monthly users, 25 million of which are business accounts. But even with its current popularity, businesses have yet to maximize its potential to engage current customers and attract new ones.
We’ve asked experts to share their own tips on how to market on Instagram.
Here are the top 28 Instagram marketing tips from the pros.
1. Look to Your Competitors
Kazi Jakaria, Co-Founder, extorfx
Your competitors can be a great source of inspiration for your own Instagram posts. You should try to research what they are doing, what their daily Instagram activity is like and how they do their posts. For example, check out how eBay posts an image in Instagram and how it has a great short description that reflects the image concept. Sometimes posting an image won’t really mean anything unless you explain how it relates to your product and services. Your image should include a caption that expresses the right message that your are trying to relay to your followers. It’s with the right caption that your visitors will understand the product or services for the image with a hashtag. Big companies would invest serious time researching the impact of hashtags which most small companies would overlook. So it really works to research the core concept from your competitors who are doing really well and try to follow what they do.
2. Make Good Use of Instagram Stories
Alison Garrison, Senior Director of Creative & Marketing Services, Volusion
Instagram stories are an excellent tool that can help spur interest in your business by giving customers a sneak peek at new products, giveaways, or sales. Because stories sit prominently at the top of the feed, they’re also easily noticeable. Teasing these promotions in stories can be extremely beneficial and prompt users to keep coming back to check for updates. One of our merchant founders, Southern Fried Chics, used their Instagram story to tease a flash sale for one of their dresses. In doing this, they were able to lead followers back to their site by including a link in the story. Instagram has been testing a few different features to help brand content stand out more, and the ability to add links to stories is one of their more recent updates.
3. Partner with Influencers
Darren Schreher, Digital Manager, INTO THE AM
We use influencer marketing as part of our digital marketing strategy for Instagram, and it’s our favorite platform because we get the most engagement out of it. Our target audience includes fashion oriented people who attend music festivals and enjoy electronic dance music. We engage in influencer marketing in a variety of ways. First, we find popular accounts who meet our criteria for selection, and we engage in a conversation to gauge whether or not it’s a good fit. We also use a platform called Tomoson, which is tool that helps pair influencers with brands. Often times, we will send one of our products to an influencer for free, in exchange for an honest review that is posted to their Instagram followers. For us, the most important element of an influencer package, aside from cultural fit, is the overall reach of their account. We measure our return on investment based on the number of impressions we receive, how much referral traffic we get, and of course – how many sales come as a result of the campaign.
Learn more about influencer marketing and how it can work for your business by visiting our article.
4. Advertise with Videos
Cassie Galasetti, Co-Founder, Social Sidekick Media
On top of regularly posting photos to our clients’ Instagram accounts, we also create marketing videos around key holidays and milestones. We create these videos using Animoto because they allow you to make square videos, which work well on Instagram. They also have many font options and make it easy to place text on the video, which is important for sound-off, mobile viewing. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, we can place Instagram ads using Facebook Ads Manager, which ensures that the right audience will see our clients’ videos.
Visit our article on Instagram advertising to learn more about how it can work for your small business.
5. Reach More Influencers With a Referral Program
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
The success of social media marketing is based on how many people you reach. You can either build fans one at a time or tap into the vast network of influencers who follow you. ReferralCandy is an easy-to-use eCommerce store plugin that lets you reward followers (think discounts or free products) who refer their followers to you using unique, sharable referral links. You can also promote your referral program with beautiful widgets and email templates—no designers or developers needed. Click here for a free 30-day trial.
6. Ask Yourself if You Would Be Interested in Your Feed
Godwin Adoga, Social Media Strategist, HipHopHead
To get the best out of Instagram, you need to put in some work because you are going to reap what you sow. If your interest is in growing a followership who will eventually become customers, then you need to create more posts that give your business some purchase credibility. You want to post pictures of your business or product and present it in such a way that displays the quality and coolness. To do this effectively, you have got to put some thought into curating your feed. Think of your Instagram page as your business office itself and think like a potential customer. Ask yourself “If I wasn’t me, why would I be interested in this page?”.
7. Get Crafty with Your Hashtags and Link
Jason Myers, Senior Account Executive, The Content Factory, LLC
With Instagram, we find it effective to use as many of the 30 hashtags that you’re allowed per post. Be sure the tags are relevant to your post and brand and that they are worthy of including (they give you that handy preview of how many people are using a given hashtag, very useful). We tend to use only a couple of tags in the primary Instagram post, but follow up with a comment that includes many additional relevant hashtags (this still counts when other people are searching for those tags). Additionally, though web traffic should not be a primary objective of Instagram; you can still send people to one link — the one that you place in your bio. This is why you’ll often see IG posts that say “Click the link in our bio for more info.” Instagram has intentionally not allowed users to post active links within the text section of their posts. So get crafty with how you entice followers to click through to your bio link, and change it frequently so that you’re not constantly repeating your ask.
8. Use Paid Ads
Boni Satani, SEO Manager, Zestard Technologies
Compared to any other social network, Instagram has the most engagement, and in just four years, Instagram has over 300 million users. One good Instagram marketing tip is to use paid advertisements. This is the whole new weapon for brands to target their audience. Previously, only people following your account would see your photos and updates. But now brands can promote these to anyone within their target audience. Instagram advertisement is comparatively cheap and hence is one of the best paid advertisement option.
9. Skip the Automation Tools
Garrett Smith, CEO, Pitch + Pivot
Skip the automation tools. Growing your follower base on Instagram isn’t just about making that number larger, it’s about creating group in followers to interact with. Dedicate the time to going out and finding users that are interested in hashtags representative of your business. Click on their profile and like some of their photos and follow them first. The goal should be quality followers not just quantity!
10. Create Landing Pages Integrated With Instagram Ads
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, Fit Small Business
If you’re not sure what kind of Instagram ads to create, start with a landing page. Leadpages lets you create beautiful landing pages on your website (or Leadpages site) and automatically creates Instagram ads based on your page. Create as many pages as you like, capture leads from your ads, and test which one performs the best. You can choose from 150+ landing pages or use the drag-and-drop builder to design your own. Click here for a 14-day free trial.
11. Focus On Engagement-Based Content
Zellie Friedman, Social Media Manager, Power Digital Marketing
You always need to stay focused on engagement-based content rather than promotional. While it can be tempting to constantly post about how amazing your brand is, you can easily turn customers away by doing so. A great way to market your brand, while increasing your engagement is to incorporate your branding (fonts, colors, etc.) into engagement-based content. For example, we love “Spot the Difference” posts – they are a great way to keep your audience focused on your brand without seeming self-promotional. It’s a fun, unique way to increase your engagement and grow your brand awareness on Instagram.
12. Add Personal Passion to Your Instagram Posts
Ani Jigarjian, VP, Global Marketing & Business Development, Racepoint Global
Instagram shouldn’t be thought of as solely for new business leads. Along with your company news (personnel, awards, new products, office opening/move, etc.), focus on showcasing your true passions outside of work. Same goes for your employees. You want to establish an emotional connection with your audience in addition to the business relationship that exists (or you’re looking to secure). It’s important for your brand to exude humanity – whether it’s your personal love of horses, or the volunteer work you do as a company. It shows that you are doing your part in the community, or that you simply care very much for a special cause. If you create a human and emotional connection with your audience, it makes you that much more likeable and will create stronger brand loyalty.
13. Use (Don’t Abuse) Instagram DM
Bernard May, CEO, National Positions
So few people effectively use the DM feature in IG, and even fewer use it without sounding “spammy.” By Use Don’t Abuse, we mean DM should actually be DMR – Direct Message Relationships. Many who first learn about this feature try to cut and paste messages that fit for everyone. “Hey, love your profile! Want to buy something?” This is a surefire way to get blocked. Using this DM strategy, take some time to really create value in your DM. Give whoever you’re messaging something that they will actually want. Once you start gaining actual rapport, whoever you’re DMing knows that you’re not a bot and you’re not spamming them. Also, this is not a one-and-done strategy. If you get a positive response, be sure to thank them in the DM, and ask them if you can tag them in a thank you post. Be real. Be grateful. Give value. All things bots can’t do. Engage – don’t enrage
14. Engage Online and Build Relationships Offline
Candice Simons, President & CEO, Brooklyn Outdoor
Engage on the platform. If you’re a growing brand, do it for at least an hour a day. Engage with handles that have more followers than yourself by commenting, liking and following people! Once you are actively engaging your audience, reach out to larger influencers and get them to talk about you! That can be a lunch meet-up where you share that you’re lunching with said person, and they do the same. Invite influencers for a lunch on you to get additional exposure. It’s all about who you know on Instagram and how you interact with brands that are similar to you in audience.
15. Choose Your Own Sharing Time
Lili Le, Marketing & PR Manager, GREAT WINE, Inc.
Each company has a different target audience. So, your audience will have different active time on Instagram. Many social media specialists have wondered what time is that right time to post on social media. Social media specialists have to be mindful of the target audience’s location. For GREAT WINE, Inc., as we target audience in both the U.S and China, we depend on both time zones to schedule our posts. So, do not follow the posting schedule rule you find on the internet. However, note that do not overwhelm your audience; be mindful with your post frequency.
16. Create a Special Instagram Link
Nick Leffler, Owner, Exprance
Using Instagram for marketing can be tough because you only have one link. That just means you have to use that one link creatively for marketing your business. Don’t use the homepage of your website for your one link; use something specifically created for Instagram. To maximize the use of the one link you get on Instagram, make sure the page you link to is optimized for relevant content to your Instagram feed and description. Don’t simply put in your website home page but rather a relevant page that ties into the content you share on Instagram. If you share pictures of your product in different situations, make sure you’re linking to a page where people can immediately find that product. The more closely the content of the page of your one link is related to the content of your Instagram profile the more effective it will be.
17. Shout Out to Other Businesses
Nicky Barua, Co-Founder, ByNidel.com
In your caption, try to tag as many businesses in your industry that can be related to your post. If they like it, you may earn a repost and increase your exposure to their audiences. This will also help you build relationships and potential collaborations with other brands. Collaborations on Instagram is right now key to an increase in followers and the easiest way to hit your target audience. P.S. You probably don’t want to tag your competitors though as they wouldn’t want to share the market with you.
18. Monitor Your Metrics
Lara Russo, Online Marketing Specialist, Octoboard
To get a clear view of your online activity success, you should definitely monitor Instagram metrics (posts and followers, latest posts, posts, top posts, likes and comments, engagement rate etc.). It is also important to compare your results to those of your competitors. Thus you can spy on what works best for them. It’s always a good idea to learn from the best practices. Metrics dashboards help catch the moment when something goes wrong (less comments, likes etc), as visual information is always more digestible. In other words, measuring is absolutely necessary, and it’s easier to monitor metrics on dashboards. There are a lot of online dashboard services, including Octoboard, with its forever free version.
19. Use Raw Photos
Jason Markowicz, CEO, Fitness Premier Clubs
To maximize your presence on Instagram, only use raw photos, so no Photoshop and no overlays. Insta, owned by Facebook, uses certain alga-rhythms to get your content viewed. If it is seen as spam, your reach will be low. You can boost your reach by adding relevant hashtags of course. This is the simplest, yet most helpful tip to up your presence on Instagram. Remember it was originally built for photographers and artists. That’s what you need to be on this platform.
20. Come Up with Varied Content
Spencer Chambers, Owner, The Chambers Organization
Success in Instagram marketing starts with good content. Make sure your content is clear, unique and speaks to your audience. Also make sure you vary the types of content; a mixture of photos, videos and text keeps things fresh. If you make sure to follow this with every post, you will also maintain consistency, which is crucial to your Instagram brand. A great help in managing your profile is to use a third party platform to preload your posts. This, of course, does not apply to all of your content; you still want a good amount of candid in the moment posts, but any campaigns or general content can be planned and scheduled in advance for efficiency. Finally, make sure you make use of all 30 hashtags! I cannot emphasize this enough, as this how you enable your post to reach the correct audience and the largest audience possible.
21. Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good
Francesca DeRogatis, Director of Marketing & Accounts, Idea Collective
Candid and in-the-moment content is fine, not everything you do has to be meticulously produced, but your photos should be high-quality and visually appealing.If your brand is new to Instagram, be realistic and start small so you don’t get discouraged, particularly if you are doing the work yourself. It’s more important that your business post and engage with followers consistently than for everything to be perfect. I’m not saying accuracy doesn’t matter; spell check is your friend and blurry pictures from your last trade show in Vegas probably shouldn’t make the cut, but it takes time to manage a presence and keep up with engagement in addition to generating all the content. A following doesn’t happen overnight for most small businesses. Planning, consistency, and coordinated execution are key. Break up the monotony by varying the subject matter and formats of content you post.
22. Focus On Gaining Real Followers
Zanibel Melo, MBA, President/ Co-Founder, Higher Dreams
Don’t ever, ever, buy followers or get hung up on getting millions of them! Vanity metrics will backfire on you in the long run! Social media is about building a community, not a following that doesn’t care about what you offer and will never convert! What’s worse, when you buy followers some of those accounts are stolen “social identities” from other people including children. So, take the narrow road on working on building a community that matter and it will pay off in the long run.
23. Leverage User Generated Content (UGC)
Mordecai Holtz, Chief Strategist and Co-Founder, Blue Thread Marketing
Sharing other people’s content is one of the best ways to start building a real Instagram presence. When a small business is just building up its initial audience, then sharing user-generated content should be a priority. Start by “regramming”. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t have a simple, native way to share other people’s content. There are third party apps that give you the ability to regram.
24. Do a Chain Campaign
Yael Tamar, CEO, Digimark
A particular campaign that works is a chain campaign. Create a partnership with 5-6 large accounts and have each one share an image of the campaign and the next channel with text introducing the campaign, which usually involves a winner of some sort of a contest. Channel one links to channel two, channel three links to channel four and so on. Everyone will gain new followers in the process and the last channel will introduce the account behind the contest and the winner. Another Instagram strategy that I found to work is to create a very specific theme for the account and stick to it. This includes colors, filters, style, subjects, etc. The more homogeneous they are, the better.
25. Create Themed Content
Aly MacGregor, President, Reicura
One interesting idea is to do themed Instagram content over specific time frames. For example, you might decide to do a new theme each month – one month could focus on customer/client showcases or profiling. Another month might have the theme of giveaways, or follower Q&As. Get creative with it and develop themes that compliment your industry. The great thing about this concept is that it helps give you a guideline of what to be posting, and the content generated can be maximized in other ways like being turned into blog posts.
26. Response to Comments and Direct Messages
James Scott, CEO, Essay Supply
Answering to all meaningful comments to your posts and DMs as fast as possible is a great way to build long-term relationships with followers. Try to be genuine and have a personalized approach to every consumer. In the world of bots and automated messages, it positively distinguishes you from other businesses on Instagram. Of course, you can’t do it from your smartphone all the time. Use specific online tools that send notifications and allow answering multiple messages and comments directly in your browser.
Social Media Examiner
Developing a content calendar is a must for any social media marketing effort as this allows you to maximize your valuable content especially if you’re working on multiple channels. It also helps to put in perspective the general feel of your social media account that you can’t otherwise notice outright by just scrolling on your posts. It keeps your posts relevant by planning ahead content involving popular and trending news. This ensures that you keep your content varied and interesting enough for your audience to stop scrolling and engage with your post. Use your mobile device and look for a scheduling tool to maximize efficiency managing your content.
28. Include A Clear Call-To-Action
Mike Schiemer, Owner, Bootstrap Business
We use influencer marketing as part of our digital marketing strategy for Instagram, and it’s our favorite platform because we get the most engagement out of it. Our target audience includes fashion oriented people who attend music festivals and enjoy electronic dance music. We engage in influencer marketing in a variety of ways. First, we find popular accounts who meet our criteria for selection, and we engage in a conversation to gauge whether or not it’s a good fit. Often times, we will send one of our products to an influencer for free, in exchange for an honest review that is posted to their Instagram followers. For us, the most important element of an influencer package, aside from cultural fit, is the overall reach of their account. We measure our return on investment based on the number of impressions we receive, how much referral traffic we get, and of course – how many sales come as a result of the campaign.
Over To You
There is no doubt that every business that wants to stay on top of their marketing game needs to have Instagram as part of their marketing strategy. Make your posts stand out from the endless feeds to the right audience by using these tips and build the connections that your business needs to succeed.
Let’s talk! Share your favorite, go-to Instagram marketing tips with us in the comments!