It’s no secret that humans are drawn in by Instagram’s visual format. We love looking at pictures, sharing videos, watching Stories, catching up on news, and interacting with friends, family, and even getting behind-the-scenes glimpses of celebrity life. As the social media platform continues to grow, with more than one billion active users, it’s become a place where businesses can thrive as well.
Introduction to Instagram for Business
A 2019 report by Mention notes that 71% of US businesses use Instagram and that more than 80% of businesses consider Instagram engagement the most important metric. Businesses can use the platform to engage with current followers, showcase their products, and deepen brand loyalty. Instagram organically supplies a massive amount of potential customers, which most businesses can reach without spending a huge amount of money on advertising. According to Instagram’s internal data, 90% of people on Instagram follow at least one business, so it makes sense for companies, brands, and products to tap into Instagram for social media marketing.
While you may be familiar with using the platform for personal use, creating a free business account on Instagram offers more opportunities to expand your company, product, or brand. Instagram business accounts are all public, providing more openings to showcase your company and for potential followers to find you. Business accounts also come with Instagram Insights, an analytics tool to help measure performance on Instagram. You can boost posts for advertising, add calls to action such as a contact button, configure quick replies for when you can’t respond to a direct message immediately, and incorporate many other additional features designed especially for business accounts.
Instagram Marketing Strategy
People surveyed in a 2019 study commissioned by Facebook on how Instagram boost brands and drives sales shared that they perceive brands on Instagram as popular (78%), creative (77%), entertaining (76%), relevant (74%), and committed to building community (72%). With overwhelming evidence that designing an online presence for your company, product, or brand helps drive success, it’s time to map out your Instagram marketing strategy.
The first step to a successful Instagram marketing strategy is deciding what you want out of it. Joining the platform because you “should” or “because everyone else is on it” isn’t a sustainable marketing plan. What are your goals? Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Use the platform to sell your products directly to customers? Gain more followers? Establish a digital presence? Share content so people can see and engage with your product or services? If the reasons aren’t financial, perhaps you want to inspire and connect with an audience (and build brand awareness in the process!) Regardless of your goals, having clear reasoning and a plan when starting can help business owners stay on track and reach that ever-important target audience.
Identify Your Target Audience
Defining your target audience is almost as important as fleshing out your goals. With literally billions of people using Instagram daily, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. But remember: you don’t need to reach everyone. You just need to decide who you’re marketing to and connect with them. These are the people who will use and appreciate your services, brand, or business best—and of course, who might be more inclined to buy your products or support your endeavor financially. Knowing who your typical customer is, where they live, how old they are, their gender, interests, occupation, education, and other demographic details can help you develop a savvy Instagram marketing strategy. How well you know your audience directly correlates with how well your business succeeds on Instagram. Not sure where to start? Check out hashtags, influencers, or events that have to do with your industry or business. Click through the profiles of the people who are interested in products or services or brands like yours. And don’t forget to peek at the competition.
Check Out The Competition
Okay, maybe it’s more than a peek. Get to know your competitors as well as possible. Check out their profiles, their followers, and their hashtags. You can even do a competitive analysis to get a deeper understanding of similar businesses. Evaluating what your competitors are doing right (and even more importantly, what they’re doing wrong, so you can do it better) can help build your brand from the ground up.
Create Compelling Content
Once you’ve determined who your audience is and what other companies like yours are up to, you can start creating your content and developing your brand personality. Since Instagram is such an image-forward platform, work to create a visual identity that defines your brand and your product. Maintaining a consistent aesthetic will help your followers recognize and appreciate your page, so have fun picking out colors and themes that define you and your products. Although a great picture captures us initially, great captions keep us interested. From snappy one-word captions to funny quips to inspirational messages, well-written captions should stay true to your brand, engage and entertain your followers, and drive them to take action.
Plan Out Your Posts
Feeling overwhelmed yet? To save time and to ensure you’re maintaining your brand voice and aesthetic, create a calendar for posting content. Setting up a calendar takes the guesswork out of posts. Use Instagram Insights to determine when your followers are most online and engaged and post then—and continue to post! Consistently posting content that resonates most with your audience is a great way to grow your following. Utilizing scheduling tools can help you stay on top of your Instagram account without feeling like you’re constantly coming up with content and spending time online. Using a dedicated Instagram scheduling tool helps free up your time, as well as see your content mapped out in advance. With most of these tools, business owners can add, edit, delete, or reschedule any of their planned posts.
Types of Instagram Posts
Once you have your theoretical strategy in place and your content planned, you’re ready to implement the practical part of your strategy: your posts. But what kind do you use? Understanding the different types of Instagram posts and their purpose will help your reach, engagement, and ultimately, your sales. Let’s break it down.
As a visual platform, image posts are how Instagram began, and are still the most common posts on Instagram. Using image posts for your business can help solidify your company, product, or brand as well as entertain your audience. Use photo posts to reveal special looks at your brand, share details of your life or your product, and give followers a sense of who you truly are. Authenticity resonates, so make sure your photos are more than advertisements—blatant ads turn off Instagram users.
While photos are still the primary type of posts on Instagram, the image-forward platform has exploded with video content. In-feed video posts consist of three-to-60 second videos. Video posts have expanded ways for businesses and brands to engage with their audience. Research shows that of the various types of Instagram posts, videos get the most engagement. Video content can be a whimsical and entertaining way to connect with your target audience. And with up to a minute to work with, that means you can play around with boomerangs, time-lapse, filters, and other elements to make the most of your video post.
Reposting other peoples’ content is an easy way to curate content, build credibility, align yourself with similar accounts, and expose your business to other audiences. Finding diverse sources of content within your niche can lead to more engagement overall, as well as followers from different sources.
User Generated Posts
Speaking of reposts, a similar type of post is user-generated content (UGC). UGC is one of the most popular types of Instagram posts. Real people lead to more real people. Embrace user-generated content! Think of UGC as free advertising for your brand—while having the opportunity to amplify followers within your community. It’s a win/win! And the numbers don’t lie: a recent survey revealed that consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view UGC as authentic compared to brand-created content. And with 90% of consumers sharing that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, why not gain your followers’ trust (and ultimately their business) by sharing user-generated content that is relevant to your business, product, or brand.
Have you ever been scrolling through Instagram and something makes you stop and smile and just feel good? That’s a motivational post, and they take on two jobs: furthering your brand while simultaneously making your audience feel seen, encouraged, and inspired. Another win/win! Try weaving motivational posts into your content strategy and see how the posts perform.
Like it or not, we’ve all learned something from an Instagram post. Whether it’s a laundry hack, digital activism, historical information, a recipe, or day-to-day lifestyle tips, Instagram has become a place to learn. Often, educational posts are easy-to-follow images, carousels (a slideshow using up to ten photos), or short videos used to explain, inform, and create awareness. While most issues can’t be completely dissected in one infographic, educational posts have gained traction recently and provide a jumping-off point for future research and access points for people who might not have previous knowledge or understanding of the subject.
The saying “news travels fast” rings even more true in the age of social media. Thanks to viral posts or simply scrolling through their platform of choice, people find out about celebrity gossip, politics, natural disasters, societal changes, and online trends more quickly than ever before. These posts about current events even have a special name: Newsjacking. Creating content capitalizing on what’s happening in the world—be it a sporting event, major catastrophe, Hollywood drama, or simply a national holiday—can help shape your Instagram marketing strategy and even strengthen your brand. Just make sure you’re doing it in a sensitive, respectful, non-exploitive way.
Another popular way to expand and promote your product or brand is by adding an influencer post. Influencer marketing helps you grab the attention of another follower base, promote your brand, gain credibility, expand your reach, enhance brand awareness, and drive sales. Many users see influencers as everyday consumers just like them, so influencer posts come across as a recommendation from a friend rather than an ad. Influencer posts should be relatable, align with your company's values, and provide a chance for you to connect with your niche audience.
Other Instagram Tools
Image and video posts aren’t the only way to connect with current and potential followers. There are plenty of other dynamic methods within the platform to bring your content to interested eyeballs.
Stories & Highlights
Instagram Stories are photos or videos that disappear 24 hours after posting. They’re not shown in the newsfeed, but at the top of the app when you’re logged in. According to Instagram internal data from 2019, each day Instagram Stories are used by 500 million users, and a third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses. With data like that, how can you not tap into such a fun, free, and ephemeral option? Stories offer an important and unique element of Instagram marketing: a chance for your current and potential followers to get intimate, behind-the-scenes perspectives of you and your brand. Stories are an opportunity to showcase authenticity, which resonates with most users. Since Instagram Stories can’t be calendared in advance like posts and other content, it’s a chance for you to connect with your community in a more immediate, organic way. You can also save selected Stories into collections (called Highlights) on your page, making those 24-hour-long posts available for as long as you want.
Reels are one of Instagram's newest ways to share video content. Introduced in 2020, Instagram Reels are 15-second, multi-clip videos that don’t disappear after 24 hours. Instagram Reels provides creative tools to edit your videos like sounds, music, speed controls, and other effects that make them approachable, fun, and a cohesive addition to the rest of your content. Reels can enhance your Instagram marketing strategy by keeping up with current trends, drawing in new followers, and connecting with those unfamiliar with your brand.
Having someone else step in and take over your Instagram account (or even just your Stories) for the day can be a way to amplify another voice on your platform, reach new followers, and shake up your normal feed. Guest takeovers promote community, collaboration, and communication. And since one in five American consumers have made a purchase based on an influencer, why not try hosting a guest takeover?
Another way to enhance your Instagram marketing strategy is by using hashtags. According to Hootsuite, “precise, accurate, thoughtful hashtags signal to humans and the algorithm what’s in your post, and who might be interested in it.” Using the right ones for your brand can help you find and connect with more members of your community and help find your target audience.
For those who don’t know, a hashtag is a series of numbers or letters preceded by the # symbol (e.g. #nobledesktop). Hashtags are more than just funny additions to a post; they help users discover and categorize posts and other content. Hashtags help build community because some people may follow a hashtag even if they don't follow you. Using niche hashtags unique to your company, brand, or product can expand your reach. Take a look at what hashtags your competitors and your target audience are already using and engaging with, and consider creating your very own hashtag (often called a branded hashtag) to promote your brand or campaign.
Instagram Live is another way to connect with your audience. Since it’s happening in real-time, Live awards a chance to have a genuine dialogue with friends, followers, and fans. Show your community your unfiltered side! Instagram Live is a great way to run fundraisers, raise awareness about your company, product, or brand, or simply give you an authentic way to introduce yourself.
Bonus: since Live videos appear at the beginning of Instagram Stories, using this feature enhances your chances of current followers tuning in. You can go live for up to an hour, and then the video automatically stays in your Stories for the next 24 hours. To save your Live video for longer, share it to IGTV (more on that below!) or download it and share it through another platform, like YouTube or Facebook.
Instagram TV (also called IGTV) is yet another way of creating video content on Instagram. IGTV differs from Stories or a video post because it caters to longer-form video content. It allows users to upload videos up to ten minutes long (and 60 minutes for larger/verified accounts). With 85% of users noting they’d like to see more video content from brands, it makes sense to embrace IGTV and make it a part of your Instagram marketing strategy.
Monetize Your Instagram Account
When you’re ready to take the plunge into paid Instagram advertising with your business account, there are several different routes to take and tools to help you get there.
The first step to figuring out where to spend your company’s marketing dollars is by using Instagram Insights. The platform collects data about your followers such as growth rate, demographics, where they are, and when they are online and most engaged. Figuring out patterns helps you understand your posts’ performance and your Instagram account on the whole. If you don’t want to use Instagram’s in-house analytics tool, you can choose a third-party one. Regardless of which tool you choose, analytics can help identify where your account is thriving as well as possible pain points to ultimately improve your business.
An Instagram Shop is just what it sounds like: a digital storefront where users can purchase products directly through the app. Users can find shops through posts and Stories, and browse and buy without leaving the app. According to company data, 130 million Instagram users click on a shopping post every month. If your company or brand has products to sell, it’s a smart business decision to integrate shopping into your Instagram marketing strategy.
Introduced in 2020, Instagram Guides are “a way to more easily discover recommendations, tips, and other content from your favorite creators, public figures, organizations, and publishers on Instagram.” In a nutshell, Guides are a way to compile visuals and texts into scrollable lists for your followers. Centered on products, places, and posts, users can create new content or use older, saved posts to generate a guide, and each page within the guide will link back to a post or product page. From there, users can purchase items from Instagram Shops. Guides can be a terrific way to compile brand or product information. They give you a chance to provide more context around certain posts and even recycle previous content.
Instagram Advertising is incorporating sponsored content into your strategy—in other words, adding posts you pay for. Ads can appear as images or videos in Stories, Reels, IGTV, in users’ feeds, and the Explore feature. Often, these ads will look very similar to regular posts but will have the word “ad” or “sponsored” somewhere in the caption, photo, or video. (And that’s the idea! Advertising on Instagram is supposed to feel as natural as possible—you don’t want your content to stand out as an advertisement.) Using Instagram’s built-in advertising tools, businesses can get more reach and promote their product or brand, which can lead to tangible financial gains.
With a business account, you can choose two different paths for building an Instagram ad campaign: promoting your posts, and/or using Ads Manager. Using the promote feature means paying Instagram to help target a specific audience based on your goals. With a couple of taps of your finger, you can be on your way. The other method is Instagram’s Ad Manager, which is specially designed for more advanced advertising campaigns. Using Ads Manager is a little more labor-intensive than simply promoting a post, but it delves deeper into your advertising objectives to help reach more people and ultimately sell more.
Tips, Tricks, & Best Practices
Above all, Instagram is a place to connect with current and potential followers. From a business perspective, followers equal customers. Get them there by creating engaging, fun, compelling, authentic content that keeps people coming back for more. Work to grow followers organically through interaction and collaboration using tools like Instagram Live, Ask Me Anything posts, contests, giveaways, and behind-the-scenes Stories, just to name a few. It may take time but it will be worth it in the end—don’t sacrifice your company’s brand integrity by paying for followers or using bots to get likes.
Engage frequently with your followers—and give them the chance to be active as well, by incorporating elements like calls to action, polls, and questions to draw them in and give them ways to interact with your company, product, or brand. Another way to boost engagement is by connecting your Instagram and Facebook accounts. Looping Facebook into your Instagram marketing strategy is a great way to bring your dynamic content to multiple platforms. Although Instagram is a place to build your brand and drive sales, first and foremost you’ll need to work on deepening connection and creating community.
Learn Instagram Marketing
If you’re ready to dive into Instagram Marketing, take a look at Noble Desktop’s social media marketing courses. You can take in-person classes at Noble’s location in NYC or attend live online social media marketing classes from anywhere in the world. Noble’s Instagram Marketing class helps students learn about advertising on Instagram as well as how to build a following by creating resonant content. The course delves into the Instagram algorithm and how to use it to develop content and posting strategies as well as increase engagement. The course’s expert instructors go over best practices and tools like Instagram Stories, marketing, and advertising. You can also find other social media marketing classes in your area using Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool.