• Instagram marketing starts with defining your goals and target audience. Establish what you want to achieve with Instagram (brand awareness, sales, etc.) and identify who you want to reach (potential customers).
  • For businesses new to Instagram marketing, it’s important to convert to a business profile, craft a compelling bio with a call to action and link and design an eye-catching profile picture.
  • A successful marketing strategy includes creating high quality content, publishing consistently, growing your followers and tracking your results to adjust your strategy accordingly.

As social media users across many demographics continue to embrace Instagram as their platform of choice, brands and marketers must prioritize Instagram marketing.

Instagram is currently one of the most-used social media platforms with over 2 billion monthly active users. The reality is that Instagram is an absolute goldmine for businesses of all shapes and sizes. However, it's no longer about silly photos with filters and borders. Instead, you need to have a perfectly curated and visually appealing feed to stand out. Many brands struggle to grow or adopt Instagram as part of their social strategy and we totally understand why.

You can’t afford to “wing it” on Instagram. You need a clear-cut, actionable Instagram strategy if you want to grow a presence and attract customers.

We’ve broken it down into an Instagram marketing strategy guide—and created a video—to help you get started on the platform or refresh your strategy with best practices for growth:

What is Instagram marketing?

Instagram marketing is a strategy that refers to the use of Instagram and its features to build a community and promote your business. Brands using Instagram for marketing will need to create captivating content for the platform. They’ll need to build out a cohesive plan for said content and creatively engage with their target audience to see success.

Why use Instagram for marketing?

Social media marketing is a wildly popular strategy as there are more than 5 billion social media users worldwide.

And Instagram is a popular choice among these users, being the second most visited social media platform in the United States and third most visited globally.

Not only that but the latest Instagram stats show that 70% of shoppers use the platform to find purchase inspiration. It’s the most used platform for consumers to follow and research brands. That’s why they look to Instagram to discover new products and inform their purchase decisions.

With a pretty solid distribution of ages and genders, you're likely to find at least one segment of your target audience on the app.

bar graph showing distribution of Instagram users by age and gender as of January 2024

Source: Statista

How is Instagram used for marketing?

Instagram is a visual platform with a heavy focus on photo and video. Brands and businesses can use Instagram features to creatively promote their products/services. It even allows creators to set up dedicated accounts with useful tools to market their content. Some features include:

How to create an Instagram business account

Ready to get started with your own Instagram business profile? It's easy to create one and start sharing content immediately. Let's walk you through the process.

  1. Download the Instagram app onto your smartphone. While there is a desktop version, the app is mobile-first and most tasks are easiest to complete on the mobile app.
  2. Input your business email address and choose a password. Follow the instructions until you're taken to your new profile. Instagram only lets you create a personal account first, which you’ll need to convert into a business profile.
  3. Begin your visual branding. Tap on the “Edit profile” button to do this. Upload a profile photo and input all necessary profile information—your business name, bio, profile link, CTA button, etc.
    Instagram profile for "prettythriftyfinds" with arrow pointing to the "edit profile" button under the bio
  4. From the “Edit profile” page, tap on the “Switch to professional account” option. This will start the process of turning your profile into a business account.
    Instagram edit profile page with arrow pointing to the "Switch to professional account" button
  5. Select your business category and choose whether you want to create a Business or Creator account. Then review your contact info to complete the process. You can also opt to not let Instagram use your contact info in your profile.

How to create an Instagram marketing strategy

Now that we’ve outlined why you should be marketing on Instagram and how to create a business profile, let’s get to work in creating an Instagram strategy.

1.      Define your Instagram marketing goals

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to be able to answer exactly why you want to have an Instagram presence in the first place. What's in it for your business? Do you want to generate leads? Build a community? Increase brand awareness?

Setting social media goals is an essential step in any strategy. These goals determine everything from your content strategy to how much time you need to spend on the platform to accomplish them.

There's no “right” or single goal you have to commit to, either. It's going to fully depend on your overall business goals and what you're hoping to achieve. And your ROI from Instagram really boils down to these goals.

For example, West Elm is a shining example of a retail brand whose Instagram strategy is laser-focused on social selling. Its entire feed centers around showing off its products and encouraging followers to check them out as well. The furniture brand creates shoppable posts so shoppers can buy directly on the app. It even has a stunning Instagram storefront showcasing its products.

one photo showing west elm shoppable post that features a brown leather armchair in a living room and tagged items in the photo and another picture showing the West Elm Instagram shop page with offers and collections
Source: Instagram

Meanwhile, beauty brands often focus on highlighting their products in use. They also aim to build a community by constantly going back and forth with followers.

Local, brick-and-mortar businesses want to keep customers in the loop on their latest promotions while simultaneously building relationships. Notice how Cedar Palace Chicago takes the time to respond to their customer comments in addition to showing off their mouth-watering Mediterranean food options.

Cedar Palace Instagram Reel featuring the establishment with the comments section showing the restaurant responding to comments

Source: Instagram

And many B2B brands use the platform as a means of education. Creating branded graphics can go a long way in providing visually appealing information for your audience, like we see here from Leadpages.

Instagram carousel post from Leadpages with an original graphic that reads "how to diagnose your declining organic traffic"

Source: Instagram

The beauty of Instagram is the sheer amount of creative freedom available to you. Either way, deciding on the Instagram tactics you’ll use starts with your goals.

Dig through Instagram yourself to help inspire your business’ strategy.

Follow some of your favorite brands. Follow some competitors, too. Experiencing the platform as a user is the best way to understand how businesses and consumers interact with each other.

If you're still in need of some inspiration, here are some common goals that businesses use for their Instagram marketing strategy:

  • Increase brand awareness via followers and reach
  • Generate engagement via comments and shares
  • Improve website traffic via link-in-bio and Stories clicks
  • Ramp up sales via clicks or social sales

2.      Optimize your Instagram profile

Here’s some good news: in terms of setting up your profile, Instagram is relatively straightforward. However, there are a few small details to watch out for as you put together your profile.

Before you worry about creating content for Instagram, make sure you’ve ticked the following boxes. This rings true for new profiles and brands looking to fine-tune their Instagram marketing.

Convert to a business profile

We covered this earlier, but it's a big one.

Instagram business profiles give you access to features like analytics, paid partnerships, CTA buttons and more. So you need to make sure that you’ve switched your account. This will give you the option to highlight additional information about your business in your Instagram bio. This includes important details such as your industry, location and contact info.

Tile Club instagram page featuring shop button

Source: Instagram

Additionally, Instagram business profiles have access to analytics to help you see how followers are interacting with your account. Of course, we recommend that you go beyond base-level metrics with the help of Sprout Social (but more on that later).

Decide on your brand creatives

Although they’re easy to overlook, your brand creatives are integral to your Instagram marketing strategy.

Specifically, your hashtags and bio.

The process of creating a hashtag doesn’t have to be daunting. For example, most hashtags are either a brand name or slight variations of a brand name.

#Topshop #MyAnthropologie #TargetFinds

The purpose of having a hashtag is to encourage followers to tag your brand and enable you to do the same. Hashtags serve as a call-to-action to encourage customer photos and stories. You can also include your branded hashtags within your bio to encourage even more usage.

Target Australia Instagram profile with hashtags #targetaus #targetaustralia

Source: Instagram

Craft a compelling Instagram bio

Despite being only 150 characters, your Instagram bio is invaluable real estate.

This is your brand’s first impression with customers and potential followers. It represents an opportunity to highlight what your brand is all about and encourage followers to take action.

And it’s the only place where you can funnel Instagram traffic to your promotions or website.

As part of your Instagram strategy, make sure that your bio includes the following.

  • A clear, concise description of what your business does
  • Hashtag(s) related to your business
  • Some sort of call-to-action
  • A trackable link in bio to monitor the behavior of your Instagram traffic

For example, Whole Foods’ Instagram manages to achieve all of the above.

Whole Foods Instagram bio showing a short description, branded hashtag, call to action and link in bio

Source: Instagram

Upload your profile picture

Instagram limits your profile picture to only 110×110 pixels.

Therefore, sleek, minimalist and high-res is the way to go. And to increase brand recognition and make sure your Instagram looks legitimate. It's best to keep this to your logo—or as much of it as you can reasonably fit in.

For example, Casper includes only the first letter of their stylized brand font for a bold profile pic.

Casper Instagram profile with the brand's logo as a profile picture

Source: Instagram

Meanwhile, BarkBox manages to include its entire name with clean, legible text.


barkbox Instagram profile with the brand's logo as a profile picture

Source: Instagram

3.      Pinpoint your Instagram target audience

Before you start creating and publishing content, you need to know who your target audience is. Which of your customer segments have a presence on Instagram? Make sure you understand Instagram's overall demographics and have a customer profile or persona filled out so that you can align the two.

This way, you can make sure that your content strategy is only geared toward people who are actually interested in your product or service. This is much more effective than marketing out into the void hoping that something resonates to anyone.

4.      Create your Instagram content calendar

Now let’s get into the meat of your Instagram strategy: creating content.

Let’s highlight some specific Instagram marketing tips that showcase the types of content that crush it. Although these aren’t the only types of content you can publish, consider these post types to be cornerstones of your Instagram marketing.

Eye-popping imagery

Stylish snapshots.

That’s exactly what put Instagram on the map.

Photos featuring some sort of striking creative trademark are the types of posts that reel in the likes and comments. This could be anything from a photo featuring a stunning setting or a fun color scheme.

My Kitsch Instagram post showing a golden-colored shower head against pink bathroom tiles and text that reads "why switch to a Kitsch shower filter?"

Source: Instagram

Thankfully, most modern smartphones can take compelling photos of just about anything. So you don’t necessarily have to rely on professional photographers for your Instagram marketing content.

Also, there are plenty of  Instagram apps that include filters and style options to step up your photos.

People-centric photos

Social media is social.

That means centering your content strategy around people. Specifically, highlighting the humans who support your business.

For example, user-generated content and customer photos are staples of Instagram. Sharing such snapshots allows you to show off your satisfied customers and put your products in a real-world setting.

GoPro Instagram post with a user-submitted photo of a woman standing in a forest with outstretched arms

Source: Instagram

Don’t forget about showing your team some love, too. Going behind the scenes and celebrating your colleagues is a simple yet effective way to humanize your brand.

Sprout Instagram post featuring a Sprout team member smiling and looking sideways and a caption introducing them as Stanton, Sprout's Design Developer

Source: Instagram

Videos and Reels

Video content is among the most popular and shared around social media, Instagram included.

If you’re not a professional videographer, don’t panic. Many brands share bite-sized promos in lieu of big productions.

And yes, you can create video that sells with little more than a smartphone. Think timelapse videos and looping videos edited using third-party apps.

Or you could even put together Reels right within the app. Instagram Reels are among the most popular types of content on the platform today. They get a ton of engagement and help you boost your visibility.

There’s so much potential to use Reels for Instagram marketing. Behind-the-scenes glimpses and product highlights are just a few ideas.

Instagram Reel from Freddy's USA featuring a person holding a cup and scooping from a container and text overlay that reads "making our new TWIX salted caramel concrete"

Source: Instagram

Creating Reels is easy, put together several photos or uploading a video from your camera roll. Instagram even lets you shoot videos natively to share as a Reel.

Try using popular soundtracks and music to make your Reels more engaging (and increase visibility).

Memes and image macros

Not everything on Instagram needs to be staged or come from a camera roll.

Memes are perfect for humor or inspiration.

In fact, memes and image macros are a way to break up the monotony of your feed and engage your followers on a personal level. Even screenshots of Tweets have made their way onto Instagram.

Duolingo Instagram post with an illustration of the brand's mascot lying down exhausted and a Tweet screenshot overlay saying "it's always 'who is duolingo?' but never 'how is duolingo?'"

Source: Instagram

Jokes? Tips? Inspirational quotes? If you’re strapped for ideas, such posts can do the trick. Use tools like Canva and Visme to create these engaging posts.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are also an incredibly popular content type and have a great reach rate.

Why? For starters, Stories enables you to “skip the line” in your followers’ feeds by putting your account at the front of their Story queue. Furthermore, time-sensitive content taps into your customers’ sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Furthermore, 50% of Instagram users have visited a website to buy a product or sign up for a service after seeing it in Stories.

Great for deals, company updates or just plain playful content, Stories are something you should strive to create on a daily basis.

5.      Publish content consistently

You have your content ready to publish. Simply posting at random isn’t going to do you any good.

As part of your marketing strategy for Instagram, take note of the following before you put out your next post.

Craft compelling captions

Each post you publish should have a unique caption. Even the seemingly smallest details of those captions can impact your engagement rate and whether or not your post is discoverable.

With 2,000+ characters to work with, you certainly have creative freedom. However, you’ll notice that many businesses take a “less is more” approach to their Instagram captions.

No matter what you’re saying or selling, make sure that you include a combination of the following in your captions.

  • A call-to-action (a question, “check out our bio,” etc)
  • A touch of personality (use emojis, take up a conversational tone)
  • Hashtags (including your branded hashtags)

Still not sure how to write interesting captions? Check out our collection of 400+ Instagram caption ideas for inspiration.

Pay attention to timing and frequency

When and how often you publish your content matters when it comes to engagement.

Most brands publish daily or on a near-daily basis. But don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Also, the timing of your posts impacts how likely your followers are to see them. For reference, here are the best times to post on Instagram based on Sprout's research.

heatmap chart showing Instagram global engagement

Having to worry about posting in real-time can be a pain. That’s why we again recommend using an Instagram marketing tool such as Sprout to do the heavy lifting. For example, features such as ViralPost can clue you in on when your specific account scores the most engagement. Then, you can automatically schedule your content in advance to hit those times.

Cross-post to promote Instagram marketing

For many brands, it makes sense to cross-post your Instagram content across networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Doing so saves you some serious time and keeps you from bouncing from network to network. With Sprout, you can cross-post and edit your individual posts to ensure they’re optimized specifically for Instagram.

6.      Schedule Instagram posts

While maintaining a consistent posting schedule is crucial, it's the easiest thing to miss. A missed post here and there could add up to an erratic and unreliable posting strategy.

As such, scheduling your Instagram posts is the best way to maintain the level of consistency you need.

Scheduling lets you create content ahead of time and set it to automatically go out at the desired time. This ensures that you never miss a post again.

It also helps you save time and improve efficiency as you dedicate time slots for content creation. Moreover, you won’t have to set aside time just to manually push out a post.

Instagram scheduling allows you to always post at optimal times for higher engagements. This comes in handy when you’re targeting different time zones or you want to send out posts at different times of the day.

Make use of tools such as Sprout’s scheduler to schedule your Instagram posts ahead of time. Sprout’s social media publishing tools let you create and customize posts for Instagram. You can then set the posts to go out at a custom time or use Sprout-suggested Optimal Times.

Instagram compose window on Sprout publishing tool with a sample photo of a hand holding a cup of coffee and featuring different fields for when to post and a button to

7.      Social listening for Instagram marketing

Effective Instagram marketing requires an understanding of the topics people are talking about.

Which topics are trending in your industry? What types of content are they posting on specific topics? Which hashtags are they using?

These are all important questions that can inform your strategy. That’s why you need Instagram listening to gain insights into the topics that matter to your business. This will help you keep tabs on your industry and identify trends that will inspire your content.

Listening insights will help you understand what your audience wants and what matters to them. You can even use social media listening to identify customer service opportunities. It can reveal negative comments and experiences, allowing for timely management.

Sprout’s social media listening tool lets you monitor relevant conversations across networks. It helps you identify trending topics and measure sentiment around them.

This provides you with insights on what content to create based on what resonates with your audience. It also provides you with timely alerts so you can jump in with an appropriate response or solution.

Instagram Listening dashboard with sentiment monitoring features showing an 82% positive rating and a smiling face

8.      Grow your Instagram followers

No matter what Instagram strategies you’re experimenting with, so much of your engagement depends on how you promote your Instagram so you can grow your Instagram follower count.

Followers and customers don’t show up by accident. As a result, you need to put your Instagram front and center across your other marketing channels.

For example, make a point to prominently feature your Instagram on-site. Whether it’s social buttons or a feed of your followers’ photos, customers should know that you’re active on Instagram.

Moon Maiden website with a section that features women in black gothic gowns under text that reads "follow us on Instagram"


And of course, growing your Instagram followers also means showing up day after day.

Respond to followers. Engage with other accounts. Committing to Instagram means being an active participant on the platform. Even if you automate common responses to queries or comments (done tactfully), it shows followers you're active.

Oh, and don’t forget to monitor your analytics! In-depth insights like the ones provided via Sprout can be huge motivations and eye-openers to brands growing on Instagram. Rather than second-guess what to post next, your analytics more than likely have the answer.

9.      Get familiar with the Instagram algorithm

Marketing on Instagram is just as much about knowing how to work the algorithm as it is about creating great content.

The Instagram algorithm determines which content to show to people based on several factors. It looks at things like how popular a post is, who posted it and when. Based on this, it displays the content to people who are most likely to enjoy it based on their past interactions.

This makes it crucial to strategically publish content so that the algorithm prioritizes it in people’s Feeds and Explore pages.

Post consistently and at times when your audience is most active. This increases the chance of driving engagements, which will add to the post’s popularity signals. Encouraging people to comment and responding to their comments will also help you drive visibility.

Glow Recipe Instagram post featuring various brand products and a comments section where the brand responds to every comment

Source: Instagram

10.                 Measure Instagram performance

At the start of your Instagram marketing, you may be going in blindly with industry best practices and tips. But once you start posting regularly, you should have enough data to inform your strategy.

Unless you see how people engage with a particular piece of content, you won’t know whether it’s something that they like to see. At best, you may be wasting your time and resources on content that doesn’t contribute to your bottom line.

Consistently measure your Instagram performance to see what’s working and what’s not. Keep track of vital Instagram metrics to see what types of content resonate with your audience and which campaigns are paying off. Then use those insights to fine-tune your strategy and optimize your results.

Instagram analytics and tools

On that same note, the last part of any strategy involves monitoring your performance and keeping an eye on analytics. While Instagram comes with its own built-in analytics, investing in a more comprehensive analytics tool can help. This will give you a bird's eye view of all your social media analytics at once.

Here are a few analytics tools you might consider:

Sprout Social

Obviously, we have to tout our own analytics dashboard. Connect your Instagram business profile to monitor your Instagram performance data. The platform gives you access to all the vital metrics including impressions, likes and comments.

It automatically analyzes your data so you don’t have to manually calculate things like engagement rate and average reach per post. Sprout breaks down these performance metrics at the post level, allowing you to quickly identify your best posts.

Instagram business profiles report on Sprout showing an audience growth comparison graph

You can even report across more than one profile. This allows you to compare metrics such as follower growth and engagements.


Iconosquare is another analytics option that's tailored more to agencies that manage multiple brand profiles at once. This way, social media managers are able to easily switch from client to client. Iconosquare also offers a free account audit for business profiles to make sure you're adhering to Instagram best practices.


IZEA is a tool that helps brands identify influencers to work with. It boasts a creator marketplace with a database of over 650,000 influencers to pinpoint the ones that would be best for your specific offerings. You can look through the database to find influencers based on keywords and check out their rates to streamline your search.


Curalate is a tool that analyzes and shares potential user-generated content with brands so they can easily bulk up their content calendar. It uses an affiliated tool Like2Buy to curate posts added via that link and put them in front of the brands tagged so they can easily repost the images onto their own profiles.


Bitly is a link-shortening tool that also tracks clicks and can be a great option for your Instagram bio link. This way you can keep track of how many clicks you're getting just from your Instagram bio as a way of tracking website traffic ROI.

Get started with Instagram marketing today

Get started with Instagram marketing today

The best practices and tips highlighted above are fair game for brands of all shapes and sizes.

From optimizing your profile to engaging your followers and beyond, knowing what clicks with customers is a matter of consistency and experimentation.

With the help of tools such as Sprout, you can easily manage the many moving pieces of your brand’s Instagram strategy.