If you feel like you don’t quite “get” Instagram marketing, you’re not alone.
On the surface, it might seem like little more than a place for snapshots and selfies.
The reality, though? Instagram is an absolute goldmine for businesses of all shapes and sizes. From social selling to community-building and beyond, there’s a reason why Instagram is booming right now among businesses and consumers alike.
That said, Instagram’s “simplicity” can be deceiving. Many brands struggle to grow or adopt Instagram as part of their social strategy and we totally understand why.
Listen: you can’t afford to “wing it” on the ‘gram. You need a clear-cut, actionable Instagram strategy if you want to grow a presence and attract customers.
And that’s why we put together this post. Below we’ve broken down an Instagram marketing strategy guide to help you get started on the platform and understand the best practices for growth.
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Whether you want to review your brand’s Instagram growth and engagement or manage your future content more effectively, Sprout lets you do it all in one place.
Intuitive dashboards and presentation-ready reports will help your team get up to speed on where your social strategy stands and where you’re heading.
1. Defining your Instagram marketing goals and purpose on the platform
This might seem like a no-brainer, you need to be able to answer exactly why you want to be on Instagram in the first place.
Are you interested in generating leads? Building a community? Brand awareness?
Setting social media goals isn’t fluff. These goals will determine everything from your content strategy to how much time you spend on the platform.
There is no “right” or single goal you have to commit to, either. That said, your ROI from Instagram really boils down to your goals.
For example, Crate and Barrel is a shining example of a retail brand whose Instagram strategy is laser-focused on social selling. Their entire feed centers around showing off their products and encouraging followers to check ’em out as well.
Meanwhile, beauty brands are oftentimes focused on highlighting products while also building a community by constantly going back-and-forth with followers. For example, Glossier frequently features their followers in their feeds as well as inside jokes that only their customers will appreciate.
Local, brick-and-mortar businesses often focus on keeping customers in the loop on their latest promotions while also building relationships. Notice how Dixie Dharma takes the time to respond to their customer comments in addition to showing off their mouth-watering breakfast offerings.
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Maawwwnin’, y’all! 🥞🍁🌽 Slingin’ breakfast for yer belly’s convenience every day at both locations! Weekdays till 11am in Tampa and till noon in Orlando. Weekends till 4pm across the board. Pictured: flawwwda corn flapjack platter with sweet onion jam. Love you! ❤️🐘❤️ #dixiedharma #finevittles #breakfast #vegan #plantbased #pancakes #veganbreakfast #veganfoodshare
And some brands simply use Instagram as a means to show off their team and go behind the scenes of their business. B2B brands like Zapier might not seem like they have much to gain from Instagram, but manage to use their platform to show off the brand’s human side.
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.
We recommend that you spend some time digging 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.
2. Optimizing your Instagram profile for engagement
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
For starters, make sure that you’ve switched your account to an Instagram business profile. Doing so allows you to highlight additional information such as your industry, location, phone number and email address as part of your Instagram bio.
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 on a brand name.
#Topshop #MyAnthropologie #SkechersStyle
See what we’re saying?
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 sort of call-to-action to encourage customer photos and stories.
In turn, you and your followers can see who else used your tag and shared their snaps.
For more ideas and inspiration, take a moment to review our comprehensive guide to hashtags for 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.
Oh, 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.
- Hashtag(s) related to your business
- Some sort of call-to-action (“check out the link below,” “tag your photos”)
- A trackable link to monitor the behavior of your Instagram traffic (Bitly, Tap.bio or Linktree are all great options)
For example, Whole Foods’ Instagram manages to achieve all of the above.
Again, you have tons of creative freedom on Instagram. For reference, you can check out dozens of examples on our guide to writing your Instagram bio.
Choose a ‘gram-worthy profile picture
According to our guide to social media image sizes, your Instagram profile picture is confined to a measly 110×110 pixels.
Translation? Sleek, minimalist and high-res is the way to go.
For example, Casper includes only the first letter of their stylized brand font for a bold profile pic.
Meanwhile, BarkBox manages to include their entire name with clean, legible text.
Don’t try to cram too much into your profile picture. There are tons of social media editing tools to help you mock up a minimalist logo if you don’t have one handy.
3. Creating content for Instagram that your customers will love
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of your Instagram strategy.
That is, creating content.
Yet again the concept of creative freedom rears its head. With so many possibilities in terms of what you can post, where do you even start?
Here we’ve highlighted some specific Instagram marketing tips that showcase the types of content that crush it based on best practices. Although these aren’t the only types of content you can publish, consider these post types to be cornerstones of your Instagram marketing.
That’s exactly what put Instagram on the map.
Photos featuring some sort of striking creative trademark, whether it be a stunning setting or bright color scheme, are the types of posts that reel in the “likes” and comments.
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Superhost Christina transformed a fisherman’s boathouse into a cozy bungalow with an unbeatable front yard. Wake to the sound of waves, cruise around the island discovering hidden beaches, and come home to grill the catch of the day on your porch. Photo: @ordinarytraveler
Of course, not all of us have the privilege of working in an industry that allows us to take exotic photos. Thankfully, most modern smartphones have features baked into them to take compelling photos of just about anything.
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Need some weekend dinner inspo😋? Try these MEGA flavorful Sun-dried Tomato Chickpea Burgers🍔! Infused with sun-dried tomatoes🍅 and fresh herbs🌿. An easy, 10-ingredient entrée perfect on the stovetop or grill! Highly rated + reader approved⭐! (LINK in Bio!) #plantbased #veggieburger #glutenfree⠀⠀
Also, there are plenty of Instagram apps which include filters and style options to step up your photos.
It might sound cliche, but social media is, well, 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.
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.
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.
Bear in mind that video content on Instagram doesn’t have to akin to a traditional commercial. Vine-style looping videos and timelapse videos are insanely popular and can be put together in a matter of seconds thanks to third-party apps. For example, the video below was created with LifeLapse.
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WORKSHOP ANNOUNCEMENT for my DC Area Friends 💕 On Saturday, July 20th I’m hosting a 📷 workshop with @thelemoncollective 🤩 Food Styling for Drool-Worthy Food Photography 🤤 . Come hang out with me 🙋🏻♀️We'll walk through hands on examples of food styling where you will learn how to plan your shoots, manipulate natural light, master basic composition, learn the dos and don’ts of food props and resources for post processing 🙌🏻 . This workshop will teach you what you need to know to up-level your food styling and improve your food photography to create drool-worthy photos people swoon over 😊 . No fancy camera or equipment required 💛 . DM me with questions and click the link in my profile to get your ticket now! . . . #dcevents #dcworkshops #foodstylingworkshop #foodphotography #dcfoodporn #dcfoodsters #dcfoodphotographer #foodstylists #thinklocal #dclocal #lustlocaldc #shoplocaldc #workshop #thelemoncollective #madeindc #acreativedc #dcitystyle #dcfood #learnfoodphotography #learnfoodstyling #foodie #connectcollaboratecreate #createdc #dccreative #dcworkshop #walkwithlocals #visitwashingtondc #lifelapse #mycooldc #thingstodoindc
Memes and image macros
Perfect for humor or inspiration, not everything on Instagram needs to come from your camera reel.
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.
Jokes? Tips? Inspirational quotes? If you’re strapped for ideas, such posts can do the trick. Oh, and you can whip ’em up in no time thanks to tools like Canva.
Brands are integrating Stories into their repertoire of Instagram tactics like never before.
Why? For starters, Stories enable 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).
Great for deals, company updates or just plain playful content, Stories are something you should strive to create on a daily basis. Check out our guide to Instagram Stories to better understand how to create a story that sells.
Instagram marketing tools
No matter which types of content you choose to create, it’s crucial to track the performance of your content over time. This allows you to see which posts are actually resulting in meaningful engagement.
That’s where tools like Sprout are a game-changer versus Instagram’s native analytics. Sprout keeps an eye on engagement trends and content performance to help you better refine your content strategy over time.
4. Publishing your content to Instagram to maximize engagement
Let’s say you have your content ready to publish. Now what?
Good question! 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.
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, between one and five is considered optimal)
Timing and frequency
When you publish your content and how often matters when it comes to engagement.
Most brands publish daily or on a near-daily basis. Of course, you 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 optimal times to publish to Instagram based on research regarding the best times to post on social media.
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-posting from other social networks
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.
5. Promoting your Instagram for the long-term
No matter what Instagram strategies you’re experimenting with, so much of your engagement depends on how you promote your Instagram.
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 the ‘gram.
Additionally, promoting your Instagram via email is a smart move. Bellroy’s email signature consistently features their branded hashtag and encourage customers to share their photos.
Heck, you can even use your branded hashtag as part of your physical packaging and marketing. That’s exactly what Extra does.
And of course, promoting your Instagram also means showing up day after day. If you let your account gather cobwebs, you can’t be surprised when your engagement rate takes a dip.
Respond to followers. Engage with other accounts. Committing to Instagram means being an active participant on the platform.
Oh, and don’t forget to mind your analytics! In-depth insights like the ones provided via Sprout can be huge motivations and eye-openers to brands struggling on Instagram. Rather than second-guess what to post next, your analytics more than likely have the answer.
And with that, we wrap up our guide!
What does your Instagram strategy look like?
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 Instagram marketing strategy.
We want to hear from you, though. Have you made any changes to your Instagram marketing strategy recently? What’s working for you on the ‘gram? Let us know in the comments below!
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