Ever since its creation back in 2010, Instagram has been growing exponentially.
Today, the platform revendicates more than a billion monthly active users.
You read that right, 1 billion (or 13% of the world’s population in 2019, to be exact).
Yep, that’s a lot (I’m still counting too).
This makes Instagram one of the most interesting platforms for marketers right now. In fact, according to Instagram’s reports, 7 in 10 businesses (in the US) use the platform to grow their online community.
There’s a good reason for this. Instagramers are among the most engaged social media users, all across the board.
According to the Digital Marketing Community (2019), Instagram has a median engagement rate of 1.60% across all industries. It doesn’t compare with platforms like Twitter (0,048%) and Facebook (0,17%).
Source: Digital Marketing Community (2019)
Having said that, succeeding on Instagram is not a given. It requires a lot of work.
In this step-by-step guide, we’re sharing our best Instagram marketing tips to leverage the platform to gain engaged followers, grow your brand awareness and generate new opportunities for your business.
Jump right to the section you want to read➡️ Set up your Instagram account
➡️ What type of content to share on Instagram
➡️ Start a UGC Instagram marketing strategy
➡️ Run contests on Instagram
➡️ Schedule your posts in advance
➡️ Post on Instagram at the right time
➡️ Post content regularly
➡️ Use relevant hashtags
➡️ Use Instagram Nametags
➡️ Share your content on IGTV
➡️ Work with influencers to extend your reach
➡️ Cross-promote your Instagram content on other platforms
Starting with setting up your account.
Set up your Instagram account
Before you set up your account and share content on the platform, you need to step back and ask yourself: ‘What am I trying to achieve on Instagram?’
Even more so than other social media platforms communities, Instagram users are not receptive to sales pitches. They
want demand creative content that they can identify to.
Just like Twitter, Instagram will not necessarily become your main revenue source all of a sudden, but it will contribute to generating awareness for your latest company news, offers and/or pieces of content — if done right.
Now, the first step towards this is a completed profile.
Complete your Instagram profile
Having a complete profile is essential to make your brand look more professional and appealing to your community.
Here are our recommendations:
- Choose a @Handle (30 characters max): the right handle is your brand’s name. If you’re only joining now, there’s a chance that your handle is already in use. If this happens, you play with underscores “_”, add points “.”. or relevant words like Revolut did.
Unless it’s part of your brand’s name — like @n26 —, don’t insert numbers to your Instagram handle if it’s already taken.
@Adidas038, @Sansung45 or @Lenovo4635, …. adding numbers will affect your credibility on Instagram.
- Your brand name: simply right your brand’s name here.
- Website: insert your website’s URL or any other link that’s relevant for now. It could direct to a campaign that you’re currently running, or your latest blog post, for example.
- Complete your Instagram bio (150 characters max): use your bio to quickly explain what you do. We highly recommend that you insert 1 or 2 hashtags that are relevant to your business in your bio. This will make you appear in the search results.
Check out the Instagram Bio Generator to quickly craft an engaging bio that explains what you do and includes relevant hashtags.
Now that your profile is complete, you need to turn it into an Instagram business account.
Create an Instagram Business Account
There are two types of accounts on Instagram.
The user profiles, and the business profiles.
Why create a business account?
While you can do a lot with a regular profile, business profiles offer features that are key for your business’ success on the platform.
- Access Instagram Insights
- Add contact information on your profile
- Show your industry on your profile
- Add links to your Instagram Stories
Note that you will lose the ability to make your post private, as well as the ability to link multiple Facebook accounts to your Instagram account. Instead, you can only link it to your business Facebook page.
How to create an Instagram business account
To “create” a business account, you first need to create a regular account.
Then, go to Settings > Accounts > Switch to Professional Account > Business > Choose an industry.
And you’re all set.
What type of content to share on Instagram
Instagram is not a sales brochure.
It’s all about beautiful visuals and inspiring stories through photographs, GIFs, memes and videos.
We find that, beyond the resolution of your content, a large part of your success depends on your ability to share it in the right format.
Use the right format for your images and videos
In 2018, SimilarWeb found that 58% of Instagram’s visits were from mobile devices. Naturally, we recommend that you prioritize a mobile format when sharing content on the platform.
- The ideal format for images: we find that the ideal format for Instagram’s pictures is 1080 x 1350 pixels — or an 8:10 ratio.
- The ideal format for videos: we recommend that you opt for vertical videos of 1080 x 1920 pixels — as it integrates well with the vertical scrolling on the app. Having said that, you can also share 1920 x 1080 pixels videos, but your audience will have to turn their phone to watch it full screen.
- The ideal format for stories (1080 x 1920).
Now, while Instagram offers an interesting set of tools to edit your pictures and videos, we find it more interesting to use external tools, especially if you’re branding your visuals.
Use external tools
Sadly, we’re not all gifted with advanced design skills. But the good news is that there are easy-to-use tools that are here to do the hard part of the work for you.
If you’re not already, we recommend that you consider investing in a tool like Canva, starting at $12 a month. Not only is the tool super duper easy to use, but it also comes with countless ready-to-edit templates:
If you need to create more elaborate visuals, you should consider investing in Adobe Photoshop (starting at $33.99 a month) or look into alternative options.
About that, you can download our Photoshop template freebie to share content in the right proportions.
Seasons are not only something we awkwardly discuss with coworkers in the elevator. They truly affect our mood.
This means that the way we consume content, and the type of content we want to consume evolves as the seasons are passing by.
You need to consider this when sharing content on Instagram.
A brand that we think does this very well is Starbucks. As I was scrolling down their Instagram page, I could see the seasons pass.
Don’t you want to click on these? Because I sure do (or did).
Instagram is often depicted as a platform that hosts content that’s too good to be true. Well, the main trend we’re observing on Instagram is a growing demand for more authentic content.
Does this impact the use of filters? Yes, it does.
Filters vs. No filters
In the beginning, most of the content you’d find on Instagram included filters. And there’s a good reason for this: the right filter can turn a shot into a great photograph.
See for yourself on a sunset picture I took while walking my dog.
Today, the trend is in favor of a measured use of filters.
“(…) when it comes to selfies, the most common choice is not having a filter, followed by filters Slumber, Skyline, and Dogpatch. However, if the image is related to fashion, the filters Kelvin, Valencia, Nashville, and Skyline all rank higher than no filter. Images of food and nature also have filters in their top slots (Skyline and Valencia, respectively), but the second most common option is none at all (…)”
Source: Instagram Filters: Yes or No? (2018) — Socialnomics.net
The bottom line? As author Sheza Gary puts it, if you are to use filters, “don’t just use it because it’s what everyone else is using. Instead, find one that looks best for that particular image”.
Shares engaging Stories
Stories have been Instagram’s and Facebook’s best features for the last couple of years. Both platforms revendicate over 500 million daily Stories users.
What are Instagram Stories?
Stories are temporary pieces of content that you can share with all of your followers. You’ll find them on top of your feed when on the app.
Via Instagram’s Stories, you can:
- Share GIFs
- Create polls
- Ask questions
- Share live countdowns
- Create quizzes
Note that, when sharing a story on Instagram, you can choose to also share it on Facebook, thus saving you the trouble to share it twice on both platforms.
Here’s an example from my Instagram feed.
2 reasons why you must use Stories
1. They increase engagement with your brand
They appear before everything, making it easy for users to catch up with the latest pieces of content from the influencers, friends, and brands they follow.
Long story short, they will help you to significantly increase your engagement rates.
2. They can significantly increase traffic to your website
If you’re successful enough to have 10K followers (or a verified account), Instagram lets you add a swipe up link to take your audience on your website. This can be an incredible traffic generation driver. HubSpot shared a quick tutorial to do this.
Now, you can either use Instagram’s ready templates or create your own to stand out from the competition.
Download our free Powerpoint, Keynote and/or After Effects templates!
Start a User-Generated Content (UGC) strategy
User-Generated-Content, or UGC, is a premium marketing strategy based on content created by your community.
Having your users creating content that’s promoting your brand is gold, for 2 reasons:
- You don’t need resources to create the content yourself.
- Having customers/users promoting a product/service is much more efficient and genuine than you spending thousands to do the same.
Whenever I think UGC, one brand comes to my mind: GoPro.
The content they share is almost exclusively coming from their UGC program.
When sharing UGC, there are two things you need to do:
- Always ask for permission to share the content
- Tag the original creator: not only it is nice, but it will introduce your brand to that person’s community.
“Note that, in our latest Instagram study(2018), we found that the more users you tag, the more engagement(likes and comments) you will generate. This means that, even outside of the UGC scope, you should tag users — when relevant — in your posts.” —Sandra Chung, Head of Content @Mention.
Having said that, starting a UGC program is not something that all brands manage to accomplish. Contests, however, is something all businesses can successfully implement.
Run contests on Instagram
Contests are one of the easiest ways to trigger engagement with your brand on social media.
Don’t take my word for it. According to Tailwind, the average Instagram contest generates 64x more comments and 3.5x more likes than the Instagram average post.
Well, many brands and influencers have noticed this and contests are flourishing on the platform.
And there’s a good reason for this. On Instagram, contests are easy to organize and promote.
The one thing you need before starting a contest is to find an appealing incentive. While you can reward the winner with Amazon gift cards, smartphones, and video games, we find it more relevant to use your products and/or temporary access to your services instead.
Once you have a good incentive, here are the 3 most common rules to join a contest on Instagram:
- Follow [Your account]: to increase your following.
- Like the post: to increase the engagement with the post. What’s more, the rules of Social Proof show that the more engagement a post gets, the more engagement it will generate.
- Tag friends: this is a bit of a pyramidal technique to get more eyeball on your content.
Here are a few examples you can draw inspiration from.
Schedule your posts in advance
Whatever the market you’re operating in, there are hundreds of key events that your audience can relate to. The best part is that most of these are reoccurring events and you can, therefore, plan communication around them well in advance.
- Identify relevant dates
- Google to see what your competition did in the past years around these dates:
- Draft projects
- Schedule your communications: the worst you can do as a marketer is to run after the clock.
We highly recommend that you download and print our 2020 Holiday Marketing Toolkit — it includes a content calendar.
Knowing when big events are happening is one thing. Posting at the right time during the day to have your audience interact more with your brand is another.
Post content at the right time
You may have great content to share, but if you post it when your audience is not available, you will not generate as much engagement as you would have otherwise.
A recent study from Later, based on 12 million Instagram posts, revealed the best times to post from Monday to Sunday.
Keep in mind that this is just an industry average and doesn’t necessarily reflect your market.
While you should keep these in mind, you should fine-tune the best times to post for your target audience.
To run this extra mile, you need a social listening tool — like Mention — to monitor the engagement around the topics that matter the most for your brand.
Post content regularly
Major brands post — on average — 1.5 times each day on Instagram.
If you don’t produce enough content to share every single day on the platform, you can also post every other day, or once a week even. What matters here is regularity.
We (humans) are animals of habit, and the worse you can do is use your audience to a daily amount of content — and not share anything with them for a while.
So, set yourself a realistic target, and stick to it.
Note that it’s okay to publish extra posts here and there is you’re having a momentum or if you have more bandwidth to post more often, but try not to change your pattern.
Use relevant hashtags
Hashtags make it easier to find content on Instagram.
How many hashtags should you use in your posts? Is “more” a synonym of “better” when it comes to hashtags? Not really.
Based on our research, we find that you shouldn’t use more than 5 hashtags in a post.
The more hashtags you add in a post, the less appealing it looks to the eye. What’s more, if you are to use hashtags, ban generic hashtags such as #Love, #Fashion, #Instagood, #Style, or #Art. They will only contribute to making your post inaudible to your audience.
Instead, cherry-pick the most relevant and targeted ones.
If you’re having special sales for Valentine’s day, for example, use hashtags such as #Valentinespecial, or #Valentinesales.
They’re used less frequently and will help you stand out if and when your targeted audience looks for these keywords.
What about branded hashtags?
When launching a campaign, or launching a product, we highly recommend that you create a branded hashtag to gather the conversation in one place.
This is something that Nike does very well. Besides its iconic#justdoit, Nike launches a ton of other campaigns around the globe each year on social media and creates a specific hashtag for each. This helps them to create momentum and make it easy for users to follow and join targeted conversations.
The use of branded hashtags also makes it possible to compare your campaigns and identify which strategy was the most effective.
Having said that, the use of hashtags is not mandatory for all of your posts. Brands like Oatly have stopped altogether to use hashtags.
And they’re doing better than ever. This means that, once you have found your audience, you don’t even need to bother with hashtags.
Use Instagram Nametags
Nametags make it easier for people to follow your brand.
How to create a Nametag?
You may not know about it, but you have one already.
Open the menu on your account, then tap on Nametag. You can then tap the background to change the color, add emojis, or personalize it with your face, decorated with emojis.
Where should you share your nametag?
- Share it on other social platforms: it’s not because someone follows you on one social platform that they will follow you everywhere! They might not know that you’re on other platforms. Share your Nametag on platforms like Twitter and Facebook to increase your amount of Instagram followers.
- Add your Nametag in your stores.
- Add a Nametag to your website.
Share your video content on IGTV
IGTV is the go-to-place on Instagram to consume video content — for mobile users only.
IGTV’s content differs from the content you’ll find in your feed as you can only post videos that are between 1 and 15 minutes long.
It is split into 3 categories:
- Popular: here, users will find the most trendy content of the platform. Getting in here is not a given and, frankly, it shouldn’t be your target.
- History: here, users will find the videos that they’ve watched before.
- Following: here, users will find the content that is shared by the accounts they follow. This is the most important category for brands.
Note that if IGTV was originally built as a platform to host only vertical videos(1080×1920), you can now share horizontal videos(1920×1080) and engage the full-screen mode.
Work with influencers to extend your reach
Did you know almost 1 in 2 consumers believe anything an influencer says online? What’s more, depending on their following, influencers see engagement rates roughly oscillating between 3% and 9% on Instagram.
This makes Instagram influencers partners of choice for brands seeking to reach out to new audiences. Not only working with the right influencer will improve their awareness and image, but they’ll trigger a lot more engagement than usual with their brand.
Note that, when promoting your products/services with influencers on Instagram, you need to make it known to the user.
Now, working with influencers can be very costly. Usually, the more followers an influencer has, the more they will charge you.
But more often than not, more doesn’t mean better. To have the maximum impact, we highly recommend that you focus on influencers with a smaller and targeted audience rather than working with expensive macro-influencers whose audience isn’t receptive.
Micro-influencers are perceived as being more genuine. If they share something, being paid for it or not, it’s because they believe in it.
A lesson that Scott Disick (23M followers) learned the hard way when working with Bootea a couple of years ago.
To learn more, read — From Nano to Mega Influencer: Everything You Need to Know.
Cross-promote your Instagram content on other networks
While each social platform appeals to different audiences, there’s a high probability that some of your followers are active on more than one social media channel.
This doesn’t mean that they’re following all platforms.
Maybe they’re not aware that you’re on other platforms! This is why you must remind your audience about your overall social media presence.
Doing this, Indiana University is also showing that they follow trends and can adapt to a new social media channel that a large part in of their audience probably uses.
TikTok reached 1.5 billion downloads in 2019, thus outperforming Instagram among the younger generations(66% of TikTok users are 29 years old, or less).
⚠️ Don’t stay behind!
Instagram is here to stay and brands better get on board now to grab their fair share of the cake. Now, if you follow this starter guide from A to Z, you will significantly increase your brand’s performance on Instagram.
Last piece of advice? If you’re out of ideas to boost your brand on Instagram, take the time to look at what your competition is doing well, and try to do the same!
To go further, check our 8 Tips for Better Instagram Marketing for Business.