Instagram is still killin’ it as a social media platform, with over 2 billion monthly active users as of late 2021. That’s a huge number and it’s only grown 200% since 2018. For over a decade now, Instagram has been a game changer for social commerce, the creator economy, and how brands use social media.
So, if you’re looking to develop your business in 2023, you’ll definitely want to be on Instagram. But, you might be wondering – do you need to be doing Instagram ads or creating Reels to be successful? And what’s the deal with Instagram’s shopping features?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re in a specific industry or just starting out, we’ll show you how to use Instagram to grow your online biz. No need to break out the dance moves (unless you want to, of course).
Table of Contents
What is Instagram marketing?
Instagram marketing is a great way to advertise your products and services using photo and video content.
It’s a popular way for businesses to show off their company culture, find new employees, communicate with customers, and show off their products in a fresh way.
And the best part is, you can do it for free or for a fee – depending on how quickly you want results.
If you’re looking to market your Instagram account for free, here are a few options:
- Get your content on the Explore page by using location tags and popular hashtags. And don’t forget to interact with your audience by responding to comments and commenting on other posts.
- Tag well-known companies or accounts in your Instagram Stories – it’s a great way to get free exposure.
But if you have some cash to spare, you can also try these paid marketing methods:
- Influencer marketing – find an influencer whose voice, story, or style is similar to your own, and pay them to promote your brand to their followers.
- Hold a contest – invite users to follow you and tag friends for a chance to win a prize.
And remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for Instagram marketing. Figure out what your brand needs and try out a mix of free and paid strategies to expand your reach.
How to set up Instagram for marketing
If you’re looking to start your Instagram business, below are the steps you can follow:
1. Set up an Instagram Business profile
Looking to up your Instagram game? Great, ’cause we’ve got some tips for you! But first things first – you’ll need an Instagram Business account.
Don’t worry, it’s totally free and you can either create a new one or convert your existing Personal account.
If you already have a Personal account, skip to step 3.
Step 1: Get Instagram. You’ll need a mobile device for this, so go ahead and download it on iOS or Android.
Step 2: Set up a personal account. Tap “Make a new account” and enter your email, phone number, username, and password. No need to stress about filling out the rest of your profile just yet – we’ll get to that later.
Step 3: Upgrade your new account to a Business account. Open the menu in your profile and navigate to Settings. Near the bottom, select “Switch to professional account” and choose “Business” as the account type. Just follow the on-screen instructions to convert your account. And that’s it! You’re now ready to take your Instagram game to the next level.
2. Get verified
So, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about with Instagram verification, right? Well, the deal is, having that little blue checkmark next to your account name can definitely give you an edge on the app.
But, don’t worry if you don’t have one yet – most businesses aren’t verified. Studies show that only 0.87% of accounts with 1,000-5,000 followers are verified, while 73.4% of creators or companies with over a million followers are.
But, don’t let that discourage you. You can still be successful on Instagram without the checkmark. It just helps with building trust and standing out.
So, how do you go about getting verified? It’s actually pretty simple.
First, head to the app’s menu.
Select Settings, then Account, and finally, Request Verification.
Second, fill out the form and hit submit.
You’ll hear back from Instagram in about a week. Just keep in mind, they won’t contact you through email or ask for payment in any way.
If your request is denied, don’t worry. You can resubmit it in 30 days. But, if it’s approved, congrats! You’re now part of the super-exclusive Instagram club.
The tricky part is having enough third-party content to prove you’re well-known enough for verification. But, keep working at it and you might just get there!
3. Try Instagram ads
Expanding your marketing strategy with ads can have a big impact. Even simple ads can earn results, like coffee retailer Country Bean’s 3 week campaign which resulted in a 16% sales increase.
There are two ways to get started with Instagram ads:
#1. Boost a post
Want to make your Instagram post reach more people? You can boost it and turn it into an ad. Plus, you can choose whether you want more profile visits, website clicks, or messages. And if you’ve got a product-tagged post, you can boost that too.
Here’s how to boost your post:
- Go to your profile
- Tap on the post you want to promote
- Fill in the details for your ad – like what you want to achieve, who you want to target, how much you want to spend per day and how long you want the ad to run.
- Tap ‘Next’
- If you haven’t connected your Instagram account to a Facebook account, you’ll be prompted to do so. You can either pick an existing account or skip it.
- Hit ‘Boost post’ under ‘Review’ and you’re done!
Just keep in mind, your ad will be reviewed to make sure it’s following ad regulations. Once it’s approved, it’ll go live. You’ll get notifications throughout the process, like when it’s being reviewed if it’s accepted or denied, and when the campaign ends.
#2: Launch a full Instagram ad campaign
Want to run an Instagram advertising campaign but not sure where to start? No problem! We’ve got you covered with these simple steps to get your ad campaign up and running.
Step 1. set a clear goal for your campaign: First things first, you need to set a clear goal for your campaign. This will help you decide on the content, target audience, and format of your ad.
And just a heads up, Instagram uses Facebook’s advertising platform, so all ad setup, goal setting, budgeting, and creation is done through Facebook Ad Manager.
Step 2. Pick your target audience. Once you have a goal, it’s time to pick your target audience. Use Instagram analytics to gather information about your audience and find niche groups you want to reach. You can set your audience based on age, gender, location, interests, and even who they’re connected to on Facebook.
Step 3. Choose an ad format that best suits your campaign. There are traditional photo and video feed-style ads, carousel ads with multiple photos, and Instagram Stories ads.
With over 400 million Instagram Stories viewers each day, an Instagram Stories ad campaign could give you a lot of exposure.
Once you’ve got the format down, it’s time to think about the design of your ad. Keep the ad copy direct and concise, include your brand logo, and make sure to have a strong call to action.
Step 4: Set your budget for the campaign. If it’s your first campaign, keep it simple and decide whether you want to run an ad with a Daily Budget or a Lifetime Budget. This will help you manage your spending and plan how long to run the ad.
Step 5. Test your ad campaign. Before you launch your ad, test it out with Split Testing on Facebook Ad Manager. This will help you understand how different aspects of your ad, like content, images, or call-to-action, affect the campaign’s overall performance.
Running a successful ad campaign takes some effort, but by following these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to getting your message out there in no time!
A successful ad campaign requires a lot of effort. Learn how to create great ads in 2023 with our in-depth Instagram ads guide.
4. Add an Instagram Shop to your account
Setting up Instagram Shopping for your eCommerce business is a smart move! 44% of Instagram users regularly shop on the platform and 1 in 2 use it to discover new brands. Here are some tips to get you started:
First things first, you need to add the Shop tab to your Instagram profile. This will give you the ability to create a fully shoppable product catalog on Instagram and tag and link products in your posts and Stories.
Step 1: Make sure you meet Instagram’s Shopping requirements. Brands using Shopping features need to follow Meta’s merchant policies. It’s a good idea to understand these policies before applying them.
Step 2: Register for Commerce Manager. You’ll need a Meta Commerce Manager account to set up your Instagram Shop. You also need to have a Business or Creator Instagram account before you can sign up. You can do this in one of two ways:
- Using your e-commerce platform: If your website is built on Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, or another big platform, you may only need to click a button to have your Instagram Shop up and running. Check out Meta’s list of supported platforms for instructions on how to do this with your specific platform.
- Manually using Commerce Manager: If you don’t have one of those platforms, it’s easy to sign up from scratch. Log in to Meta Business Suite, go to the left navigation, select Commerce, and then select Add Account. From there, you’ll go through a few steps to set up your Shop, including choosing a payment method and creating a product catalog.
Step 3: Wait for approval. Instagram will manually review new Commerce Manager applications, but you should hear back within a few business days.
And that’s it! With these steps, you’ll be able to set up an Instagram Shop and start reaching even more customers.
How to create a winning Instagram marketing strategy: 18 Tips
1. Set S.M.A.R.T. social media goals
SMART goals are basically a framework for setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. Basically, it’s a way to make sure your goals are clear and achievable.
A smart goal consists of the following elements:
- Specific: The more detailed you can be, the better.
- Measurable: You should be able to track your progress and see if you’re on track to achieving it.
- Attainable: Make sure your goal is something that you can actually achieve.
- Relevant: This means that your goal should align with your overall business objectives.
- Time Specific: You should give your goal a deadline.
Here are a few examples of common social media marketing goals:
- driving traffic to your website
- selling a product
- generating more sales and leads
- communicating with customers
- increasing brand awareness
- running an awareness campaign
- establishing online authority.
But remember, your goals should be unique to your company. The key is to just have some goals in place!
2. Optimize your profile for search
Want to boost your visibility and followers on Instagram? One way to do that is by optimizing your profile and posts for Instagram’s search results and suggested content feeds. It’s called Instagram SEO and it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Use relevant keywords in your bio, like if you’re a salon, include words like “styling,” “makeup,” and “makeovers.”
- Make your captions count! Use keywords that are relevant to the content of your post and make them descriptive. This can help increase your chances of showing up on the Explore page.
- Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags! Use relevant and trendy hashtags to attract the right audience.
- Use Instagram’s alternative text feature to give a detailed description of your photos.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to digital marketing. Don’t stress about creating the perfect Instagram profile. You can always make changes and tweak it as you go along.
3. Make your graphics stand out
Instagram is a visual social media platform where you can show off your products in a fun and engaging way.
While you might not have the same resources as a big corporation, you can still make sure your posts stand out to your target audience. Here’re some tips for you:
- Invest in professional product photography. But don’t stop there! You can also use inclusive stock imagery to represent a diverse range of people in your posts.
- Create Instagram Reels. These short videos are super popular right now. If you’re not sure where to start, try using a Reels template to help you out.
- Use graphic templates: This can give your posts a polished look without breaking the bank. Hire a designer or use a program like Adobe Express to create them.
4. Embrace user-generated content
Want to boost your Instagram followers for free? One of the best ways to do it is by using user-generated content.
Encourage your followers to share pictures and videos of your products. Sure, not every pic will be a masterpiece, but nothing beats the real deal when it comes to showing off your stuff.
Instagram makes it super easy for you to collect and organize user-generated content with the Tagged tab. This tab shows all the posts that other users have tagged you in.
And the best part? You can choose to only show the best of the best by enabling manual approval for tagged pictures.
This way, you can keep your feed looking on point and on brand. So go ahead, get your followers involved, and watch your follower count grow!
5. Develop a brand aesthetic
Branding can be tough, especially if you’re new to it. But don’t sweat it, we’ve got your back.
Brand aesthetics refers to the look and feel of your brand. Think of it as the first impression customers will have of your products or services, so make sure it’s a good one!
Even though people may not fork over their cash just because of how your brand looks, it’s still important to have a consistent look and feel across all your materials. Why? Because people will recognize one of your pictures in their Instagram feed before they ever see the account name. It’s all about building that brand recognition.
Brand aesthetics are constantly evolving, but some companies have nailed it. When creating your own brand aesthetic, here are a few styles to consider:
- Modern: Think Apple. Simple designs that are easily recognizable and can work in a variety of industries.
- Classic: Think Coca-Cola. A classic look can be powerful and reach a wide audience.
- Retro: Don’t count out the retro look just yet. It’s actually been making a comeback. Take Starbucks for example, their logo combines a retro color with modern graphics.
6. Get inspired by other brands
Ever wonder where to find inspiration for your Instagram content? It’s easy to get stuck in a rut just following your industry and the people you know.
But if you want fresh ideas, it’s important to branch out and explore different industries and accounts to follow. Mix it up with accounts from your own field, similar fields, and even completely different fields. You might be surprised at how much you can learn and apply to your own strategy, even if their target audience isn’t the same as yours.
7. Have a distinctive brand voice
With hundreds of millions of accounts out there, it can feel like your posts are just getting lost in the mix. But don’t worry, there’s a way to make sure your brand stands out.
One of the best things you can do is develop a strong brand voice.
This is the way you come across in everything you post, from captions and bios to videos and live appearances.
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Are you more of a fun and lighthearted brand, or do you take a more serious and scientific approach? There’s no right or wrong answer, but what’s important is to be consistent.
Think of it like your brand’s personality. And just like with people, a consistent personality is what makes them stand out and memorable.
So use your brand voice to make sure your brand is heard above the noise.
8. Use Reels
Have you heard of Instagram Reels? They’re these cool full-screen videos that you can make and they can be up to 90 seconds long. They’ve got all these editing tools and a ton of different audio tracks to choose from, like popular songs and even clips from other people’s viral videos. You can add all sorts of things to your Reels, like different video clips, filters, captions, interactive backgrounds, stickers, and more.
But here’s the thing, Reels aren’t the same as Instagram Stories. Unlike Stories, Reels don’t disappear after 24 hours. So, if you make a Reel, it’ll stay on Instagram until you decide to delete it.
The best part though? The Instagram algorithm now gives Reels a boost, so they’re more likely to be recommended to people who don’t even follow you. That’s huge for social media marketers.
Also, if you want to check out other people’s Reels, you can find them in a separate section of the Instagram app. Just tap on the Reels icon at the bottom of the home page and you’ll see a feed of all the trending Reels. And, if you want to see a specific person’s Reels, just go to their profile and there’s a dedicated tab for them above their Feed.
9. Use Stories
Instagram Stories are here to stay, man. They’re great for more casual content and they let you connect with your audience in a unique way. Plus, it doesn’t take much extra effort to see a big impact.
A study found that companies that posted one Story per day had a 100% retention rate. And get this, 500 million people use Stories every day. That’s a huge potential reach!
Also, on Instagram you can now post one unfiltered, candid photo per day using both front and back cameras at the same time.
It’s all about showing something real, you know? And you can totally ignore the “snap a selfie” message, just like on BeReal, but you won’t be able to see what others have posted.
10. Create useful Stories highlights
So, you know how Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours? Well, Instagram Highlights is here to save the day! With Highlights, you can pick and choose which Stories you want to feature permanently under your profile bio. It’s like creating a little scrapbook of your favorite Stories that people can always go back and check out.
Not only is it a great way to show off your brand and key information, but it also encourages engagement.
People can easily see and connect with the Stories that interest them the most, and it keeps your Stories getting views and engagement long after the 24 hour limit is up.
Basically, if you’re a company looking to make the most out of Instagram, then Highlights is a must-have feature.
You can use it to show off how awesome your product or service is and give your customers a reason to keep coming back to your page. It’s a win-win!
11. Use Stories tools
Instagram makes it easy to connect with your audience and promote your products or services. Whether you use Commerce Manager or not, there are a ton of tools available to help you engage with your followers.
To access these tools, just tap on the sticker icon in your Stories. From there, you’ll find a bunch of cool features to play around with.
One of the most useful features is the ability to tag your products in your Stories. If you have an Instagram Shop, this makes it super simple for people to check out your stuff in-app.
Another handy feature is the ability to add links to your Stories. This is great if you don’t have an Instagram Shop, as you can still direct people to your products on other websites.
Finally, don’t forget about the “Questions” feature. This is a great way to get immediate feedback from your followers and find out what they’re thinking.
And that’s not all, depending on your account type, you can also allow your audience to purchase gift cards or request meal delivery directly from your story.
12. Use hashtags
Hashtags on Instagram are a great way to connect with people who have similar interests as you. They can be used for anything from promoting your small business to raising awareness for a cause. Plus, they’re an awesome way to stay on top of current events and trends.
Just a couple quick tips for using hashtags:
- They always start with #, but make sure to avoid spaces, punctuation, or symbols.
- Make sure your account is public, otherwise non-followers won’t be able to see your hashtagged posts.
- Keep it simple – the best hashtags are easy to remember and not too long.
- Use hashtags that are relevant and specific to your post, otherwise it’ll be hard for people to find.
- And don’t go overboard – a few hashtags is plenty. Too many can look spammy.
13. Reply to comments and DMs
Want to boost your engagement and make a real connection with your audience? Start responding to their comments, messages, and even carrier pigeons (ok, maybe not the last one).
Sure, a higher engagement rate looks great in your analytics, but that’s not the only reason to respond. It’s just the right thing to do. Plus, when you show your followers that you’re paying attention and care about their input, they’ll be more likely to reach out to you. And those conversations can really shape their impression of your brand and influence their purchasing decisions.
According to Sprout Social, the average response time for brands on social media is 23 hours. But if you can respond faster, even just a few hours, it shows that you’re on top of things and value your followers’ opinions.
And don’t just stick to generic responses, get personal and engaging! Share a story or experience to show them you’re relatable. This helps build relationships and loyalty among your followers. So, don’t be a stranger, start chatting with your audience!
14. Use Instagram Live video
Want to know how to go live on Instagram? It’s super easy. Just swipe right from your feed to open the camera, then select “Live” and hit the “Start Live Video” button. Boom, you’re live!
Instagram live videos can be up to an hour long and your followers will get a notification when you go live, so they can tune in and interact with you while you’re broadcasting.
And the best part? Once you’re done, the video disappears. No replays, just like that.
Plus, Instagram also added a Snapchat-like feature to its direct messages, so you can send disappearing pics and videos to your friends and groups within Instagram Direct.
15. Collaborate with influencers
An Instagram influencer is basically a person who’s built up a following on Instagram around a specific niche or topic. They’re like the cool kids at school who everyone looks up to and trusts. And, just like the cool kids, brands pay them to promote their products.
Think of them as Instagram celebrities within their specific niche. Brands pay them money, give them free stuff, or send them on cool experiences in exchange for them sharing the brand’s products with their followers.
These influencers work hard to build relationships with their followers, who trust them and the products they promote. And, when brands work with influencers, they get access to user-generated content that they can use in their marketing. Some brands even hire professional photographers to help create polished content for the influencers to post.
The best part? Brands get permission to use this content in their own marketing materials, like on their website or in press kits.
Instagram influencers help brands:
- Build trust with their target audience
- Increase brand awareness
- Make valuable connections with other influencers
- Tap into niche markets
- Boost sales.
This is usually done by sponsoring posts on the influencer’s Instagram account. You can learn more from our guide on how to collaborate with influencers.
16. Run contests and giveaways
Hosting a giveaway on Instagram can be a great way to boost your following. Giving away freebies is a solid strategy for getting more people involved in your community and reaching new audiences.
Giveaway accounts can attract hundreds or even thousands of entries and followers. According to a study by Tailwind, Instagram giveaways can help you grow your followers 70% faster in three months than if you didn’t have a contest at all.
But, keep in mind that after the promotion is over, you may experience a drop-off in followers.
So, it’s important to plan your giveaways carefully to attract your target audience and keep people interested in your content.
Remember, a great giveaway can help you achieve your marketing goals, reach your target audience, and reinforce your brand values.
Get inspired with our tips to run a successful Instagram contest!
17. Measure your ROI
So you’re seeing all these awesome signs that your marketing strategy is working – you’re getting positive feedback from clients, more people are buying your products, and your social media following is on the rise. But how do you put a dollar amount on all that success? That’s where measuring your ROI comes in.
ROI, or return on investment, is important for showing your boss how your efforts are paying off. But it’s also a great way to justify increasing your budget for paid advertising. Plus, it’s the only way to figure out if you need to make changes to your approach or keep doing what you’re doing.
Instead of spending hours pouring over each platform’s analytics separately, try using Hootsuite Impact. It brings all the stats for your organic and paid content together in one place, making it super easy to get a clear picture of how your marketing is performing. It gives you insights whenever you need them.
18. Do your experiment
Have you ever felt like your Instagram engagement is slipping, your grid style is getting a bit boring, or your hashtags just aren’t cutting it? If so, it might be worth trying out some Instagram experiments! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Switch up your content style – try writing your captions differently or experimenting with new types of content like IGTV videos or Reels.
- Play around with your color palette – post a few photos or videos with different filters and see which ones perform best.
- Create and use new hashtags – come up with a few new lists of hashtags to use and check your analytics after a week or two to see which ones work best.
- Try new posting times – instead of always posting at the same time, mix it up and see if it makes a difference in engagement.
Give these a try and see if they help breathe some new life into your Instagram account!
Why use Instagram for marketing?
Wanna hear some reasons why Instagram marketing could be a game-changer for your biz?
1. Visuals are key to any solid marketing plan
People love looking at pics and videos online, and Instagram is a great place to show off your stuff. Posts with visuals get 650% more engagement than text-only posts. Plus, you can use the visuals from Instagram on your blog, email newsletters, and other channels to keep your brand consistent.
2. You can reach a ton of people on Instagram
With over 700 million monthly users, there’s a huge potential audience for your business. And using hashtags is a great way to get your content in front of the right people. Just make sure to use relevant hashtags that your target audience is searching for. And if you’re feeling fancy, you can even create ads to reach even more potential customers.
3. Instagram is a goldmine for feedback and insights.
As a marketer, you’re probably already keeping an eye on social media conversations about your company and products. But what about Instagram? People are talking about your brand on Instagram, whether you’re active on the platform or not.
They’re sharing photos of the things they’ve bought from you, making videos, and commenting on each other’s posts. Don’t miss out on all that valuable feedback! Use Instagram as a tool to understand how your customers view your brand and find your brand evangelists.
Still not convinced? Learn more reasons why Instagram marketing can grow your business.
3 Instagram marketing tools
Are you tired of juggling multiple apps to manage your social media marketing? Check out Hootsuite! It’s a great solution that gives you all the basic tools you need, like scheduling, planning, and analytics, plus some fancy features to take your social media game to the next level.
With Hootsuite, you can schedule posts for Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest all from one convenient dashboard. Imagine how much time you’ll save not having to jump between 7 apps to upload content.
But Hootsuite doesn’t just stop at scheduling. They also give you in-depth analytics and reporting, a calendar view, and content creation tools to help you create top-notch content. Plus, every Hootsuite user gets personalized recommendations on the best times to post for maximum reach, impressions, and engagement. So why wait? Give Hootsuite a try!
2. Adobe Express
Adobe Express is a free online app that lets you create all sorts of cool graphics and content for your social media. And if you’re already an Adobe subscriber, you’ll get even more perks like access to Adobe Stock.
With Adobe Express, you can make all kinds of posts for Instagram. You can make a single post, or a bunch of pages that you can post as a carousel. And if you add some animation, it’ll turn into a video that you can post as a movie or reel. Plus, you can easily make Instagram stories on the fly. Perfect for creating product posts or ads.
The best part? There’s a gallery of templates to help you get started on bringing your ideas to life.
Notion is like a love child between a notepad and a spreadsheet. It’s a digital-first tool that was born in the Gen Z era. You can add all sorts of things to a Notion page, like text and pictures, just like in a document. But what really sets it apart is its database feature.
You can use it to sort and organize your data in a bunch of different ways. For example, you can put it on a calendar, in tables, or on Kanban boards.
Personally, I use it to keep track of all my social media stuff. And I love how easy it is to make changes on my phone. Plus, if I wanted to work on a project with my friends, we could all collaborate in the same Notion workspace.