instagram marketing grow your following

Why you Should pay Attention to Instagram for Marketing

While Instagram’s early years might have looked like a cesspool of pet photos and food portraits, if your business isn’t on it today, you’re missing out big time.

Why?

Because Instagram has quickly transformed into one of the greatest opportunities for marketing your business on social media. Period.

With over 1 billion monthly active users (500 million of which use the platform every single day), Instagram has quickly become verified as one of the most popular social media platforms to date.

Still not convinced? Here’s some more food for thought:

  • Instagram is the 2nd most engaged network after Facebook
  • 71% of Instagram users are under 35 years old
  • Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes on the platform every day
  • It’s estimated that 71% of US businesses use Instagram

There are still more reasons to get on Instagram that have less to do with jumping on the bandwagon and more to do with its differentiating value.

Part of Instagram’s effectiveness comes from the fact that it is a primarily visual platform. If you’re familiar with human biology, you’ll know that human beings are, when it comes to how we understand the world, visual creatures (by a whopping estimate of 80 percent!).

Instagram takes advantage of this fact with its image-driven design, allowing your business to shine via its variety of post types including Instagram Carousel Posts, Instagram Stories, and more recently, IGTV.

It’s for these reasons and more that Instagram marketing is one of the best avenues for growing your business in ways that seem less salesy and more human, friendly and compelling.

So if right now you’re asking, “How do you get in on this action?” have no fear. You’ve come to the right place.

In this Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing, we’ll deep dive into how you can utilize this amazing platform to grow your business right.

What is Instagram?

marketing on instagram polaroid land camera
Instagram’s original icon was inspired by the Polaroid camera.

In the beginning, there wasn’t much to Instagram. Sure, it was a cool photo sharing app that was great for announcing to the world just how cute your pets were and Wowing people with your vacation photos, but that was pretty much all there was to it.

That was 2010.

Now we’re in 2019, and the platform has grown into an all-in-one marketing hub.

At its heart, Instagram is still a visual social media application designed for mobile use.

But whereas in the past it primarily helped people connect to other people, it now leans heavily towards connecting your brand (and others) to current and potential customers with its massive user base.

The Basics of Instagram Marketing

Like all other social media platforms, everything starts with the users.

Each person who signs up for Instagram has a profile and newsfeed where they can post their own content or engage in other people’s content. Interactions generally take the form of likes, shares, follows, comments, or private messages.

Instagram is designed for in-the-moment content. This is content that incentivizes immediate engagement. Therefore, the best way to build a significant following through Instagram is to post content that is relevant to your target audience and to do so frequently.

So if your brand is in fashion, your posts would could take the form of runway photos or pictures by influencers. If you run a Saas business, some posts might look like infographics, quotes, or short how-to guides.

Data shows that the optimal posting frequency is between 1-3 posts per day, though this depends in part on whether or not you’re taking advantage of Instagram Stories. But that’s a topic we’ll cover later on.

For many businesses, this amount can seem like a bit much to handle. It’s for this reason that you should consider investing in the resources necessary to post on a regular basis if you haven’t already.

How can you get started with Instagram Marketing?

Instagram 101  person holding their phone while logging into their Instagram account
You can set up an account on your desktop, but know that you can only make posts on a mobile device.

This context is nice and all, but what do you actually do to launch your Instagram marketing journey?

You should absolutely begin by downloading the Instagram app. You can do so on your smartphone or tablet in the App Store or Google Play Store.

Why not just set up an account on your desktop?

Because although you can browse your Instagram feed with your desktop, you’re limited to just that. If you’re interested in actually posting any content (which, if you’re reading this, you are) you’ll have to stop by one of those app stores and download it from there.

Set up your Instagram Account

about Instagram homepage with white and black smartphone next to log-in fields.
You can sign-up for Instagram with your Facebook profile, mobile number, or email address.

Immediately after signing in, you’ll be confronted with two options for creating your account:

  1. Log in with Facebook
  2. Sign up with your phone number or email

Make sure you’re signing in with a business email so that your Instagram account isn’t associated with your personal Facebook account.

If you already have an Instagram business account but it’s currently connected to your personal Facebook account, don’t fret – you can always switch your associated email from within your account settings.

The next step is to fill in your account details. In a normal Instagram account, you’d simply enter your first and last name under the full name field, but since you’re making a business account for Instagram marketing, you’ll want to enter your business’s name.

This isn’t your username, of course. Under the username field, you should enter a name that’s recognizable to your audience yet distinct to your brand.

This part can sometimes be tricky when another user or business is already using your business name. A good way to get around this while still having a recognizable username for your audience is to add in a special character, typically an underscore, period, or numbers.

Some examples of this include:

  • Businessname
  • __businessname
  • Businessname_offical
  • Business_name
  • _businessname_

As an extra real-world example, SocialGrowr’s username on Instagram is Socialgrowr.

Can’t think of a workable username for your business? Fear not! You can always settle with a placeholder username for now and then get back to it later.

Once you’ve finished setting up the basic elements of your account, you can move on to using Instagram marketing to grow your business! Horray!

But wait – what exactly does Instagram marketing look like? Do you need a content strategy? How do you know what types of content will gain traction and which won’t, and are there any relevant KPIs (key-performance-indicators) you should pay attention to?

The answer: yes, yes, and yes.

There are many factors that play into marketing your business on Instagram successfully, and not least among them is understanding the algorithm. Specifically, Instagram’s algorithm. If any of you are SEO or Google Ads veterans, you’ll have an idea of where this is going.

You see, when Instagram first flew into the scene, it’s feed was chronological, meaning that what you saw was simply what was posted at that moment in time.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Well in 2016, everything changed. Instagram announced that they were replacing their Chronological feed with something a bit more…nuanced.

Understanding Instagram’s Algorithm

 how to do instagram person using phone with laptop on desk with coffee and glasses.
The Instagram algorithm can seem complex at first, but it’s primarily considering 6 factors.

The switch to a more nuanced feed was not exactly met with enthusiasm, in part because it changed the way people used the platform, but also because it came with a change to the app’s Icon design which was received with mixed opinions.

Instagram picture colored background with two Instagram icons.
After being acquired by Facebook in 2016, Instagram’s icon changed into what it is now.

So why make the switch? Part of it had to do with managing Instagram’s growth.

A quote from Instagram’s blog stated, “As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.”

With the chronological feed, it started to become incredibly difficult to stay up to date with all the posts being created and shared, so much so that Instagram reported that users were missing an average of 70% of the content on their feeds.

To make matters worse, much of the content was being generated by spammers rather than legitimate accounts with real users. Not exactly a great environment for users or brands alike.

To solve these pressing issues, the new Instagram algorithm was born!

In theory, it organizes users’ feeds in a way that pushes more relevant content to them.

While the algorithm wasn’t perfect, it was a step in the right direction, and they’re constantly making improvements to add more value to Instagram’s users.

In order to optimize your business’s content to get maximum engagement, reach, and follows, you’ll need to understand the factors that play into this ever-evolving algorithm. Lucky for you, these factors are no secret, and we’ll be breaking them down below.

The 6 Instagram Algorithm Factors

1. Interest

Let’s say you like a post from a cosmetics brand. The next day you go on Instagram and you see more posts relating to similar cosmetic products. Coincidence?

Not at all! This plays into the Instagram algorithm’s first and most important factor: interest.

This is essentially Instagram attempting to predict how likely you are to find value in a particular post.

According to Instagram, they assess this likelihood based on a user’s past behavior when interacting with similar content. Then Instagram uses machine vision to analyze another post’s content to determine if the user and said post are a good match.

2. Timeliness

This factor is more straightforward. Instagram prioritizes posts that are recent. This means that the post you made a few days ago probably won’t get any extra views, but if you post something new today, people are more likely to see it in their feeds.

3. Relationships

At our core, people care about relationships. We’re more likely to engage with someone we already know than a complete stranger, and Instagram understands this.

If User A frequently comments on User B’s posts or they frequently tag each other in instagram pictures with each other, Instagram will determine that these two are either friends or family and will categorize them as such.

Since the relationship is already there, Instagram will then make sure that these users see more of each others’ content.

To optimize your business for this factor, you’ll need to engage with your audience and invite them to do the same with your brand. Ask your followers to tag you in their posts, to like your videos, to share your content, and to comment on your posts.

The more they interact with your account, the more Instagram will show them your posts.

BeardBrand does a great job with this here:

new instagram post featuring Beardbrand products and the brand engaging with followers.
Grow your followers by interacting with users like BeardBrand.

4. Frequency

This factor has to do with what a user’s feed looks like.

If a user doesn’t open the app on a frequent basis, Instagram will organize their feed based on what they think the user likes. If the user opens the app more often than not, Instagram will try to organize their feed in a way that looks more chronological.

5. Following

If a user only has a few followers, they’ll probably be shone content from those followers on a regular basis. But if said user has a whole bunch of followers, will they still see posts from all of them on a regular basis?

Nope. With a larger set of followers to choose from, Instagram is more likely to only show you posts from a select number of accounts that you follow.

6. Usage

If a user spends a lot of time on the platform scrolling through post after post, Instagram will eventually run out of highlights and begin to show the user content from the recesses of the platform’s catalog.

If they don’t use the platform too frequently, they’ll essentially always be shown Instagram’s highlights.

The relevant Instagram metrics

Paper full of instagram analytics charts next to a laptop on a desk.
Instagram has several metrics that are important to pay attention to. Make sure to find out which are important to your business.

Throughout this ultimate guide to Instagram marketing, we’ll be talking about metrics that are particularly important for growing your business on the platform.

We’ll cover other aspects of these metrics in the Instagram Analytics section of this ultimate guide, but to aid your current reading, we’ll give each important metric a sufficient rundown here.

Impressions

Screenshot of Instagram analytics insights with a red box over impressions.
You can find your Instagram post impressions in Insights.

This metric refers to the number of users who saw your post. This doesn’t mean the user clicked on your post and viewed it, just that they scrolled their feed, saw your post, but didn’t interact with it.

Gauging the number of impressions your posts acquire helps you determine how well your promotional efforts are going, which in turn helps you improve your Instagram marketing efforts.

Engagement Rate

With all the ways users can interact with your content, whether it be through likes, shares, comments, or saves, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much engagement your posts are getting. This is unfortunate given the importance of this metric.

Pinning down your posts’ engagement rate allows you to determine what types of content your followers actually like. With this knowledge, you can take calculated steps to produce similar content that will in-turn increase engagement.

Here are some industry guidelines for measuring the engagement rates of your business account:

  • <1% = low engagement
  • 1% – 3.5% = average engagement
  • 3.5% – 6% = high engagement
  • >6% = very high engagement

This metric is especially relevant if your business intends to utilize influencer marketing (another topic we’ll be covering later in this ultimate guide), or is actively buying Instagram likes.

#Hashtags

Instagram marketing post by HubSpot life featuring a unicorn and flamingo costume.
You can add hashtags to posts, comments, etc.

I remember the days when the hashtag symbol known primarily as the “pound sign.” But alas, times have changed. #socialmedia

Whether you like ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s undeniable that hashtags dominate Instagram. If you don’t include them in your posts, they may receive around 13% less engagement than posts that include them.

Why miss out on such a simple advantage?

Using trending hashtags will help attract other audiences to your posts while creating branded hashtags will give your followers/fans the opportunity to promote your brand.

Followers Growth Rate

While having a lot of followers is important for your business’s credibility on Instagram, a high follower count won’t necessarily help in measuring the performance of your Instagram marketing efforts.

For this, you’ll need to measure the change or growth of your follower count across time, especially if you’re buying Instagram followers.

A simple way to accomplish this is to take the number of new followers acquired since the start of the month and then divide that by the number of followers you had at the beginning of the month.

Website Traffic

For the majority of users, the only way to get people to your website is to add a link in your profile’s bio. However, if you become a verified user, you’ll be given far more options to drive traffic to your business website.

To track the sources of your traffic, you’ll need to integrate Google Analytics or another analytics platform with your website. To track specific link clicks from posts related to your different campaigns you can create UTM tags to add to the URLs of said links.

You can do this with Google’s Campaign URL Builder or with UTM Tag Builder. You’ll be able to find other options online, too.

A simple example of what a UTM URL looks like can be viewed below:

instagram marketing strategy Screenshot of utm tag builder with red box
UTM tags allow you to track the performance of the urls they’re attached to and help track the performance of your Instagram marketing efforts.

Continued Learning:

Honing Your Instagram Marketing Strategy

Man creating instagram marketing strategy on whiteboard.
Creating an Instagram marketing strategy is crucial for your business’s success on the platform.

Regardless of whichever social media platform(s) your business occupies, if you don’t formulate a clear marketing strategy, your performance will be dead in the water. Instagram marketing is no exception to this.

In fact, given the unique nature of Instagram compared to other channels like Facebook or Twitter, you’re going to want a solid marketing strategy that’s as distinct as the platform itself.

Identify your Instagram marketing objectives

Identifying your marketing objectives is an important step for any Instagram marketing strategy.

Since you’re planning to market your business on Instagram, you’d better have a justifiable reason for expanding your business to this platform (Hint-hint, “jumping on the bandwagon” is not a justifiable reason).

Before deciding your Instagram marketing objectives, it may serve you and your business well to answer a few questions such as:

  • How important is visual content to your other online marketing efforts?
  • Are you thinking of using Instagram for spreading awareness? Getting leads?
  • What is the age demographic of your target audience? According to SproutSocial, 64% of 18-21 year olds use Instagram, and 72% of 13-27 year olds are on the platform as well.

Regardless of whether you’re a clothing business trying to promote your products or have inspirational quotes to share from your life-coaching practice, these questions and more are the kinds of things you should be thinking about.

Identify your target audience

One of the greatest advantages you can ever hope to acquire when marketing your business is an audience who is hungry for what you’re offering. It’s for this reason among others that you should identify your business’s target audience on Instagram.

Remember: different social media platforms attract different people. The content you successfully promote on Facebook may not resonate with the users you want on Instagram.

To begin, try monitoring popular events and hashtags related to your brand. Find out who is engaging with those types of posts and check out their personal profiles to discover more about them.

Begin a competitor analysis

Competitors are great.

When they’re doing well, you can learn from their success. When they aren’t doing well, you can learn from their mistakes.

In the case of Instagram marketing, you can stalk their accounts to study what types of posts they’re delivering. If they’re getting lots of impressions and engagements, look at their hashtags and the density of said hashtags.

Once you’ve done a healthy audit of your competitor’s Instagram marketing initiatives, it’s time to start asking questions.

What are some things they did poorly? Are there any posts that performed well, but could have been better? Were there any opportunities that they missed which you can take advantage of with your own Instagram marketing initiatives?

Answering these questions helps you keep your business’s Instagram marketing a step ahead of your competitors.

Design a content delivery calendar

free instagram scheduler Notebook with the highlighted calendar.
A content delivery calendar helps the business keep track of your Instagram marketing posts.

If you’re aiming to keep track of the performance of your posts, you’re going to want a content delivery calendar for organized scheduling. On average, the majority of brands post about 6 times a week.

This may not seem like a lot at first glance, but over the course of a year, that amounts to over 300 posts. With that volume of content, remembering what has and hasn’t been posted can get tricky, and examining the performance of such volume can be even trickier.

With a content delivery calendar, you can plan your posts in advance so that, when the time comes to deliver, you’ll have all your hashtags and captions ready to go.

This is especially relevant to brands that are impacted by the holidays since their content will likely change to fit the seasonal festivities.

Keep consistent with your brand

The term “consistency is key” is often thrown around in the branding world, and for good reason.

If you want people to be able to immediately recognize your brand when they see your content, your business has to consistently put out the same feel, style, and voice, regardless of whether you’re promoting your business on a billboard or posting content on your Instagram.

If your business already has a solid brand identity on your other platforms, it should be fairly easy to transfer over to Instagram. If, however, your brand identity has yet to be fleshed out, you’ll want to answer some of these questions:

  • What are my brand’s colors?
  • Why does my brand exist?
  • What pain points does my brand address?
  • What is the theme of my brand?
  • What is my brand’s typography?

Once you’ve gone through these questions and clarified your brand identity, you’ll need to take said identity consideration before posting content on your business’s feed. Treat it as a guide. The goal is to eventually have people recognize your brand without even having to see your business name.

Growing your Instagram followers

Instagram marketing screenshot of SpaceX follower count.
Growing your followers isn’t easy, but it helps grow your business on the platform and improves your brand’s reputation.

Growing your follower count on Instagram is no easy feat. It takes serious dedication to post consistently and deliberately, and on top of that, you also need to engage your audience in ways that encourage them to reciprocate.

Even if you use an Instagram growth service, it takes time, but it’s well worth the effort.

To begin, start posting on your feed. It can take anywhere from 10 to 15 good posts before users begin to engage with your content. The next step is to start following brands that are similar to your business.

Instagram will take note of this and begin recommending other related brands for you to follow. With the content of these brands flowing into your feed, you’ll be able to keep track of popular industry trends and find inspiration for your own posts.

It’s not enough to just follow their content, however. Go the extra mile by interacting with their content by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts.

When you do, the owner of those accounts will be notified, and there’s always a possibility that your interactions will inspire them to check out your account. If they like your feed, there’s a good chance that they’ll become a follower.

Of course, you could always join one of the best Instagram engagement groups to help grow your likes and follows a bit more intentionally as well.

Along with interacting with other brands, you should always interact with your users by responding to their comments. Without sounding spammy, encourage them to share your content on their other social media channels.

Don’t leave all the fun to them, though! You should also be actively sharing your Instagram posts on your business’s website and other social media channels. Sharing content like this is just another good practice when it comes to Instagram marketing.

Continued Learning

Optimizing Your Instagram Business Profile

WeWork’s Instagram business profile.
If you aren’t optimizing your profile, you’re missing out on potential follower generating opportunities.

Getting users to visit your profile is good, but once they’re there, what will they see? We’ve already covered how to get your Instagram business account up and running, and now it’s time to dive into your business profile’s optimization.

In the same way that you should maintain brand consistency with your posts, it’s important to maintain brand consistency with your Instagram business profile.

When a user visits your profile, there’s only a small window of opportunity during which they decide if they should follow your brand or move on.

This makes your business profile a great place to acquire followers, but in order to take advantage of this opportunity, you’re going to need to take a hot minute to get it looking just right.

Be consistent with your Instagram profile’s aesthetic

Screenshot of ALV Coaching’s Instagram marketing profile, featuring their feed’s aesthetic.
Having a consistently strong brand aesthetic is an important element good Instagram marketing.

There are a number of factors that play into a great looking profile. Below, we’ll do a basic rundown of each of them:

Instagram Profile Color Scheme

Every brand evokes a particular emotion through a variety of means, one of their most powerful being their distinct use of color.

Posting photos that stand outside your brand’s color scheme might throw off the appearance of your feed and result in subtle inconsistencies. These inconsistencies can damage the performance of your Instagram marketing.

If your brand tends to post warmer colors, stick with it! This isn’t to say that there can’t be variations from time to time – otherwise your look would start to get dry.

However, any variations should be deliberate and blend with the overall feel of your brand.

Space out Your Content

This factor can be a bit tricky to understand, but a good way to think about it is to relate it to what they call “depth of field” in photography. You don’t want to post too many cluttered or busy images, but you also don’t want to post too many minimalistic images either.

A good way to stay on top of this is to plan out the types of content you’re going to post throughout the week, month, or even year via your content delivery calendar.

This will allow you to plan the flow of your feed, resulting in a beautiful aesthetic that’s sure the leave your visitors with a lasting impression (and maybe even a follow!).

Curating UGC (User-Generated-Content)

While posting original ideas is great, there are other sources of content that you can tap into for your Instagram marketing efforts. If you see a user-generated post that resonates with your brand and fits with your feed’s aesthetic, you should consider reposting it on your business account.

This not only reinforces the relationship between you and that user, but it also frees up time for you to create more of your own original content.

A good rule of thumb is to ask the user for permission to repost their content before doing anything with it. Some people seem to think that simply tagging them in the photo is enough, but it really isn’t. Always take the time to get their OK before reposting.

Audit your Instagram account

If you’ve completed the above steps necessary for marketing your business on Instagram, congrats! Getting this far is no easy feat, but you’re doing the work needed for successful Instagram marketing.

The next step is to do an audit of your Instagram account.

This audit functions as a way to evaluate everything you’ve done while preparing to launch your Instagram marketing initiatives. This helps you objectively decide if everything you’ve set up is primed to serve your business.

You’ll want to examine your Instagram profile, your bio, your posts, even your hashtags and captions!

Is each and every element of your Instagram profile representing your brand in a deliberate fashion?

Are your photos consistently well-edited (made easier using an Instagram photo editor)?

Do they encourage users to engage with your content?

An Instagram audit like this helps ensure that every aspect of your Instagram marketing is functioning to grow your business on the platform so that no effort is going to waste.

Understanding Instagram Analytics

Screenshot of Instagram analytics settings with a red box over Insights.
Understanding Instagram analytics can give you great insight into how to improve your Instagram marketing tactics.

While Instagram’s analytics platform is nowhere near as robust as Facebook’s, what it has to offer is still of value. But to garner that value, you’ve got to be savvy to how it works, which is exactly what this section of the ultimate guide is about.

Personal Instagram accounts lack access to Instagram analytics, but since you’ve set up an Instagram business account, you get to play with all its toys.

These include insights into your accounts follower growth, reach, impressions, and engagement. To access these insights, simply click on the View Insights option under your posts.

Utilizing Instagram’s analytics platform is key to understanding the performance of your target audience, their demographics, and then using the gathered data to make informed changes to your everyday content and even your overall Instagram marketing strategy.

Speaking of demographics, Instagram’s analytics will allow you to view critical details about your target audience. Want to know their age range? How about their locations? Analytics help you answer these questions and more.

Let’s break down the significance of each demographic before we discuss the relevant metrics.

Gender and Age Range

Instagram will tell you the gender and age range of your audience, and even break down their age ranges based on gender. This information is important because different genders and age groups will be more or less receptive to different types of content.

An older audience, for instance, might not understand the hashtag #okboomer or what it means, while a younger audience might get a lot of laughs from the reference.

Instagram marketing screenshot of a white hoodie with okboomer on the front
Using Instagram analytics to learn about your audience can help inform your Instagram marketing strategy.

A younger audience is also more likely to view your feed via a mobile device while an older audience is more likely to browse on their desktop. It’s minor details like this which can either make or break your Instagram marketing strategy.

Top Locations

Understanding the location of your audience is important for multiple reasons. For one, different locations have different cultures, and different cultures are receptive to different types of content.

You might think that your target audience lives in the UK, but your demographic analytics may reveal their presence in non-English speaking countries. An insight like that may be enough incentive to alter your content strategy altogether!

Another critical reason to understand your location demographics is so that you can understand the time-zones your audience occupies. This knowledge can prevent silly mistakes like posting during times when your audience might be sleeping or otherwise occupied.

Times & Days

Speaking of time-zones, another important demographic that Instagram analytics gives you access to is the times and days your audience is actually active on the platform.

It takes a longer period of time to gather enough data for this insight to be useful, but once you have it, you can curate your content delivery schedule to align with your audience’s active hours, thus maximizing the potential for their engagement.

Third-party Instagram analytics tools

Earlier in this ultimate guide, you got a basic understanding of the metrics relevant to marketing your business on Instagram. Unfortunately, there’s only so much data that the platform can report on.

To fill this gap, third-party tools have sprung up to allow businesses like yours acquire the data they need to make informed Instagram marketing decisions. We’ll introduce a few here.

Sprout Social

Screenshot of sprout social’s instagram marketing tool homepage.
Sprout Social helps businesses build and grow strong relationships on social media.

SproutSocial is a powerful Instagram marketing analytics tool that empowers your business with real-time engagement monitoring, both post and profile level data analysis, as well as a suite of reporting options. On top of this, the tool also features an intuitive UI.

Sprout Social also provides essential metrics related to Instagram Stories, a post type we’ll be breaking down later on in this guide.

These story-specific metrics provide you the opportunity to measure their long-term performance, a significant improvement to Instagram’s native two-week performance snapshot.

Phlanx

Phlanx’s instagram marketing platform homepage.
Phlanx is a social media marketing platform that’s great for Instagram marketing.

This analytics tool is on the less robust side of the spectrum, but don’t let that fool you. It can still be an asset to your brand’s Instagram marketing strategy.

Phlanx has an engagement rate calculator that has the ability to measure the engagement rate of any Instagram account. Aside from its obvious utility for conducting competitor analysis, the tool can be used to discover accounts with fake followers.

Insights like this can help you spot the difference between competitors who you can learn from and those which can be ignored, thus saving you valuable time that you can be used to learn from more legitimate competitor accounts.

Union Metrics

Union Metrics instagram marketing platform  homepage.
Union Metrics is a robust social media tool that can be used to improve your Instagram marketing decisions.

Going back to the more robust side of the spectrum, Union Metrics is an analytics tool that helps your business track your industry and owned media trends for more informed decision making.

With this tool, you can streamline the process of auditing your presence on Instagram with its account checkup tool. Some of the metrics this tool can report on include average post engagement, follower analysis, and hashtag analysis.

Continued Learning

Instagram Content: Types of posts to make for Instagram Marketing

Person using smartphone for Instagram pictures.
There are many types of posts you can use for your Instagram marketing, but which one is best for your business?

With all this talk about data and metrics, it’s about time we discussed where these important numbers are coming from: content.

Content on Instagram can take many forms. Some brands focus on creating educational posts and videos while others emphasize motivational images. There are certainly more types to choose from, and you’ll likely try out all of them while honing your Instagram marketing tactics.

If you’re an eCommerce brand you might prefer to utilize influencer posts to promote your products. You can also take advantage of current events by Newsjacking trending themes. Whatever you do post on Instagram, it’ll take one of four forms:

  1. Instagram Pictures
  2. Instagram Videos
  3. Carasaul Posts
  4. Shopping Posts

You can also post Instagram Stories, broadcast Live Streams, and even create content on IGTV, but we’ll tackle those creative beasts in a later section of this ultimate guide.

For now, we’ll cover exactly what each of these posts are so that you can correctly and effectively use them to market your business.

Instagram Pictures

T-rex chasing turkey on a farm instagram picture.
Instagram photos are one fo the primary pieces of content used for Instagram marketing.

Since the early days of the platform, Instagram Pictures have been a popular post type that’s been used to capture and share everything from Shiba-Inu’s to national landmarks. To this day, Instagram Pictures are still a popular post type, though they aren’t all the same.

Pictures are limited to a few aspect ratios including landscapes, portraits, or squares. Here’s info on the optimal dimensions ad ratios for each:

  • Square
    • Dimensions: 1080px by 1080px
    • Aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Portrait
    • Dimensions: 1080px by 1350px
    • Aspect ratio: 4:5
  • Portrait
    • Dimensions: 1080px by 608px
    • Aspect ratio: 1.91:1

Instagram Videos

Screenshot of Instagram marketing video by MoMa.
Instagram videos offer greater versatility for communicating information in your Instagram marketing efforts.

To the dismay of many, Instagram videos used to be limited to 15 seconds in length which, if you haven’t guessed, doesn’t allow you to communicate much information.

That was 2013. Fast forward to today and you can now record up to 60 seconds! That may not seem like much time, but you have to remember that it’s difficult to keep people’s attention on social media. Users may even begin to lose focus after 30-45 seconds.

Having this extra time means that brands can justify the creation of top-notch long-form videos to promote their products, services, etc; all of which increase the likelihood of higher engagement from target audiences.

Do you have to lay down whopping amounts of cash to purchase high-quality video equipment? Not at all! While it’s always a plus to have good cameras, your smartphones built-in camera should be enough for most types of Instagram video posts, even for your Instagram marketing.

Unlike photos, videos provide your business with more time to engage your audience with complex messages, whether that message is trying to push a follow or get them to add a product to their cart.

Here are the optimal dimensions and aspect rations for video posts:

  • Square
    • Dimensions: 600px by 600px
    • Aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Portrait
    • Dimensions: 600px by 750px
    • Aspect ratio: 4:5
  • Portrait
    • Dimensions: 600px by 315px
    • Aspect ratio: 1.91:1

Carousel Posts

Woman in bridal gown holding flowers instagram marketing carousel post.
Instagram carousel posts allow for greater versatility compared to photo posts.

Carousel posts began to gain popularity shortly after they were brought to the scene in 2017. The reason for this is because of their versatility. Unlike individual Instagram image posts, Carasaul posts allow for the use of multiple images in a single post.

For the purposes of your business’s Instagram marketing, you can use this feature to showcase a slideshow for an event, display multiple uses of a product, and so much more!

Some other great content ideas for this post type include:

  • Before and after reveals
  • Personalized product recommendations
  • Showcase multiple customer reviews
  • Event recaps

Shopping Posts

Instagram 101 shopping post screenshot.
Shopping posts are a great way to sell your brand’s products on the platform.

When it comes to Instagram marketing, sales opportunities are everywhere. And one of the reasons for this is Instagram’s shopping posts.

Shopping posts work by letting you tag your business’s products on shoppable posts. This way, when a user comes upon your shopping post in their feed, all they need to do is tap on a shopping bag icon and they’ll be shown more info regarding the product.

If they want to be directed to the online shop where they can make their purchase, they need only tap on the infobox.

Write Better Instagram Captions

It’s important that your posts hook and engage your audience as quickly as possible, and a great way to achieve this is by writing good headlines.

These types of captions generally capture the user’s attention by being creative, entertaining, or intriguing – perhaps all at the same time! Here are basic rules to follow for creating better Instagram captions.

  1. Get them hooked with a great first line
  2. Make a strong CTA to funnel traffic to your site
  3. Write with a consistent brand voice
  4. Add emojis
  5. Throw in relevant hashtags

Continued Learning

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are quite different from your typical Instagram posts. Like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories are deleted after 24 hours (if they aren’t shared as highlights).

Unlike photo posts and carousel posts, Stories tend to showcase less than polished images that give them a more authentic vibe.

Launched in 2017, Instagram Stories quickly become a popular medium for marketers and users alike. They can be used to broadcast a day in the life piece and even feature your company culture from a less-polished lens.

Best times to post Instagram Stories

Due to the 24-hour window of these posts, it isn’t necessary to schedule their delivery when your audience is most active.

Even if you post your Instagram Story during a time when your users are otherwise occupied, they’ll still be able to see it so long as they check their feed within 24 hours, so you can relax a bit on that front.

How often to post Instagram Stories

While you don’t want to bombard your followers with too many stories, it technically doesn’t really matter how many you post per day. Unlike with photos posts, carousel posts, videos, and shopping posts, Instagram won’t penalize you for releasing a high frequency of Stories.

This in part has to do with the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories. Even though you might release a high volume of them, they won’t be sticking around for long.

It’s good to keep in mind that, although you can post 10+ times per day, that doesn’t mean you should.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what your audience wants, and to figure out the frequency of Stories they prefer, you’re going to have to keep an eye on your analytics to analyze their behavior over time.

Another thing to consider is consistency. If your business posts only a few Instagram Stories per week, they’re going to expect that level of frequency from your brand. If you post 10+ Stories every week, you may have to keep that up to avoid drops in performance.

Best types of content for Instagram Stories

Since Instagram Stories are so different from ordinary posts, the types of content you deliver through them should also be different, right?

Actually, not really! If anything, you can expect to release the same types of content you delivered through standard Instagram posts, except perhaps a bit more laid back.

Like the other types of Instagram posts, what you should put in front of your audience is dependent on your business objectives and what your followers respond well to.

If they like the Stories you’re brand is telling, Instagram will take notice and make sure your Stories appear higher in their queue. Once again, it comes down to what your audience finds the most value in.

How to use the features of Instagram Stories for your business

Location and Hashtag Stickers

Stickers may have started out as something fun and playful (and they still are), but now, Instagram has upgraded their utility by adding in a wave of different functions.

With stickers, you can find particular stories by location and hashtag, see location based stories on the Explore page, and even have your own Stories show up in a tagged location’s feed.

How does this help your business? Consider this: in the past, you could only share your Instagram Stories with people who were already following your brand. This was great for nurturing your current followers but was understandably limited.

With these upgrades to stickers, it’s now possible for you to post an Instagram Story in one location, tag it with a sticker, and then have your Story begin cropping up in that location’s particular Instagram Stories queue.

This allows users in that location to follow you! Hashtag stickers work in the same way, so when you use a hashtag in one of your Instagram Stories, it’ll begin to appear on that Hashtag’s page.

Countdown Stickers

Countdowns have often been used by marketers to create urgency for events, product launches, etc. You’d usually encounter them on landing pages, but with Countdown Stickers, users can find them on your Instagram Stories.

You use them in much the same way you would on a landing page. When you create the sticker you can set it to count down to a specific time and date.

Your followers, upon seeing the sticker, can subscribe to the countdown event. It’ll even notify them when the countdown comes to an end. This sticker is best used for driving sales, generating leads, and more.

Poll Stickers

Earlier in the article, we discussed why it was important to understand your target audience. While checking out their user profiles is one way to learn their wants, needs, and hopes, with Poll Stickers, you can get much more specific.

Poll Stickers are an interactive way to ask questions to your followers and get their direct feedback. The polls you create can be fun or series, casual or formal – the options are practically limitless!

Question Stickers

Question Stickers are like Poll Stickers but flipped around a little. Instead of your follower’s answering questions that you give them, they respond by submitting questions of their own.

At first glance, it may not be obvious as to how you would use these, but they can function like AMAs (ask me anything) and even help with crowdsourcing ideas. One way or another, they’re a new and creative avenue for you to engage with your audience.

Continued Learning

Instagram Live

Going “live” on any platform can sound like a daunting task, whether its on television, Facebook, or now, Instagram.

For businesses, Instagram Live can serve the same purpose of Stories or ordinary Instagram posts in that they have the potential to drive tons of engagement and expand the relationship your brand has with your followers.

If you cross a certain threshold of viewers, your Live Stream can even get featured on the Explore page, exposing your brand to an even wider audience.

Like Instagram video posts, your Live Streams can be whatever you want them to be. Want to promote a product launch? Interested in doing an AMA with your followers? You could even use them to compliment your brand’s current marketing initiatives.

That being said, if you intend to capitalize on these opportunities, you’ll have to understand how to use Instagram Live for your business.

How to use Instagram Live for business

Viewers

On its own, Instagram Live is a rather straightforward tool, but before you broadcast your first session, there are some technical details you need to get in order.

If there are specific users you don’t want eyeing your live video, navigate to your Story Settings, click tap “Hide Story From” and then choose the select users you wish not to see your live video.

Comment Moderation

Sometimes comment sections can get kinda wild, and Instagram understands that as well as the next person. For this reason, you can go into the Comments field of your Instagram settings and select “Hide Inappropriate Comments.”

Another cool feature within these settings is keyword moderation which lets you hide certain keywords you’d rather not allow in the comments.

How to go live on Instagram

Like most things on Instagram, going live is a walk in the park. Simply head over to your Stories feed, locate your Instagram home screen, and then swipe right/tap on the camera icon located in the upper left corner.

From here, your camera will open and you’ll be confronted with three options:

  1. Normal
  2. Live
  3. Boomerang

Tap “Live” and then tap “Start Live Video.” If for some reason you don’t want your followers to be notified that you’ve started a live video, simply turn off notifications.

Your live broadcast can be up to 60 minutes long.

Instagram TV

This wouldn’t be an ultimate guide to Instagram Marketing if we forgot to mention Instagram’s newest video offering: Instagram TV.

This particular offering comes in two viewing flavors. You can watch through the Instagram app or the new IGTV app, both of which are available in the app stores mentioned at the beginning of the guide.

The content you’ll typically find on IGTV are verticle videos courtesy of Instagram creators. Content can range from celebrity interviews, product reviews, cooking videos, etc. It’s still relatively new, so you can expect more content types to show up on IGTV.

For those of you who find going live too daunting, IGTV may just be for you since the content you post here is uploaded footage, not live. This means you have more time to edit the video and get it exactly right, whatever that may be for you and your business.

To begin releasing content on Instagram TV, go ahead and download the app to your mobile device. You have to create your own channel and then upload a video, the duration of which must be between 15 seconds and 10 minutes until your account is verified.

Verified accounts are allowed to post videos that last up to 60 minutes, so if you’re interested in the opportunity of engaging your audience for an entire hour, you’re going to want to get your account verified ASAP.

Understanding Instagram Advertising

One of the beautiful things about Instagram is how it handles ads. Whereas other ad platforms disrupt the users’ experience, Instagram ads blend seamlessly with the rest of a user’s feed. They look like any other post, really.

This native ad experience is more friendly to users and encourages them to learn more about your brand.

To create an Instagram ad, you’ll actually be using Facebook’s ad platform.

Start by choosing an existing Instagram post whose reach you want to boost. Otherwise, you can create an entirely new add via Facebook’s ad manager. To learn more about how to use Facebook’s ad manager, see Facebook’s guide on the matter here.

Instagram Influencer Marketing

There are many reasons why your business should take advantage of influencer marketing, but perhaps none are as relevant as this: Instagram’s algorithm is increasingly limiting the reach of organic posts.

Don’t let this scare you, though! There’s still a lot of opportunity for organic growth on Instagram, but with the growing popularity of influencer marketing and it’s proven effectiveness (both in helping brands grow as well as helping influencers make money on Instagram), it only makes sense to at least give it a good try.

The reason influencer marketing efforts perform as well as they do is pretty simple. People trust referrals more than ads. And when a popular influencer recommends one of your products or services to your audience, it can come off like a recommendation from a friend.

How to find the right influencers to market your business

67% of marketers are already using Instagram influencers to promote brands of all kinds, but not all of them get the results they’re looking for.

How do you choose the right influencer for your business? We’ll breakdown some factors to consider below.

Audience

Not that this comes as any surprise, but the first and foremost factor that you should consider when choosing an influencer is their audience. More specifically, you want to make sure that their audience matches your business’s Instagram audience.

Instagram’s audience demographic analytics can help you identify which influencers actually share your audience by location, age, or gender.

Authenticity

The big selling point of influencer marketing is that good influencers have gained the trust of their followers, and they’ll have done that in part by being authentic to their personal brand.

This authenticity is generated by sharing sincere personal stories, advice, and expert knowledge within their niche. However not all Instagram influencers are genuine like this.

To gauge a given influencer’s authenticity, simply scroll through their feed and go through their follower’s comments and post captions. If you can see genuine reciprocity between them and their followers, that’s a good sign that they’re the real deal.

Relevance

If your brand sells dinnerware and an influencer promotes sports shoes, it probably isn’t a good match, right? You want to find an influencer who either uses or promotes products similar to yours.

A mismatch in relevance could not only result in poor results with your Instagram influencer campaign, but it could also damage both the reputation of the influencer and your brand!

If an influencer who promotes products or services unrelated to your business and yet still reaches out to your company, that’s a sign that they’re inauthentic, which is another big red flag.

Content quality

Filtering potential influencers based on the quality of content isn’t just about gauging the quality of their images and videos, it’s about determining whether their style has the potential to represent your brand in a way that jives with your Instagram account’s aesthetic.

Try to find content that’s creative, consistent, and properly optimized for Instagram’s algorithm.

Continued Learning

Final Thoughts on Marketing Your Business on Instagram

Instagram started out as a simple photo sharing app and grew into a massive platform that is today. If its history is an indication of anything, it’s only going to continue growing and evolving into something more useful for ordinary users and marketers alike.

In order to continue effectively marketing your business on Instagram, you have to stay up to date on recent trends, algorithm updates, and whatever else the future of social media brings underway.