Content Marketing

The basics of Instagram for marketers

With LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and TikTok to consider, a typical question posed by brand marketers is ‘does our company really need to be on Instagram?’ Before you write off Instagram as just another social media channel, ask yourself if you really want to ignore a platform with more than 2 billion active monthly users and the 2nd most downloaded app in the world

It’s also important to consider the unique social marketing features of Instagram and how they might apply to your marketing strategy. This post covers the basics of Instagram marketing, including digital marketing tips to supercharge your social media marketing plan. 

Put your social media plan into action on Instagram

Brand-based marketing can occasionally feel out of place on some social media platforms, but with Instagram, people expect it. An Ipsos study found that Instagram is the #1 place for people to keep up with their favorite brands compared to other platforms. 

The variety of features on Instagram allows marketers to deliver a multifaceted social media plan. There are options for increasing your company’s Instagram followers, engaging your audience, increasing website visits, and driving sales growth for your products and services. Your Instagram marketing strategy might include some or all of these approaches: 

  • Organic content: This can include photos or videos created by your team that can be published as carousel posts, reels, and stories (more on these options below)
  • Sponsored content: You can use a variety of advertising options that enable your content to reach a broader audience
  • Influencer marketing: Build your brand by leveraging relationships with Instagram power-users that are popular with the audiences you seek
  • Shopping content: e-tailers can benefit from a variety of options including product tags, product catalogs or collections, and Instagram checkout

You don’t need to limit your options. You can try a mix of tactics, measure success, and continue to refine and optimize your social media branding efforts over time.

Unlock added features with an Instagram business account

An Instagram business account offers unique features for marketers that you won’t find in a personal account. With a business account, you can… 

  • access detailed analytics and audience metrics,
  • set up Instagram ad campaigns,
  • tag products in your posts, and, 
  • schedule posts ahead of time. 


Creating an Instagram business account is a fairly quick and easy process:

    1. Download the Instagram app from the App Store or Google Play: You can use Instagram on a desktop, but most tasks are easiest on the app. 
    2. Register a new account: Enter your business email and a password. Once that is complete, you can access your new profile.
    3. Switch to Instagram for Business: In the settings menu, choose Account and click on “Switch to Business Profile”.
    4. Enter your profile information: In addition to your profile photo, business name, and bio/description, Instagram business profiles allow you to add some things that personal profiles don’t: industry, a physical address, and a contact button. Be sure to use these options, particularly the contact button as it allows your audience to easily reach you.
    5. Start posting!: Now you are ready to post photos, videos, stories, or reels. 

      Express your brand with reels, stories, and highlights

      Let’s explore some Instagram posting options for increasing your company’s presence: reels, stories, and highlights.

      Instagram Reels

      Reels are short-form videos, up to 90 seconds long. TikTok users will find the feel of reels very familiar. You can post much longer videos on Instagram, but reels are intended to be bite-sized and deliver an impression quickly. You can add audio, such as music, or use built-in editing tools to enhance your reel. To view reels on Instagram, click on the icon that looks like a film slate to see some recent and popular ones. Once you’ve created a reel, it will appear in the reels tab of your profile. You can also choose to share it in your feed. Unlike stories (described below), reels do not vanish after 24 hours.

      Done well, reels can drive massive engagement on Instagram. The format can be leveraged for many marketing purposes. To name a few: 

      • Sharing fun ways to engage with your products, as in this example from Lego.
      • Letting the personality of your brand and your team shine in a fun way
      • Creating tutorials related to your products or services
      • Educational content, featuring quick and visual explanations 


      Instagram Stories

      Stories are useful for more informal or temporary content from your brand. Stories can be composed of pictures or video, and you have options to add audio or captions. Stories have two key differences from other Instagram content: they disappear after 24 hours, and they are displayed in a slideshow format in a small area above the news feed.

      Don’t let the temporary nature of stories deter you from using them. Stories are accessed by 500 million people every day – they are an important part of a complete social media content marketing strategy. Stories are a great way to share time-sensitive information or events related to your business, such as an event or a promotion.


      Story Highlights

      While the stories you post will only be visible to others for 24 hours, you can see them at any time. With story highlights, you can package up your favorite stories into small collections that others can view. For example, you might select a group of stories focusing on your staff and create a story highlight called “Meet Our Team”. Starbucks sets a great example, with story highlights such as “Winter Faves”, “Wellbeing”, and “Social Impact”.

      Story highlights are a great way to repackage your best stories and assemble them in logical and informative groupings. Essentially, all that bite-sized content can add up to a more complete Instagram presence for your brand.


      Use Instagram advertising to expand your company’s reach

      Instagram offers a powerful advertising platform, Instagram Ads Manager. Advertising can give your Instagram awareness a huge boost, allowing you to reach outside of your organic audience to grow your followers rapidly. Instagram advertising gives you the flexibility to set a budget as low as $1 per day. 

      Instagram advertising appears in the same formats as organic posts, with a “sponsored” label. Ads can contain images, videos, or collections (product galleries). The range of campaign options can seem overwhelming at first, so it’s helpful to consider these dimensions first:

      • Your marketing objective: You might be seeking increased awareness, traffic, engagement, leads, or sales. Each objective should have a distinct call-to-action (CTA) button that’s distinctly for that purpose.
      • Your ad creative: The ad platform has tools allowing you to create new ads, but the beauty of Instagram advertising is you may not need to. You can simply take some of your best-performing organic photos, videos, or carousels and promote them to new audiences through an advertising campaign.
      • Your budget:  For the first month or two, it’s a good idea to set a modest daily ad budget that allows you to experiment. Don’t over-promise on results or ROI at the beginning. Take some time to try different types of campaigns, ads, and audience groups. Once you find what really works well, you’re ready to spend more because you’ll have more predictable results.
      • Your target audience: You can choose from a variety of targeting options, or you can let Instagram automatically select an audience with similar characteristics to your current followers.  

      Leverage influencer marketing to find new followers

      Savvy marketers are increasingly shifting ad budgets from traditional campaigns to influencer marketing campaigns. Influencer marketing is the practice of engaging with Instagram users to share content about your products or services with their followers. Instagram promotions from influencers, like Nanak Food’s partnership with theglobalvegetarian, can be highly effective because your brand is being introduced to others from a trusted source in a familiar place.

      You don’t need to target mega-influencers who have millions of Instagram followers. In fact, you’ll likely achieve more Instagram growth from working with multiple influencers that have a modest-size following. What’s most important is audience affinity – are they interacting with the types of people you want to reach? 

      You can start your search for Instagram influencers by analyzing the metrics in your business account. By scanning your tagged posts, comments, and branded hashtags, you may find creators and influencers who engage with your brand regularly. Another option is to select a small group of your followers who map closely to your ideal target audience, then explore who they are following. Through this method, you are likely to find Instagram influencers that your target audience is attracted to. You can then contact those influencers, access their rate card or media kit, and possibly arrange a contract for ongoing Instagram influencer marketing. 


      Best practices for finding and using hashtags

      Hashtags are an alternative way to navigate and explore Instagram. Marketers caught on to this early on, using branded hashtags to increase their Instagram reach. For example, Red Bull’s hashtag #givesyouwings is tagged in over 500,000 posts. You can create a branded hashtag to use on your posts and in your bio. It allows you, and other Instagram users, to tag your brand. Every time someone uses your branded hashtag, it’s potentially exposing your brand to new audiences.

      Each time you create a post for Instagram you should tag it with your company’s branded hashtag. Instagram’s official recommendation for hashtags is to use 3-5 per post, so that leaves room for additional hashtags. Many marketers use automated tools, such as SentiOne’s social listening platform, to analyze and discover attractive hashtags. Look for relevant hashtags that have low to moderate usage (say, 10,000 posts) as your content will be more likely to get noticed than if you target a hashtag with millions of posts. With some success, your content can appear as suggested posts in non-followers’ feeds, providing the opportunity to connect with new audiences. Your content will also appear on hashtag pages in Instagram’s search results. 


      Automate your efforts with powerful social media marketing tools

      If you’re looking for a social media strategy example, or social media marketing tips, you will find that many marketers take their insights to the next level using social listening tools with advanced capabilities. Instagram has a world of potential for marketers, but manually tracking, analyzing, and reporting on social media campaigns can be time-consuming. SentiOne’s social listening suite includes capabilities allowing marketers to: 

      • Learn how your brand is perceived online
      • Identify your potential customer needs
      • See the opinions about your competitors
      • Get in-depth audience insights
      • Identify the right influencers
      • Discover emerging trends

      Visit SentiOne to learn more, or to book a demo.