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The Instagram Marketing Guide That Won’t Make You Sell Your Soul

Social Media
Social Media

Many people believe that if you are not already popular, it’s quite hard to get famous on Instagram. While this may be true, nobody says that as a marketer, you should get famous. It’s important to build an online presence and market your brand while building a social community around it.

How can you do it on Instagram and why did I choose this platform for the present marketing guide?

I will try to answer these questions immediately, but first, let’s talk about Instagram and why it may be your best choice for a marketing campaign.

Why use Instagram for Marketing?

It was estimated that during this year, the number of brands that are active on Instagram should reach 70%. However, this was quite expected, as Instagram delivers the best engagement rate out of all other social media channels.

With an engagement rate of 4.21%, which is 120 times higher than on Twitter and 58 times higher than Facebook, Instagram cannot be ignored by marketers and business owners. There are more than 700 million active users on Instagram, and the numbers keep growing.

Sure, there are fewer accounts that on Facebook for example but keep in mind that 80 percent of these users are following at least one brand.

60% of Instagram users say that they have heard first about a product or a service from this social media platform.

So, considering you are already committed to create your Instagram marketing strategy, let’s talk about the steps you should undertake in order to be successful. But first, let’s find the answer to a preliminary question:

What do you need before actually start you marketing campaign?

1. Create your brand.

Of course, if your business is already established on the market and not a new one, you can skip this step.

If you want to start anew however, you need to work first one your branding. What does this mean? Well, you need to choose the name of the business and / or the name of your brand. Then, your next step should be the creation of a logo and other visuals of your brand.

Choose something simple yet professional, something that will easy to be remembered by your customers. In a glimpse of an eye, someone who lands on your website or a social media account will remember your visual image and associate it with your brand or, they will forget it and move on. So, you need to create something catchy and representative in fonts, colors and style to your brand.

2. Learn about your audience.

Study your competition. Study the market. Learn as much as you can about the trends that are popular on your chosen industry and sketch up a marketing strategy based on your findings. Also, it will be better if you study your potential clients’ behavior on social media platforms, especially on Instagram, since you want to start a campaign there.

3. Customize your account.

You are looking for some good Instagram marketing tips for business but before getting to your first step, you should make sure you have the Instagram account you need in order to best market your brand or business.

What does this mean? Well, you already have a logo and a brand visual style but you will need also to integrate them in your Instagram account along with a really good description of your business.

1. Choose your content strategy

It is very important to start on the right foot if you want to create a successful marketing campaign on Instagram. Therefore, before anything else, you should define your content strategy. Why is this important? The content you are publishing is the back bone of your marketing campaigns. It should be relevant, valuable for your followers and at the same time, it should be consistent with your strategy and your brand.

What types of content can you choose from?

a. Cultural based content.

buffer instagram

A popular strategy for marketing Instagram, the cultural based content is effective for businesses and brands that do not focus on premium products or, for those who are service oriented. On the other hand, this may prove to be a successful strategy for businesses that don’t sell unique products or services and want to focus more on their beliefs and values.

b. Product based content.

mcdonalds instagram

This is also a popular Instagram marketing strategy, probably more popular than the previous one. What does a product based content marketing strategy mean? Basically, you focus all your posts on your products in a straight forward marketing campaign in which all your followers are receiving pictures and videos of your products exclusively.

c. A mix of the above two types.

nike instagram

If you can select a product based strategy or a culture based strategy, nobody will say to you that you cannot do both, and post a mix of these aforementioned two.

d. User generated content.

redbull instagram

Another effective marketing strategy is to rely on user generated content. The champion in this category is Red Bull, whose campaigns focused on extreme sports and extreme challenges managed to attract millions of enthusiasts who are willing to make videos of their adventures and post them on the brand’s channels.

  • Takeaway tip:

Include hashtags as part of your content strategy!

Once you’ve settled for one type of content delivery, think about hash tags. They are sometimes as important as your brand image and they will help you grow your pool of followers if used correctly. You can use popular hash tags in order to get more chances to be discovered through search engines but at the same time, you can choose to use less popular tags if they are properly targeted inside a specific niche.

Also, use the hash tags that are commonly used by others in order to attract new followers, such as #follow or #followme.

2. Schedule your content

Once you’ve chosen your content strategy, you may purchase to the next step: the scheduling. Instagram does not reward quantity but your followers may reward your for consistency and quality. Therefore, it is almost imperative to post at specific times on specific days and make a use of it.

If you are consistent and able to deliver quality content frequently, your followers will reward you with a higher engagement rate. If you want to save time with this task, you can use an online tool such as “Later” and schedule your content marketing strategy through it.

later marketing platform instagramWhat can you do with Later?

  • Plan your scheduled Instagram content
  • Create and view calendar based schedules
  • Schedule across multiple platforms
  • Save time through bulk uploading
  • Organize and label your media
  • Sync up your content from computer, Drop Box or Google Drive
  • Track analytics and sell products

Of course, the frequency depends on your strategy and on your available time. However, should you have only two or three posts available every week, make sure you schedule them to be published every three days or so.

  • Takeaway tip:

After the first couple of months, study your audience and try to find out when to post in order to get the most engagement. Everything depends on your audience, your industry, the chosen target population and of course, your time zone.

3. Increase the size of your audience

This is one thing that will also prove to be important. However, while it is is also important to do it at the beginning of your marketing campaign, you should never stop doing it. The more followers and customers you have, the more popular your business and / or brand will be.

How to get more followers on Instagram?

  1. Commit to quality.

Review at least two times every new post you will be publishing. You need quality content in order to attract more followers and increase your audience but at the same time, your content should be unique, original, personalized and inline with your brand visual image and values.

  1. Follow the most popular trends of conversation among users of Instagram.

Search on a daily basis for popular hash tags and try to adapt your posts to them.

  1. Make your content discoverable by using other influencers that may help you build your community.

Influencers may amplify your reach if they are also sharing your posts with their followers. You can contact them and ask for a collaboration or sponsorship or on the other hand, you may post incredibly good content and share under some of their tags in order to get noticed and forwarded. This will not work with competitors but it may work with complementary or adjacent businesses and even popular individuals that are active on Instagram.

  1. Explore the Instagram community.

Instagram has introduced the Explore tab, “making it faster to find people you want to follow”. At te bottom of your screen, there is the Explore icon.

explore tab in Instagram

Open this feature in order to see 4 tabs: Top, People, Tag and Places. The People tab will help you find new and interesting accounts you may follow or contact. How can this feature help you? Well, you can find through the Explore tab new people to engage with and at the same time, to expand your reach on the Instagram platform.

  1. Post on other social media channels as well.

While some of your potential customers will se your posts on Instagram, in order to have a successful marketing campaign and attract as many Instagram users as you can, you should also consider posting on other social media platforms.

Choose Facebook or Twitter, you can choose also both these platforms and post on these social networks as well. Some of the Instagram users who are not able to see your posts on this platform may see them on Facebook or Twitter and follow you on Instagram as well.

Of course, they will follow you if they like what they see.

  1. Make sure your content is discoverable.

You can use the Explorer tab to also make your posts easier to be discovered by Instagram users.

It will not be easy but nevertheless, neaither it will be impossible. In order to do that however, you should research the most popular hash tags and use them in your posts. The more people are searching for a hash tag you have inlcuded in a post, the more liekely is to be discovered by them and grow your audience. Don’t overuse these hash tags and don not obsess over your branding. You shouldn’t force you brand name on every post but at the same time, there is no need to include irelevant hash tags.

Sometimes, the ends justify the means but this is not the case. Content should be relevant, consistent and valuable in order to attract more attention.

  • Takeaway tip:

Choose to be a part of the Instagram community. Instagram is a social network and this is why, it will work best for your interest, if you use it as such. Form relationships with your followers and other companies, as long as they are complementary businesses and not competition. Participate in active discussions and link or comment other peoples’ photos or videos. You will get noticed sooner and better should you work on your relationship with your potential customers.

Once they are aware of your presence, they will most likely share your ideas (photos and videos) if they are valuable.

4. Media Creation

Instagram is a powerful platform for marketing and advertising purposes.

However, before creating content on this social media channel, there are a few things you should check. Let’s start with the obvious:

1. Choose quality instead of quantity:

When you are trying to market or advertize on a social media platform, especially on Instagram, everything is about quality.

Maybe you cannot afford a professional photographer or the latest version of a DSLR camera. If this is the case, choose professional designs or stock photography in order to create content on Instagram or publish an advertising banner.

There are millions of users out there who are posting everyday but only those who are able to deliver great content are being noticed by others.

2. Edit your photos to look professional.

Use apps that are dedicated to photo editing and retouching such as Lightroom and Photoshop on desktops or Snapseed and Enlight for mobile phones.

Look at some of your favorites Instagram accounts and inspire from them. Look how their photos are edited and enhanced and try to do the same thing, without overdoing it.

Every artist needs to know how to start and where to stop.

3. Carefully select your hashtags and your captions.

Hashtags are the most important thing on Instagram besides the images you are posting. They will help you tap in on your target markets and reach more customers should you use them properly. Research your competition, see what hashtags they are using and try at first to duplicate their success without copying them entirely.

You need to be unique but at the same time, some external inspiration won’t do you harm. Consider using captions on all your posts and try to pair them with your hashtags. When writing the captions however, try to think as a marketer and at the same time as a customer.

Send a direct message but make sure the message is easily comprehensible and valuable to your business and the potential customer as well.

4. Ensure the images posted are in line with your brand profile, vibe and values.

Consistency is a word you should repeat over and over again when trying to create marketing campaigns on Instagram and on any other platform as well. Make sure that the images you are posting are related to your brand identity or they contribute to it.

5. Profile optimization

You can do this step in the beginning but you will also have to readjust from time to time. It seemed fit to me to include it after the media creation process because you need content and some stats in order to properly adapt to your audiences. This step is the easiest and it won’t take more than a few minutes each time you do it. Let’s see some of the basic things you should think about at this point:

  • The first thing you should consider is having your logo visible and paired with an adequate and at the same time professional banner. You will change your banner from time to time but the important thing is to always keep your logo visible regardless of how often you are editing the profile.
  • Then, make sure you are always including a link back to your website.
  • Create a specific brand hashtag that your customers will be able to associate with you or with your products.
  • If you have a local business, include your physical location on your Instagram profile. Thus, your potential clients will find your headquarters easier.
  • Describe your business or brand. Do it for your customers, not for SEO. Keywords on your profile description and hashtags are not indexed so, there is no point in overloading your description with specific keywords and key phrases.

6. Choose your tools

There are several Instagram marketing tools that will help you get the most out of your marketing campaigns.

Let’s describe, briefly, the most important of them:

Part 1: Planning, editing, scheduling

Iconosquare: This tool is quite helpful because it allows you to access your Instagram account from your browser.

If you use a desktop or a laptop computer, it may be easier for you to monitor your Instagram activity from a web browser. iconosquare Sprout Social: Sprout is a complete social media management tool that offers access to multiple Instagram accounts, complete analytics, planning and post scheduling capabilities.

You can also monitor hashtags in your smart inbox, communicate easier with your customers and track posts from Instagram locations. SproutSocial instagram marketing Autogrammer: This tool allows you to manage and schedule your Instagram posts.

It has multiple accounts support and at the same time, it can include other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, a feature that makes it a great choice for those who are conducting marketing on multiple platforms. Autogrammer instagram marketing Hootsuite: This is one of the most popular platforms for social media management.

If you are conducting marketing campaigns for multiple social media platforms, then Hootsuite can prove to be also a great choice, considering you have all the data in just one place. You can plan campaigns, schedule posts and analyze results through this tool. Hootsuite Instagram marketing Layout: You can use this tool to combine multiple photos into a single image that can be later posted on Instagram.

It is an official Instagram app and therefore, you don’t need an extra account in order to use it. Moreover, it is one hundred percent compatible with the social media platform. Layout Instagram marketing VSCO: There are several filters available on Instagram should you want to enhance your photos.

However, you can go even further and use VSCO as well for the same purposes. The tool is a photo editor and at the same time, a social platform. Moreover, it features incredible filters that can turn your images into really great posts. VSCO instagram image editor Snapseed: This is a complete mobile photo editor developed by Google.

It is available on both, Android and iOS devices and it will help you give your images a professional look in just a few seconds. It is a great option for retouching and adjusting images that will be posted on Instagram. Snapseed instagram editor Plann: This is a professional Instagram planning app that will allow you to design, analyze and schedule your Instagram posts. Plann Instagram planning app

Part 2: Tools for measuring performance and selling products

Crowdfire: Sometimes, you need to conduct a little research in order to find the best moments of the day to post on Instagram, or the best and suitable hashtags for your campaign. Crowdfire will help you do these tasks and at the same time, monitor your account, by providing insights upon your new followers or recent unfollows. Crowdfire Instagram research INK361: Want to grow your audience on Instagram and be able to successfully engage with all your followers? If your answer is yes (and I am sure this is the case), then INK361 may be the best tool for you. The tool allows you to manage and analyze your account. It will also deliver statistics based on timing, hashtags, location, number of likes and comments. INK361 Websta: Unlike other tools presented in this guide, Websta is a free analytics tool for Instagram that will help you grow your account and at the same time, understand your audience. The tool allows you to customize your Instagram feed, follow posts chronologically, explore hot brands, users and hashtags and of course, engage with your followers. Websta Instagram analytics Like2Buy: This tool created and made available by Curalate is specifically targeted to eCommerce websites who are trying to sell on Instagram. Like2Buy makes your Instagram feed shoppable, leading your followers to the products they want to buy with a single tap. Thus, you can turn engagement into conversions quite easy and get more benefits from your marketing campaign. Like2Buy Instagram feed shoppable Showcase: A tool similar to the previous one which can be used for leverage and monetization on Instagram. Showcase promises to have simplified the social ecommerce and it leads your customers to a shoppable gallery previously customized by you. Showcase monetization on Instagram

7. Consider additional content

No matter how good is your content, there will be always room for more when it comes to marketing. A good strategy cannot settle for the basic procedures should you want to benefit from it quicker and better. What types of additional content you can consider?

1. Instagram stories.

4 Ways to Promote your Instagram Stories

This feature will allow you to interact with your followers by sharing posts without worrying about over posting. You can share as many images and ideas you want throughout a day and create stories that will disappear from your profile grid or feed after 24 hours.

This is a great way to grow your audience because every time you post, you get on top of your followers’ feed.

More posts a day, means more chances to attract their attention.

2. Instagram Live.

For this feature to be effective, you should wait until you have a significant pool of followers. Just like stories, videos from Instagram live appear at the top of your followers’ feeds and therefore, they make a great marketing content strategy.

Use Instagram live to preview new products, make reviews or engage with your fans.

3. Instagram IGTV

You can also upload videos on Instagram newest big feature, Instagram IGTV. Also, you can upload vertical video content and also landscape video content. In this article you could read everything you have to know about Instagram IGtv.

8. Consider contests

Contests are a great way to attract more followers and especially customers, should you have something valuable to offer. There are several ways in which you can benefit from contests on Instagram but at the same time, the best contests are considered to be those who are generating more sales.

For example, let’s say you have a new line of products that you want to advertise. You can create a contest in which everyone who buys that specific product may win something great or, you can create a contest in which everyone who buys one product from you, may earn one item from the new line of products.

What other types of contests are there:

  • The comment contest: Ask your followers to post comments on one of your posts in order to enter the contest.
  • Photo contest: Ask your followers to post images with specific hashtags (usually, brand related hashtags). You can choose a specific theme for the images posting contest and sit back and relax while your followers will popularize your brand through the chosen hashtags.
  • Live content: Engage with your followers in a live session, ask them something and the first who are answering in the comment section will win the price.

9. Pay for ads

You can create a successful marketing strategy on Instagram without paying for ads but only to a point. If you want to be sure of your future success, you cannot ignore this feature, especially if your business relies only on the Internet traffic, sales and awareness.

Instagram ads are now available to all businesses that are on Instagram. However, the feature is linked with Facebook ads and cannot be used independently. This means, you will have to create a Facebook account as well, in case you don’t already have one.

For some, the dependency on Facebook may seem somehow annoying but rest assured, there are only benefits from it. Why is that? Facebook has access to more user data than any other social media platform or advertising platform. Therefore, it facilitates the best ad targeting option available for marketers with great results on long term use.

Here are some tips for advertising campaigns on Instagram:

  1. Use eye-catching images.

Ads are showing in users’ feeds just like any other posts. This is a good thing for the marketer because these ads are not intrusive and may as well be regarded as regular posts. However, should you want to generate profits, the ads need to be as good looking as your regular posts. This means that you need great imagery, professionally looking photos and captions that may grab users’ attention.

If you are looking for some inspiration to design your next Instagram ads I recommend you to download this ebook where you will get 226 awesome instagram ads.

  1. Use calls to action appropriate for your goals.

You cannot add such a feature on a regular posts and this is why ads are sometimes irreplaceable during a marketing campaign. However, make sure that your CTA is correct and according/based on your business objective.

  1. Target your ads precisely

If you want to maximize your gains from the advertising campaign you must target your ads precisely. In order to be able to do that, you need to carefully study your pool of followers, your potential customers and your competition as well. Identify specific segments of your targeted population and deliver your ads to them.

The more you can narrow down the pool of potential customers, the better the results will be.

How brands and businesses use Instagram

Before concluding this guide on Instagram marketing, let’s take a look at some of the most successful brands on this social media platform and see how they managed to get so successful.

  • How are their profiles telling us?
  • How are their posts looking?
  • What kind of content are they sharing?


Letterfolk is a small business created by a couple who sells beautiful letterboards. Each of these letterboards comes with a full set of characters which makes it easily customizable by their clients. While the products themselves may not be the most creative things you’ve ever seen, they leave room for creativity for the customers, who can personalize their home walls the way the feel like.

I can say the same thing about Letterfolk’s Instagram account which is creative, funny and features really great images. Letterfolk Instagram


This company sells tree tents or, what they call “portable houses”. Their Instagram feed is full of great images depicting beautiful sceneries depicting their products in use. Also, they are trying to get the marketing to a new level, by tapping into the hearts of their customers.

Considering they all like nature, due to the types of products Tentsile sells. Thus, the slogan: “Take your camping to the next level. 3 trees planted for every tent sold!Tentsile instagram


Look at this shop’s Instagram page. They sell poster and fashionable art prints online but what gets to be noticed it is the way they do it on Instagram. Their feed is practically full of good looking product images based on the same colors, over and over again.

If you are wondering about what brand consistency means, take a look at Desenio’s Instagram profile. Desenio Instagram

Divinity LA Bracelets

Here’s another great example of a small business with great marketing content on Instagram. They don’t just post images of their bracelets but instead, images of how their bracelets look on different sceneries and on different people. They are just simple braided bracelets but the photos make us wish we have them. Before going further, take a quick look at their profile description and notice the “Click to Shop” link and the link to their website as well.

They should be there together and this small business shows us they know what they are doing. And of course, they are doing it great. Divinity LA Bracelets Instagram Marketing


Lowe’s does a great job as well on Instagram, posting images of their products in use. We are dealing with a home improvement shop which tells its customers how simple items can turn their houses into homes.

It’s a simple yet efficient message but nothing would have been the same should they didn’t deliver great images to accompany their slogan. Lowe’s Instagram Marketing


Everybody knows what IKEA stands for and what products they sell. Looking at their Instagram profile however, we see another great example of product placements exactly where they need to be: in our homes.

All images posted by IKEA depict their most valuable products assembled and paced inside rooms, exactly where they should be once bought by their customers. IKEA Instagram Marketing Converse

Converse’s Instagram feed makes one of the greatest examples of user generated content. Their feed shows us mostly images posted by their followers, wearing their shoes and doing the things they love. Converse Instagram Marketing

How to start a clothing business on Instagram. The first steps.

Let’s summarize some of the things learned through this short guide and try to establish the basis of a marketing campaign for a clothing store. Assuming you already have a website and an Instagram account, here are the most important steps you should undertake:

  1. Take some really good photos of your most valuable products. Retouch the photos if necessary and make them look professionally. Then, you can use these images individually or in collages that tell stories. Let’s assume you are selling sportswear. You have some running shoes, running shorts and t-shirts. Select your most good looking photos and try to imagine how individual posts would look like. Also, try to put together some entire outfits and mix shoes, shorts and a t-shirt into a single image that will be posted on Instagram.
  2. Edit your account. Upload your logo and describe your company. You don’t need any special keywords because this section will not be indexed. Just tell your followers who you are and what your business is about. Later, you can use hashtags in your posts, instead of keywords. You can also use a Link2Buy address on your description, so that your customers will know where to go should they want to buy something for you. If you are not selling anything just yet, include a link of your website.
  3. Choose your content strategy and start posting. We’ve already learned in the beginning of this guide about the importance of a strategy. Now, it’s time to put it in practice.
  4. Schedule your first month of content. You can use online dedicated tools for this or you can just as well, do it by your own, straight from the Instagram app. Once the scheduling is done, start posting. Choose your most valuable items of clothing and start with them. You can also hire some models to wear your clothing items and post photographs that allow your potential customers to see exactly how they fit and what is their destination.
  5. Build your community. Once you have some posts and maybe some followers, start on building your pool of followers. It’s a task that will never end, at least not while your business is alive. Announce you presence on your website and / or your blog, try to convince some influencers to also promote your Instagram account and get the most out of the hashtag option.

Study some of your competitors, see what hashtags are they using and try to mimic their success without copying them. Use them as a source of inspiration only. For instance, #sportswear or #sportswearcollection may prove to be good starting points for posts that depict entire outfits. You can use as well hashtags such as #healthyliving or #workout for your images depicting actual real live uses of your products. Of course, don’t forget to include your brand hashtag so that your clients will recognize you easier.

  1. That’s it; you went through the most important steps of your campaign. Now, make sure you follow all the steps described in this guide and the success will be yours. Of course, if you have a budget for advertising, I recommend you to also use the ads option and generate more revenue and engagement from really good targeted markets.


Instagram is one of the most effective social media platforms when it comes to business marketing.

However, there are a few steps you should consider to follow should you want to achieve success in your marketing campaigns. With this guide, I have tried to point the most important of these steps and I hope that I made myself clear in describing each of the tasks that should be considered of great importance.

Finally, remember that this guide is general and you will have to adapt it to your particular brand or business in order to get the most out of your campaign.

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Robert Katai

Brand and Communication Manager

"Content isn’t king. Usefulness is. Robert does this in the online marketing and social media space with ease."

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