How to Create a Successful Instagram Marketing Strategy

Last updated: 06-26-2019

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How to Create a Successful Instagram Marketing Strategy

Are you lost when it comes to marketing on Instagram?

When you open up Instagram, do you feel like everyone except you knows exactly what they’re doing, how to compose their photos, their “theme,” and most importantly, how to attract followers?

You know that Instagram is a vital platform to use in any social media marketing campaign, and if you are to successfully connect with customers online, you must be fluent in the language of Instagram.

You might be wondering how using this platform to its full potential could be so complicated – it’s basically just an online photo album, right? Well, with advertisements and the live stream and story features in addition to regular posts, keeping up your Instagram presence now requires a bit more finesse than it used to.

Don’t worry; I’m here to help you learn the ropes of this deceptively simple app by taking a look at the components you should take into consideration when developing your master plan: your goals, audience, content, calendar, and promotions. By the time you finish this article, you should have a much better grasp on your Instagram marketing strategy.

Determining Your Marketing Goals

Before you even set up an Instagram business account, it’s imperative that you have in mind exactly what you would like to gain from Instagram.

Do you want to increase awareness of your brand by amassing a large number of followers? Maybe you’re the owner of a mom-and-pop-type establishment and you know this will be unrealistic for you, in which case your goal might be more along the lines of connecting with your existing customers and promoting new products, sales, or other promotions.

On a road trip that required a drive through Ohio a few months ago, I found a little cafe in a small rural town that provided me with an excellent source of caffeine as well as lovely company and ambiance, and I instantly fell in love with it. When I was looking up cafes in the local area, I had come across Our Coffee Pot’s Instagram. On their story that night, they had featured a photo of the apple cider lattes they were serving, and the rest is history. All it took for them to earn my money was to snap a quick photo of the drink and upload it to their story.

Their account doesn’t seem to be focused on growing their number of followers as much as it is about engaging with and celebrating their community. Photos on their feed include artwork made by a customer while visiting the cafe, a portrait of a loyal patron who had recently passed away, and pictures of young children meeting Santa during festive activities that took place at the cafe. They also frequently repost photos that customers take in their facilities. One post features a couple who had gone on their first date at the cafe and later chose the cafe as one of the locations for their engagement pictures.

They don’t have thousands of likes or comments on their images, but they embrace their identity as a small-town coffee shop that provides a place for people to gather and share each other’s company. Their goal is to be an active participant in their community on social media as well and to increase their sales by posting photos of the food and drinks they have available on their story.

Once you’ve set your Instagram marketing goals, you’ll have to come up with a way to measure your success. As stated in this Foundr piece about Instagram marketing, “If your goals are related to brand awareness, you’ll have to use an Instagram analytics tool to gain Instagram insights and to track how often your branded hashtags are used, along with other helpful metrics.”

Instagram analytics is the easiest way to look at your follower growth, the level of engagement with your feed (i.e., likes and comments). To track your progress, set a few benchmarks for your business. For example, you could set a goal to gain 500 followers in the next three months or to average 300 likes per post or views on your stories by next year. You should also set personal goals that are within your control, like making posts 10 times a week or uploading images and videos to your story at least once a day.
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Determine Your Instagram Audience

For this step of the process, you’ll want to think critically about your consumer base, because these are the same kinds of people you’ll want to target with your Instagram account. How old are they? What is their income level? Where do they live? Do they share common interests or any kind of aesthetic?

For instance, let’s look at BottleTrade. BottleTrade is a “fun, social, educational, and user-friendly network of craft beer enthusiasts who want to trade hard-to-find, hard-to-get beers.” When you think of craft beer enthusiasts, who do you picture? I imagine young adults (21-35 years of age) who wear flannel shirts, who enjoy nature, and who may or may not consider themselves members of the hipster crowd.

After skimming BottleTrade’s Instagram account, with its dark, moody tones and artistic images, I believe they recognize this to be the core of their customer base as well. The following shot, in particular, seems to encapsulate what you picture when you think of craft beer drinkers.

To make your Instagram appealing to your users, you need to do your research and know as much as possible about your ideal customer. You can conduct a poll or ask them to take a survey. Try to learn what they like and don’t like to see on Instagram, what they consider their personal aesthetic to be, and what they like to do in their spare time. If you follow some of your customers, take a look at their own accounts for inspiration.
Take Advantage of Instagram Hashtags

You’ll also definitely want to take advantage of the hashtag feature. As Jonathan Chan writes in his article “Top Tips on Instagram Marketing from the World’s Instagram Experts, “Hashtags not only make your images more searchable and easier to find, but they also can give your images context and help connect your content to the audience you want.”

Don’t go overboard with the hashtags, either by including too many (five or more is getting excessive) or making them too long (try to keep it under 20 characters). Try to sum up the subject of your image or choose a commonly-searched tag, like #dogsofinstagram, to help people find you.

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to follow your account by including signs in your store(s) featuring your Instagram handle or linking your account to your other social media. If they’re fans of your business, they’ll probably be more than happy to give you a follow.
Decide Your Brand Style and Content

Glossier is a great example of a brand that has a fantastic handle on exactly who their customers are and the best way to attract them. Their products are meant to achieve a natural, fresh-faced, I-woke-up-like-this look, which appeals to the modern, busy, minimalistic young woman.

Just from taking a look at their avatar, which consists of a blank millennial pink – colored canvas, it’s clear that they understand their products are aimed at a younger demographic. That same shade of pink is also featured, in some small part, in nearly every image on their feed. This serves two purposes: to create a cohesive theme and to reflect their brand’s style (take a look at Glossier’s website to see how their Instagram ties into their brand).

Whatever you decide your brand’s “style” to be, whether that’s pastel colors or darker filters, try to incorporate that into all your images to create your theme. When all the pictures on an account consistently follow a similar theme and seem to coordinate with each other, it’s more appealing to the eye because it appears more professional and put-together. If your account is pleasing to look at, people are more likely to want to follow you and return to your account. If you use an app like VSCO or Afterlight to edit your photos, use the same filters and settings on each post to make your feed more aesthetically pleasing.

So what kind of occasions merit an Instagram post? You can post a photo any time of your products, employees, services, work you’ve done in the community or anything else you find relevant to your brand to stay active on the platform. Some of the things you might want to include are company news or announcements, product launches and behind-the-scenes images that showcase the work you do on a daily basis.
What To Include In Your Photos

Use people in your images. According to the post in Foundr, How to Get More Followers on Instagram: 10k Instagram Followers in 2 Weeks, “Images with faces have been known to increase engagement because our brains naturally want to interact with other people. Also, images that don’t include faces, but using a point-of-view shot where the camera acts as the eyes of the audience can help them make them feel like they’re a part of the image.”

Of course, pictures of objects and scenery are perfectly fine as well, but be sure to throw in a picture that features people every once in a while to humanize your brand and give your viewers something with which to connect.

Don’t neglect the video or story features either. You could post videos of anything from your commercials and how-to videos that involve your products and services interviews with your employees. You could even go use the live stream feature to hold a drawing, showcase your new products, or have an “ask me anything” session where you answer questions from your customers live. As for your story, you could use it to feature an employee spotlight, to cover any special events at your business, or to announce a sale. These are just ideas to give you a little bit of inspiration; there are countless ways you could use your account to promote your business. Try to think outside the box!
Create Instagram Content Calendar

In addition to being consistent with the style of your pictures, you’ll also want to strive to be consistent with how often you post. Staying active on the platform increases the likelihood that people will engage with your posts, which in turn increases the likelihood that more people will see your post, as Instagram pushes content with a high rate of engagement to the top of user feeds (its algorithm is no longer chronological).

When you can, post around timely events. For example, make sure to post a piece of content on major holidays that ties into both the holiday in question and your business. If you own a company that sells bikes, you could post a picture on Christmas of a bike under a Christmas tree and use the caption to ask your customers, “How many of you woke up to find one of our bikes under your tree this morning? Comment below and tell us how much you’re loving your new ride!”

To stay relevant on Instagram, you’ll want to try to post at least once or twice a day, one in the morning around 8 or 9:00 and another around 2:00 in the afternoon. If you have trouble remembering to post or just want to have your posts queued up, you can use a tool like Later to schedule your posts in advance.


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