Instagram has provided a springboard for independent creators to access massive audiences and monetize their talents. Businesses, too, benefit from having a presence on the social platform that’s a go-to for product discovery.
Boasting more than two billion monthly active users, Instagram continues to be a favorite among marketers for reaching potential customers. Even as TikTok and Snapchat maintain popularity with coveted Gen Z consumers, Instagram is expected to catch up in adoption by this demographic by 2025.
Interested in growing your business or personal brand? Instagram’s business and creator tools give you access to audience insights and other features to help you build your following and make sales. This complete guide will walk you through the steps to creating a winning Instagram marketing strategy, with tips on getting the most from the platform.
Table of contents
What is instagram marketing?
Instagram marketing is the practice of using the social media platform to promote a business or personal brand with the goal of growing followers, driving traffic, generating brand awareness, or making sales.
As with social media marketing on other channels, Instagram offers brands, businesses, and creators a number of ways to market to its users. These include Instagram Ads, sponsored posts and partnerships, and organic marketing through Instagram Stories, Reels, and posts.
Why use Instagram for marketing?
More than 50% of Instagram users fall into the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 age groups combined, making the platform an important channel for reaching Gen Z and millennial consumers. Gen Alpha adoption is up, too, with teens reporting an increase in use of the platform, even with the growth of TikTok.
When marketing your business on social media, look for platforms where your audience is already engaged. If your target customer tends to use Instagram to discover products and brands, Instagram marketing can be a powerful tool for converting them into customers.
If approached with the right strategy, Instagram marketing can help you build trust and loyalty with potential customers and grow your audience. Instagram users aren’t flocking to the social media platform for ads. They’re looking to form meaningful relationships with brands and they most often seek funny, creative, and informative content. This is great news for businesses with a strong brand story or point of view.
There’s no doubt about it: Instagram marketing drives results. Social media marketers report that Instagram delivers a high return on investment for their businesses when compared to other social media platforms.
Social media strategy and planning templates
Ready to get started with your social media strategy? These free, customizable templates give you tools to plan and execute a strategy that connects you with your target audience while keeping your content calendar organized.
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How to create an Instagram business account
The Instagram business account unlocks features that make it easier for your business to market on the platform. And, according to Instagram, 90% of its users follow at least one business on the social media app. A business profile signals to customers that you’re a legitimate brand worth following.
✏️ Note: Instagram now offers two types of accounts for businesses: the standard business account, and its newer creator account. Both offer many similar features for brands, with slight differences. These two account types will be covered in this section.
Switching to an Instagram business account
Instagram business accounts offer advanced insights, contact info on profile, and commerce tools to sell on Instagram. Here are the steps to set one up for your brand:
- Head to your profile and tap the menu in the upper right corner.
- Tap “Settings and privacy,” then “Account type and tools,” and “Switch to professional account.”
- Pick a category that best describes your business type, then select Business.
💡 Tip: While a business account can tell Instagram users that you’re a reputable business, a blue check (Instagram’s verification badge) is another trust signal. Learn how to get verified on Instagram.
Switching to an Instagram creator account
An Instagram creator account gives you many of the same features as a business account. You won’t get commerce tools, but you do get access to Instagram’s Creator Studio, a content management tool designed for online creators and influencers. Here are the steps to setting it up (if you currently have a personal account):
- Go to your profile and tap the menu in the upper right corner.
- Tap Settings and privacy, select Account.
- Choose Switch to professional account and tap Creator. (Note: If you are migrating from a business account, choose Switch to Creator Account.)
- Select a category that best describes what you do.
19 tips for creating an Instagram marketing strategy
- Define and understand your audience
- Optimize your Instagram profile
- Create an Instagram content strategy
- Post Instagram Reels
- Publish Instagram Stories
- Share your values
- Turn Instagram Stories into Highlights
- Set up an Instagram shop
- Run an Instagram contest or giveaway
- Use marketing automation
- Work with Instagram influencers
- Try Instagram ads
- Use Instagram hashtags
- Create community (and engage with it)
- Post consistently
- Work with Instagram affiliates
- Go live
- Partner up
- Don’t forget about support
Within each of these Instagram marketing tips, you’ll find examples of real brands leveraging the ideas to reach their target audience and drive business. Let these Instagram Stories, Reels, and posts from successful brands guide your own Instagram strategy.
1. Define and understand your audience
Defining your audience is already part of your overall branding and marketing strategy, but it’s important to hone in on the specific part of that audience that uses Instagram. What makes this segment of your audience unique? What kind of content do they respond to?
For example, 50.3% of Gen Z social media users say they turn to Instagram for product discovery. Product demos, customer reviews and unboxings, and exclusive product launches would be ideal content for this audience.
LNDR is a brand that truly understands its audience. From the tone of its Instagram bio copy to the featured content at the top of its grid, LNDR gets that its fans are motivated and inspired by fitness goals and hard work.
2. Optimize your Instagram profile
Set up your profile to put forward a professional image. Include a bio, avatar, and your website—this helps users immediately understand your business. Using keywords in your Instagram bio can boost discovery, and a link-in-bio tool allows you to share multiple URLs, such as a landing page, campaign, or new collection page on your website.
Here’s an example from Pair Eyewear. Its Instagram profile tells visitors everything they need to know about the brand at a quick glance. The bio details the Pair Eyewear’s unique selling proposition, a business account label describes the brand’s offering, and pinned content provides helpful first steps for new customers.
3. Create an Instagram content strategy
A content strategy is more than a content plan. It answers the big questions like why you are producing the content, who it’s for, and its goals.
Start by setting goals for your Instagram marketing efforts. This will help you develop a bank of content ideas and campaigns to meet those goals. Then plot that content out on an editorial calendar, accounting for any major events, holidays, and shopping seasons that are relevant to your business. Build in room to be nimble, too. A flexible plan allows your brand to react to trends, memes, and world events as they happen.
Freedom Moses’ grid has a consistent color palette and graphic quality to the posts while Suzy Q publishes timely content ahead of holidays like Halloween and Hanukkah.
💡Tip: Remember to track your performance and let that data inform your strategy as you move forward.
4. Post Instagram Reels
Similar to Instagram Stories, Reels are a type of Instagram post that don’t live on your main profile grid by default (but can be added, if desired). The main difference is that Reels show up for users within the main Instagram feed, meaning you can get views from non-followers. Instagram Reels are short-form videos and can be more casual than the polished content in your main grid.
Reels have twice the reach rate of other types of Instagram content. Given this, and the popularity of short-form video content across platforms like YouTube and TikTok, Reels should form an essential part of your Instagram marketing strategy.
Coffee alternative brand MUD\WTR uses Reels to share helpful content like recipes, customer testimonials, and company information:
Reels can also be organized into series. This is a helpful feature that groups similar content for better discovery. Here’s an example from beauty brand Prose:
5. Publish Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are another type of post to surface your brand to users. Stories appear at the top of a mobile Instagram feed and are generally used for timely content, due to their “disappearing” nature. Story content is available only for 24 hours, unless you save it to Highlights (more on that later).
Geon Tile uses Instagram Stories to help users with questions related to its products:
As Instagram Stories are more intimate than Reels—they’re shown to followers only—this is a great place to keep loyal customers and new followers engaged. Use Instagram Stories to send exclusive promo codes or announce follower-only access to a new collection.
6. Share your values
Consumer trends increasingly point to the importance of social and environmental responsibility for brands. Younger generations are more tapped into social and political issues than ever before—and they’re demanding the same from the brands they support. To meet customers where they are, be transparent about your brand values.
Instagram is a great place to share your brand’s stance on issues and be transparent about your sustainable business practices. Use Instagram Stories and Reels to tell your story, or use your profile to share a charity link.
Both fashion brand Thief & Bandit and drag queen Trixie Mattel use Instagram to bring awareness to causes important to them. You can do the same on your Instagram account or on a link in bio page, like Trixie does here:
7. Turn Instagram Stories into Highlights
Your best Instagram Stories can be immortalized on your profile when you organize them into Story Highlights. These are collections of Stories that you can categorize by type, product, season, or purpose.
In this example, lash brand Silly George uses Highlights to group Stories into Q&As, customer reviews, rewards program info, and product information:
8. Set up an Instagram shop
If making sales is your main reason for using Instagram marketing, cut down the friction involved in turning a follower into a buyer. Instagram’s native commerce tools enable business Instagram accounts to sell directly to consumers on the platform.
In this example from Miracle Eye, customers can click over to the brand’s Instagram Shop directly from its profile page:
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9. Run an Instagram contest or giveaway
One effective Instagram marketing strategy is running a contest or giveaway. These types of campaigns incentivize engagement and sharing, giving your brand more reach and brand awareness for a low cost (the value of the prize).
Types of Instagram contests
A few common examples of Instagram marketing contests include:
- Like and follow for entry. Ask Instagram users to follow your Instagram account or like specific Instagram posts for entries in a giveaway.
- User-generated content. Ask customers to create content like a review or unboxing and tag using a branded hashtag. Choose a winner from the entries. This has the added bonus of creating testimonials you can share on social media.
- Collaboration giveaway. Partner with a compatible brand to create a co-branded giveaway package. Both brands benefit from the promotion to wider audiences.
Instagram contest rules
There are a number of rules to follow (and ask your entrants to follow) when you set up a contest or giveaway on Instagram. Instagram has its own set of rules and guidelines, which includes setting your own eligibility requirements, tagging content accurately, and asking users to agree to an Instagram release.
Note that in addition to rules set by the social media platform, each country and region (e.g., states and provinces) will have other rules that govern contests. For example, The Competition Act governs any contest run in Canada, and includes sections on disclosing approximate prize value and how to handle purchase requirements.
Instagram giveaway examples
Here are two examples of giveaways by Wildcraft and Girl Tribe Co. to inspire your Instagram marketing strategy. These giveaways both require Instagram users to engage with the brands’ Instagram posts and account for entry.
10. Use marketing automation
Instagram automation is often used to describe tools that automatically like, follow, and comment on behalf of your account. These are generally not recommended, as they can look spammy, get your account suspended, or lead to a PR nightmare (e.g., liking problematic content).
However, there are several legitimate marketing automation tools to help with other Instagram marketing tasks, including scheduling, publishing, and report generation. These tools can save you time so you can focus on creating great content and engaging with your community.
11. Work with Instagram influencers
According to one study, 87% of participants reported buying products based on an influencer recommendation. Influencer endorsements not only increase a brand’s reach on Instagram, they also send trust signals to users.
Transformer Table’s business took off after an influencer post garnered millions of views. When the brand made the leap to retail, they doubled down on influencer marketing. “We thought, let’s try to use influencers with retail,” says co-founder Richard Mabley. “We wanted to drive sales and drive customers, so we found all the people who reviewed products at Costco on Instagram.” The program helped drive in $3 million in sales from Costco.
You can also create influencer content using Instagram’s “Paid partnership” tag. This way, your brand shows up at the top of the influencer’s post, like in this example from vegan influencer and chef Timothy Pakron and MGM Resorts:
💡Tip: Find influencers who are a good fit for your brand, as they are more likely to work with you and have genuine enthusiasm for your products.
12. Try Instagram ads
While there are many ways to reach audiences and meet goals through organic Instagram marketing, paid Instagram Ads can offer more reach and better targeting. Boost an influencer marketing campaign, promote a sale, or use ads when you’re trying to reach new markets. Ads appear in Instagram timelines just like user generated photos and videos.
The best ads understand the Instagram audience and blend seamlessly with other content. But straightforward ads can also be effective if the value is high for a potential customer (e.g., a Black Friday sale).
13. Use Instagram hashtags
While the Instagram algorithm can be a mystery, you can get more reach for your content if you’re using the right Instagram hashtags. Hashtags can be placed in Instagram captions, comments, and even your bio. Use the Instagram hashtag sticker in Reels and Stories, too. When people click on or search a hashtag, your content could appear in those results.
📕 Learn more: Instagram Stickers: How To Find and Use Them
6 types of Instagram hashtags
- Branded hashtags. Creating a successful branded hashtag relies on using it consistently and incentivizing its use by followers.
- General appeal hashtags. There are certain hashtags that are popular among large, diverse audiences. These can generate more reach, but they do tend to be saturated.
- Niche-specific hashtags. Each industry will have phrases and keywords that are relevant only to their target audience. Though they may have less search volume, these are arguably more beneficial, because they drive relevant views.
- Timely hashtags. Current events and seasonal holidays can also make great hashtags, especially when you use them for shopping holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas.
- Trending hashtags. These are another version of timely hashtags, where brands jump on a meme or Instagram trend to create content that’s funny, culturally relevant, and widely searched by users.
- Contest hashtags. These are often used to identify contest entries for photo-submission contests and to generate awareness of the contest. Contest hashtags are a great way to gather user generated content.
Hashtag best practices
The trendiest or most used Instagram hashtags aren’t necessarily the best ones for your content. Look for and use hashtags that meet all the following criteria:
- They are relevant to your brand and content. If you run a cosmetics brand, #halloweenmakeupideas, a trending hashtag in October, is a good bet. Not so much if you own a pet company.
- They have usage and search volume on Instagram. This means people are actually searching for these terms. Niche branded hashtags won’t help you unless you create a campaign and incentivize their use.
- They’re timely. Aside from evergreen hashtags, there are topics that crop up on Instagram based on seasons, cultural moments, or world events. Follow trends and add your perspective to the conversation if it makes sense for your brand.
In this example from home décor brand Glassette, hashtags that both describe the content and are relevant to the brand help users find the post on Instagram. Hashtags like #christmasshopping, #homewaregifts, and #giftsforher are also timely and related to trending searches for the holiday season.
14. Create community (and engage with it)
Instagram marketing doesn’t involve posting content and forgetting about it. To have success on Instagram, it’s important to follow up, be engaged, and consider the platform a two-way communications tool. One survey found that marketers preferred Instagram over other social media platforms for community building.
A few ways to build community include:
- Following and featuring content from loyal customers
- Liking, commenting on, and sharing content from complementary brands and influencers
- Using Reels and Stories to answer community questions
- Responding to comments on brand content
- Inviting fans into your process by sharing behind-the-scenes videos
- Running polls or creating other interactive content
In this example from Thief & Bandit, the brand engages with every comment on its post:
15. Post consistently
Be sure your content calendar and plan has enough coverage to keep content fresh and users engaged. Test the frequency and schedule of your posts to find the sweet spot between too much and not enough content.
User-generated content is a great way to keep your grid fresh. It also serves as social proof, with real people endorsing your products, and shows your loyal customers some appreciation.
📕 Learn more: Uncover the Best Time To Post on Instagram
16. Work with Instagram affiliates
Affiliate marketing refers to working with influencers, publishers, and marketers to get wider exposure for your brand and products. The affiliate model provides compensation for affiliates when their followers make a purchase using a unique link or promo code. This is a common tactic in Instagram marketing, due to the power of reviews from trusted influencers.
Links can be placed in Instagram Stories and Reels as well as in the profile link. Many affiliates promote several brands and use a link-in-bio tool to manage their affiliate links. Commonly (and due to legal reasons), affiliates will use an Instagram hashtag like #ambassador, #affiliate, or #partner to announce the partnership.
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In this example, model and influencer @pala.pala.pala promotes electric bikes by Vallkree. In arrangements like this, the brand gets a boost to a wider audience and the influencer commonly takes a cut of any sales generated from the post.
17. Go live
Live content should be considered as part of your Instagram marketing strategy. It can be a unique way to connect with your audience and gather real-time feedback. It can also be used as a promotional tool to launch a collection or announce a sale.
Fashionica founder Nica Yusay uses the Instagram Live feature for product drops scheduled at the same time every Wednesday. “People call it the Hunger Games of bags, because people go crazy,” Nica says. “More often than not, my bags will sell out within two to three minutes.”
This is a great use of Instagram Live, because it creates anticipation and a sense of urgency among Nica’s followers. Her luxury bag drops bring in an average of $55,000 per Instagram Live.
📕 Learn more: How To Make Sales Through Instagram Live Video
18. Partner up
As part of your Instagram marketing strategy, consider how partnerships could help boost reach and expose your brand to a new audience of Instagram users. You can work with compatible brands to co-host a virtual event, run a promotion, or create a giveaway. That’s what Present Day Gifts did when it partnered with Gift Local Toronto:
These partnerships can offer more return on investment for your Instagram marketing efforts because you can benefit from access to the audiences of a complementary brand. Promote the collaboration across both accounts in Instagram posts, Reels, and Stories.
19. Don’t forget about support
Inevitably, consumers will use Instagram as a customer service channel. This means that even if you hadn’t intended it, your Instagram comments and DMs can fill with customer questions and complaints. Your Instagram marketing strategy should account for this, with guidelines on how to handle customer service on the platform.
Instagram marketing tools
For those with an Instagram business profile, additional built-in features will help you run more effective Instagram marketing campaigns. However, if you find you need more functionality to run your campaigns (or put them on autopilot), consider some of the third-party social media tools on the market.
📕 Learn more: 21 Best Instagram Tools to Boost Your Following
Shopify apps for Instagram marketing
If you run an ecommerce store on Shopify, you can also access a suite of apps to supercharge your Instagram marketing efforts. Some notable apps include the following:
- Apps like Instafeed and Socialwidget package up your content to create a live Instagram feed on your website.
- The Facebook & Instagram app for Shopify syncs your sales with your online store and your Instagram Shop.
- UGC Shoppable Instagram Reels and Foursixty are both apps that create a shoppable Instagram feed that mirrors your profile grid, allowing potential customers easy access to the products they love in your Instagram posts.
- Judge.me lets you convert customer reviews into content for your Instagram Stories, Reels, and posts.
- Covet Instagram Feed & Reviews aggregates user-generated content from Instagram and automatically displays it on your profile.
Instagram analytics tools for marketers
One of the most critical pieces in your Instagram marketing strategy is tracking. Understanding the performance of your campaigns, posts, and ads helps you invest where you see ROI and pivot when you don’t. Your Instagram marketing efforts are wasted if you’re not paying attention to analytics.
There are a number of tools to help you track your Instagram engagement, get insights on target audience behavior, and assess the success of your campaigns. Here are a few to consider. These include Instagram’s own and third-party social media tools.
Instagram Insights is a free feature built right inside Instagram’s platform. When you create an Instagram account for business, you will get access to this suite of tools. From the settings menu, access Instagram Insights to get data about:
- Accounts reached. This is the number of unique Instagram accounts that have seen your content at least once in a specified time period, as well as the demographic information of those accounts.
- Accounts engaged. This refers to the number of unique accounts that have interacted with your content. It also breaks this information down by demographic.
- Instagram profile activity. This tells you how many people have visited your Instagram profile and how they’ve engaged with it (e.g., did they click on the Email or Shop buttons?).
- Total followers. This insight measures trends across your follower count, including how many followers you’ve added or lost over a given period.
- Content insights. Explore the stats for each of your Instagram posts, including impressions, likes, comments, shares, and saves.
If you’re looking for something more robust, Sprout Social is an all-in-one social media management tool. Its analytics features include a post performance report and downloadable PDF reports.
In addition to analytics, the tool can help manage everything from running your social media content calendar to scheduling posts ahead of time. Sprout Social offers a number of tiered paid plans, depending on your Instagram marketing needs.
HubSpot is another complete social media management platform, with analytics that help you understand which of your Instagram marketing tactics are performing best with your target audience.
If you run your business on Shopify, it also integrates with your ecommerce store. Hubspot offers a number of tiered paid plans and a free plan for small businesses or those requiring a lightweight tool.
Start marketing on Instagram today
Instagram marketing is a worthwhile endeavor, especially for businesses looking to reach millennial and Gen Z consumers. It offers brands the opportunity to tell their story, bring potential customers behind the scenes, and launch promos in real time. Even if you’re working with no budget, there’s still opportunity to grow your business on Instagram.
Instagram marketing FAQ
What is Instagram marketing?
Instagram marketing is the practice of promoting a business, brand, product, service, or personal brand on the social media network. It includes both organic marketing tactics and paid ads and sponsorships. Examples of Instagram marketing include product announcements in Instagram Stories, ads in the Instagram feed, and Instagram posts that share a brand story.
How do I start Instagram marketing?
ou can start Instagram marketing by creating an account on the Instagram app and converting it to a business profile or creator account. Next, develop an Instagram strategy and content plan. You will use this to guide you as you post paid and organic Instagram Reels, Stories, and posts to promote your content.
How do I promote my business on Instagram?
Promoting your business on Instagram starts with an Instagram marketing strategy. Start with these steps:
- Create an Instagram business profile.
- Define your Instagram audience.
- Optimize your Instagram profile.
- Develop an Instagram content strategy.
- Post Instagram Stories, posts and Reels to promote your business.
- Try influencer marketing.
- Engage with your target audience.
- Track it all through Instagram analytics.
What is the best way to use Instagram for marketing?
The best way to use Instagram for marketing is to employ a number of Instagram marketing tactics and track their performance. This will help you develop a winning Instagram strategy. Some Instagram marketing tips include the following:
- Use relevant hashtags in Instagram captions.
- Gather user-generated content using a branded hashtag.
- Share user-generated content in Instagram Stories.
- Optimize your Instagram bio to tell potential customers what you’re about.
- Leverage Instagram shopping features.
- Share Instagram videos that include behind the scenes content.
How much does it cost to do marketing on Instagram?
Instagram marketing costs range from free for organic marketing to as high as your budget will allow. The cost of Instagram Ads depends on whether you pay per click, impression, or engagement. It also depends on your target audience, your industry, and other parameters you set within Instagram’s ad manager. Costs to work with influencers on Instagram marketing campaigns can range from a couple hundred dollars to over a million for top celebrities.