Instagram Marketing: How to win on the visual platform in 2020?

I have been doing Instagram marketing for almost a year now. I had profile since 2013 but did not utilize it for my business until late 2019.

In fact, I didn’t realize the potential of Instagram or any social media platform, unless I myself did it.

Now that I’ve doing this for almost an year without break, I think I know a thing or two which I’m gonna share in this post.

If you’re looking for strategies & practical to grow your business on Instagram, this guide will ensure that.

Note: I’ll assume you already have a profile on Instagram because I will be showing how you can convert your personal profile into a business profile in this guide.

Who can benefit from this guide?

  • Students
  • Marketing agencies
  • Entrepreneurs/Start ups
  • Professionals
  • Freelancers
  • Coaches
  • … and everyone who thinks has some skills that will be loved by people of Instagram

Without further delay, let’s begin with some numbers, because numbers don’t lie 😉

Table of Contents

Stats about Instagram: Why it’s worth spending time on Instagram?

Instagram turns a decade old in 2020 & has managed to pile up over a billion active users on the platform.

Instagram marketing

With that said, let me slap some interesting data so that you can plan you way ahead:

  1. The average age of an Instagram user is 34 years, with 18-24 being the highly populated age group.
  2. There are more females (51%) than males (49%) on the platform.
  3. The United States is at the top of the userbase graph with 116 million users & India is at the second spot at 73 million users.
  4. Instagram has reported that at least 6 out of 10 users log in daily. So much so, that it is the second most logged-in site on daily basis in the US.
  5. On average, users spend at least 53 minutes on Instagram. Facebook leads with 58 minutes of attention.
  6. 90% of users follow at least one business account on Instagram.
  7. 500 million+ users engage with Instagram Stories every day.
  8. 83% of users discover newer brands on Instagram. This helps you target users who’re in the ‘Discovery’ part of your sales funnel.
  9. The top 3 industries/sectors that work with Instagram influencers are luxury (91%), sportswear (84%) & beauty (83%).
  10. 89% of influencers said that Instagram is their preferred platform. Thanks to the ease of content creation.

These are some of the most important stats. I pulled these out of a huge stack to help you realize the potential of the platform.

Now that I’ve got you serious, let me throw the real meat in front of you.

How to market your business on Instagram?

Sure, there’s evidence from the influencers that Instagram is their go to platform thanks to the ease of content creation on that platform & a ton of interactive features.

But that doesn’t mean that you can simply bump into the platform & promote your brand.

You will require a clearly put strategy & roadmap.

To learn how to market on Instagram, you will have to educate yourself by know how the algorithm works.

Let me show you just that.

How does Instagram algorithm work?

Instagram algorithm is weaved to learn the preference of a user. Unlike search engines, the users aren’t associated just till the search results page.

The user behaviour is tracked every single second they spend on the platform.

Though the average time spent on the platform (globally) is just 53 minutes, it’s still a significant amount of unwavering attention.

As a matter of fact, the 53 minutes are spent on consuming content from various creators, which makes just seconds of attention per creator. Considering the fact that at least 4.2 billion posts are liked every day on Instagram.

The individual creator may get just seconds of attention, but Instagram get the whole pie of 53 minutes of attention.

They can show ads on every single feature in these 53 minutes to mint even more money.

What does this tell you?

Instagram is highly competitive when it comes to user experience. The algorithm is designed to learn what an individual user likes, not that double-tap like, but really like.

In Mar 2016, Instagram came up with a fresh algorithm update that’s no more chronological in nature.

This means, the algorithm learns what you’re more interested in based on your engagement.

Let me explain.

Whenever I open Instagram, I see his posts in the first few swipe ups may be at the top sometime.

He has over 6000 posts that are waiting to get into my feed.

By the time I finish engaging with even 1% of the already posted content, he will publish even more.

This means, the algorithm will show more of his content every time I open the app.

The sole reason why this happens is the fact that I engage with his content.

There are so many other posts that show up in my feed at the top based on my engagement.

To blow your brain further, if I follow Gary Vee from my personal account on the same smartphone, his posts wouldn’t show up in my feed at the top.

Let me remind you, I follow him from both my personal & professional accounts.

But the way his posts show up in my feed of professional account is different from that of his posts that show up in the feeds of my personal account.

If the algorithm is personalizing the content at this degree, how does it begins learning about you & me?

Most important factors of the Instagram algorithm

When it comes to understanding the user for personalization of their feeds, the Instagram algorithm relies on three main factors.

This was discussed in a closed room with reporters from digital media in it so that it reaches the right & broader audience.

Source: TechCrunch

Let’s have a look at these factors.

#1 Interest

Instagram is all about interest.

It’s easy for instagram to serve content in the beginning, when the profile is new.

The content served to you is very broad. Also, at the time of profile creation, you give away hints about your interests by following people suggested by Instagram.

But guess where the algorithm keeps learning about you – The explore page.

That’s where the magic happens.

Initially, the algorithm will stuff the explore page with all the content popular in your region.

As and when you respond to the content served to you in the explore section, it records that & shows more from the same creator & similar creators.

Apart from this, the posts you interact with that are shown in the feed decides the rank of the post from the creators next time you open the Instagram app.

There’s a very fair chance that you’d find irrelevant content in the explore page. That’s because the algorithm doesn’t clearly understand you.

You can remove the irrelevant posts by tapping on the top right corner of the post & tap Not interested, as shown in the image below.

As much as I’m a Marvel fanboy, I had to mark this post & the creator as not interested since this is my business profile & I don’t want to see anything else other than content I care about.

Note: Posts from the creators (and similar ones) won’t appear in your explore section. Though Instagram says it will be less in number, the ones that I marked as not interested, haven’t appeared on my explore feed after that.

#2 Timeliness

When you post matters.

You recent posts will show in the feed of your audience than those that posted weeks ago.

I have been testing and it’s just a theory right now.

When someone follows your page for the first time, most popular posts show up in their feed irrespective of time.

I’m not sure how old posts show up since I’m testing this right now. I’ll keep sharing the results as and when I make any progress. Let’s keep in touch on Instagram, I post daily there.

I have talked about the best time to post in a dedicated section. Make sure you don’t miss it.

#3 Relationship

Relationships as in not the blood thing. Relations in terms of engagement such as likes & comments.

If you comment on someone’s posts a lot, their content would appear at the top of the feed.

Instagram puts those creators in ‘friends & family’ category. Seems like the platform is starting to care about the users lately.

Pro tip: Encourage your users to comments on your posts. As open-ended questions, or engage with their brain. Give them a chance to prove themselves right.

Frequently asked questions about Instagram algorithm

Q1) If I switch to a business profile, will I get more feed presence?

No. Instagram has made this clear upfront. Business profiles do not have the upper hand over the personal profiles.

Read also: 6 myths about Instagram

Q2) Do videos perform better than single posts?

Nope! Instagram ranks the based on the preference of a user. If a user interacts more with the videos than single posts, more videos will be show in the feed.

With reels making their way to the market globally, it makes more sense than ever that they more real estate than any other content format in the explore section.

This might be true because reels is a pretty new feature & Instagram wants more users to create more reels. Hence promoting it!

The post in the top right is a reel. Look at the real estate it’s getting. I’ve never seen any form of content getting this much attention by the platform.

Instagram is really serious about this feature. The way they’re promoting the features tells a lot about it.

Q3) If I use the newer features, will I get boost in reach?

Not really. Reels is a new feature so your reels will be promoted more by the algorithm only till the features is popularly adapted by the users.

Once that happens, reach will depend on your content & engagement. Just like it does for single image posts & carousels.

According to Recode, Christina d’Avignon, who is a product designer of Instagram feed has said on record that “No, we don’t favor accounts that use different parts of the app more than others. The only way to get your content higher ranked is to produce great content,”

Q4) How frequently can we post?

Though there’s no concrete evidence that Instagram punishes for posting too many times a day. However, if you do posts a lot of time everyday, there’s a fair chance that you content will be accompanied with other’s posts too.

Furthermore, it’s best to test the water instead relying on someone else’s theory. If your audience wants more than 3 pieces of content, do that. Forget about the algorithm.

If you are getting engagement even on the 6th post of the day, don’t hesitate to try the 7th or even 8th post everyday.

But make sure you don’t burn out in the process as it will be smooth in the beginning but posting 3 pieces of content every single day will not be easy.

There’s another set of combinations that you can try. Post 2-3 posts on the feed, 5-10 stories, I’ve personally tested 20-25 stories per day that included 5-6 shares, and the remaining were my own posts. I haven’t even counted the comments I leave on the posts.

Now that even reels have joined the party, you can comfortably create anywhere between 30-50 posts.

But if you’re specifically talking about feed, I think 2-3 highest quality posts are more than enough.

Instagram marketing strategy

1. Define your goals

When it comes to growing on Instagram or any internet based element, it becomes crucial to have set crystal clear goals.

The problem comes when you use Instagram like someone else does. I was in this trap in the beginning.

I used to imitate the strategy of the foundr magazine & I even got results. But I got results in opposite direction I was heading to.

Guess why & how I was able to figure this out so easily & immediately?

Because I had a defined goal – by imitating the content creation strategy of Foundr, I got the attention of the wrong audience. More importantly, I sent out a wrong message that printed a wrong image of my brand in the audience I wanted to target.

I was becoming more of a content curator, even though I was creating my own content.

I immediately pulled the plug off – that’s the power of setting the right goals. I knew who I want to target right from the beginning.

The best part is, even after setting crystal clear goals, it started becoming finer & more refined as I went along creating content with a brand new strategy.

As part of defining goals you should be aware of the following things:

  1. Your strengths & weaknesses: It’s crucial for you to understand which of your skill you want to monetize. If you don’t have any skills (which is least likely to happen) find a skill that’s in demand & build that skill.
  2. Target audience: Lazer sharp focus. Create a buyer’s persona of your ideal audience. Who’s most likely to pay attention to what you have to offer.
  3. Content format: Carousels, videos, single posts, or a mix of everything. Instagram has a wide variety of content formats that you can employ to build a brand on Instagram.
  4. Posting frequency: How often you’d be posting & when will you post becomes a crucial deciding factor for your growth, especially in the beginning (I’ll talk about this in the dedicated section below).
  5. Outcome (ROI): What you want to achieve out of the page you’re managing. Is it more bookings for your services? Is it sell more stuff or build a brand & drive traffic to your online portal.
  6. Mission statement: What’s the value you want to deliver to the audience are targeting or already have? What is it that you want to accomplish on behalf of the audience?

These are some of the goals I’ve set for my brand on Instagram, can vary from person to person. I’ve shared these to give you a gist of what goes into the planning.

Furthermore, it is also important to have a limit. You may have some restrictions in terms of time or money before you call it a day.

Growing online is a slow growth, if you want instant results, consider to run ads.

2. Optimize your profile for conversion

Your Instagram profile is the place where the main magic happens. Sure, there are people who’d follow you seeing one of your post in the explore section, but they’re less like to engage with your or see the value you provide since they haven’t gone through your profile.

The whole game of Instagram is to play around with the conversion rate of profile visitors into followers.

The aim is to keep improving that percentage.

Here’s how you can optimize your Instagram profile for better conversion

#1 Convert to a business profile

We talked about this earlier. If your aim is to get the most out of Instagram, you must convert your profile into a business profile.

You won’t get the soft corner in the algorithm’s heart but you’ll get the tools to grow better on Instagram.

Instagram has made it clear that the algorithm doesn’t differentiate between the regular profile & a business or creator profile.

It’s your strategy that does the magic.

So here’s how you can convert your regular profile into a business profile.

Step 1: Tap settings

Step 2: Tap account

Step 3: Tap Switch to professional account

Step 4: Continue customizing your preferences

Once you have a business profile, you will have access to tools that will show you the insights like reach, impressions, profile visits & more.

Using these tools will give you an idea of what content is loved by your audience & you can create more of that.

Furthermore, you can add buttons so that the users can contact you via email or text.

These are the only major benefit you have for switching to business profile.

Now that you have switched to business profile, what next?

#2 Optimize your bio

Instagram bio is the place where you pitch yourself to the person visiting your profile.

This is were you deliver the value in the visitor’s mind. I’ve shared this post on Instagram that talks about how you can use Instagram bio to not only mark your presence but to also help your brand stand out.

What I wanted to say in this section is already covered in this post.

Don’t miss out.

View this post on Instagram

It took a while for me to come across one of the most important metrics of Instagram marketing – the conversion ratio of profile visitors into followers.⁣ ⁣ The whole idea of marketing your brand on Instagram is improving the conversion percentage. ⁣ ⁣ Not everyone will follow you by visiting your profile. Some will follow seeing your content or from "Suggested for you" section. ⁣ ⁣ Furthermore, converting the visitor into a follower depends a lot on the profile bio. You're already aware of what makes a killer bio, here are some ideas that you can use to increase the profile visits⁣ ⁣ Ideas to increase profile visitors (& convert into followers):⁣ 💎 Follow & engage with top pages in your niche. Leave priceless value that will get you pinned on the top.⁣ 💎 Drive traffic from your YouTube/Reels/IGTV video ⁣ 💎 Drive traffic from your blog/quora/medium⁣ 💎 Use CTAs in your posts to invite users to DM you, it's a great deal even if a small percentage of those users convert as followers.⁣ 💎 Run ads to encourage people to visit your profile. ⁣ ⁣ I will review the profile & suggest changes of the first 10 users commenting on this post for free. ⁣ ⁣ Comment & DM me the screenshot of it. ⁣ ⁣ Save this post for future reference & send it to people who need to see this. You can also share this in your story & tag me. ⁣ ⁣ #DaveyJi #BeFound #instagrambio #instagrambioideas #instagrambios #instagrambiotips #instagrambiotip #instagrambiofont #ınstagrambio #instagrambiolink #instagrambiotricks #instagrambiohack #instagrambiohacks #instagrambiohelp #instagrambioaudit #instagrambiosthatrock #instagrambioreview #iggrowth #growthmarketing #digitaltrends #socialmediatrends #digitalmarketingtrainer #instagramgrowthhacks #instagrammarketingguide #instagramtip #growthhack #smtips #instagramalgorithm #digitalmarketing #digitalmarketintips

A post shared by Digital Marketing • Shubham (@askdaveyji) on

Note: Don’t restrict yourself to what I’ve shared in the post above. You’re more creative than this. Use this as reference & try your own combination to find what suits the best for your brand.

#3 Link in bio apps for Instagram

I haven’t used too many link in bio apps, but the ones that I’ve used are pretty much amazing.

Let me share the apps that are simply amazing.

  1. Linktree: Free version available & fairly decent enough to begin with. The paid version has custom themes & link analytics available. Pro plan is $6/mo or $60/yr.
  2. Shorby: Apart from links you can add dedicate buttons linking to your social profiles. Cool enough to social media influencers to have all their social media presence under one hood.
  3. Lnk.bio: Decent one, nothing out of the world about this but one thing I liked about this tool is the icon library. You can even add youtube videos to the panel.
  4. Linkin.bio: This tools is officially from Later, a scheduling tool approved by Instagram itself. It’s a bit expensive because you have to opt for later scheduler. The best part of this tool is that you can tag url to individual post. That’s mind blowing. However, you can’t make your posts literally with clickable link, but once you tag a url, it appears in the linki.bio panel. It’s confusing but it’s cool.
  5. AMP pages: Absolutely free option if you have your own blog or website. Create a page with buttons & links to various pages you care about & turn that page into an AMP version. It looks much professional & 100% under your control. You can do everything a paid tool does with a custom built page. If you have patience & wordpress blog, this is the best way you can rock the game of adding link in bio.

Related: Special profile for better conversions on Instagram

Now that you have a decent looking profile, what about the feed posts? Don’t you wanna have a strategy for that?

I have one for you.

#4 Branded hashtags

Hashtags are a game changing way to leverage the ever increasing traffic on Instagram. Considering how amazing the algorithm is, it becomes even more crucial to incorporate hashtags in you Instagram marketing strategy.

How to use hashtags in your content marketing strategy on Instagram?

Hashtags are a simple way to train the algorithm to find the right users for your content.

Hashtags instruct the algorithm about your content, that’s why it is crucial to include only the relevant hashtags. Doing otherwise will result in confusing the algorithm, hence your page will start sinking into the ocean of the dead.

Having a branded hashtags will not help you immediately, but in the long run when people realize about the value you add into their lives, you will see the benefit of putting the efforts in creating content & adding the branded hashtag in the caption of the post.

I use strategy for all my posts where I place hashtags to be used in three buckets.

Let me share what are the type of hashtags:

#1 Branded hashtags: These are the hashtags that define you. To me it’s #Daveyji #GetDiscovered #BeFound #BeTheBrand & #personalbranding. I want to be known for these hashtags, therefore I use these in all my posts. Irrespective of the topic of the post. Don’t get too creative with these, just keep it simple & showcase the value you care about the most.

#2 Hashtags you want to rank for: These are the hashtags that instruct the algorithm about the topic of the post. You can’t rank for a post in hashtags feed if you don’t use relevant hashtags. Even if you use irrelevant one that are popular and manage to rank at the top in Recent tab, it’s impossible to rank on the ‘Top’ section, because the users browsing the ‘Recent’ section won’t interact with your post hence burying your post.

Posts in ‘Recent’ tab won’t appear in top section too. It can’t be omni-present. It takes a couple of days to rise above in the ‘Top’ section.

Bottom line: If you to rank in the ‘Top’ section, use relevant hashtags first. Of course, your content should be engaging enough.

#3 Hashtags your target audience is following: I don’t have to show it to you that users can follow hashtags on Instagram. You already know that. What I want to show you is, what you can do by knowing that. Many times I create content targeting the clients I want to work with, for example, #realestate. I’m nowhere related to this industry, but still, I use it in some of my posts because I know my target audience is following this hashtag & hence by using this in my captions, I ensure that my posts are discovered by the right people.

Easy peasy.

That was a brief on everything on optimizing your profile for better conversion.

What about the content that will bring people to your profile? Let’s take a closer look at it.

3. Content strategy

Instagram began as a visual social media platform, but now it’s a commercial place to market a business by using visual candies.

It’s hard to believe that Instagram has taken the top spot for preferred social media by influencers & businesses in less than 10 years.

A lot of businesses are using Instagram to not only to expand their business’s reach & promote offers, but to also remain in front of the right people as a brand.

Having a content strategy is important but don’t keep pushing away or wait till you have a perfect plan for your content.

Let me share a couple of businesses who’re using Instagram as a platform to keep in touch with their followers & promote the brand.

#1 Airbnb

Look at these photos. Wouldn’t you love to stay here? I wouldn’t mind staying here without the internet for weeks. Just books, me & this view.

Airbnb has clear strategy behind using Instagram. Tickle the wanderlust in people & tell them silently that wherever they go Airbnb is there to accommodate you.

Pick almost any photo & you will find this strategy.

#2 NPDigital

NP Digital is a digital marketing firm based out of the United States. See how this brand uses Instagram. This is one of many ways the brand is using Instagram.

Getting featured on the company’s page you work for is an achievement. Isn’t it? This improves loyalty & brand awareness.

According to a survey, 65% of consumers did not buy a brand because it did not stood up for a social cause.

Let’s take a look at how a SaaS company is using the platform.

#3 Hubspot

Hubspot is CRM software tool that uses Instagram to share insights that help marketer. Again, this isn’t the only way it uses the platform.

Let’s take a look at one of my favourite.

#4 Foundr

I just love what foundr does on Instagram. It has clear goal set for helping people learn from world’s best entrepreneurs.

This is one of their ways of helping the people learn from the entrepreneurs. Share short clip videos from their masterclass series.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFdYrttHDK8/

I can go on and on with such examples, but the point I want to make is when it comes to content strategy, it all boils down to trial & error of your mission statement.

What you want to help your target audience achieve is what matters.

What are the type of content you can create to win at marketing your business on Instagram?

Let’s see those too.

Best features to market businesses on Instagram

  1. Hashtags: Use relevant hashtags to get in front of your target audience. Hashtags are easy way to instruct the algorithm about the post so that it can find users for the content.
  2. Explore: This is the section where users discover newer creators & businesses. Getting into the explore section is not easy but once you start reaching that, the algorithm will keep showing your content to newer users who’ll be highly interested in your work & brand. You as a business owner can use explore section to discover businesses you can pitch your products/services to. Read Direct section to know how.
  3. IGTV/Reels: Video format is becoming a central focus on social media sites like Facebook & Instagram. Especially, Reels is being promoted by Instagram like crazy. Reels is a 15 second short video format, that delivers value straight out of the box. No intro, no fuss, straight to the point.
  4. Direct messages: Direct message is where you reach out to businesses & prospects to pitch your services. Simply find people who you want to work with & begin with following their page & leaving some thoughtful comments. Then correct them where your think they’re going wrong. Look out for their weaknesses or business goals they want to achieve & create a demo solution of it. Pitch the same via DM. Don’t spam appearing in front of people they don’t even know about.
  5. Instagram stories: Nearly 50% of Instagram users watch stories every single day. Instagram copied this concept from Snapchat & threw it out of business. Use stories to build a personal connection by showing your face to people so that they’d know who they’re following. There are a ton of creative ideas you can use to create stories.
  6. Instagram Ads: The best way to get instant results. Instagram ads are slightly expensive than Facebook, that too if you boost a post natively. If you setup an ad from Facebook business manager, the cost is highly affordable. If you have even a slightest inclination towards buying followers, consider putting that money on Instagram ads. Unlike buying followers, you’ll retain followers because they’ve chosen to follow you.
  7. Verified profiles: Verified profiles are the credible/official sources with high engagement on Instagram. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of getting a badge. The thing is you’d get a badge because of the credibility you have and not have credibility because of the badge.

4. Engagement strategy for Instagram

One thing that I’ve learned while being active on Instagram is that engagement is the key to you growth.

Especially the engagement done on niche leader’s posts. That’s where your growth lies.

If you want to build an engaging community for yourself, engage with the community first.

Here’s how I’ve managed to get 100+ followers in less than a month on my new page.

I call this free guest post strategy.

I’m getting pinned almost every single day since the day the feature was launched in July.

This is one of many pinned comments I have, sometimes I get multiple pinned per day.

Getting pinned is a great way to get in front of people who’re already engaging with the niche leaders.

Here are some steps I keep in mind when leaving comments on other’s posts:

  1. Fill the gaps left by the authors.
  2. Add your opinion, experience & observations. I’ve personally got pinned almost every single time when I’ve shared my observations and/or experiments.
  3. Literally treat the comments as guest post & go that deep in terms of value. In my experience, long comments that adds value have got pinned immediately.
  4. Add ideas that you’d wanna use it for your Instagram page. Chances are people might use it, but there’s even higher chance of remembering you if they get better results.
  5. Make sure you acknowledge the efforts of the author before you add value. Once you do that, then get started with adding value in comments.
  6. Engage with the users who have left questions for the author to answer. Take your time out & answer it on behalf of the author. Not only the author will be pleased to have you in the community, but the person will also feel inclined towards your value.
  7. Most importantly, don’t comment to get pinned. Comment to get your credibility/value/knowledge out in the middle.
  8. Share the post in your story praising the post & then give a hint

This is my number one engagement strategy for Instagram. I’m getting results out of it, I’m sure you too will find a huge value when you actually put efforts in this direction.

I know you’re overwhelmed, especially if you’re coming across this for the first time. Let me start summarizing, the whole post.

Tips for Instagram marketing

The crux of marketing on Instagram is creating stunning visuals and a lot of factors govern this very thing.

Let’s take a brief look at it one in one.

#1 Convert personal profile to a business page

We’ve already talked about this. Converting to business profile gives you the access to tools that help you decide best content for your audience.

You get access to tools like audience insights (country/cities, age, gender, time active), impression insights, reach & more.

This data will help you personalize & tailor content for your audience which makes it relatable to them.

The easiest way to gain attention of your target audience is to get the relevant content in front of them.

Attention is the new currency & relevancy is the new bank.

#2 Inform users about your upcoming posts

I’ve started sharing the cover slide of the post I’ve scheduled for the day. I even add countdown timer on the sticker so that people get notified when the post goes live.

Of course, the post goes live at the scheduled time so that the subscribers do not miss the post.

I even share behind the scenes of my workplace, my shoots & more. This establishes a connection with a human touch in my audience’s minds.

Nice way to keep in touch on daily basis.

#3 Ads add up to your network

Running ads is the best way to get instant results for your business. Setting up ads is pretty straight forward, but the process of setting the target audience will take a whole post.

Create post and then boost or create an ad from the facebook business manager.

The best results are seen when you try all types of ads. All at once or one by one, is your call.

#4 Instagram stories

Stories are a great way to connect your true self with your audience. Stories are a slideshow format that can convey your message in an effective way. You can get as creative as you want, since stories is a personal way to showcase your brand.

Instagram is testing two layers of stories for even broader reach. Stories already has a wide organic reach, which makes it enticing to use.

Instagram has a ton of cool features for your creativity like boomerang, gifs, AR animations, stickers & more.

#5 Get traction from the influencer’s reach

Instagram is becoming the hub for Influencer marketing, competing with the likes of YouTube.

Unlike YouTube, you don’t have to wait to get to 100k subscribers to influence. You can start influencing from day one. Just decide for the masses & you’re set to influence their future decisions.

Checkout this post where Canon chose one of my favourite photographer & film maker, Peter McKinnon for a product launch & he made a post to say this in public.

Canon: 1
Other product launches: 0

#6 Encourage User Generated Content

Instagram has over a billion users but it hardly has any content. Even if there are some official pages, that’s only to help creators like us.

Pick any social media platform, you will find it surviving only on user generated content.

What do you think you an I are doing on Instagram? It’s our content that’s making the worth of Instagram.

So if you want to make the most out of Instagram encourage users to use your branded hashtag or tag you in their posts to continue spreading awareness about your brand to newer people.

#shotoniphone & #shareacoke is a classic example of UGC.

#7 Know when is the best time to publish your post

I won’t tell you the best time to post on Instagram, but I will tell you how you can find the best time for your page based on the activity of your audience.

Let’s go.

I used to post content around 8 AM IST, seeing this, I change this time 13 hours late.

I post twice a day, at 6 PM & 9 PM. I decided this based on these insights only. And I’m getting great results for the past 3-4 months.

Repeat the steps shown in the image above & find the best time for your page. Don’t trust anyone else other than this data.

Speaking of data, here’s a screamer.

#8 Follow the right metrics

While you make your way in marketing your business on Instagram, you will be tempted, you will be forced to fall into the trap of chasing vanity metrics like followers, likes, saves & shares.

No doubt these are important metrics, but the way many people chase is wrong.

Chasing the followers will force you to join engagement groups, pay people to like, follow & comment on your posts or do all sorts of nasty work to bump up these numbers.

Doing this will land you in trouble because Instagram will somehow find this & ban your page.

Even if it cannot (or meanwhile it does), you won’t be able to monetize your page, because the page would lack credibility.

Credibility is the sole reason why you should be active on social media platforms.

Credibility is the only metric you should be chasing. It will a slow game, but whoever you earn in the process, will stay with you for longer.

Most common Instagram marketing mistakes to avoid

I have committed several mistakes already & I will be committing even more throughout my career.

This section is about my mistakes that has costed me months of growth. Let’s have a look at it.

#1 Not engaging

Biggest mistake of all. Instagram was new to me, at least as a platform to market my brand. I’d simply publish a post & expect it to get attention.

Instagram doesn’t work this way. If you want to build a community around your belief, focus on spending time where the community spends.

Since the day I figured out this mistake, I’ve hardly spent a day without engaging.

Engaging has got me around 130 followers in less than a month, so to someone who didn’t even qualify for audience insights (it comes only after you have 100 followers) to having a ton of engagement, this was a surprise.

I know a page with over 4000 followers, it has hardly any engagement (0.40%) and my page with around 200 followers has around 6% engagement rate (ER).

The reason why I bring this up is because the ER is what that has got me over 130 followers in less 30 days. That was without even realizing this.

Now that I have figured this, seems like it’s easy game now.

As part of engagement, I’ve already shared how I’m getting pinned almost every single day. Apply the same strategy to make the most out of the community you’re a part of.

#2 No relevant hashtags

Since I avoided engaging with the community, I had no idea what hashtags people are using. I was literally a ghost.

Since the time I started engaging, I figured out the hashtags the niche leaders are using.

This took me to another level of the game where I had to research for hashtags every time I published a post.

It was after this that I came up with the three bucket strategy for hashtags. I still don’t rely too much on hashtags but I’m testing the significance of hashtags for a post.

But for now, not using hashtags will cost you a lot.

#3 Not thanking new followers

Since the time I started engaging, I got a ton of messages & follows. The thing about followers is little tricky.

Out of over a billion people on the platform & a ton of content produced from various creators.

The guy/girl chose you to follow. Can you not thank them for that?

I’m making it a habit to thank the people who follow me with a voice memo.

How cool and humane is that to establish a relationship. Wouldn’t you feel special if you got a voice memo thanking you for the follow?

I’d feel special. That’s why I’m doing this.

Speaking of followers, never ever think of buying followers. You won’t be able to retain them, let me tell you if you don’t already know, the followers count that seems to be increased, are actually

#4 Not expanding my territory

I’ve been very skeptical about giving my follow. I’m very choosy. I believe, I’m an average of people I’m surrounded with, so I don’t want to follow people who don’t add value to my time on Instagram.

But I have changed this a little bit. I’ve found this as my mistake & have researched a bit on this.

As part of strategy, find 5 relevant people & follow them.

Soon after you follow them, like a couple of posts & leave your first impression of their profile in their DM.

This is a great first move & start seeing their content so that you can expand your reach.

#5 Sticking to one format of content

I’ve not been in trap of this mistake for long but still this is sever mistake for beginners. Instagram has amazing content formats that you can use to grow on the platform.

It goes without saying that no one format is the best. It all depends on what you are as a business & what your audience wants.

What would you prefer to watch?

A slideshow or a video of Messi playing for the last time he played for Barcelona.

Of course video right? That’s the point.

Don’t stick to one content format, keep testing & improving your game.

Influencer marketing on Instagram

By now you must be convinced that Instagram is worth spending time on. Now that you’re convinced, let me tell you how you can convert your hobbies, skills or knowledge into money.

What is influencer marketing on Instagram?

Influencer marketing is basically a type of marketing when you influence decisions of the masses on social media.

When you build a personal brand around a niche on Instagram, you will be influencing the buying behavior of people on the platform.

You will be endorsing brands & their products as part of their marketing campaign.

At the center of influencer marketing lies trust that people have on you – because of the fact that you help them decide better.

You literally recommend them what to buy. Brands also collaborate with influencers as part their content marketing strategy.

Look at this one:

This post is a paid partnership with Unacademy. Simple post that takes the brand of unacademy to newer audiences.

Social media platforms are slowly becoming commercially social media platforms. Businesses are turning towards social platforms to market their brand, which can be hard to begin with.

Thanks to vast population & multiple layers of penetration on the platform. So the brands turn up to influencers who act as agents for their marketing campaigns.

Good news is, Influencer marketing is becoming ultra popular and one of the most adapted strategy by global brands.

From apple to a local store near you, everyone is open for influencer marketing. So if you’re someone who can become the bridge between the brands and the audience one social media, Instagram in this case, you can make serious money out of nothing.

Sure, it’s not as easy as I’ve made it sound. You have to actually what you’ve read all this while.

I cannot go too deep into this as it’s out of the context of this post, but I have a dedicated post coming soon. Make sure we’re connected on Instagram, where I announce my blog posts.

Let me share what is in context of this post.

Best niche for influencer marketing on Instagram

Instagram is visual platform. It comes with a licence of dropping eye candies to influence people.

Speaking of eye candies, what comes to your mind when you read the word ‘Picturesque”

I suspect you’d imagine “travel”.

So that what we begin with.

  • Traveling, because I envy when someone visits a place I’ve never been
  • Fashion, because who doesn’t want to look good?
  • Business, because making money online is new 9 to 5 & mainstream
  • Luxury & lifestyle, because who likes being ordinary?
  • Gaming, because life is a game too
  • Animals, because it’s social media & we’re social animals
  • Relationships, because you can’t stay single forever
  • Family & parenting, because that’s all matters in the end

Okay, you don’t have to choose only from this. Begin with what you already do every single day of your life.

Odds are a large portion of human population have just begun doing it. You can help them do that same thing better.

It can be speaking English, fishing, riding a horse, kicking some ass with your karate skills. If you can’t think of anything, simply start curating content of topics you’re most interested in.

Pro Tip: Use the explore page to find the top categories tray (shown under the search box) on Instagram in your region.

Heck, people make money by reading books & sharing the learning on Instagram:

Once you have a niche, it’s time to scale.

Growing an Instagram account

Let me come straight to the point – Real growth of Instagram is on the explore page.

Source: Instagram blog

Explore page is where Instagram takes personalization to a whole new level.

Instagram is consistently learning from your interaction & preparing content based on your Interests in the explore page.

That’s where you discover most businesses/creators & that’s why it has a dedicated algorithm.

The only job of the explore algorithm is to find similar content creators as those you’re already interacting with.

This keeps you on the platform so that it can show you more ads. The algorithm keeps an eye on the type of content you interact with.

One of the best things I like about the explore page is that it shows content from people who you don’t already follow.

Here are some cool features about explore section by Instagram:

Note: This is how users are discovering content/creators/brand on the explore page. Use this information to design your content strategy accordingly.

#1 Stories on explore page

Stories are one of the most important elements of Instagram. It is the second most used feature of the platform, almost 500 million people watch & post stories.

While Instagram claims that the explore page is being used by over 50% of users every month.

Explore page is the section where all types of content formats meets in one place. Furthermore the magic of the algorithm is that you see similar content you have frequently interact with.

#2 Trending categories in explore section

The category tray in the explore page is dynamic for every user, with certain options (IGTV& Shop) common for all.

This is to take the niche/category specific personalization to the next level. If you want to trend in the explore section, make it a habit to create content niche-specific & use relevant hashtags to instruct the algorithm about your content & it caters to appropriate users.

#3 IGTV videos in explore page

IGTV-on-explore-page
Source: Later

Remember IGTV had a dedicated button next to the DM button in the top right corner? Yeah, that’s moved to explore page now. You can find in the top category tray.

This was a strategic move by Instagram to remove the distraction from the homepage feed.

#4 Discover shoppable products on the explore page

Shopping-on-explore-page
Source: Later

Instagram has sent out a strong message out to the world that it has intention to become the center of business world.

Though setting up shop on Instagram isn’t available for all regions of operation.

This is the section where people discover products. Beauty of the explore page is that the users will discover products based on their interests.

Shopping is perhaps the best feature of Instagram that’s driving most sales for brands on Instagram. This is one of the reasons why brands are on Instagram.

Users can follow brand shops on Instagram to directly see the shoppable products right in the explore page.

Source: Later

The best part is, you can checkout purchasing the products without even leaving the Instagram app.

But the problem with explore page is that it takes forever to get to the explore page – especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

What’s the solution to instantly grow on Instagram? Ads.

Let’s check that out.

Running Instagram ads to grow your business

Setting up Instagram ads is simple. If you don’t already know it, Instagram is owned by Facebook since 2012 for a whopping $1 billion USD.

With a market valuation of over $100 billion, Instagram is one of the favourite advertising platforms of brands across the globe.

You can run ads on Instagram in two ways:

  1. Boosting a post published on Instagram
  2. Creating an ad on Facebook Business & displayed on Instagram

In my experience, boosting a post on Instagram hasn’t been the best option in terms of cost & ROI.

I didn’t find the targeting option that efficient, so I turned towards Facebook ads & got much better results.

Instagram ads best practices

I’m aware of the best practices that are available on the web but I have slightly different opinion here.

None of them are wrong, it’s just that I see it differently. Here’s how.

There are only two variable under your control:

  1. Your ad copy &
  2. The targeting audience

Any other variable doesn’t count as it’s not in your control. You can control the ad copy as you write it yourself. First you begin with finalizing the target audience for your ads.

Do not commit the mistake of targeting everyone. Go as specific as possible. If everyone loves your product/services, nobody loves your product/services.

Writing an ad copy with your target audience in mind will save time at the time of setting targeting option on Facebook. You will have it ready.

If you do these things right, you’d get amazing results. I’m saying this because I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve invested a ton of money on Facebook ads to come to this strategy as a conclusion.

You can’t run ads forever. You have to keep the balance between organic posts & ads to win on Instagram. Find a sweet spot between the two, it’ll take some time to do that & it’s natural. You can use someone else balance here.

Tools for marketing on Instagram

Instagram is becoming center of the universe of marketing online. To many, it’s already the center.

However, it can get really tiring for to pushing forward, as it’s monotonous job after sometime.

To do that, here are some tools to save you some time.

#1 Scheduling tools

  1. Hootsuite: I’ve personally been using this tool to schedule my posts on all social platforms. With Hootsuite, you can schedule posts for Instagram, once you authenticate your Instagram profile to publish on behalf of you. However, you can only schedule only single images for now. I post carousels on my profile, so this doesn’t help me in any way. There’s a free plan where you can schedule for 3 profiles & single-user can operate these profiles.
  2. Buffer: I tried the free version and I liked it for the fact that you can customize messages for individual social media profiles. I haven’t tried scheduling on Instagram via buffer, so not sure how good or bad it is. Same as Hootsuite, you can schedule for any 3 social media profiles for free.
  3. Creator Studio: My favorite & one-stop solution without any hassle. Creator studio is a native app from Facebook where you can schedule posts for Instagram. The best part is, you can schedule carousels too. Simply connect the Facebook page & Instagram profile, that’s it. Sadly, you can’t schedule stories from this app, while it’s possible via Hootsuite.

All in all, Creator Studio is my favourite as I can schedule carousels & IGTV right from Facebook page dashboard.

Pro Tip: Create 30 posts saved as draft in the scheduling tool so that you can use it in case of any emergency.

#2 Feed planning tools

I recently create a two part posts on personal branding & I wanted to see how will look once published.

To make it look impactful, I used the Instagram Feed Preview app for Android (available for iOS too). The feature I care about is free, however, if you want to schedule posts bases on your planning, you can upgrade to the premium version of the app.

Which I think is unnecessary as you have a better option available in the form of Facebook Creator Studio.

Alternatively, you can also consider using the Preview app for Android & iOS. It’s a much better version to use. You can research hashtags, get ideas for caption, monitor your growth, edit your photos & more.

#3 Editing tools

Make your pictures picturesque before publishing right from the comfort of your palm. Even though there’s a native editing tool within the Instagram app, but I don’t find it enough. So, here are some tools for that.

Snapseed: Edit your photos like a pro developed by Google. You have 29 tools within the app that can take your photo editing to the next level. You can also use photo editing tools by Adobe.

Canva: Create stunning graphics for your Instagram using canva. Last time I checked you can directly publish to your Instagram page soon after editing graphics in canva. You have a plethora of free templates & editable creatives to choose from. The upgrade is worth the investment. I began with canvas & now using Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator.

Crello: Crello is another rising star in graphic editing space. I haven’t got a chance to use it for very long to speak much about it, but I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews of it.

Adobe Spark: Tough competition for canva, but I think adobe is taking canva very lightly. Even though adobe spark has way better graphics, the editing & content format needs an upgrade. There’s hardly any graphical editing you can’t do on canva.

Frequently asked questions

Q1) What is the best time to post on Instagram?

That depends on the activity of your target audience. Unless you have 100 followers, you can’t have audience insights. Till then think of your audience’s daily schedule & post accordingly. Once you have access to audience insights, simply look into it before you decide the best time to post.

Q2) How often should I post on my Instagram?

Ideally, 2-3 posts are great to begin with. But don’t get caught up in quantity, rather focus on quality. Even if you can manage to publish one quality post per day, that would be enough to grow sustainably.

Q3) Is Instagram worth spending time in 2020

For the most part of my answer, it is. Since the platform is visual-centric & the fact that marketing is all about what people see, there’s hardly any industry that cannot benefit from Instagram. So, yes. Instagram is one of the best platforms to grow your business online.

Q4) How to get content ideas for Instagram marketing?

I’d recommend tools like Quora & Reddit for researching topics if you’re a beginner. However, if you’re a seasoned player, use your experience to come up with content ideas.

Q5) What are the best sources to learn Instagram marketing?

Best source to learn Instagram marketing is actually doing it every single day. Blogs like these will do not good if you don’t put it in action.

Q6) How much does it cost to advertise on Instagram?

Depends on your target audience, number of days you run the ads, your location & more. But it’s very affordable when compared with the returns. If done properly, sky is the limit for ROI.

Q7) What is the importance of marketing on Instagram?

Because 83% of Instagram users have discovered new products/services on Instagram.

Q8) How effective is Instagram marketing?

Instagram marketing isn’t effective, your strategy is. If you don’t strategize right, your marketing is gonna fail. Begin with Figuring out what can you do on Instagram to monetize your time on the platform.

This involves figuring out the audience you want to serve. Then come up with cool ideas for the audience.

Q9) How to start Instagram marketing agency?

Showcase yourself as an expert on the platform. If you’re experienced about Instagram marketing, teach that to people. You’ll not only attract people who want to learn that, you’ll also attract brands who’d like you to take care of their marketing on Instagram as well.

Q10) Instagram marketing vs Facebook marketing – which one is best?

It depends on your approach & target audience. If you want to market on Facebook, you’ll have to begin with ads straight away. Organic reach is dead long ago.

While on Instagram it’s still fresh & organic reach is amazing. Especially while the platform keeps adding content format to their repertoire.

TL;DR (Summary)

If you’ve made this far, pat yourself on your back. You’ve earned my respect.

I know this is over-whelming, especially if you’re reading about Instagram marketing for the first ever time.

Instagram is a massive platform to grow your brand. If you’re going to do this for the first time on Instagram, I’d recommend you begin by observing how other businesses are doing it and not keep waiting.

If you have a target audience ready, simply begin marketing on the platform. You will figure out a lot of things while in the process.

I have changed my bio several times, let alone major things like my content strategy for specific audiences.

Once you begin, you will need assistance to market on the platform. But more importantly, you will have right questions to be assisted with.

Growing on Instagram is long journey, if you’re someone who can patiently do it for a year or so, this platform is open for you. Anyone can get to 10k in 90 days, but if you’re building a brand, it will take time.

I have detailed guides of every topic discussed in this topic coming up shortly. Let’s keep in touch via email newsletter or Instagram so that you can get notified first.