With an advertising audience of more than 1.16 billion people, Instagram offers dramatic reach for brands. And the potential reach of Instagram marketing has grown substantially this year—increasing by 76 million people in just the last quarter.
Fully 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business. And it’s not just consumer products that benefit. More than 36% of B2B decision-makers use Instagram when researching new products or services.
This Instagram marketing tips 2021 cheat sheet will help rev up your Instagram strategy, whether you’re just getting started or you’re already a seasoned pro.
Bonus: 14 Time-Saving Hacks for Instagram Power Users. Get the list of secret shortcuts Hootsuite’s own social media team uses to create thumb-stopping content.
Setting up an Instagram business account
Before you get started with Instagram marketing, you need an Instagram Business account or an Instagram Creator account. If you already have one, skip ahead to the tips below. If you already have a personal account, you can skip to step no. 3 of these instructions.
If you’re brand new to Instagram or are creating a brand new account, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Download the Instagram app
Step 2: Sign up
- Open the app.
- Tap Create New Account (on iOS) or Sign Up With Email or Phone Number (on Android).
- Enter your email or phone number and tap Next.
- Create your username and password.
- Fill out your profile info (more on this in Tip 4) and tap Next.
Step 3: Switch to a business account
- Go to your profile and tap the hamburger icon at the top right.
- Tap Settings, then Account.
- Tap Switch to professional account.
- Tap Business and follow the prompts.
21 Instagram marketing tips for business that you can’t afford to ignore
1. Use a business account
Just in case you skipped over the section above and plan to dive into the rest of the Instagram marketing tips while using a personal account, here’s why you should reconsider.
A business account gives you access to features you can’t use with a personal account, including:
- Instagram Insights (see Tip 21)
- Instagram ads (see Tip 20)
- Instagram Shopping (see Tip 16)
- Primary and secondary messaging inboxes
- Contact information and a call-to-action button on your profile
A creator account has its own set of benefits for influencers and content creators. But for most marketers, a business account is where it’s at. Hop back up to the top of this post and convert your account if you haven’t already done so.
2. Clearly define your goals
All social platforms are tools. But you can’t use those tools effectively unless you know what it is you’re trying to build.
Instagram marketing can mean different things to different marketers. Are you looking to:
- Create an online presence for your business?
- Increase brand awareness?
- Get new leads?
- Establish your brand as an industry leader?
- Sell products directly from the app?
You might even want to combine several different outcomes. But unless you know where you want your Instagram strategy to take you, you’re unlikely to get there.
We’ve got a whole blog post on goal setting to help you decide what matters most to your business.
3. Know your audience
A little preliminary research can help you figure out who you can best reach when you’re thinking about how to market on Instagram. For example, our post on Instagram demographics shows that:
- The most active Instagrammers are between 18 and 29.
- The United States is the largest Instagram market.
- More urban residents use Instagram than their suburban peers.
But that doesn’t mean you should only use Instagram to try to reach urban Americans in their 20s. Instead, you need to define your target market so you can create content that speaks directly to that audience.
This will also become critical when it comes time to choose targeting options for your Instagram ads.
4. Optimize your profile
In just 150 characters, your Instagram bio needs to make a great first impression, convey your brand personality, and tell people why they should bother following your Instagram account.
That’s a lot to ask from a small space.
Fortunately, you also get a few other fields on your Instagram profile to showcase what your brand is all about and make it easier for people to find you. These include:
- Your name: 30 characters, included in search.
- Your username: AKA your handle. Up to 30 characters, included in search.
- Your website: A clickable URL you can change as often as you like.
- Category: A business feature that tells people what you’re all about without using up bio characters.
- Contact info: Tell people where to find you.
- Call-to-action buttons: Give Instagrammers a way to interact with you directly from your profile page.
Tourism Vancouver does a good job of making the most of all the fields the profile has to offer.
Source: @Inside_Vancouver on Instagram
For more profile strategies, check out our blog post on how to optimize your Instagram profile for business.
5. Choose the right profile photo
For most brands, your Instagram profile photo should be your logo. This helps provide credibility and allows visitors to see at a glance who you are.
Your Instagram profile photo displays at 110 by 110 pixels, cropped to a circle with a 110 pixel diameter. However, it’s stored at 320 by 320 pixels, so you should upload a file that large to make sure it still looks good if Instagram changes how profile pics are displayed.
If your logo is a square, you’ll need to zoom out to make sure the whole thing shows within the circle:
Source: The Home Depot on Instagram
6. Create visually compelling content
Instagram is a visual medium, so your posts have simply got to look great. You don’t need professional photography equipment, but your photos and videos do need to be sharp, well-lit, well-composed, and in focus, at a minimum.
If you’re using images other than photos, like infographics or animations, make sure they’re crisp, clear, easy-to read, and eye-catching.
Even more important, your visual content needs to be compelling. Great photos are nice, but if they don’t tell a story, or get viewers excited, they’re not going to engage followers.
Not sure what to post? Here are a few ideas:
- Behind-the-scenes posts: Give followers a look at your office, your storefront, or your manufacturing process.
- Quotes and text-based images: Play with text to create visually interesting content with no photos required.
- Regrams and UGC: User-generated content is by nature authentic and compelling.
- Instructional posts: Teaching followers how to achieve a goal is about as compelling as it gets.
- Videos: The maximum length of a video post on Instagram is 60 seconds, but you can go much longer with IGTV.
- Reels: See Tip 17 for more details on this multi-cut video format.
Beauty Brand Glow Recipe uses IGTV videos to showcase skincare routines for different skin types using their products. They post previews of the longer videos to news feed, so followers always know when a new tutorial is ready to watch.
We’ve got a whole blog post packed with content ideas for Instagram, if you need more inspiration.
Keep in mind that compelling content can extend your reach if people are inspired to share your newsfeed posts to their Stories. So, when thinking about how to market your business on Instagram, focus on creating content that’s worthy of a share, not just a quick like.
7. Establish your brand’s “look” on Instagram
Once you decide what type of content to publish, you need to decide how it’s going to look. As we explain in our post on creating an Instagram aesthetic, color influences buying decisions and brand recognition.
Your Instagram look should be consistent across your posts, helping followers easily recognize your content in their feeds.
One great example of this is the Instagram account @themindfulmaison. The photos have a consistent color scheme, look, and feel.
Source: @themindfulmaison on Instagram
An easy way to achieve this kind of consistency is to use Lightroom presets. We’ve got a set of five free Instagram presets you can download to get started.
If you find a creator on Instagram whose look you really like, it’s worth checking to see if they sell their own presets. The creator of @themindfulmaison does.
8. Write great captions
True, we just said that Instagram is a visual medium. But that doesn’t mean you can neglect your captions. Your brand voice is just as important as your brand look. Like your visuals, it should be consistent across posts.
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long, so you can use them for everything from a quick quip to detailed storytelling. That said, only the first two lines of text appear in news feed without tapping more.
Since people tend to scan captions rather than read them thoroughly, you want to get all the important information into those first two lines.
In our post on the best caption length for every social network, we recommend the following Instagram caption lengths:
- Organic posts: 138–150 characters
- Instagram ads: 125 characters
If you’ve got more to say, go ahead and say it. But make sure the extra text is worth it.
National Geographic is the classic example of long-form Instagram content. If you can match their level of storytelling, don’t be afraid to go long.
View this post on Instagram
Photo by Cristina Mittermeier @mitty / Through a layer of visibility they emerged, mouths open in a silent gulp. I held my housing steady and watched them drift silently past, mesmerized by the constellations that dotted their velvety skin. Even at high noon, life beneath the ocean’s surface is perpetually suspended in twilight. For a while I felt as if I were drifting in the cosmos with these celestial giants of the deep. Spending time in the company of whale sharks is an otherworldly experience, and, although I would prefer people leave them in peace, the opportunity for tourists to swim with them could actually save their species from being driven to extinction by unsustainable, illegal poaching. Many nations now recognize the value of keeping these animals alive and allow tourists to dive with them, creating both the demand and resources to expand protections for whale sharks through ecotourism, as we have accomplished in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Follow me @Mitty and my team @paulnicklen and @sealegacy as we work to protect these beautiful animals and their marine habitats.
Your caption should be relevant, entertaining or informative, compelling, and on-brand. For more details, check out our post on how to write great Instagram captions.
9. Use hashtags wisely
Hashtags are a key way to increase your visibility and discoverability.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post. But, realistically, you probably don’t want to do that.
We recommend using between five and nine hashtags per post. More than that can look like hashtag stuffing, a spammy tactic that turns followers off. Worse, if you use irrelevant or repetitive hashtags, users can choose not to see your content for that tag.
To get the most benefit, choose hashtags that:
- Are relevant
- Are specific to your niche
- Do not encourage follow- or like-swapping (think #like4like or #followme)
We’ve got a full guide with the latest hashtag strategies for Instagram if you want to do a deep dive on this topic
If you want engagement on Instagram, you have to engage, too. Posting quality content is great, but if you ignore comments and never interact with any other profiles, you’ll have a lonely existence on the network.
At a minimum, respond to comments users post on your feed. But also seek out popular accounts in your niche, follow them, and like and comment on their posts. Make yourself visible in a non-promotional way.
If someone tags you in a post, check it out and look for opportunities to engage. Can you re-share their post in your feed or in your story?
Pinning comments from top fans, or simply comments that are likely to spark conversations, is a way to encourage more engagement on your posts.
This makes it more fun (and productive) for you to engage, too, since you’ll have a greater chance to respond to real people rather than bots or trolls.
11. Make the most of Instagram Stories
Half of businesses on Instagram use Stories. And they’re getting great results: A third of the most viewed Stories are posted by businesses. Stories are a key part of a good Instagram marketing strategy.
Instagram Stories disappear after just 24 hours. Followers expect them to be more real and raw than your curated Instagram feed. They provide an opportunity to connect with followers and build relationships.
In our post on the best ways to use Instagram Stories for business, we highlight the following strategies:
- Tell a story: Have a message in mind, even for this in-the-moment format.
- Think fast: Use multiple short “scenes” and convey your message in the first 3 seconds.
- Provide value: Give viewers valuable information or link to useful resources.
- Use a call to action: Don’t rely on the small “swipe up” Instagram overlays for outside links. Use text to tell followers why they should swipe.
- Use a consistent brand identity: Like your Instagram feed, your Stories should align with your brand voice and aesthetic.
If fans tag you in their Stories, you can reshare the content to your own Story. This can be an easy, seamless way of sharing user-generated content while giving a nod of thanks to your top fans.
Pro tip: Save time by scheduling your Instagram Stories in advance with Hootsuite.
12. Use Stories highlights and covers to boost your bio
We covered all the official components of your Instagram bio in Tip 4. But there’s a bonus component we didn’t mention: Stories highlight covers.
You can create highlight albums to preserve your top Stories content, so it doesn’t disappear after 24 hours. Your highlight albums appear right under your bio, and you can create custom covers for each.
Used effectively, this adds a whole extra component to your bio, giving potential followers loads more information about your business and why they should follow you on Instagram.
For example, Sephora uses highlights albums to showcase their different product categories.
Source: Sephora on Instagram
We’ve got 40 free Instagram highlight covers to get you started.
13. Test the Gift Card sticker and button
You can now sell digital gift cards directly from your Instagram Story or profile. This is a great way to create a relationship with fans and allow them to support you through difficult times.
You can add a gift card button the same way you add any other call-to-action button:
- Tap Edit Profile
- Under Public Business Information, tap Action Buttons
- Under Select a Button, choose Gift Cards.
To add a gift card sticker to your Story, select the photo for your story, then add the gift cards sticker. If you don’t see it in your sticker tray, search “gift cards” and it will come up if you have a business profile in an eligible country.
In either case, you’ll need to use a partner provider to sell the gift cards, like Square. The options pop up when you try to add the gift card sticker or button.
14. Build anticipation for a product launch with the Countdown sticker
Another interactive sticker for Stories allows you to create excitement in advance of a product launch or special event. The countdown sticker alerts your biggest fans to mark their calendars when you’ve got something new to offer.
Brujita Skincare uses the countdown sticker to announce their bi-monthly product releases. Since they always sell out, it’s important to make sure top fans are in the loop for first access. It also ensures there’s a flood of orders ready to go as soon as a new product goes live on their site.
15. Go live
Instagram Live offers loads of potential ways to connect with fans in a real-time way. In our post on how to use Instagram Live effectively, we suggest the following strategies:
- Collaborate with an industry expert or influencer using the “Add a Guest” option to go live together
- Offer a live behind-the-scenes look at an event
- Host a workshop or share a tutorial
- Host a Q&A
- Interview a team member
- Talk to a client or customer
Matthew McConaughey invited Dr. Anthony Fauci to chat with him on Instagram Live. It was a good way for Dr. Fauci to get important information about COVID-19 strategies out to McConaughey’s 4.3 million followers.
16. Set up an Instagram Shop
Remember how we said you should get a business profile? Here’s one more reason why: You need a business profile to set up an Instagram Shop.
This feature, which is not available for personal accounts, allows you to create your own online store within Instagram.
You’ll also get a “View Shop” button on your Instagram profile page, so fans can tap through to your shop without even viewing a specific post.
Even better, there’s now a Shop tab on the Explore page, where users can search for new products or see products from brands they already interact with on Instagram.
130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month, so there is a large audience of people keen to buy from the brands they follow. You can tag shopping products in posts, Stories, and IGTV.
Tip: If you tag products in Instagram Stories, try turning on Auto-highlighting. This saves all posts with product tags to Stories Highlights, so potential customers can view them for more than 24 hours.
17. Experiment with Instagram Reels
There’s another new tab on the Explore page: Reels. These multi-cut videos are Instagram’s answer to TikTok. But they’re not just for dance challenges. Brands are using Reels to stand out from the crowd.
Second Shot Coffee used Instagram Reels in both organic and paid posts. The ad got nearly 40,000 impressions, and the organic post had nearly 2,000 views.
18. Post at the right times
Did you know that the best time to post on Instagram varies based on your industry?
We analyzed 258,956 posts from 11 different industries and found that there really is a best time to post, even though Instagram feeds are no longer chronological.
Here are the best times to post for each industry we analyzed:
- Travel and tourism: Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Media and entertainment: Tuesday and Thursday, 12 to 3 p.m.
- Food and beverage: Friday, 12 p.m.
- Retail: Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 12 p.m.
- Professional services: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 or 10 a.m.
- Non-profit: Tuesday, 10 a.m. or 4 p.m.
- Non-retail e-commerce: Thursday, 4 or 9 p.m.
- Pharma and healthcare: Wednesday and Sunday, 9 a.m.
- Personal care: Thursday and Friday, 1, 2, or 3 p.m.
- Technology: Monday and Tuesday, 2 p.m.
- Education: Thursday, 4 or 5 p.m.
Get more details, including the worst times to post for each industry, in our blog about when to post on Instagram.
19. Try an influencer partnership
Working with an influencer can help to build your credibility while exposing your brand to a new audience. A survey by CivicScience found that nearly half of daily Instagram users have made a purchase because of an influencer recommendation.
One easy way to get started with influencer marketing on Instagram is to host an Instagram takeover. This means that you invite an influencer to take over your Instagram account for a set period of time, like a weekend, or for a special event.
Tasting Table regularly invites chefs and home cooks to host takeovers of their account, sharing recipe posts in the newsfeed and Stories.
This extends your reach while also giving the influencer exposure to a new audience.
20. Expand your audience with Instagram ads
The surest way to get your content in front of a new audience is to run an Instagram ad.
Back in Tip 3, you defined your target audience. Now you can use that information to target your ads based on:
- Location: State, province, city, country, and so on
- Demographics: Like age, gender, and language
- Interests: Such as other accounts people follow, apps they use, and ads they click
- Behaviors: Both on and off Instagram
You can also upload custom audiences of people you have existing relationships with, and use these to create lookalike audiences.
You can advertise in the Instagram feed, Stories, or Explore.
21. Refine your strategy with analytics
No matter how good you already are at Instagram marketing, you can always be better. The best way to improve your results is to learn from what you’ve already done.
And the best way to do that is to study all of the information available in Instagram Insights.
Here’s a primer on everything you need to know about refining your strategy with Instagram analytics:
We’ve got a whole blog post on how to use Instagram Analytics if you’d like more details.
Manage your Instagram marketing presence alongside your other social channels and save time using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule posts and Stories, edit images, and measure performance. Try it free today.
Easily create, analyze, and schedule Instagram posts with Hootsuite. Save time and get results.