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The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Instagram Marketing

Source: Unsplash

Instagram is a powerful platform for businesses who want to connect with their audience, build brand awareness, and even sell products.

However, it can get a bit overwhelming. New features roll out constantly, and many businesses struggle to find a way to stand out. Maybe you aren’t sure where to start or wonder if Instagram is a good fit for your brand.

Whether you’ve only used Instagram personally, want to grow your current business profile, or are just considering using Instagram for your business, this post is for you.

Instagram Has Proven To Be A Huge Asset To Businesses Today

Instagram isn’t just for sharing photos of your Sunday brunch, new puppy, or awesome new office set up. It is also extremely powerful for brands.

Here are a few stats to illustrate the power of the platform:  

What Exactly Is Instagram and How Do Businesses Use It To Make Money?

At its core, Instagram is a photo sharing app. The app also allows people and brands to share photos, videos, and limited time ‘stories’ (similar to Snapchat) with followers. Users can follow other users and brands, search for products and causes they care about through hashtags, comment on other users’ posts, and even buy products.

As a business, there are two main ways to monetize Instagram. You can use it solely to share photos and videos, using it to build brand awareness with the goal of driving users to your website through your bio link.

Or, you can use it to actually sell products through shoppable posts or Instagram ads. Because this is a beginner’s guide, we will focus more on using the platform to build an audience and grow your brand.

Use Instagram To Grow Your Brand and Increase ROI

Ready to get started growing your brand Instagram profile? Let’s get started with a step by step guide.

1. Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy

Before you do anything else, you need to lay out your Instagram strategy. Every step you take should be based on your strategy, so this really is a crucial step. To build your strategy, answer these questions:

  • Who are we creating content for? Create a specific buyer persona for Instagram, as your entire audience might not be on the platform.
  • What are your goals for Instagram? Do you want to drive traffic to blogs? Educate your customers? Gain a certain number of followers? The ‘why’ will drive your content strategy, which we will cover later, so outline both long-term and short-term goals.
  • What is our bandwidth? What resources do you have to dedicate to Instagram? It doesn’t make sense to build a strategy you will never have time to implement.
  • How will Instagram fit into our existing content and social media workflows? Instead of building Instagram as a stand-alone process, integrate it with your current processes from the start.

2. Set Up an Instagram Account For Your Business

Once you create an Instagram strategy for your business, it is time to create your business profile. Instagram gives business accounts additional features, including the ability to schedule posts and add additional contact information, so don’t just use your personal Instagram account.

Here is how to set up your Instagram business profile:

  • If you haven’t already, download Instagram to your mobile device and create a profile. You will need a phone number or email, username, and password. Take time to choose a username that works for your brand so you don’t have to change it later.

how-to-set-up-instagram-profileSource: instagram

  • From your new Instagram profile, look for the ‘gear’ icon in the in the upper right-hand corner.  
  • From that drop-down menu, select Switch to Business Profile. This will convert your current account to a spiffy new business Instagram account.
  • Already have a Facebook business account? Follow the prompts to connect your new Instagram business profile to your Facebook Page, which will import info from your business Facebook page. You can edit all this later, but it makes for an easier setup.
  • You are now the proud owner of a business Instagram account!

3. Optimize Your Instagram Profile

Now that you have a profile, let’s get it optimized.

Start with a High-Quality Profile Image

Choose a high-resolution image that will be clear and not grainy and is recognizable as your brand. Your profile picture will display as 110×110 pixels, so choose a simple logo or image without a ton of details.  

Choose a Name

Your ‘name’ isn’t the same as your username, and this is an important distinction. Your username can only include certain characters and might be dictated by what is available on Instagram.

Your name, however, can include additional characters. It is displayed on your profile page, while your username shows up next to your posts in your follower’s feed.

To edit your name, click on “Edit Profile” from your business profile. Include descriptors, key terms, and other recognizable information. Don’t stuff keywords in there, but use the opportunity to include terms if it makes sense.  

Add a Catchy Description

You have just 150 characters to convince users to follow you, so make the most of the space. The description will appear on your profile, under your brand profile picture and name.

Here is what you should include in your Instagram business profile description:

  • A short and sweet summary of what you do and who you do it for
  • Your catchphrase or motto if you have one (and it is short and sweet)
  • Your brand hashtag
  • Related industry hashtags that make sense

Here are a few examples of business Instagram descriptions for inspiration:

business-instagram-name-exampleSource: instagram

sprout-social-instagram-name-exampleSource: instagram

happy-socks-instagram-name-exampleSource: instagram

zero-waste-home-instagram-name-exampleSource: instagram

Add Your Contact Information (Including a Website!)

Make sure to add your website, email, location (if you have one), and phone number to your profile so users can contact you.

4. Start Following People

The best way to start building engagement is to start following people in your niche. Well-known marketer Neil Patel suggests following 50 people in your niche per hour. Doing this a few times per day will quickly result in hundreds of targeted followers.

Too time-consuming? You can use Social Upgrade to gain real Instagram followers automatically.

5. Engage With Quality Content

Now that you are following a decent number of pages, start engaging with the content they share. Like and leave meaningful comments on content you find relevant.

Your end goal is to gain attention and followers, but don’t be shallow or fake. Take the time to reflect, share a personal insight, or write a sincere response.

6. Share User Generated Content

One of the easiest ways to create your own engaging content is to share user-generated content from your customers or clients.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Share reviews with photos of your customers. These could be from Instagram, Amazon, or other social media accounts.  
  • Encourage users to use a brand hashtag (which should be included in your description), and regram those posts. (Make sure to tag their account to give them credit and so they see the post.)
  • Interview customers and post their stories on your Instagram account.

Make sure you get permission to post any user-generated content.

7. Run an Instagram Contest

Want to really fire up your user-generated content? Host an Instagram contest and ask entrants to share a photo using your brand hashtag. You can then regram the top 5 and ask your followers to vote for the winner.

You can run a contest manually or use a contest app like Woobox or Wishpond, which offer more features and metric tracking.  

8. Use Filters

One of the oldest and most popular features on Instagram is the ability to add filters to change the look of your images. Filters adjust lighting, add contrast, and so forth.

A word of caution for brands – if you are going to use filters, use the same or similar filters to keep your branding consistent. This will help people recognize your images in their feed, sometimes without even seeing your name!

9. Establish a Content Strategy

Think we already covered this in the first step? Not quite! There we outlined a broad Instagram strategy, including goals. Your content strategy will cover the details below.  

How Often To Post

In general, you should aim to post one to three times per day for a business account. Test more and less frequency to see what how your audience reacts. Increase or decrease your posting based on how much engagement you get.

Best Times To Post

Instagram posts have a short lifespan, so nailing the right time to post is crucial. According to a study by Sprout Social, the best day to post is Thursday and the best times are Wednesday at 3 p.m., followed by Thursday and Friday at 5 a.m.

Keep in mind that many people will check Instagram first thing in the morning. And, as always, test what works best for your brand. These times are averages, and your audience may be different.

Using Captions With Instagram Posts

While Instagram is mostly a visual platform, captions are crucial. A caption can show off your brand personality, drive action, increase engagement, and help optimize your post.

Use the caption to provide context, ask questions, or even share a story. Keep in mind only the first line or so of your text will show when users scroll their feed. Keep it brief and make sure to include applicable hashtags.

Should You Use Emojis?

Yes! Instagram is a casual platform, so don’t be afraid to show off your brand personality. Research even shows Emojis lead to higher engagement. 😍🙌🙌

10. Cross-Promote Your Brand

The reason you want targeted followers, not fake followers, is because you want to engage your followers outside of Instagram. You want them to like your Insta post, sure. But you also want them to like you on Facebook, subscribe to your newsletter, read your blog post, and buy your product.

This is why you want to cross-promote your other profiles and sites on Instagram. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Post a video on Instagram, and share links on other platforms.
  • Create an Instagram contest and promote it on your Facebook page, in email, and even on your website.
  • Share a lead magnet on Instagram to encourage your followers to sign up for your email list.
  • Use shoppable posts to encourage followers to make a purchase on your website.

11. Collaborate With Instagram Influencers

Instagram influencers have spent time building a large, dedicated following on Instagram. For a fee, they often review products or talk about the brands they like. These campaigns tend to have a high ROI.

Unlike celebrities, influencers tend to be more affordable. They also tend to have highly targeted audiences, such as small business owners, people who love to read, or people who love makeup.

You can find influencers by searching your followers and industry hashtags for, particularly active or engaged users. Or, use an influencer search tool like

12. Instagram Advertising

There are multiple ways to advertise on Instagram, including promoting standard photo, video, or story posts, or creating carousel ads with multiple products that link to sales pages.

If you are just getting started on Instagram, focus on growing your followers and producing quality, engaging content. When you are ready to dive into advertising on Instagram, read this post by WordStream.


Instagram is a rapidly growing social media platform with highly engaged users who are willing to both interact and shop with businesses they like. Creating a powerful Instagram business account doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you are willing to spend the time and effort. The first steps to building a highly engaged Instagram account are to create an optimized Instagram profile, build a decent number of followers by following others in your industry, establishing a defined content strategy, and considering advertising or hosting a contest.

Are you getting started in Instagram marketing? What part of the process have you found to be the most challenging?

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