How to Create a Successful Instagram Marketing Strategy

Updated February 20, 2022

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms available, boasting millions of active users. More than 800 million users log on to the Instagram account each month—and more than 500 million are active each day. This image-based social media channel should be part of every modern marketing strategy. No matter what industry your business is in, you can find an audience on Instagram.

Instagram has a reputation as being popular with Millennials and younger demographics. There is some truth to this notion: about 59% of all Instagram users were part of the Millennial age group in 2016. However, you can also find a more mature audience. In 2016, 33% of Instagram users fell between ages 30-44, and 18% between 50-64. Whether your business targets adults themselves or you’re marketing to the parents of children, your audience is guaranteed to be on Instagram.

Don’t be intimidated by adding another social media channel to your marketing plan. Instagram offers powerful visual marketing options that help consumers feel connected to your brand story. Best of all, Instagram is free to use, so you can get started today. Start building your successful Instagram marketing strategy in just a few steps.

1. Determine your goals

An Instagram account is easy and free to create, but take a look at your broader goals before jumping in. Like your other social media accounts, you can leverage Instagram for different purposes. Your Instagram goals should support your broader marketing aims. Common goals for business Instagram accounts include:

– Driving sales or other conversions

– Supporting real-time customer service

– Building engagement

– Converting happy customers to brand ambassadors

– Finding new audiences through increased exposure

If a goal doesn’t immediately stand out, look to your existing plans. Your mission and vision, executive strategy, business plan, or project-specific marketing strategy will inform your Instagram goals.

After you’ve determined why you want to use Instagram, next consider how. Instagram is a free service, but you will need to invest staff time to run your account. Make a plan for who is responsible for your company’s account, as well as how much time they will spend on it each day. If time is short, prioritize the quality of content over the quantity. You’ll have better success with infrequent but high-quality posts, rather than posting lots of poorly planned content.

2. Discover your audience

Next, learn about the demographics of your audience on Instagram. Like most social media platforms, Instagram offers analytics tools to help you learn about your audience. If you have an account, dig into these analytics to see who’s already following you. If you’re new to the platform or don’t yet have followers, check the stats on your other social media accounts. You’ll typically see differences between your followers on various platforms, but any current followers offer a good starting point.

You can also consider your own data. Mailing lists and customer survey results are goldmines full of useful information. Research your current customers to learn about the people who already form your audience.

However you gather your audience information, use it to form a marketing persona. A marketing persona is an imaginary person who represents your typical customer. Look for insights on your customer’s age, income level, family size, education level, geographic location, and any other data points that inform their shopping habits.

3. Determine how to target your audience

Use your marketing persona to determine how to target your audience. How does your audience typically interact with your brand? Use Instagram to reinforce that relationship. 

For example, if you regularly deliver a physical product to your customers, feature pictures of the delivery process. If you provide a physical service, such as beauty treatments, landscaping, or construction, highlight before-and-after transformations. If your service is entirely digital, you can still make the experience special through graphics and animations.

Note that your Instagram audience may be a different group than your usual customers. This isn’t a problem, so long as you keep the distinction in mind. For B2B companies, your end customer may be a CEO or office administrator, but your Instagram audience could be the company’s marketing team. If you sell children’s goods, your Instagram audience is likely a parent or caregiver, not the child themselves. Your Instagram strategy should target this gatekeeper as well as the overall decision-maker.

4. Aesthetic is everything

Visual imagery drives the Instagram experience. Every post must include a photo or video, so Instagram is a platform where your branding can shine. Make a plan for the overall look and feel of your brand’s content before you start posting. Users often scroll rapidly through their Instagram feed, so your posts should be cohesive, consistent, and ultimately recognizable.

Draw up a brand guide for your Instagram posts. Look to your logo and overall branding for inspiration. You should select consistent colors, fonts, graphic elements, and filters to use in every post. This will give your Instagram feed a reliable look and feel. Don’t forget the captions! Your brand’s voice on Instagram should be as friendly as possible while staying within your overall brand identity.

Document these branding decisions so your entire team can produce the same look and feel. Even if a single staffer works alone on Instagram, they can rely on the branding guide when creating new content.

5. Expand into new features

Instagram regularly adds new features to its service. Explore these options as soon as you can: your audience will definitely start using them! Recently added new features such as Stories and Reels allow users to add short and engaging video content. There is room for endless creativity, but you can get started simply. A technically basic video that is full of interesting content can still engage and delight your audience.

New Instagram features provide powerful business opportunities. Additional features draw new audiences, sometimes attracting users from other social media platforms. Don’t miss the chance to expand your audience whenever a new feature arrives.

6. Don’t forget to engage!

Finally, don’t forget to engage with other users. Instagrammers have grown to expect responsiveness to their comments and direct messages. When you’re planning staff time for your Instagram account, don’t skimp on the time allotted for engagement and discussion.

It’s important to interact with other users to build a community. If other users tag you in a post, let them know you saw their contribution by responding. You can share, comment, and like posts and comments made by other users. So long as the content is positive and fits your brand identity, you can build positive relationships by continuing the conversation.

Participate in your industry’s broader community. Follow other users who are professionally relevant to your work, and spend some time each week engaging with their content through likes, comments, and shares. 

Depending on your industry’s norms, your network on Instagram may include peers, vendors, clients, customers, professional organizations, thought leaders, universities, government agencies—and if your industry allows for friendly or tongue-in-cheek competition, even direct competitors. Instagram is all about sharing special moments and celebrating life’s good times, so it’s the perfect platform to enjoy yourself as a brand.