Best Practices for Instagram Marketing

Instagram is a social media channel worth considering for your marketing. The latest data from Pew finds that 40% of adults use Instagram. Use is highest among people in their 20s and 30s. Here are best practices to make your marketing effective on the platform.

Start by creating an Instagram business account. A business account gives you access to features you can’t use with a personal account.

Define Your Target

You can’t use Instagram (or any marketing tool) effectively unless you know what it is you’re trying to accomplish and who you need to reach.

In terms of audience, keep in mind:

  • 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.

Complete Your Instagram Profile

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. All that in 150 characters, so you need to be strategic and make every character count!

Complete all the fields on your Instagram profile to showcase your brand.

  • Your name: 30 characters, included in search.
  • Your username: AKA your handle. Up to 30 characters, included in search.
  • Your website: A clickable URL.
  • Category
  • Contact info
  • Call-to-action buttons

Use the Right Profile Photo

For most brands, your Instagram profile photo should be your logo. This helps provide credibility and allows visitors to identify at a glance who you are.

The 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.

Create Visual Posts

Instagram is a visual platform, so your posts have simply got to look great. Photos and videos need to be interesting and good quality – be sharp, well-lit, well-composed, and in focus. Posts need to tell a story and get followers attention.

When users visit your profile they will see tiles of your latest posts. The most effective brands have a consistent look for their visuals, making the tiles alone a component of brand impact in Instagram.

Your Instagram look should be consistent across your posts, helping followers easily recognize your content in their feeds.

Write for Instagram

Your post text, called captions, should consistently present your brand. The best captions are relevant, informative, compelling, and on-brand.

Captions can be up to 2,200 characters. However, only the first two lines of text appear in news feed. You want to get all the important information into those first two lines. (130-150 characters)

Consider Stories and Reels

Instagram Stories disappear after just 24 hours. However, you can create highlight albums to preserve your top Stories content so it doesn’t disappear after 24 hours. Highlight albums appear right under your bio, and you can create custom covers for each.

Reels are multi-cut videos that are the newest content feature added to the platform.

Use Hashtags

Hashtags are a key way to increase your visibility and discoverability on Instagram. You can use up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post, but using 5-9 per post is generally most effective. To get the most benefit, choose hashtags that are relevant to your content.

Post at the right times

The best time to post on Instagram can vary based on your subject area. Hootsuite analyzed 258,956 posts from 11 different industries and found these best times to post based on industry:

  • 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.

Engage

In addition to posting, you need to engage. Respond to comments. Follow others and like and comment on their posts. Make yourself visible in a non-promotional way.

Try Ads

I’m a fan of leveraging social media for organic or free marketing, but ads can expand your impact for a small investment. You can target 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 advertise in the Instagram feed, Stories, or Explore.

Pay Attention to Results

Monitor Instagram Insights to determine the impact of your efforts on the platform. Look for insight into what helps you connect with the right audience and what helps you move toward your goal. Adjust your marketing effort as needed!

Recharge! Keep Your Creativity High

Guest Post by Kristin Rock of Inkwell Creative

When I worked for a marketing agency, we had department happy hours pretty regularly. I remember the jokes. The late nights. The energy. We would also go on creative retreats where we would talk about our process and our inspiration. But then I quit the agency and worked as a consultant. Solo. At home. And though I had more time to myself, the creative excursions stopped.

Now when I feel my inner bank of ideas is running low, I have to create my own fuel. It turns out laughs and late nights aren’t the only way to recharge. Here are five techniques that keep me going:

Get out. It’s hard to take creative work outdoors but I try to step out mid-day and again after work to water the plants on my patio or walk the dogs. Sometimes I’ll step out during winter with a cup of coffee. On the weekends I plan to be outdoors all day, hanging out a winery with a view or taking a drive to run errands. The objects, shapes, landscapes, colors, and sounds are like balm for my brain, instant relief from Zoom fatigue, and a reset after hours of editing.

Leave home. If going outside boosts your energy, then traveling is like plugging in to a power plant. There’s endless inspiration that comes from navigating a new place, ordering new food, talking with different people. Even a day trip to another city can show me things in a different light, sparking ideas and balancing all of the time spent in my home office.

Create a routine. Being creative on demand can be challenging. It helps to block schedule your days. By earmarking uninterrupted hours each day to focus on a project, there’s time to settle into a creative mindset, especially if you can go without email or meetings. A routine can help you prep mentally to focus too.

Challenge yourself. I’m more of a recluse than I like to admit, but I purposely don’t turn away from experiences that take me outside my comfort zone. Finishing them builds confidence and struggling gives me a good reason to reach out to others for help or advice. Stretching my boundaries creatively makes me better at my core services and gives me new tools to work with. I filmed a vlog recently for a nonprofit that I support and doing it was thrilling.

Kill the routine. I know I just advocated for block scheduling, but there’s nothing as exhilarating as chucking aside your normal schedule to do something spontaneous. Or changing up how and where you work. My family has a beach house and working there – at odd hours and in hidden corners has resulted in some of the best work I’ve produced. Off of my routine and out of my element, ideas flow differently and I’m more willing to take a risk.

As a creative-product producer, fueling your creativity is vital. Self-care is an investment in your business and an essential ingredient for quality work. I love taking classes, visiting museums and galleries, and collaborating with colleagues – but I don’t always have the time or resources for those kinds of creativity boosters. If you find yourself similarly crunched, try to change up your work day – in one of these five ways – instead.

About the Author

As a Communications Strategist and Writer, Kristin Rock helps brands find their true voice and make an impact. She creates content for digital assets, social media, campaigns and collateral, and specializes in ghost writing for executives.

Kristin’s experience with national and global organizations sets a high standard for all of her work. She has been recognized for her contributions to projects for Booz Allen Hamilton, Modzy, Allegis Group Services, Applied Physics Labs, Indian Health Services, ExxonMobil, HCA Capital Region Hospitals, the Office of Personal Management, the State Department, NASA and many small, local businesses and nonprofits.

Are You a SME?

We are all subject matter experts (SMEs) for something. Few of us really leverage that expertise to its best potential in our online marketing.

Highlighting your expertise can benefit any business. It shows that you have a high level of knowledge about your field. Further, algorithms used by search engines and social media platforms, look for and elevate content from SMEs.

Know Your Niche

The first step in leveraging your subject matter expertise is to define it well. You want to have a clear focus on what it is that you know especially well. Narrow expertise is fine, and may even be helpful.

Concentrate on a highly specific area of your industry. Don’t recommend everything you come across or try to spread your reach across the entire field. Stick to what you know well.

The more specific you are, the better. For example, if you want to become well-known in the auto industry, don’t start a blog that discusses all things about cars. Focus on one aspect, like the safety issues and features or car repair.

Create Quality Content

Share content online that demonstrates your expertise and the valuable insight you have. Content can be blog posts, articles, interviews, images, infographics, podcasts, etc. Pick ways that you are most comfortable with, because you will need to create a consistent stream of content.

Make sure that every piece of content you create delivers genuine value to people who read it. An expert should add value over the other information already available. That’s the key to gaining attention.

Share Subject Matter Expertise Widely

Share your content everywhere that people who are interested might be. You can’t just post on your own blog and social media pages. You need to get your name out there.

Join related groups and post. Guest blog. Comment on content from other experts in your industry. When people look for content related to your industry, you want your name to be part of what they find.

Think Network

You need a network. Your network should include industry professionals who will help increase your knowledge, standing, and connections.

Social media is key when it comes to this. See who the people you admire are following to get ideas about who else to connect with online.

Networks are a two-way street. Connect and also interact. Regularly engage with your followers and share new information with them.