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Instagram Tips, Tricks, and Expert Advice To Ignite Your Strategy

Updated Aug. 16, 2021

It may not be trending like TikTok or offering the thrill of listening in on a celebrity group conversation like Clubhouse. However, Instagram still reigns among the most powerful and provocative platforms for social media content marketing.

With plenty of creative possibilities, targeting opportunities, and personalization potential, the visual-centric site offers plenty of ways to connect with high-profile tastemakers, break through the competitive noise, and build active, engaged communities.

It also offers brands a lot of bang for their content marketing buck. Though in the shadow of big siblings Facebook and YouTube, Instagram still pulls in over 1.3 billion active monthly users globally. It’s far eclipsed elder social statesmen like Twitter (397 million monthly users) and LinkedIn (774+ million total users), and even fast-rising TikTok only offers about half of its active user numbers (689 million per month).

And the user gaps between the ’gram and its competitors may soon grow wider. In June, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri shared a post announcing the company was no longer “just a square photo-sharing app” but a place to go “to be entertained.” To bring this identity to life, Instagram is focusing on developing new experiences in video, shopping, and messaging, as well as new products to support its professional creator community.

Some media outlets commented the company is losing sight of its platform’s core value. Community manager Monina Wagner says few marketers should be surprised about this directional shift: “The Instagram algorithm has been skewing towards video for a while now. We see that reflected in newer products they’ve launched, such as Reels and IGTV.”

.@Instagram has been skewing toward #video for a while. That’s reflected in their launch of Reels and IGTV, says @MoninaW via @Joderama @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

While the jury is out on how Instagram will fare as an entertainment medium in the future, plenty of reasons exist to include it as part of your content marketing mix now. And if you’re thirsty for fresh ideas and new techniques to give your content a competitive edge, the following roundup of tips, examples, and expert advice offers a super-sized Big Gulp of guidance to help.

Establish and activate your Instagram strategy

Instagram puts a visual spin on the micro-targeted conversations that turned “tweet” into a marketing verb in 2006. With its unique photography filters, streaming video capabilities, mobile-friendly toolsets, and newer features like Reels and Live Rooms (more on those below), it’s an ideal platform for the kind of emotional storytelling that can spark an empathetic connection between your brand and its audience.

But before building your brand’s profile and posting pretty pictures or fun video remixes, give serious thought to how your Instagram activities can drive your strategic marketing goals. (If you need some help determining those goals, follow the step-by-step process outlined in my quick-start guide to building a social media marketing plan.)

For example, if lead generation is a top goal for your video content, be aware that Instagram doesn’t offer clickable links like social networks as Twitter or Facebook do. Unless you have a verified or business account with at least 10,000 followers, you can only include a single hyperlink on your profile page. However, Instagram recently announced a pilot test on linking stickers on Stories with plans to offer it to all users in the future.

Soon all #Instagram users may be able to add links through stickers on Stories, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

But, for the time being, you need to optimize your bio content for lead-gen purposes and choose the link wisely (though you can update that link whenever you want to drive users to a specific landing page for a campaign or promotion). You can also drive additional leads by including a relevant and enticing call to action on your bio page.

Here’s a prime example from Insta-famous pup Brussels.Sprout, which draws fans towards its merch page with a CTA that promotes his favorite, umm, “pet projects,” causes that support mental health and animal rescue:

Set up a verified business account

In the screenshot above, you can see that little blue checkmark, which verifies Sprout’s status as an influential public figure (no pedigree papers required). It’s a badge of honor that comes with some useful marketing perks – deeper insights on followers, performance analytics for posts, advertising tools, and additional promotion options within the Instagram app.

While anyone on your content team can set up a personal profile and post on your business’s behalf, your best bet will be to build an official business account for your brand’s content activities. Once you satisfy the platform’s eligibility requirements, you can request a verification badge.

Add planning efficiency with native scheduling tools

Another critical feature that makes a business account worth maintaining is the ability to schedule posts. Previously, this function only was available through third-party tools. Instagram corrected this oversight earlier this year with the launch of its content publishing API, which allows businesses to schedule up to 25 photo and video posts within 24 hours.

#Instagram launched its own scheduling tool. Users can plan 25 photo and #video posts within 24 hours, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

It’s a small yet significant upgrade that can make your content campaigns easier to manage and remove some time constraints required of your social media team. That added bandwidth can be reallocated to monitoring and responding to comments your audience shares about your post or taking part in other relevant social trends, memes, and cultural conversations that may arise unexpectedly – an art that brands like Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Coca-Cola could teach a master class on.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Coca-Cola (@cocacola)

For additional ideas on how to position your Instagram efforts to achieve your content marketing goals (and suggested tools to make those processes easier), check out Ann Smarty’s post on ways to increase organic clicks and leads from Instagram.

It’s not easy to build organic clicks and conversions on #Instagram, but it’s not impossible, says @SEOSmarty via @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

Craft your creative with care

Looks (and lewks) count on Insta. Show off your most appealing brand imagery and supply descriptions that draw viewers deeper into your brand experience. This is the bread and butter for brands in travel, tourism, and entertainment. Still, any business with a signature aesthetic can capitalize by using stylized imagery and sharing its unique perspectives and attributes.

I mean, c’mon. Doesn’t this recent post on Apple’s profile page make you want to experiment with your iPhone’s black-and-white photography settings?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by apple (@apple)

Even B2B brands can get in on the snapshot-worthy imagery action. Look at how design software company Autodesk highlights the sustainable architecture projects its tools help make possible:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Autodesk (@autodesk)

Put your brand value and vision on display

Even if your content team is photo-phobic, you have lots of creative options. In the example below, SaaS business Atlassian uses a simple, static graphic to take a stand on an issue and drive traffic to its latest podcast episode along the way:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Atlassian (@atlassian)

Text-centric messages also offer designers a chance to flex their font-related creative expertise. Olga Rabo shares nine expert-level font hacks, including a way to incorporate animation to help bring more visibility to your Stories.

You can animate your fonts on #Instagram Stories, says @OlgaRabo via @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

Place the focus on your followers

No matter what content media and design techniques you choose, Instagram works best when you appeal to the interests of your target audience members – it’s their community sandbox, after all.

Give them personal reasons to want to invite your brand in to play with them, such as these community-building tips shared by Monina:

  • Provide opportunities for members to share their ideas: Just as good neighbors share a cup of sugar, good members of digital neighborhoods share too. They become de-facto leaders and influencers, and audiences appreciate that they’ve given their time to share their knowledge and experience. As a marketer, the insights you generate by encouraging open communication can also help you better anticipate the content needs and interests of your followers.
  • Be respectful and inclusive: A community is a shared space. Good neighbors show respect and courtesy, and so should the members of your online community groups. Set clear rules for interacting with your Instagram content, and post them to make it easier for your community managers to maintain a warm and welcoming environment for all to engage.
  •  Foster friendliness: If your content is valuable and fun, followers will naturally want to continue visiting your profile and building their relationship with your business.

Explore Instagram’s newest features

Even the most captivating experiences on social media can start to feel a little stale. Instagram takes user fatigue to heart, and continually introduces new products and features, tweaks its older programming to capitalize on new trends, and strengthens its value for marketers and creators. Here are a few of the latest developments – a few of which fall right in line with the company’s plans to pivot toward video, entertainment, and creator services:

  • Text translations and captions: Instagram recently launched a panel that enables text overlays and captions to be instantly translated from the original language to the user’s preferred language. This is particularly useful for brands that target multicultural audiences or operate across multiple global markets.
  • Extended access to insights: In July, Instagram announced it would be doubling its timeframe for tracking and analyzing performance data (from 30 to 60 days). It also unrolled a calendar tool in Insights, which enables businesses to choose custom dates for their account metrics.
  • Highlighting diverse accounts and stopping abusive messaging: In June, the platform enabled Black-owned U.S. businesses to self-identify and amplify that distinction with a badge on their profile and product pages. Earlier in the year, Instagram also issued an update on what it’s doing to discourage and penalize users who send abusive or harassing messages through DMs or post as comments.
  • Video remixes: At the end of March, Instagram launched a Remix function for its short, entertaining video content shared as Reels. It gives users the ability to include other people’s content within their videos, similar to TikTok’s popular Duets feature.
  • Live Rooms: Earlier in March, IG opened up an additional creative option: the ability to collaborate with up to three additional accounts on a livestreaming video. It’s an ideal feature for hosting live Q&A interviews, putting on a show, or even providing a behind-the-scenes view of how your remote teams operate in real time.
  • New professional dashboards: In January, all creator and business accounts were provided with a centralized dashboard, where they can discover trends and insights, track content performance, and access additional brand-building tools and products that can improve the impact of their efforts.

Distribute and conquer

Even if only a small percentage of Instagram’s billion monthly users regularly post updates and stories, your brand still needs to cut through a lot of content clutter. Promoting your posts on Instagram is as important as it is anywhere else in your marketing mix.

Get discovered via hashtags

In his post on Instagram marketing, Robert Katai outlines the two types of hashtags you can use in your Instagram campaigns:

  • Branded hashtags feature your company name, making it easier for people aware of your company to discover your content and learn more about you.
  • Community hashtags are more organic to the conversations happening. They help users follow broader topics, specific areas of interest, or other unifying themes.
Branded hashtags make your @Instagram post easier to find for people who already know your company, says @katairobi via @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

Put budget toward boosting performance

Paid promotions are another way to increase your brand’s reach and engagement on the platform. You can purchase promoted posts and display ads within Instagram’s regular content feed. In addition, you can promote your content by placing ads within Instagram Stories, which display your campaigns between image- and video-centric Stories that users click to view.

(For more details on using paid promotions on Instagram (and other social channels), check out our quick-start guide.)

If you want your #content discovered at scale, amplify its power through paid promotion, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #SocialMedia Click To Tweet

Enlist power players

Where would content marketing on Instagram be without recommendations from its legions of influencers – leading voices who have already earned the trust and attention of your target audience?

Of course, ongoing shifts in influencer trends mean you may want to consider doing more than just paying for a few sponsored posts on an influencer’s feed or asking them to post messages on your brand’s behalf.

For example, you could do a Stories takeover, where an influencer of choice takes over your brand account and produces exclusive content for a designated time (typically a few hours or a day at most). This technique can work well because the influencer’s audience isn’t urged to follow your brand, but rather, they’re encouraged by the influencer to see what he or she is doing on your brand’s account. The subtle promotion is more effective to increase reach and drive traffic from Instagram Stories to your site or special offer.

For a few more ninja-level tricks for growing your Instagram fan base, check out Olga’s latest Instagram Stories ideas.

Ask an influencer to do an @Instagram takeover. Benefits? Cross-directing followers, exclusive #content for your followers, and more, says @OlgaRabo via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Stay out of social hot water

One final thought: While sharing is caring when it comes to re’gramming admired content and images, posting someone else’s creative property without securing permission is never cool – and in some cases, it could put your business in legal jeopardy. If you want to mitigate your brand’s risk, you need an understanding of copyrights and the terms for fair use.

Read more about social media legal ins-and-outs in this article by Allen Murabayashi, which includes tips to help keep your content on the right side of the law.

Unless your #SocialMedia images are commissioned or created in-house, you may be breaking the law, says @allen3m via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Ready for your moment of Insta stardom?

Whether you share sumptuous photos, livestream your most memorable moments, or inspire viewers with fun remixing activities, Instagram is a great platform for putting your brand’s best content assets on display. How are you using the channel to connect with your audience? Paint your picture of Instagram success in the comments.

We’re picturing you at Content Marketing World this year on screen or in person Sept. 28 to Oct. 1. Want to make help realize that image? Register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute