Marketing Moments: How to optimize your Instagram marketing strategy


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taking a photo at a concert

For many years, photographs have been integral in capturing our most cherished moments, sweet memories, major accomplishments, or first steps. Whether we are nostalgically flipping through family photo albums or just pulling out our smart phone to document little details throughout the day, each photo has a special meaning. Irrespective of our photographic skill (or lack thereof), photos have the ability to save a snapshot of small moments in time. This allows us to share our  own personal story or the story of what we see around us with loved ones and friends in a unique manner.

Instagram, a popular social media network, has capitalized on making images and videos shareable in a simple, easy-to-navigate platform that invites individuals and brands to upload and edit images, as well as share them with large or intimate groups. Their main focus is on sharing, allowing one to see the world through another’s eyes and with a whopping 500 million users as of June, they’re succeeding in doing just that!

Much like Snapchat, which we’ve previously explored, Instagram caters to a younger demographic with the majority of users aged 35 or below.  Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology researched young user behavior and found that many teens use the site as an outlet for self expression and as means of communication. Interesting enough, adults post more images, while teens seem to be more meticulous in choosing the photos they feel best portray their unique personalities.  

Marketing on Instagram

As with any social media platform, social media marketers have a big decision to make as to whether they’d like to market on this channel or not. Contrary to any preconceived notions that Instagram is only impactful for retail or restaurants, it shouldn’t be easily ruled out. Its simple, yet dynamic focus on visual storytelling is something industries of all kind can take part in.

Top tips for marketers

If you’d like to grow your Instagram audience, connect with new followers, portray your brand’s unique personality or all of the above, follow our top tips for creative Instagram marketing:

Beef up your business page

Your profile page should be treated as ad space, you have exactly 150 characters to express just what your organization is really about. To make it catchy; break up the lines, add emojis, invite you audience to follow you on other channels, share a creative brand hashtag, and link to your latest campaign, website or blog (don’t forget to use a short, trackable link to save space and measure).

Macy’s does a phenomenal job of displaying what their company is about, shares a fun hashtag for fans to use when posting their latest Macy’s experience, invites them to connect on Snapchat, and finally links directly to additional content.


Be Balanced & Share-worthy

While the majority of Instagram posts may be images, don’t be afraid to mix it up and add some video clips as well. You have the option to upload 60 second videos. Mixing up your content not only balances your profile content, but it is also a major engagement booster. Videos are 2 times more likely to be engaged with – wow!

If you’re searching for a new approach to connect with your audience, try to share tips, facts, or inspirational quotes. FitBit does an excellent job of promoting healthy lifestyles with a mix of content revolving around their product, adventure, sport, funny jokes and helpful health tips.


Explore Instagram

Search for trending hashtags and themes and get discovered in Instagram’s Explore tab. The app compiles images and videos for users based on what the people they follow enjoy. This helpful section gives marketers insights into the latest trends and helps them find popular topics to share curated content.

If your images are shared on Instagram Explore, you’re essentially earning free exposure for your brand. Just make sure your content is relevant to both your brand and potential audience.

To further extend your reach unleash the power of hashtags. Hashtags can be a real gamechanger. Brands can use them to keep their images from getting lost in the sea of daily uploads, create communities, or add a bit of personality and spice to their images.

Social Proof

Don’t underestimate the power of consumer testimonies, and what better way of reviewing products than to post pictures with them. Consumers often post images wearing their latest purchases, enjoying a tasty dish, or visiting your brick and mortar locations. Build hashtag communities for them to share their content and don’t be afraid to interact with them. Reposting their images and giving them shout outs is a great way to show that you listen to and care about your customers.

Influencers, on the other hand, are a bit of a touchy subject as of late. You may have noticed the millions of #ads or #sponsored hashtags popping up on your favorite blogger, artist, youtuber, or celebrities’ posts. It may seem like a no-brainer to pay influencers to post a pic using your product or write about why they love it so much, but many brands are finding this to be incredibly frustrating. Marketers haven’t been able to measure the direct results of these investments to be able to tie them to concrete sales numbers. Whereas they can measure likes, views, shares and comments, they have very little visibility into how the level of followers will affect their campaigns success or how it will come back to them as a return on their investment.  

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories, the platform’s latest feature, has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm by brands. Much like Snapchat’s stories, brands can compile photos or videos to share moments throughout the day. The difference that many brands are finding, however, is that Instagram’s size and user-friendly interface have been easier to navigate. Some have already experienced quite a bit of success. Nike had a whopping 800,000 views on their Instagram stories campaign, whereas their very best Snapchat video only generated 66,000 views.

Sponsored content

Although Instagram Ads can be created and managed through Facebook’s Ad Manager and Power Editor, the content of the Ads themselves should be designed strictly for Instagram.

What’s the big difference between Instagram and Facebook content? A study conducted by Facebook IQ and Ipsos Connect helps us answer this question. They explained that, Facebook and Instagram are much like white and red wine. While you may enjoy both, you enjoy them for different reasons and how you determine which one you are in the mood for is affected by various factors. Facebook is primarily for connecting with friends and family while Instagram takes it one step further and opens the doors to discovery. Therefore, the type of content we post on each site has different levels of response.

facebook-iqMuch like Facebook, however, the Ad scheme is quite similar. Marketers have the option to choose between static images, 60 second videos or image carousels. While it may not be recommended, they can simultaneously run the same ad on both platforms to compare performance and see what type of content resonates with each audience. Much more impactful may be to run a complementary campaign to help your message resonate with followers on both channels without boring them!

The real trick to an engaged campaign is to make sure it is as natural and sales-free as possible. Instagram’s discreet design gives marketers an advantage as sponsored ads seems to blend into the content stream naturally, however, it is marketer’s job to keep the mood relaxed. A study by Markerly advised against ads with unnatural product placement or text overlaid. Interestingly though, they also found that the like rate of sponsored and unsponsored content is quite similar. This gap, surprisingly, grows in favor or sponsored content for accounts larger than 250k followers.


Measuring Instagram Performance

No social media strategy would be complete without proper measurement. Fortunately for data-driven marketers, Instagram recently announced a new feature as part of its brand business offering, Instagram Insights. This feature will allow marketers to capture data including:

  • Location: Where your followers are – down to their city
  • Demographics: Gender & Age
  • Posts: Top posts, reach, & engagement
  • Time: Hours followers are online or engaging with content

Furthermore, the new business package will include helpful new tools for businesses such as one which shows you ads that are performing well organically and recommends that you promote them, as well as giving you the option to do so directly through the platform. Roll out has already begun in some parts of the world and this package is expected to be accessible globally be the end of the year.


How have you shaped your marketing strategy for Instagram? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks.


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Holly McKendry

Sweetspot Marketing Director. Wakeboarder & travel enthusiast. Communication Studies graduate of Texas State University, San Marcos.

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