Quick facts about Instagram: 600 million active users; 400 million daily active users; 80 million daily active users in the US alone.

Plus, it’s still one of the fastest growing social media platforms.

Instagram is a powerful social media platform that enables small businesses to market themselves for FREE.

If done well, Instagram marketing can build your brand, generate leads and boost your revenue. However, you can’t use the same strategy on Instagram that you do on your other social platforms. It’s not enough to just have a profile and throw some hashtags around – that’s what everyone else is doing.

To make your small business stand out and grow your Instagram following and results, you need to market yourself the right way. Here’s how to get started:

Zero In On Your Goals and Strategy

A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder. – Thomas Carlyle.

The same applies to your Instagram account (and your entire marketing strategy). An over-arching goal for your Instagram strategy is essential to measuring success.  For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, it doesn’t make sense to measure success only on the number of leads you get from your Instagram account.  So, lock in on your top goal for the channel and align your strategy to it.

Here are some examples of how to meet your goals on Instagram:

GoalBuild Brand Awareness

  • Grow your Instagram followers
  • Increase engagement on Instagram
  • Cross promote on other marketing channels

GoalGenerate Leads

  • Promote opt-in CTAs in your profile bio
  • Run Instagram ad campaigns to potential customers
  • Leverage Influencers to tap into new audiences

GoalBoost Sales

  • Promote products and services
  • Feature customers
  • Run sale promotions

Without specific goals, your Instagram account is in danger of turning into a miscellaneous compilation of haphazard posts.

Target Your Best Audience

With your goals and strategy outlined, you’ll want to know exactly who you are targeting on Instagram. Remember, that he who tries to please everybody, pleases nobody. Focus is key.

While you may have developed your marketing personas in past, it’s worth taking another look and comparing your personas to the demographics of people using Instagram. This can give you a better picture of the type of buyer you can expect to reach through the channel.

For example, female millennials who earn between $50,000 and $74,999 and live in urban areas are using Instagram more than any other demographic. So, if you’re an employee engagement software company that has two personas – Molly, the 27-year-old HR assistant, and Harold, the 65-year-old HR director, your time is better spent creating your profile and content to appeal to and attract Molly.

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You can find more valuable Instagram demographic data in this article by Hootsuite.

Nail Your Profile

Great Instagram brands start with an awesome profile. A compelling bio and relevant links are essential to turning eyes into followers and leads.

You need to include a memorable profile picture and high-quality photos that are visually appealing and consistent with your brand guidelines.

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One of the intricacies of Instagram is that you cannot include links in your posts. So, it’s extra important to include any CTA links in your bio. Many brands will even say “see link in bio” in their Instagram posts to drive their followers to take action.

Your profile page is often the first encounter potential followers will have with your brand on Instagram. Make sure that your photo and video collection is engaging at first glance and entices your audience to hit the follow button.

Post Amazing Content

Your Instagram content is going to be one of the biggest drivers in helping you reach your goals.  First, you want to define your style. This includes a color palette, fonts, filters, captions, and hashtags. A consistent look and feel will help your business stand out from the crowd and boost recognition in a crowded feed.

Then, align your content with your goals. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you might promote your company culture and show pictures and videos of your employees, office life, and company initiatives and events.

Likewise, if it’s to grow sales, customer testimonial videos or quotes might be the way to go.


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When it comes to types of content to share, go for video, photo content and if times allows, share ‘stories’ as well. If your small business marketing strategy is heavily Instagram-focused, it may be worth it to invest in a good camera. If not, a trusty iPhone (with a few awesome apps) can absolutely do the trick.

Finally, if need a creativity boost, check out these eleven small business Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration.

Identify Key Accounts and Hashtags

Now that you’ve nailed the basics, you need to start building your audience. The easiest place to start is by identifying competitors in your space that have already begun building their Instagram following. Look through the types of people following them and try to engage with that audience or a similar one.

You don’t have to build your audience all on your own. Influencers in your market can be a key tool in tapping into relevant audiences and growing your following. See if there’s an easy way to get an influencer’s attention (like tagging them in pictures or hashtagging their company name). As you build a relationship with them, look for opportunities to cross-promote each other’s content to gain new exposure for both of your brands.

Influencer Matt Crump, for example, has a huge Instagram following and often promotes Cheetos – giving Cheetos access to a whole new audience and attracting more people to his own Instagram account:

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You can also analyze the hashtags influencers are using for industry-related content and tap into the most effective ones. Since hashtags are the way that most people find new content, you want to be clear on your core hashtag groups, rather than throwing whatever you think may work for your posts.

If you want to grow your audience even faster, you can invest in an Instagram ad campaign through Facebook, allowing you to target a specific audience on Instagram.

Skyrocket Engagement

Following people who fit your buyer persona or leaving comments below their posts can get you their attention and perhaps a few follows as well.

But let’s be honest…commenting on 1,000 different pictures per day is not a feasible strategy. To start with, you can automate this sort of engagement using Instagram automation tools like Instagress.

While this isn’t necessarily an ideal long-term strategy, it’s a simple way to build an initial following if you’re starting from scratch.

Leverage Marketing Campaigns

At this point, it’s time to run some serious marketing campaigns. There are several ways to go about it, but here are a few of the foolproof strategies to market your small business.

  • Influencers: As we mentioned, reaching out to influencers in your market can earn you a lot of followers. There are many ways to work with influencers including affiliate deals where they get a share of the sales, doing a cross-promotion of content, or even paying them to run ads for your account in their feed.
  • Contests + Giveaways: Another great way to promote yourself is to run contests where you ask your followers to tag friends or like your content.

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  • Ads: With Instagram’s excellent targeting features, ads are a very efficient way to both grow your audience as well as directly sell your product.

Tools to Use

As with every aspect of your small business marketing strategy, you want to focus on the tools that generate the best results. For everything else, there are plenty of automation tools you can use to maximize your results and minimize the time required to run your campaigns.

There are tools like Buffer that help you schedule your posts, Whalar to find influencers for your campaigns or Canva to help you create beautiful pictures with quotations.
Using all of these tactics, you can create a simple and effective Instagram account for your small business in no time. Just be sure that it aligns with the rest of your marketing efforts so you’re offering a consistent customer experience across platforms.