XX min read

Ultimate Instagram Marketing Guide

Published on
June 4, 2022
Looking to grow and market your e-commerce brand on Instagram? This ultimate Instagram marketing guide answers all your doubts.

What if you could get orders worth thousands, on the day of your launch, without any existing influence or advertising?

That’s exactly what happened with Portland Gear, a clothing brand, on their launch day. Without a dollar spent on advertising, they were able to sell items worth $5000, on just the first day. Today, they have more than 80,000 followers.

While this happened back in 2014, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Instagram has the potential to build a brand ground up in a cost-effective way. Plus, you have more resources and tools to grow on Instagram now than ever before.

With that, you only need a focused marketing strategy and consistency to market your brand on the social media app.

In this article, you’ll find the ultimate Instagram marketing guide, which includes everything you need to grow your ecommerce brand on the platform and generate consistent sales with an engaged audience. Let’s dive in.

Why Instagram Marketing is a Necessity

From its inception in 2010 to capturing the attention of billions of users worldwide, Instagram's user base has grown at a breakneck pace, reflecting its potential as a critical marketing tool.

Apart from being a social media app that connects people through photos and videos, Instagram has become an excellent marketing tool for ecommerce businesses, as well.

Whether you’re a homegrown brand, or a large organization, you need to incorporate Instagram into your marketing strategy. The reason: since Instagram is a visual platform, it gives you an opportunity to showcase your ecommerce products.

Customers don’t want to be sold to. Instagram allows you to nurture your customers over time by regularly posting and creative product placements in your posts. Soon enough, you’re not hard selling, but building brand awareness and trust with your customers.

You get access to different types of post formats like Instagram Stories, videos, and short-form reel videos, allowing you to have multiple touchpoints with your audience.

What’s more, you get access to many business-facing tools to help you in your business goals. For example, with features like adding links in Instagram Stories and shoppable Instagram posts, you can create a seamless shopping experience for your customers.

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Advantages of Instagram Marketing

In 2021, 78% of marketers took to Instagram for marketing, just behind Facebook. There are a number of reasons why:

  • Access to a large userbase: Instagram captures a lot of eyeballs, with 2 billion active users as of December 2021. It attracts over 500 million users daily, giving you the right opportunity to reach your audience.
  • Target your ideal audience: With Instagram, you can create hyper-targets as it gives you a lot of targeting options. You can speak specifically to your target audience, and communicate just what they want to hear. You can target based on not just age and gender but interests and behaviors too. In an age where we’re moving from demographics to psychographics, Instagram lets you carefully plan your marketing strategies.
  • Increase brand awareness: Investing time on Instagram today will reap benefits for your brands long-term. Strategically planning your Instagram content and collaboration will boost your brand recognition slowly as people start interacting and sharing your brand.
  • Strengthen customer relationships: Customer feedback goes a long way in brands realizing their shortcomings, paving a way for improvement. With a high engagement rate on Instagram, you can address your customers’ complaints, engage regularly to make your customers seen, and make well-informed content decisions, too.

How to Market Your Business on Instagram

Instagram today has become a fully-functional social commerce space. In fact, 70% of shoppers claim they like to shop on Instagram. Marketing on Instagram successfully includes building an active online community, boosting brand awareness, loyalty, and in turn, sales.

Here’s how you can do it:

Creating an Instagram Marketing Strategy

A clearly defined marketing strategy will help you consistently produce content that resonates with your target audience and your marketing goals. Without a strategy, you might not be consistent or miss out on important events. A strategy will direct all your actions, so it’s important to document it before you start. It includes:

  • The type of content to post
  • Tone of voice and style guidelines
  • Frequency and time of posting
  • Communication guidelines

Having everything documented will make you independent of the person handling your social media platform. You’ll be able to create systems and automate the process with well-defined guidelines.

Branding Your Business on Instagram

Fierce competition in ecommerce makes it difficult for brands to stand out. Ultimately, with so many players at play, the sales come down to pricing lower than competitors.

The solution for not getting into the pricing race is a strong brand. While competitive pricing matters, having a magnetic brand will create more loyal customers for your business and help you stand out.

After all, your brand image dictates what you stand for – your strengths, values, and personality. Your brand image is what connects people to you and what makes them remember you. Customers are even more likely to stick with a brand they know and trust. Numbers back it up too: 76% of shoppers will choose a brand that they feel connected to over a competitor.

For example, notice how HelloFresh has branded their Instagram with a consistent color palette, type of posts, and more (in the next section, we discuss in detail how you can do it, too).

Using Instagram Shopping for Your Business

Imagine if you could increase your website traffic (and sales) by more than 30% just by opting for one feature on Instagram. That’s exactly what the clothing brand Lulus was able to do:

“The development of a native and authentic shopping experience on [Instagram] has taken discovery to the next level for customers. And it has opened a great deal of opportunity for us to engage new and existing customers; we have seen that nearly 33% of people who tap to learn more about a product visit our site through 'Shop Now',” said Noelle Salder,  CMO of the brand.

Instagram introduced Shops in 2019, which completely changed the game for social commerce. Earlier, a shopper had to spend hours looking for a product they saw on Instagram. But with Shops and Instagram Checkout, a person seamlessly goes from product discovery to purchase with a few taps – all without leaving the platform.

This is working, too. Every month, almost 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts to learn more about the product. Coupled with Instagram Stories, relevant captions, and hashtags you can reach your target audience efficiently.

Pro tip: Collect the posts of your existing customers showcasing your products. And repost them (with permission) by adding shopping tags that redirect the viewers to the shoppable posts.

Using UGC instead of only professionally photographed pictures tells your customers that they’re getting what they see. It’s not only what helps your potential customers discover your product, but also instills trust in your brand.

Once you tap on “View shop”, you’ll be redirected to the shop smoothly, from where you can visit the website:

Learning About the Instagram Algorithm

Instagram’s algorithm dictates the order in which the posts appear in a user's Instagram feed. This is what makes some posts appear on top of your Instagram account making them more visible than the rest which lie at the bottom of your feed.

Although unpredictable, it’s actually in your favor, not against you – only if you understand well how it works. The Instagram algorithm works by re-organizing the users’ feed in a way they see the content that’s relevant to them.

The reason is simple: the more relevant content they see, the more time they’ll spend on the platform. Instagram wants people to spend time on their platform.

The workaround is to create an audience of people that finds you and your product relevant. For example, if you’re a mission-driven brand with sustainability at its core, you can create an audience of people caring about sustainability in your product niche. This way, when you post content, they’ll engage with you as it’s a topic that they deeply care about.

The algorithm is based on certain factors:

  1. Interest: are people going to like this post? Does this fall under their interests? They do this by analyzing users’ past behavior and engagement patterns. Have you ever noticed how your explore feed will get filled with food pictures after you engage with just one?
  2. Recency: While Instagram doesn’t show chronological posts anymore, the time of the post still matters. The algorithm still favors the latest posts. Again, this is to encourage people to keep creating content. This is why being consistent on Instagram is important, too.
  3. Relationship: If someone interacts with you a lot, they’ll see your posts more often than people who don’t. Having your audience engage with you will make sure you stay at the top of their Instagram account. You can do this by hosting contests (discussed later.)

Apart from these three key factors, other factors are frequency and usage. Being aware of current trends drawing attention will also maximize engagement with your target audience. For example, Instagram Algorithm currently prioritizes Reels, which will lead to increased traction for you.

How to Build Your Instagram Marketing Strategy

80% of consumers use Instagram to make a final purchase decision. Keeping that in mind, not being strategic on Instagram is actually losing you money.

An efficient and well-thought-out Instagram marketing strategy can help you enter your target audience's domain in a non-intrusive way, nurturing them, and ultimately converting them into your customer. Here are six steps you can use to create your marketing strategy for Instagram:

Set Your Goals for Instagram

Setting goals is important to get focus, clarity, and direction. Your goals will determine the actions you’ll take, the type of posts you’ll create, and your engagement with the audience.

Goals will also determine your key performance index (KPIs), which is important for the evaluation of the strategy in the end. If you don’t set clear goals from the get-go, you’ll face problems in understanding the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

Your goals on Instagram should also align with your wider business goals. For example:

  • Business goal: Increase revenue
  • Marketing goal: Generate leads in the form of sign-ups for newsletter
  • Instagram goal: Increase reach and brand awareness

Other goals can include creating hype before a product launch, building brand image and thought leadership, increasing brand loyalty, and building a community.

You can now break it down to numbers and exactly the roadmap you can take to reach your desired goal. Finally, you can come back to these goals later to measure success.

Determine your Instagram target audience

Knowing your target audience to a T not only guides you in content creation but also affects the Algorithm. As mentioned, if you have an interested audience, the chances of engagement are higher, and hence, the probability of conversion increases, too.

Here’s how you can identify your target audience on Instagram:

  • Identify customer persona: Customer persona is a semi-fictional archetype built from user research that captures the key characteristics of your audience. When you identify your personas, you'll be able to write what they want to hear, enticing them to buy from you.
  • Gain competitive insights: Examining your competitors' audience can tell you a lot about your target audience. Check their “followers” sections and trace out the pattern. Apart from getting to know your audience, you’ll also be able to learn to create your brand persona. Plus, based on what’s working (and not) for them, you can tweak your content strategy accordingly.

Once you know your target audience, you can use more relevant hashtags, connect with the right influencers, and develop a better tone of voice.

But that’s not all: even after determining your target audience, keep a tab on your instagram Analytics to make sure you’re attracting the ideal profiles. If not, reconsider your hashtag and influencer marketing strategies.

Conduct a competitive analysis

Competitive analysis shows how your brand compares to your competitors. It can give you a lot of valuable bits of information like:

  • Engagement rate with their followers
  • Type of captions to use
  • Relevant hashtags to use
  • Consistency to post with
  • Type of posts with the highest engagement.

Through competitive analysis, you can also identify similar industry-related accounts that may not have been on your list of competitors but share the same target audience as your brand.

If you’re not able to find your competitors, start with monitoring industry hashtags and influencers in your niche. That’ll give you a fair idea of similar brands as yours.

Configure an Editorial Calendar

Managing an Instagram account doesn’t have to be hectic or stressful. With a well-organized editorial calendar, you can create better content, save time and manage your account more successfully and efficiently.

It’ll help you plan out content well in advance, taking into account any important holidays, which are important in driving sales. You’ll prevent hasty postings with compromised content quality, too.

You can also batch create and schedule the content for automated posting. Plus, you can prepare your captions and hashtags ahead of time with a good editorial calendar.

There are many tools you can use to create a content calendar. If you’re not yet ready to invest in a social media calendar tool, you can always do it in Excel. The point is to have the content when you need it.

Build a Consistent Brand on Instagram

People have a shorter attention span than ever today. When they land on your page, they should be able to understand what you do, in a short period of time as possible.  

This is where a consistent brand image comes in. It’s the sole chance you get to capture a new user’s attention.

Here’s how you can brand your business on Instagram that attracts customers:

Step 1: Start with creating an Instagram Business profile. The Instagram business profile gives you access to a host of features and business tools.

Step 2: Choose a profile picture, bio, and username consistent across other social media platforms and one that resonates with the aesthetics of your brand. For example, Warby Parker has the same image and bio across their social media channels:

This is how their Twitter profile looks:

Step 3: Choose the link in your bio carefully. As you can only put one link in your bio, consider using a linking app like Linktree or Linkin bio. For example, Freshly uses Linkin Bio:

Once you click on the link, you get directed to a page with all the links they want to show:

Step 4: Create Instagram Story highlights to tell your brand story, answer FAQs, or showcase your product lines. For example, Away, a travel accessories brand has created Highlights around different themes:

Step 5: Finally, the pieces of content you create should also be guided by a consistent brand aesthetic. Focus on creating visually stimulating content to catch users' attention as the visual nature is what keeps users glued to their phones, making them scroll through their Instagram feed for hours.

For example, by Humankind, a personal care brand, has a warm tone throughout their Instagram account:

However, when starting your Instagram journey, don’t get too bogged down with aesthetics. They’ll evolve as you evolve.

In addition to brand aesthetics, a consistent brand narrative is also very important. So, spend some time crafting the story of your brand.

Grow your Instagram Follower Base

Growing your following on Instagram is not just about the number of followers. Tie it back to your “why”. So, while you might be tempted to buy followers to get to a certain number, without the right kind of audience, it won’t result in any significant result for your brand. Along with following the non-negotiables like consistent posting and branding, here are some additional tips you can use to grow on Instagram:

  1. Collaborate with niche and micro-influencers who have the same ideology and niche as your brand. If they resonate with your brand, they’ll eagerly share your page with their audience. They might do this in exchange for a product or a certain amount of money, but the investment will be worth it.
  2. Spend time on hashtag research. In your early days, relevant hashtags will help your brand get in front of your audience.
  3. Use geotags to attract an audience from a certain location.
  4. Engage with your target audience (in a non-spammy way).
  5. Run contests and giveaways.
Pro Tip: Even though Instagram is a visual platform, adding some text content to your Instagram posts will help them perform better.

Types of Instagram Posts For Marketing

You don’t want your page to become similar to an advertisement. The only way to avoid doing that is to carefully craft and mix the types of posts you share.

Your Instagram page will reach its goal faster with subtle marketing. You don’t have to post a product picture every time. Here are some different types of posts you can use to market your business:


Images remain the most popular type of marketing content for businesses with 62.7% of a business account’s feed posts being photos. While there are restrictions on the size and dimensions of images that you can use, photos still remain versatile.

You can use images to showcase your products, repost user generated content, and much more. Keep in mind that you’ll have to maintain the 1:1 aspect ratio, so design accordingly.

With strong CTAs in the caption, images will help you drive engagement, like:

Posts from Behind the Scenes

People want to buy from people, not companies because trust is an important factor in selling. Seeing you and your process in action helps develop your audience’s trust. The more you can be transparent with your process, the more trust you’ll gain.

When you show your brand in action, you no longer remain just a business selling a product. You humanize the brand. Your potential customers can see that the products are built by real humans working hard (and having fun).

You can take a picture of your team together, work in progress, or personal posts. For example, Stil Stationery’s founder posted this heart-wrenching note during the pandemic:

Employees' reposts

Your employees can be the brand ambassador of your brand if you tell the story right. Every person working with you has some stories to tell. Share those stories with your audience to help them connect more with the people behind the product.

You can either repost a post by your employee or post their picture with a story they’d like to share. For example, Starbucks got around 50,000 likes on this employee story:

Posts by Influencers

If you’re investing in influencer marketing, you’re already a step ahead. When you collaborate with an influencer, you leverage the trust and relationships they’ve built with their audience over years.

Seeing a familiar face on your feed will replicate the process – create trust for your brand.

Inspiring posts

This is a graphic post where you use a motivating quote on a graphic or a plain background. Your audience will associate you with the kind of quotes you share. So, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your brand beliefs and ideologies.

Inspiring posts don’t have to be necessarily a quote. It can also be the story of your brand growth. While Starbucks isn’t an e-commerce brand, you can always take inspiration from other brands:

Trending Holiday Posts

Social media holidays are a critical part of social media marketing as they can start trending without notice. So, you have to make sure you’re preparing well ahead of time to get the advantage when the time arrives.

From Pizza Day to Cat Day, there are a lot of opportunities for you to engage with your customers. However, as a word of caution, don’t hop on every trend going around. The holidays that you choose to participate in should be closely related to your offerings. Otherwise, you risk alienating your audience.

For example, Dollar Shave Club posts a series of content before Father’s Day, as the holiday aligns with their goal:

Best Instagram Marketing Tips

Once you have your foundations in place, use these tips to market your brand on Instagram:

Tip #1: Post UGC

90% of shoppers say that UGC is a factor in their purchase decision, ranking ahead of all other forms of marketing.

It makes sense too: UGC fosters a sense of community and trust. Seeing a positive experience makes people believe that they might have a similar experience. This becomes especially important with e-commerce products because consumers order without ever touching or seeing the product.

Reposting UGC (with permission) slowly develops trust in your brand. But make sure you choose UGC that sits well with the style and theme of your page to remain consistent.

For example, Warby Parker, an eyewear brand, regularly posts UGC, showing how different frames will look on different face types. This saves them a lot of money in professional photoshoots while also creating customer relationships:

Tip #2: Use Stickers on Stories

Using stickers on Stories in an interactive way helps you keep your audience engaged. Numbers back this up too: 57% of users prefer seeing polls and quizzes by businesses. There are a variety of stickers you can use on an Instagram story, for example:

  • Question stickers
  • Poll
  • Emoji slider
  • Countdown sticker
  • Quiz sticker

You can create games with stickers on a fixed day of the week. This will train your audience to come back every week for the games.

Stickers like polls and questions are also a great way to understand what your audience truly wants. For example, if you’ve recently launched a product or thinking of developing a product, ask your audience what they would want to see from you. They’ll tell you. It’ll also show that you care about their opinions and are open to feedback.

For example, you can ask questions like this:

Or have polls like this:

Tip #3: Invest in Instagram Influencer Marketing Campaign

If you want to fast-track your growth on Instagram and reach your ideal audience quickly, influencer marketing will give you exposure.

Influencers, when carefully selected, and your brand both have the same audience, without being competitors. This makes influencer marketing all the more lucrative.

Pro Tip: Instead of spending a huge chunk of marketing budget on macro-influencers, aim to allocate the same budget across multiple niche micro-influencers.

Even though micro-influencers have less than 10,000 followers, they still drive more engagement than macro-influencers:

Micro-influencers mostly have a tight-knit community of people with the same interests. On the contrary, as the audience size gets bigger, the audience often gets diluted, no longer remaining niche.

For example, Warby Parker’s influencer campaign saw a huge success with micro-influencers, increasing their brand awareness and engagement.

The interesting bit is, the nano-influencer at that time with less than 8000 followers, Franklin Leonard, gathered the highest engagement rate of 6% among all influencers:

Tip #4: Host Giveaways and Contests

Hosting a giveaway is a proven way to attract followers, maximize engagement, and thereby increase your brand value. The high engagement rate driven by giveaways indicates to the algorithm that your content is of value.

As a result, it pushes your content to more people and can even land on the explore page. For example, this giveaway post by Wayfair gathered over 11,000 likes:

Tip #5: Write Engaging Captions

While Instagram is primarily a visual platform, you cannot overlook the importance of writing quality captions. Because captions are your brand's voice, consider their type, tone, consistency, and purpose to create a compelling story.

Use captions to drive your brand narrative in a way it maintains your audience's attention to the content.

This is how Scentbird introduces a new product, with a skimmable caption that aligns with their brand voice:

Even though Instagram captions can have up to 2200 characters, remember that users are more likely to scan rather than read the entire text, so keep it short, to the point, easy to grasp, and appealing to read.

Always end your captions with an inviting CTA to have your audience engage with the content.

Tip #6: Use Relevant Hashtags

Proper hashtags can increase your brand’s reach and discoverability. When you use a hashtag, your post will show up on the hashtag page. If you include it in your Story, it’ll appear in the related hashtag Story, displayed on the hashtag page.

While Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags per post, don’t spam the hashtags. Instead, your hashtags should appear relevant instead of stuffy and repetitive, as this turns consumers off and causes them to scroll past your content.

Later recommends using 20-30 targeted hashtags to increase your reach and engagement:

Tip #7: Post Different Formats of Content

Instagram has a range of content formats that you can use to market your brand. Here are some ways to leverage different post formats:

1. Instagram Stories: Since Instagram Stories only last a day, they should be entertaining and engaging for your followers.  You can use your Stories to engage your audience with quizzes, post purchasable links, and run contests.

2. Instagram Highlights: Highlights are essentially Instagram stories that stay on your profile for as long as you choose. Your audience can access it on your page. Displaying product collections, announcing the launch of new products, FAQs, moments from brand events, and tutorials and tips are a few examples of using Highlights.

3. IGTV video: Using this, you can publish extended videos of up to 60 minutes (in a verified account) and 10 minutes (for other accounts).

4. Instagram Live: With the rise of live commerce and shoppers wanting a more interactive shopping experience, Live videos can help you create the offline shopping experience for your customers. You can engage and interact with your audience in real-time. You can host live Q&A or AMA sessions to address your audience’s doubts. Alternatively, you can also invite your happy customers to talk about their experience with your product.

5. Reels: With Reels, you can participate in trends to keep your audience engaged.

How to Measure Instagram Marketing Success

Analyzing your post performance is the only way to improve your content. Some posts will work, and some will not. What’s important is to learn from both. But the measurement will depend on the goals you had set earlier.

However, manually keeping track of the KPIs is prone to errors and time-consuming. Leverage Instagram’s Insights while starting out. Later, you can use third-party monitoring tools to get even deeper insights into your performance.

For example, you can keep track of some KPIs, based on your objectives:

  • Accounts reached
  • Follower growth rate
  • Engagement rate
  • Number of clicks on link

Once you have this data, analyze why a certain post worked, was it the format, caption, or content?

Leverage Your Instagram Marketing Strategy Today with Archive App

Instagram marketing strategy is not just about growing numbers, but aligning your brand on social media to the bigger vision of the brand. All the actions that you take on Instagram should be intentional and have your audience at its core.

There’s also no quick hack to growing a sustainable brand. It’ll take time, but the ROI on the time spent will be well worth it.

As Instagram continues to grow and evolve as a marketing platform, it’s more important than ever for businesses to build effective Instagram marketing strategies. Check out the Archive App today!

Ultimate Instagram Marketing Guide FAQs:

How do I start Instagram marketing without any tools?

You don’t need any third-party paid tools to start Instagram marketing. Leverage Instagram’s built-in tools like Instagram Insights to gather data and tweak your strategy accordingly. Apart from that, there are many free tools that you can use to schedule or repost. But you don’t necessarily need them when starting.

Why is Instagram so good for marketing?

Instagram being a visual platform allows you to showcase the products you’re selling. Plus, it also attracts more than 500 million daily users, giving you a large number of people to market to.

How to make shoppable Instagram posts?

To create shoppable Instagram posts, you’ll need to register an Instagram business profile. After that, create your product catalog using Facebook shop under your Facebook business page and submit your account to get authorized. Once you have your Instagram account authorized, you can start creating shoppable tags by going to your “Business Settings” and then “Shopping.”

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