Instagram Marketing 101

The Instagram marketing playbook provides an in-depth guide on how to use Instagram as a marketing tool. This guide includes information on the stages of personal branding on Instagram, what to post, and what not to post!

Table of Contents

The human brain is more of an image processor; we tend to remember things that we see more than what we read or hear. Instagram is all about capitalising on this behaviour. Since its acquisition, Facebook has been pushing the photo-sharing platform to a larger audience. People have found it fascinating and the best escape from Facebook’s cluttered newsfeed.

Many people today prefer Instagram over Facebook for the reasons stated above. Facebook gives advertisers an option to place advertisements on Instagram stories and news feeds.

Sometimes, people are stuck, and they don’t know where to begin their branding journey. Instagram is possibly the best platform at the moment to start your journey in just 15 minutes. Just mastering Instagram is good enough to become a digital influencer.

In this playbook, we’ll talk about the following thing:

Instagram as a Platform

If you have used Twitter, then know that Instagram is no different. You can discover anyone using the ‘search’ option and follow them.

There is no concept of sending and accepting friend requests unless the account is private. Once you follow someone, their updates start flowing into your newsfeed.

You can like, comment and interact with the updates of people you follow or the people you discover through hashtags.

The only difference between Twitter and Instagram is that Twitter is about characters, links, images and videos. In contrast, Instagram is only about pictures and videos (of not more than a minute).

They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Instagram is the perfect platform to showcase your creative photography and videography skills.

Instagram is for

a) Leaders who would like to inspire people every day with their stories:

Lately, Instagram has seen a massive wave of thought leaders and influencers adopting the platform. Some influencers endorse brands, and some thought leaders use Instagram to share their thoughts with the world.

You can use several third-party tools to make interesting posts as an individual. You can place quotes over images of your choice and upload them for daily motivation.

Leaders can use Instagram to share quotes, photos of their parties, travel journeys and the innovative products they see. They can also effectively use Instagram stories to engage with polls.

b) Entrepreneurs & celebrities who like to show their inspiring lifestyle:

Entrepreneurs, especially the young ones, usually inspire many hearts, who eventually follow them on Instagram. They use Instagram to show us glimpses of their lifestyle.

They post pictures and videos from their trips, the fancy restaurants they visit, etc.

Celebrities use Instagram to show their lifestyle, share light moments and endorse brands. Virat Kohli’s Instagram is all about his personal life, moments from his shoots, the products he supports and his festival celebrations.

One of the best celebrities on Instagram to follow is Shilpa Shetty. She uses her Instagram to talk about wellness, fitness and yoga very often and also covers restaurants every Sunday in the format of ‘Binge Eating’

which is now popular enough for people to check her profile every Sunday to see where she is eating. That day! Her profile has a purpose.

c) Food bloggers:

Food bloggers bait their audience with striking visuals of food straight out of the oven. They also share whatever they’ve posted the recipe to bring in more traction.

Sometimes, when the character limit stops them from sharing the entire recipe, they link their blog, which would have the whole recipe. It brings the added advantage of gaining blog visitors.

d) Travel bloggers:

Travel is inevitably linked to photography. All it takes to build your traveller brand on Instagram are good pictures and the right hashtags—adding the location is a plus.

Use hashtags like #travel, #traveldiaries, #traveller, etc. Srivatsan Sankaran is a photographer who travels, and his Instagram is all about his travel stories that inspire.

Despite being a person with disabilities who can’t hear or talk clearly, Srivatsan has used Instagram to his advantage. He built it as his strength by communicating effectively through pictures and words.

Shivya was 23 when she decided to quit her job and quench her thirst to travel worldwide. She started travelling with her partner, and soon, her story was shared on leading media platforms such as BBC and National Geographic.

She released a book in 2018 about her travel journey, which was a national bestseller at that time. She uses her Instagram handle to share her daily experience from her current travels.

e) Photographers & models:

Instagram presents its users with an unparalleled photo-viewing experience. It is, without a doubt, the best marketing channel for photographers and models.

Most models today are not just hired for their great looks and attitude but also for their ability to persuade people on Instagram. If they are influencers, they can charge 2x more than their regular costs. Instagram makes models celebrities. Provided they have defined the purpose.

f) Solopreneurs:

Instagram is giving birth to a whole new segment of entrepreneurs. Their job is to inspire people through their Instagram profile, share tips, run ads to grow followers, sell their courses, consulting packages and more. They are solopreneurs.

Some solopreneurs are becoming Instagram traders; they display great products on Instagram, sell them through images, get paid through online payment gateways, easy transfers, etc. and then place the order to local retailers.

This way, retailers save on the cost of marketing and solopreneurs (fashion, accessories, stationery, crafts, paintings, jewellery) benefit the most out of it.

Ralston D’Souza is an online fitness coach certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (NSCA-CSCS). He is 25 years old and the founder of ral_fitness.

He provides customisable nutrition and training guidance that aids in lifestyle improvement and, weight loss. He started by uploading fitness content on various platforms, mostly YouTube and Instagram.

His continuous efforts evolved phase by phase over time, leading to substantial business growth. At present, he and his team aid around 100 clients per month. Each post is posted after careful consideration of the value it adds and its impact on its niche audience.

Ralston D’Souza uses Instagram to live his passion for fitness and as a source of income.

The Stages of Personal Branding on Instagram

Stage 1: Polish your Instagram profile

a) Profile picture

The first thing to note about your profile picture is that it can’t be clicked on or zoomed into. So, don’t use images that have been taken from afar. Make sure your face is visible.

b) Your username

Please use your full name. When you comment on someone’s profile, a fancy username doesn’t make your comment look serious. When someone is going live, and you are commenting, the person wouldn’t know how to address you if your username doesn’t hold your name.

c) Bio

Your bio is something people notice, so give them a reason to follow you. Describe your purpose instead of what you like, dislike, or date of birth (I see that most people follow this). It is always good to address why someone should follow you.

d) URL

This space is the best to link your other social media profiles or blogs. Since Instagram doesn’t allow you to publish links in the posts, many people use the URL space to share links, which require registration or a click.

e) Adding elements of branding

Here’s the truth about Instagram: There are many more brands just like you, doing the same things as you and working towards the same goal. To differentiate yourself from them, you have to make sure to add elements of your branding to your page.

Breaking up your pictures to create an appealing grid is an old Instagram trend. This way, you end up giving a lot less value to your audience, reducing your engagement. So, a template-based model can be a better pick to maintain your engagement and branding.

Template-based Model

A template-based model is what I follow. I involved my designers in building my profile according to branding guidelines. These guidelines will cover the font, colours, caricature, shapes used by creatives to remain consistent throughout. You can see how this works in the screenshot shared below:

Stage 2: Converting your Instagram profile into a business profile (if you are aiming at paid promotions)

You can only reach people organically on Instagram with a typical user profile. But if you’re willing to park a budget for paid advertisements, then you can switch to a business account.

For a typical profile to be converted into a business account, you need to sync it with your Facebook business page. The perks you get with a business account are:

Stage 3: Growing your Instagram follower base

Without growing followers, you will not find Instagram interesting. You can’t keep adding friends like on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Instagram needs some effort, style, fashion statement, storytelling and the ability to click some great photographs. Before you start your Instagram journey, invest in a good camera.

Here are some tips you should follow to grow your Instagram followers:

a) Post reels

You may use Reels to share bite-sized, entertaining content with your followers. This tool allows you to make brief 3 to 15-second video snippets to which you may apply filters and music.

Users can share it on their feeds, Reels tabs, and stories on Instagram. You can also get to the Reels of other accounts by clicking on the Reels button in the navigation bar.

Here are six benefits of jumping on the reel-wagon:

b) Set expectations

Every Monday, I have an audience turning up to my channel to check out #NewThingsInDigital.

Going live once a week helps me address the questions of my audience. I use the hashtag #SocialMediaRoadShow every time I share workshop stories and posts.

I encourage others to do that as well. Like that, I have set certain expectations. Each of these will have its very own following. So, make your Instagram journey organised, and let people be fans of your specific piece of content.

c) Start Posting Great Images

The key to success on Instagram is creative Instagramming. Anybody can click and post random pictures. The key to your images standing out is giving them a creative edge.

Use tools that can help you create good infographics. Instead of sharing every moment from a particular scenario, club them and use Instaframe to post them or upload them together as an album.

People love to see your lifestyle as an entrepreneur or a professional on Instagram. The following posts work best:

Work captures:

Festive celebrations:

d) Boost your Instagram posts

When you convert your profile into a business profile, you can run advertisements on Instagram. Through these advertisements, you can set 2 key objectives:

e) Run your Instagram Story advertisements

One of the other paid ways to grow followers is by running Instagram story advertisements using Traffic Campaign in your Facebook advertisements dashboard.

In one of the traffic campaigns we ran, the link given was of our Instagram profile, and the result was exponential. The video I made was a 15-second one that prompted people to follow me on a swipe up to learn #NewThingsInDigital and learn digital marketing for free.

f) Tell your story through captions

The captions you use play a vital role in enhancing your pictures. The best types of captions are questions. It will drive more engagement in the form of likes and comments. Ensure that the caption you use goes well with the picture.

Ask for tags to get more attention; talk about giveaways/prizes if there are any for the product/contest. You don’t have to be a writer or use complex words to write a caption. The simpler it is, the better. Let your captions be well expressed and detailed when explaining a particular concept.

g) Maintain hashtag consistency

Use popular hashtags that would be in sync with the industry you are in, as it would help you get more visibility. Some of the most trendy and common hashtags used anywhere are #instadaily, #photooftheday, etc.

Remember to use them but don’t overuse them. Your picture shouldn’t come out cluttered and overzealous.

h) Follow hashtags and relevant people

Instagram is a platform for discovery to discover people by using hashtags. Ask yourself this question: What hashtag would my target audience or people in my industry use when they talk about this subject?

For example, people often use #SocialMedia, #DigitalMarketing, #SEO, #SEM, #SMM, etc.

Instagram has a search feature to discover relevant people and content. People often use the search feature to:

Some tools do this on your behalf. These tools discover relevant people and comment on their Instagram profiles, making them visit your profile and follow you. However, such tools ask for your details to access your profile, and it could be risky.

i) Keep up with your schedule

If you are posting every day, at a particular time, ensure you regularly post at that time. You can post once or twice a day, as long as you follow a consistent schedule. Ensure you use 10 to 15+ hashtags that people are searching for, as these hashtags matter.

As you post these photos, ensure that you use long descriptions to engage the audience and give them scope to like your post. Remember, sometimes, reports add more value to the story you are trying to tell through the image. If you post about a location, don’t forget to tag it.

j) Run campaigns that allow your followers to tag their friends

‘Tag a friend’ is one of the easiest ways to drive traction to your post. Whenever I make posts where I ask people to tag their friends concerning their behaviour on social media, I get a lot of traction.

You have to find common ground where you can add calls to action like ‘tag someone you think will benefit from this post’ or ‘tag a friend who needs motivation right now.’

k) Host contests and giveaways:

As a digital influencer, you can get 10x the engagement by hosting regular contests and giveaways. Recently, we reached out to one of the influencers for a coffee brand we work for with a gift hamper.

She smartly used the hamper given to her by hosting a contest around it. This got her excellent traction and helped the brand spread the word through her efforts.

Every week, I make it a point to run engaging contests on my page. The objective is to draw user-generated content and build a sense of excitement. I usually get about 100–200 participants per contest without investing in any promotional activity.

l) Go live on Instagram stories

The Instagram live feature is a great way to grow your thought leadership. You can capture moments from events or have a Q&A session with your followers.

Keep your audience informed about this session through a post or earlier stories. Going live on Instagram is fun. You can store the live session for about 24 hours. It helps you stand distinguished.

m) Look-out for shoutouts

Many pages on Instagram are just built to showcase a particular genre of people. For example, there are many pages like team_ibbotw, bodybuildersofindia, etc., which give shoutouts to Indian bodybuilders.

If you are a bodybuilder and request to be featured, they would oblige. It gets you a lot of followers. It’s a matter of consistently searching for shoutouts or asking popular pages or influencers for one.

10 Different Styles of Posts Observed on a Thought Leader’s Profile

As an entrepreneur/professional, you will always be confused about what to post and what not to post. To help you better understand what kind of posts would work on your profile, I have listed ten different styles below. These styles are easy to follow and help your viewers keep up with you.

a) Post about your business announcements

Instagram is a great handle to make announcements about anything new that your business/brand is doing. You can create videos talking about the information or the product you will launch. Stories of the same can also be posted on Instagram.

Gary Vaynerchuk extensively used Instagram to promote his upcoming book. He spoke about it and had contests where he gave away signed copies of his book. While encouraging, he also talked about the status of his book in the market, urging more and more people to read it.

b) Post related to what your brand is currently doing

People will only remember you if they see you posting things on your handle now and then. It shows that you are consistent and that your brand is active. You can keep your viewers informed on what your business/brand has been currently doing or venturing into.

c) Post depicting work culture

Every festival celebrated at echoVME is shared on my profile. It is the little things we do that keep us together. Posting stories from echoVME help me talk about the work culture we maintain in the company.

d) Post about your experience at a particular event

Mentioning ‘more information is given in the story will make the viewer check your story. However big/small, you can speak about being a part of an event, however big/small.

Your experience and views on the event can make a huge difference. You’re promoting the event. If you meet your cohorts and take pictures, upload them and tag the person.

e) Post related to festive celebrations

‘Festive posts’ is another segment you should incorporate for personal branding on Instagram. A creative post depicting the festival/occasion you are celebrating helps you stay connected to your audience.

It can be a festive post wishing people or a post showing your way of celebrating the festival. It could even be a video where you want your audience.

f) Posts that showcase your hobby

For better personal branding, you must show your audience what you are doing when you are not working. Pictures that showcase your hobbies help your viewers connect better with you.

Joythebaker is an Instagram handle run by a food blogger. It has about 504K followers. Along with the pictures of her food, she includes photos of her hobby. It brings to light a different side of her.

g) Posts that highlight your fitness regime and can inspire the world

When you become a pro at what you do, people draw inspiration from you and follow your every move. Why not use that for the best? Akriti Sachdev, of mesmereyesmakeup, is a beauty blogger with 64.2K followers. She uses Instagram to its best advantage.

Aside from showcasing her work, she ensures that she posts pictures of her time at the gym, her family, the food she cooks and the places she visits. Sharing photos of her day-to-day activities help her connect better and inspire her followers.

h) Post pictures from your travel

Then there are entrepreneurs/working professionals who work even while enjoying a vacation. For instance, look at the profile of thatbohogirl.

The fashion blogger has mentioned her latest published blog in the caption along with the picture, which is colourful and depicts a serene place. While a vacation is imperative, as it provides a much-needed break, staying connected to your readers is also important.

i) Post about your personal life

Make sure your handle doesn’t lose touch with your personal life. It could be a festival you are celebrating, a vacation with your family or pictures of when your family visits your workplace. People who follow you every day would love to know about your family and children.

Use Instagram to show your crazy and fun side. It is a platform where you can put personal and professional posts together. Branden Hampton, an investor, advisor, author and one of the top influencers on Instagram, often shares personal pictures of his family.

j) Motivational quotes

Use your page to inspire others. When you are successful, people tend to be receptive to your wisdom and encouragement. You can use your page to encourage people to achieve more and hang on when all seems lost.

As a successful entrepreneur, Patrick Bet-David uses his position and outlook to motivate people through his Instagram page. His page is full of quotes that drive people to work harder and never give up. Your page does not have to be about yourself.

You can also share general quotes on life and inspire positivity among your followers. Pages like thegoodquote, motivationmafia, etc., share impactful quotes and are well received.

Things Not to Post on Your Instagram Profile

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