The ultimate guide to your Instagram marketing strategy

Caroline Newell, Strategist

Instagram: A truly global marketing channel

Instagram marketing can be challenging for any brand, even the best in the world. The platform’s inability to use links in organic posts, its image-heavy and text-light style, and its variety of options for pay-per-click content all present unique obstacles that you typically won’t find on other social media networks. But with the right strategy, brands can engage a global audience of more than 1 billion active Instagram users.

Instagram has more than just size going for it; the platform also boasts high engagement metrics that should draw marketers’ attention. As of 2021, the average Instagram user spends 29 minutes per day on the platform with 63% of users accessing the app at least once a day and 42% checking it multiple times within the same day. Regarding engagement between users and brands on Instagram, data shows that 90% of users follow at least one brand and 83% of users say Instagram posts help them discover new products and services.

To help your brand create an Instagram marketing strategy, we’ve created this guide with tips and everything you need to know about the platform.

Why should brands use Instagram for marketing?

Aside from its status as the largest social media site in the world, Instagram has a number of advantages over other channels. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words — and the visual storytelling nature of Instagram allows brands to communicate and engage with customers in a way unlike any other social media platform.

While Instagram has a text component, it’s far more image and video-based than other social media platforms; this helps keep people engaged. There’s a lot of data behind this, such as the fact that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text and people remember 80% of what they see vs. only 20% of what they read. Visual content also yields higher engagement. Across social media networks, visual content gets 94% more views and is forty times more likely to be shared than text-based content.

Instagram’s visual nature offers brands nearly endless possibilities to showcase their products and services. For example, a restaurant can use its profile page to show off its menu items while a clothing retailer can take a completely different approach and fill its page with outfit combinations and lifestyle pictures. 

Launderette ATX & Old Navy Instagram

Instagram is a great platform for brands to build and maintain relationships with customers because its visual nature makes it less formal and more approachable, leading to higher engagement. With the right Instagram marketing strategy, brands can take advantage of the platform’s high engagement to gather valuable customer insights and feedback.

Instagram’s integrated shopping features also allow users to browse and purchase products entirely within the platform. In the image below how, clothing retailer Zara posts their clothing and enables users to checkout without ever leaving Instagram.


How to effectively use Instagram for business marketing

It’s not enough to just be present on Instagram. To fully leverage the platform’s potential, brands need an Instagram-specific marketing strategy. Whether you’re just starting on the platform or you’ve been present for years and want to improve, we’ve broken down the steps that go into creating and executing an Instagram marketing strategy.


1. Set goals and KPIs

Why do you want to be on Instagram? Is it to boost brand awareness, increase customer engagement, drive sales and leads, or something else?

Build your Instagram marketing strategy upon a core purpose and motive that guides the way your brand releases content and interacts with customers. Telecommunications company Spectrum’s Instagram focuses on promoting their content and services, indicating that their goal is likely to drive awareness and sales. Insurance provider USAA’s takes a different approach: their Instagram focuses on celebrating the military and service members who make up their customer base.

Spectrum & USAA Instagram

These two organizations likely have different goals and KPIs to gauge their success on Instagram.

2. Assess the competitive landscape

Once you set goals and determine KPIs for your brand on Instagram, it’s a good idea to analyze competitors’ pages to see how yours stacks up. Start by finding which competitors have the most visibility on Instagram in terms of followers and engagement. You may find that your top competitors on Instagram are different from your top competitors across other channels.

Look at what the top brands in your space are doing on Instagram, analyzing their content strategies to learn from their successes and failures. You should also assess both the quantity and quality of their customer interactions on Instagram: How frequently do they post content and how often do they respond to their audience? Are their responses well-received? Why or why not? This is a crucial step in initially creating an Instagram marketing strategy, but you should repeat it regularly to stay updated on the competition. To help gather this information efficiently, consider investing in social media listening software like Khoros Deep Listening, as this can automate a lot of the manual work that your digital and social media marketing team has to do.

Khoros Marketing Analytics
Khoros Marketing Analytics

3. Define your target audience

While Instagram has over a billion users, not all of those people will be potential customers within your target audience. For example, 67% of people ages 18-29 use Instagram while only 8% of people that are 65+ use the platform. So if your products and services are aimed at younger generations, you can’t afford not to be on Instagram.

You should define your target audience so that you can more accurately design and target your content on Instagram. To define your target audience, use customer segmentation to group people based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and other factors you feel describe the people that would benefit from your products or services. This will help you understand the people you’d like to market to, including whether they seem likely to be on Instagram and what type of content they enjoy.

4. Showcase your brand and authenticity

Determine how you want to represent your brand on Instagram, including the type of content you’ll post, aesthetic style of your content, and brand voice. Clearly define and communicate these features of your brand voice to your team to ensure consistency. Otherwise, you risk confusing your audience — or, worse, coming off as fake instead of authentic.

Instagram is a flexible platform, with lots of different ways to share content. The best teams mix it up with stories, reels, polls, paid ads, and more — but these should all have a connection to your brand. You should also determine a content mix and posting cadence to ensure there’s a defined balance between the types of content you publish. You don’t want to risk people becoming disengaged from your brand because you posted too much (or not enough) of one type of content within a week. A healthy mix will help customers understand what type of content to expect from your brand and how often they should expect to see it.

Another way to showcase your brand’s authenticity on Instagram is to create and cultivate a unique visual style. Marker maker Sharpie ensures their posts stand out by utilizing bright colors in the form of marker arrangements, drawings, and craft projects. Furniture and houseware retailer IKEA takes a helpful approach, using subdued imagery to showcase their products in a home setting, along with information such as the product name, description, and price.

Sharpie & Ikea USA Instagram

Both visual styles are unique and recognizable, which helps them stick out in feeds and adds authenticity because they’re highly relevant to what each brand does.

Your brand voice should also be consistent across all of your Instagram messaging, including post content and responses. Wendy’s, home of the Baconator, uses the same voice to respond to customers as they do with the content they publish. The brand voice is often described as “sassy”, as they frequently take shots at competitors and even joke around with customers in their responses.

Wendys Instagram

Wendys Instagram profile

By consistently using the same brand voice, Wendy’s has established authenticity, and their audience knows to expect this type of messaging. Of course, this is something that needs to be established with the audience. If another brand were to suddenly try this type of messaging, it could confuse their followers and might even generate backlash if it differed too much from the norm.

5. Use your content to tell a story

Instagram is more than a social media platform to collect and promote random photos and videos. You can create and share high-quality videos, pictures, stories, etc. Through powerful visual storytelling, your brand can engage with customers in a way that can build an emotional connection to your brand and even promote action.

For example, Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B fills its Instagram with a mix of recipe tutorials, user-generated content (UGC), and stories about their involvement in local communities across the state. The brand’s slogan is “Made for the love of Texans”, and they use visual storytelling to relay this message by filling their page with Texas-focused content.

HEB Instagram

You should also make the most of Instagram’s special interactive features including stories, polls, stickers, reels, Instagram Live, and Instagram Shop. These features are great for driving engagement and gathering customer feedback. For example, hardware store chain Lowe’s created an Instagram poll asking people about their favorite types of lights. The story ended with a link to purchase all of the lights featured in the story.

Lowe's Instagram Story

In a single Instagram story, Lowe’s was able to engage with their audience, drive sales, and gather feedback about customer lighting preferences.

Finally, you might consider telling a broader story across multiple organic posts — that is, taking advantage of what Instagram marketers call the “grid.” Postmates does a great job alternating posts to create this look when you view their Instagram profile on your mobile device:

Postmates Instagram

Having a marketing strategy can help you plan the visual stories and interactive content you’ll post. However, organizing this can be difficult, especially if you plan to cross-post some of your Instagram content to other social media platforms. (Many of the top brands choose to create separate content for each platform, but there’s often nothing wrong with cross-posting, especially if you have a smaller social media team.)

Smaller organizations sometimes use a spreadsheet to organize a posting cadence, but these get very messy, very quickly. Enterprise brands need a digital-first, enterprise-level solution to manage their Instagram feeds, along with any other social media channels they’re using. A social media management platform like Khoros, which integrates with Instagram and a variety of other platforms, will make it easy for your team to manage content, campaigns, and customer interactions.

Khoros Marketing Instagram Performance

6. Connect with followers and customers

Instagram (or any digital channel today) is not a one-way street. Customers want to be able to reach out and actually get responses from brands via a variety of avenues, and they’re not afraid to call out unresponsiveness. It can sometimes be tough to keep up, but if you do, the benefits are excellent: Quick responses can create exceptionally loyal customers.

Interactive content is a great way to boost engagement between brands and customers, but you can also interact with your audience by re-sharing relevant content they publish and responding to mentions. This includes traditional customer care direct messages and general mentions or tags regarding your brand. We found that 54% of Instagram engagements between brands and consumers are not related to customer care, so you’re missing out if you only respond to service-related questions and requests.

To improve your customer care and boost engagement, empower your digital contact center with technology that allows them to find and manage all customer interactions including direct messages and brand mentions across channels.

7. Promote and grow with Instagram ads

With Instagram’s high user engagement, it’s a prime platform to convert prospects into customers. Beyond traditional posts, brands may want to take advantage of paid placements known as Instagram ads that can appear in user feeds, Stories, Explore, and other places within the platform. The cost of Instagram ads depends on several factors, including your target audience, competitiveness of your industry, time of year, and more.

Instagram ads can be especially valuable for ecommerce brands, as the platform makes it incredibly easy for people to shop and checkout directly from their feed. The shopping ad below features an eye-catching image of a makeup palette with product details prominently displayed and a clickable link that allows people to purchase without ever leaving Instagram.

Instagram Shopping Ad

8. Track and analyze performance to re-assess strategy

After all is said and done, you’ll want to take a look back at the goals you set and assess whether you met your KPI metrics. Make sure you have the systems in place to track these key measurements, so you can use the data to find areas of improvement and further optimize future campaigns. 

To do this, you’ll want to use social media management software like Khoros that allows you to set and track custom metrics. Beyond setting and tracking your custom metrics, our platform also features a configurable dashboard so you can organize the data in a way that makes sense to your team.

Khoros Marketing iPad

Implement your Instagram marketing strategy with Khoros

Instagram offers brands the ability to connect and engage with customers in a way unlike any other social media platform. However, to leverage the platform to its full potential, you’ll need a well thought-out Instagram marketing strategy — as well as the right tools to manage your campaigns.

Khoros can help you connect with customers on Instagram through our feature-packed and easy-to-use marketing software. Our platform enables brands to publish content, manage organic and paid campaigns, and quickly respond to direct messages across multiple Instagram accounts. You can even consolidate interactions from across channels to see every message a customer has had with your brand in a single view. Beyond managing your content and interactions, our Instagram marketing software also enables you to set and measure performance including custom goals in a customizable dashboard.

Request a demo of our platform to learn how we can help you implement your Instagram marketing strategy and utilize the platform to its full potential.

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