Instagram Marketing Guide With examples

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This is the complete Instagram marketing guide for small and midsized businesses in 2021.

This guide is meant for you if you want to:

  • Increase Instagram social media engagement 
  • Improve the quality of your content
  • Create content that converts your audience to make a purchase.
  • Grow your Instagram following

If this sounds like you, then let’s dive right in.

Table of Content

  • Instagram marketing fundamentals
  • Content Strategy on Instagram
  • Developing Content 
  • Brand Personality and Tone of Voice
  • Promoting Content
  • Conclusion

Why Instagram is important for businesses

This chapter is a close look at how you can market your business with Instagram effectively. 

1. Reach new customers:  

Without a doubt, Instagram is one of the most effective ways to attract new customers in addition to existing audiences. With over 1 billion monthly active users (MAU), the platform has a large pool of users where your customers can be found.

According to HubSpot, 90% of these active users follow at least one business, which makes it a perfect point for your brand to attract people who are interested in what you have to offer. 

2. User Engagement Rate: 

After Facebook, Instagram is the second most accessed social networking app. Every day 500 million Instagram stories are uploaded by engaged users, not failing to mention the 95 million photos and videos that are shared in the feed. 

Like most popular platforms, Instagram thrives on boosting engagement. The algorithm is tailored to organically promote content that already performs well with users. 

This makes Instagram have a higher engagement rate than Facebook. In a report by Sprout Social, it was discovered that Instagram has a 1.51% higher median engagement rate than that of its counterpart. While this might not seem like such a large number, it does greatly influence audience engagement for your brand when dealing with a large number of followers. 

A practical example is the comparison of different brands with the same content both on Instagram and Facebook. We compared multiple accounts and discovered that content on Instagram mostly ranked higher than that of Facebook.

The engagement on Instagram spiked higher than that of Facebook, despite a higher number of followers on Facebook than on Instagram. 

Although, other factors can affect the rate of engagement such as the peak time of posting content, the relevance of content to the audience on that platform. This isn’t always the case as some brands see comparatively better results on Facebook than on Instagram. So it boils down to where your target audience can be found. It also has a lot to do with native content, and the type of content your audience is expecting on that platform.

3. Increases visibility for your products and services

Owing to the amount of social media users on Instagram, the platform increases the visibility for the products and services being offered by your brand. The science of promotion thrives on numbers. If more people are aware and have access to your products or services, then more people are inclined to buy. 

Instagram serves as an awareness platform among many other things. The more users or customers that can be attracted at the first stage of the sales funnel, the more action will be compelled to take action at the bottom of the sales funnel. 

A success rate of 10% for attracting an audience of 100,000 will always be more worthwhile than a success rate of 20% in attracting an audience of 10,000 customers in a month. 

4. Build a community of loyal followers

Instagram is a perfect platform to build a community of trusted customers and brand advocates. Users generally follow accounts based on how that brand, (whether personal or corporate) aligns with their values and interests. People crave communities and connecting with people that share similar interests. 

One of the ways to build trust and brand advocacy is by building a community. This can be done in several ways, based on messaging, campaigns, contests, showcasing the uniqueness of members of that community. 

Content Strategy for Instagram 

Creating content for Instagram isn’t rocket science. But it takes understanding the platform and audiences that can be found on the platform to create relevant content. 

In this chapter, we will look at the methods and ways of creating content that compels your audience to take concrete action. 

1. Audience Research 

Researching your audiences can’t be overemphasized or overlooked. The importance of audience research is narrowing your content to suit a particular type of person. 

When a customer scrolls through their feed, they don’t want to be addressed as though they are only just several statistics, rather they crave personalization. 

Research also helps you understand the kind of content that your customers will relate to. Think of it this way, you can’t create content for a person you know nothing about. 

Why is Audience research important?

1. Identify the needs of your audience 

The most successful brands are the ones who understand the specific needs or pain points of who their target audience is. That goes on to influence the way their message is developed. 

Lululemon is a perfect example. The brand makes technical athletic clothes for yoga, running, workout and similar aerobic activities. 

One of the most pressing problems most athletes face is finding the right outfits that are both comfortable and durable enough for their athletic activities. Apart from solving this external problem, Lululemon dug deep into uncovering what most athletes, aspiring athletes and sports-minded people face—motivation or the lack of it

The brand understood without a strong sense of motivation, most athletes won’t actively perform to their maximum strengths.

In addition to this, they understood that their audience needed a form of responsibility and accountability to be the best of themselves. With this insight, the brand acts as an accountability partner to its customers. 

This goes on to shape the content produced on their Instagram. 

2. Audience segmentation 

Because you aren’t speaking to only one set of persons, you need to be able to segment your audience. Even customers with the same interests and values will have pain points and needs that differ. 

Audience segmentation doesn’t only involve demographics (career, marital status, gender, etc), but psychographics (lifestyle choices, goals and aspirations, customer life stages, etc) and geographical location. 

Lululemon apart from segmenting their customers into men and women segments their customers according to the lifestyle and career of their customers. 

These are two segments of the lululemon brand that can be seen all over their Instagram page. 

  • Messaging based on lifestyle: People who are not professional athletes but have the drive to stay fit both mind and body.

  • Messaging based on career choices: Professional athletes who want to be inspired by other similar athletes with the help of Lululemon athletic wear. 

3. Personalization 

When you have an in-depth understanding of your customers, you can personalize the content that speaks directly to your audience.

You know that your customers are middle-aged adults who work flexible hours, who are dog lovers and spend their idle time listening to alternative music. 

Bubly is a brand with an animated specialty in producing healthy calorie-free sparkling water. With an in-depth insight into who their customers are, they were no doubt inspired to craft content that appealed to the dog-loving side of their customers. 

That’s what data and insight do. It enables you to market your brand in a way that is relatable and personal to your customer. 

4. Decision making 

Audience insight is also necessary for helping you fine-tune your marketing efforts. 

For example, you currently manage a financial brand that grants loans to millennials. After carrying out audience research, you uncover that your audience’s financial states are in a mare’s nest. 

Currently, your marketing efforts are geared towards convincing customers to take a loan and solve their needs but this strategy has not been fruitful. However, this new insight helps you understand the why behind the low conversation rates. With this, you can fine-tune your efforts into educating your audience on how they can better manage their finances and become creditworthy. 

5. Create solution-based content 

The result of audience research is not to make your marketing look modern and your message sound nicer. It is mostly about uncovering insight that will create solutions for your audiences. 

(Source: Lululemon)

Taking cues from Lululemon. The brand discovered that the best way to motivate their customer was to build a community of people who would hold each other accountable with a sense of trust, love, respect and pride for each stage of their growth. 

Developing Content

In this chapter, we will explore how you can gather customer data & insight, run competitor analysis, create engaging content and tools to make the job easier. 

1. Tools to gather consumer insight 

a. Webpages

With resources such as google keywords, google trends, Quora, Reddit, you can find consumer insight. 

For google keywords, Quora and Reddit, you can research a particular keyword as it relates to your business to find a list of topics people are curious about. That way you can provide resources or answers to those questions. 

For example, this is a list of questions from typing the keyword finance

b. Brand Questionnaire & Discovery session. 

With tools like Google Forms, Microsoft forms, SurveyMonkey, you can create custom questionnaires that allow you to collect relevant data from your customers. 

What to do: 
  • Make a list of questions that you want your customers to answer.
  • Your questions should be specific, relevant and easy to answer. 
  • The questionnaire should be short and simple so you do not overwhelm your customers. 
  • Send monthly or bi-monthly forms to both new and existing customers for new insight. 

A discovery session is a physical or virtual session whereby you have a conversation with your customer or client to find out what their needs, pain points, biases, likes, dislikes, values, etc., are. 

During discovery sessions: 
  • Ask direct questions 
  • Don’t make your customer feel interviewed.
  • Cross check to see if you are on the same page with your client. 

c. Instagram Stories Features

Instagram features such as question stickers, polls, swipe-up links. Stories can also be leveraged to gather consumer insight.

2. Content Calendar Template 

After creating content, you want to make sure everything stays organized and in one place. That’s why you need a content calendar by using Google sheets or Microsoft excel. 

The content calendar template organizes what content goes up for that particular day including the captions and stories updates. You can also set reminders to go live on certain days. 

This enables you to keep things organized. So you don’t have to constantly create impromptu content ever again. 

Days  1 2 3
Instagram Feed  A Content B Content C Content
Go Live Reminder


3. Write captions with Call-to-action (CTA)

Call to actions are specific phrases that make your audience take a particular action. 

Phrases such as: 

  • Learn more if you want to get your finances back on track! 
  • Sign up for free. Who wouldn’t want that?
  • Get started with the new running gear. 

Brand Personality And Tone Of Voice 

1. Unique Messaging:

Instagram users share 95 million photos and videos everyday. For your content to stand out and gain the attention of your customers, it needs to be unique and different from other brands. 

Case study: McDonald: 

McDonald’s is a fun, family brand. Their brand archetype is an Everyman brand so that influences how they project themselves to the audience. 

The fast-food brand leverages bright and lively captured pictures of their products that showcase the unique experience their tasty foods bring. 

Successful brands usually have a distinct voice from others. A comparison of Wendy’s Instagram page with that of McDonald’s is a clear example of how different brands should create content that is unique to their brands. 

Wendy is a fast-food brand with similar service offerings to that of McDonald’s, with menus such as fries, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, ice cream and so on. However, Wendy’s social media strategy leverages comical content and light-hearted humor. Their content, while using active sentences rather than passive sentences, is also personalized always speaks directly to their customers. 

2. Aesthetics/Design

How your content looks matters just as much as what the content is. Instagram is a visually driven platform. That’s why you have to give attention to design and color palette or pattern. 

What to do:

  • Have a defined brand visual identity 
  • Use content creation tools such as Canva to create professional looking posts or hire a graphics designer. 
  • Take clear, professional pictures or hire a photographer who knows his eggs. 
  • When editing pictures, use one set of filters to maintain the same color palette. 

(source: Wendy’s Instagram)

Notice how Wendy maintains the same brand colors throughout their page? Doing this not only makes your page more appealing, but it helps with the consistency of your brand. 

Tip: Brand consistency increases consumer trust than brands with inconsistent messaging.

Promoting Content 

In this chapter, we’ll dive into how to promote content organically and with paid platforms. 

Paid promotion 

To run Instagram ads, your account needs to be connected to professional-looking Facebook. Instagram gives you the option of choosing between different content formats. That means your ads would appear on either feeds or Insta-stories. 

Organic Promotion

Organic promotion is the use of tactics and methods that increases the visibility of your content. There are a few ways you can achieve this:

Instagram Contests

Apart from being very popular on the platform, contests are usually a way of attracting new followers to your page. It also enables you to engage your existing followers, and build trust with them. 

For most contests, audiences would have to share the post with friends or tag their friends, which brings more people into the mix. 

User-generated content (UGC)

Fans can be a huge driving force for content promotion. With UGC, fans share pictures or videos with a unique hashtag or simply tagging your brand to it. 

Starbucks does this perfectly with their Instagram marketing. This way their customers are taken along in the content creation process. 

Relevant hashtags: 

We can’t overstress the relevance of Hashtags. Hashtags are one of the ways that new audiences can find your page based on their interests. For example, if you have a fast-food delivery service brand, you can do keyword research to find out what hashtags are relevant for your brand. 

From here on, you can filter out what particular hashtags your ideal customers follow. Using hashtags is beneficial in two major ways 

  • When a new user searches for fast food, and click on the hashtag, your post shows up in either Top or Recent column.
  • People who follow a particular hashtag, see your posts on their feeds, exposing you to newer customers. 

How can you effectively optimize your bio?


Optimizing bio is a form of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). With keywords that relate to your business, your audience can easily find you with just a simple search. 

Some Growth Hack Techniques to guide your Strategy:

How do you know what content is right for your audience? Simple. Insight and metrics.

An effective method of building success on your Instagram page is recreating content that already performs well with your audience. 

On the Insight page, you can view top posts based on different metrics according to what your goals are. 

Content that performs better for persuading people to click on your website might not necessarily be the same for getting people to share.

Alternatively, you can analyze content content that isn’t performing well, to find know why. If there’s a pattern, that means your audience generally don’t respond to that kind of content. So you can scrap it. 


Instagram is a flexible platform that is important to your brand. But for it to have a concrete effect, you need to

  • Create the right strategies 
  • Understand your marketing goals and objectives 
  • Use tools that enable content creation to be simplified and automated
  • Continue A/B testing until you find the right content that works (even then, keep testing!)
  • Leveraging paid promotion for greater reach and results. 

Although Instagram is a great platform for your business, including other social media platforms in the mix increases your brand reach. See our 

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Vivan Gerald