Instagram marketing

Instagram Marketing 101: What Startups Need to Know

Instagram is no longer just a photo-sharing platform. It’s also an e-commerce app. With a billion active users a month, there’s at least a thousand potential customers for you. And when I say potential, it means it will take a fair amount of resources and strategy — the right message and branding — before these people buy into your brand. 

Yes, we get it. You already know how to use Instagram for selfies or short videos. But that alone won’t get you customers. You need to know “how” to sell products and services on Instagram.

Good news: Instagram promotion is a lot easier than you think. With easier access and tools on how to advertise on Instagram, not only corporations, but also small and average business owners like you can market your brand on the photo-sharing giant. 

In this article, we provide you with an exhaustive list of advanced steps you could take to make your brand known to a billion users. Follow a few, and you’re definitely off to a great start. Watch out for our tips and tricks so you navigate marketing on Instagram more fluidly. 

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1. Set up your page


The easiest and cheapest way to sell your products is to establish your IG presence. And there’s no better way to do it than to set up your page. A personal IG profile usually has your face and a short bio. But a professional page shows your logo, brand colors, product descriptions, etc. 

Instagram gives two options for professional accounts: business or creator accounts. Creator accounts are for influencers or content creators. They have access to a host of creator tools such as professional dashboards, growth insights, contact information, category labels, and branded content. 

But if you’re a business, I suggest toggling business account options. Aside from the usual creator tools, creating an Instagram business account lets you connect a website to your page. People interested in your content can jump from IG to your site and buy your products.

Moreover, you can approve branded content created by influencers and label them as ads. When talking about ads, a business account lets you promote your posts and content to a targeted audience. 

2. Try Instagram shopping

Shop owners, there’s good news. Instagram just rolled out its Instagram shopping platform. It may look like a simple page, but the difference is that buyers can point to an item, and its name and price will pop up. Then Instagram directs them to more details on the websites, including the payment and shipping options. 

Note: Instagram shopping is only available for business accounts. So if you’re still on your personal private account, time to get out of the box and maximize the business features. 

In terms of costs, Instagram Shopping is free to set up as long as you have a website that sells legitimate products. IG will then review your application, and once ready, time to post your products. 

On Instagram shopping, sellers can tag products almost anywhere: on posts, stickers, stories, reels, IGTV videos, lives, IG bios, and captions. The famous swipe-up options are exclusively available for Instagram shopping, as well as product launches and commerce managers, which is another word for shop analytics. It provides customer insights like no other. 

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3. Add a payment option

Suppose you don’t have a website yet, no problem! Nowadays, as long as you have access to the Internet, anyone can pay you online. 

Have you ever heard of Venmo and Paypal? These are free payment-processing platforms. To create an account, you only need to link your bank account, and voila, you’re ready to pay and receive payments anywhere. 

Plus, customers don’t have to know your bank details to send money. With Venmo, you only need to provide your username. With PayPal, your email address. This eliminates any form of confusion and recipient errors. But where to place it? Just write it in your bio.

4. Make use of targeted advertising


Ever scroll through Instagram and chanced upon that lipstick you’ve been searching online? Surprise because it’s not by chance. Targeted advertising has become a key ingredient in Instagram’s algorithm. Based on Facebook’s advertising system, IG advertising has probably the most powerful targeting ability. 

Targeted advertising can know which user is most likely to buy your products. They do that by surprisingly getting information from their users. That’s why you often come across several sponsored posts if you’re an average Instagram user. 

If you opt for this advertising option, IG will generally ask for the three most important information from you: your audience information (age, location, hobbies, etc.), the placement of your ads (Instagram, Facebook, or both). Keep in mind Facebook ads managers tend to choose both FB and IG for advertising placement, so select where you want your ads placed. Lastly and most importantly, your budget. It will determine the frequency and schedule of your posts. A 24/7 advertisement is more expensive than a weekend’s run. 

You’ll have to understand that there are many ways Instagram will showcase your ads. These are the following: carousel (multiple scrollable images or videos), single image, single video, slideshow, and canvas.

And where will the customers see your ads? Through sponsored feeds, i.e., posts and stories. 

5. Maximize the free hashtags 

Hashtags allow you to widen your reach when you don’t yet have an extensive following. It works on personal profiles and product pages. 

Some people view hashtags as spammy, but with Instagram, there’s no need to appear such. You can hide the hashtags in stories by placing them behind pictures and videos. And with a regular post, you can hide them way below the caption. 

A hashtag is an excellent way to reach people for free. Unlike target advertising which can cost at least 5 dollars per day, hashtags need zero payments. And they will take you to places where people will find your content interesting and valuable. It can skyrocket engagement: comments, likes, shares, and most importantly, it increases conversions. 

6. Partner with influencers

Social media influencers are good tactics to promote a product and service for two reasons. First, they have an adequate amount of following. Even better, those followers are your target audience; therefore, the potential for conversions is high. Second, influencers are most likely to promote products that live up to expectations, or else it ruins their personal brand. 

When we’re talking about influencers, they should be people whose interests and hobbies reflect your services. Because influencer promotions could leave a bad taste among customers if the influencers are disconnected from the interest you wish to gain traction.

But overall, partnering with small-time influencers is a good budget strategy as some are free to work with. They only require product gifts, mentions, discount codes, etc. And for those requiring payments, it’s best to understand their content creation skills and organic following. Take note; some influencers buy followers. So don’t fall prey to this. Only an organically grown personal account can bring you higher chances of brand recognition.

7. List your websites and other social media channels


Maximize your page by listing other channels you have on the bio. While Instagram is a good platform for selling items and services, it will be better if your customer knows where else they can visit to know more about you. So please include websites and social media pages such as Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.

But because the author bio has a word limit, you can just include one priority link, whether that’s a website or a Facebook account, as long as you add a worthwhile destination other than Instagram.

8. Use your Highlights for product listing

Highlights is a recently added feature on Instagram. It’s a place where you can display all your Stories. And unlike Stories that go away once passed 24 hours, Highlights stay permanently. 

And the good part of the feature is that you can customize its content. You can categorize all Stories you want to be part of your Highlights. So, for instance, you want to differentiate all the most expensive gowns from affordable garments, latest vacuum technologies from classic fan favorites. 

Once you’re done categorizing all these Stories pictures, you can then change the outer display. For example, you can create a story that writes “New Lipstick Items 2021,” and any content after that will display all your lipstick products in a year. And so forth. Try these Highlights icons for a more beautiful profile presentation. 

Anyone should use Highlights because a lot of customers actually visit it. More people are browsing highlights when they want faster access to product lists, product prices, behind-the-scenes, contacts, and a lot more that are helpful to an interested buyer and a loyal customer. 

Make your Highlights section useful by incorporating bite-sized information. Don’t forget, add lots of aesthetically pleasing images. Take these Instagram templates, for example. This way, you can be sure viewers stick around. 

9. Post on Instagram Stories regularly

Instagram Stories need no introduction. An avid IG user knows it by heart. So if you’re starting out on the platform, much more so if you use Instagram for business, then you need to use Stories. Here’s how: 

Posting your pictures and videos is basic knowledge. What you want to do is to use stickers and have fun with the interaction. Say, post a handmade crocheted bag, then put a sticker poll. Ask viewers if they like it or not. (There’s a sticker for that.) See the percentage. See how fun that could be. 

More than the fun, you ask viewers to engage. And if they do, your Stories are more likely to appear on top of their Stories list. That’s how you make algorithms work to your advantage. 

Another smart way you can play with Stories is through what is called a Stories takeover. Pick an avid fan favorite, an industry expert, or a content creator/influencer, and give them your Instagram user information. (Make sure you do it with a trusted partner because you’re going to give them access to your password.) 

For 24 hours, they will be handling your Stories’ content. They can have Q and A’s, polls, roundups, etc. They can also post their favorite products from your store or share a video of their favorite thing to do with items purchased from your brand. As long as it’s in line with your brand identity, anyone who takes over your Stories can post whatever their heart desires. 

10. Sell digital gift cardsinstagram

Just recently, Instagram launched digital card stickers. Through this, customers can purchase items and gift cards from your Stories. This is how it works:

First, post Stories as usual — whether that means sharing a photo or a video. Then go to the stickers section and add the Gift Cards or Food Orders stickers. Then, viewers can purchase gift cards worth some items from your store. They can also order the item in the picture using the Food Order sticker. Once they tap on the stickers, Instagram will take them to a third-party platform where they will complete the purchase. 

Remember, the faster the purchase process, the better. Customers are more likely to push through with the buying process if they don’t have to spend so much time inputting information. IG stickers help customers buy items faster and easier. 

Also, it’s a great way to showcase your products. Even if they don’t buy it outright, seeing the items on your Stories is a good way to generate interest. So that the next time they encounter the product somewhere else, they know where to buy it. 

11. Go Live


Lives are becoming popular nowadays. Some celebrities host their live sessions every now and then. And as a starting brand that wants to gain exposure and following, you might not want to get late to the party. Host your own live session too. There are so many things you can do in a live session that will be beneficial to the success of your business. 

Considering you have a fair amount of following, you can talk about the product in-depth. If you sell skincare products, then you can talk about the science behind the ingredients and how they help the skin. You can also invite dermatologists and skincare experts by requesting them to go on live too. You can show the behind-the-scenes of a product launch or product manufacturing. You can also entertain questions, concerns, praises, comments, criticisms and more.

See, it has lots of uses. So go ahead and use Live to your advantage. It will surely generate hype around your products and services, and most importantly, around your brand. And when that happens, you will be the top choice in your industry. 

12. Use Reels


Reels was launched as a direct competition to TikTok. TikTok has been gaining ground in the past few years. Thanks to its fun content and video editing tools, millennials and GenZ’s got hooked. Not to mention, the social restrictions of the pandemic made most people turn to TikTok to pass time.

This is also the reason why Instagram considered the rise of TikTok as a threat. And their solution? Come up with a similar feature. Although Instagram is famous for its still images and aesthetic, it’s time to embrace the beauty of moving images aka videos — hence, the Reels.

That’s why it’s now a common marketing strategy on social media to produce more videos. This is how you can maximize Reels as a tool to market your business. Pick from these content ideas:

  • How it started vs. How it’s going
  • Show your workstation
  • Introduce yourself
  • Show how you work from home
  • Tell a story
  • Meet the people behind your brand
  • Reality vs. expectations
  • React to how people use your products or talk about your service
  • Share the tools you use
  • Celebrate major milestones and business anniversaries
  • Behind the scenes
  • Show how you create the product
  • Show you’re packing some orders
  • Unboxing
  • Repurpose your old content
  • Follow the trend
  • Share positive messages to your followers
  • Q and A’s
  • Before and after
  • Share some tips
  • How-to videos
  • A day in the life of (someone)

13. Repost other user’s content

Since it’s difficult to create content of your own — you have to put lots of creative effort and combine resources and time — then it’s a good idea to repost other people’s content. This would not be plagiarism as long as you credit the original creator and you clearly show it is repurposed content. 

This strategy is popular in Stories. Instagram allows this clearly by providing a feature where you can reshare someone’s Stories (only if you’re tagged on those Stories).

How can you benefit from reposting content, you ask? Simply, it will save you time and effort. If you find it a bit task-heavy to regularly post on Instagram, using someone else’s content will ease that burden. 

The most important benefit is it builds your credibility. By reposting people’s positive perceptions of your brand, your followers will want to hear more from you. And ultimately, they will be converted to customers, too. 

14. Take advantage of instant replies


I know, if you’re a growing brand, replying to a growing number of messages is not easy. In fact, it’s rather extremely difficult and time-consuming. Not to mention, some of those messages characterize a failure in reading comprehension. Or they just didn’t dig on your website and social channels enough. 

So to make replying easier, use Instant Reply. It’s free. Go to Settings. Tap on Business, then Quick Replies. There you can add and write as many replies as you want. 

Using shortcuts — meaning word-triggers — you can instantly summon the full-length replies. That works for upcoming messages and you can also do that to previous messages. 

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Final thoughts

To level up your chances of getting broader brand recognition, you must also improve your visual branding. Instagram is heavy on visuals. And most people will only engage in content that they generally find aesthetically pleasing. 

So for starters, make that logo a stand-out. A brand’s display picture is its logo, the first thing people see. So make sure you design your own Instagram-perfect logo as unique and as simple as possible. 

Afterward, craft your visual presence with a consistent color scheme, resonant brand stories, and finally, constantly improve your products and services. 

Because there’s no use in paid advertising if you have high bounce rates, focus on improving your home page and making it irresistible. Only then can your customers — driven by paid tools such as advertising or by hashtags and organic reach — will trust you and buy what you offer. 

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