Seven Steps to a Successful Instagram - 19 IDEAS

With 800 million active users, 500 million daily active users, and 95 million photos uploaded daily, Instagram is just the place to be right now.

25 million businesses agree.

While this number is large, it’s not all that surprising that so many businesses are taking advantage of Instagram. Social media marketing has grown significantly over the past several years – showing no signs of slowing down either. Businesses are learning to take full advantage of Instagram’s reach and engaged audience, and these efforts are clearly garnering major results. Why else would about 71% of US businesses use the network of filtered photos for scrolling thumbs?

Whether you’re just getting started on Instagram or have been on the platform without much luck, these seven simple tips are sure to help make your businesses’ Instagram profile a success.

Let’s get scrolling.

1. Set realistic goals.

As with any marketing initiative, you’re not always going to hit a home run on Instagram. But that’s why setting realistic goals at the onset of getting on the platform is so important. Even if you’ve been at it for a while, there’s no harm in setting some new goals. In fact, I highly recommend doing so; it’ll give your posting purpose and let your audience take pause.

While every business is going to have different goals, I recommend tying them back to your overall KPIs (key performance indicators). In doing so, you’ll be able to see how success on Instagram contributes to your overall marketing strategy and success.

Are you new to Instagram and have no followers? Set an achievable follower goal (tip: start conservative) and use your other social networks to help promote that you are now on Instagram to help reach your goal.

Do you want to increase engagement? Figure out how your posts currently perform, and set a realistic goal to increase engagement over a certain amount of time.

Not sure about setting realistic engagement or follower goals? Set a goal of posting x-times per week. If you currently post two times a week, set a goal to post four to five times per week.

Whatever your goals are, keep them true-to-life and attainable, and make sure you reevaluate them every so often. Use your goals as a guide to keep you on track throughout your Instagram journey.

2. Post quality content – consistently.

As with other social networks, it’s imperative to post quality content, consistently.

Emphasis on quality and consistency.

According to CoSchedule, one to two posts per day is the sweet spot for businesses. If you have more to say on a given day, consider using Instagram Stories for additional posts. Just remember – they will vanish after 24 hours, unless you save them to your profile.

When posting your content, keep your target audience and buyer personas in mind. What types of content do they want to see? What do they like? How will this post solve a problem for them? When you post for your followers, you’re going to see more engagement and comments.

Something not working? Change it up!

If you notice something isn’t producing the results you’d hoped for, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board. Social media allows you to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and change your plan accordingly.

3. Tell your brand’s story.

With Instagram being a visual network, it provides a great opportunity for businesses to use images and videos to communicate their brand’s story and connect with their audience.

The part of your brand’s story you want to tell and how you choose to tell it is up to you. The more creative you can be the better. Make a statement – and don’t be afraid to try something different than what your competitors are doing.

Regardless of how you choose to tell your story, keep it cohesive from post to post.

General Electric is an example of a brand that uses Instagram to show the world the different “innovations” they’re working on. They use their profile bio to provide users a little more insight into what they’ll find on their profile: “GE works around the clock and across the globe to build, power, move, and cure the world. Check out our latest innovations here.”

They take seemingly uninteresting ‘things’ and showcase them in an awe-inspiring, breathtaking way. They’re finding a way to make images of wind turbines and other energy sources cool and relatable, which is a feat in and of itself.

General Electric has chosen to tell the story of their innovations; the projects they’re working on that we (consumers) are likely uninformed about. I don’t know about you, but these images draw me in every time I scroll past one.

In addition to focusing on your brand’s innovations, products, or services, you can really turn any aspect of your business into the theme of your Instagram. Just make sure you weave it into a relatable story for your followers.

Here are some ideas of how you can tell your brand story using Instagram:

  • Company culture content
  • Product-centric content
  • Customer content or curated content
  • Behind-the-scenes content

By telling your followers a story, you’ll begin building a relationship with them. Think about successful companies and how they find a way to connect with and build a relationship through products and services: they speak the same language as their audience. You’d be suited to do the same.

4. Be authentic.

Authenticity is such an underrated part of marketing your business, but it’s also something that turns people into brand-enthusiasts and brand-advocates. These are the people who are most likely to talk about your brand, engage with your content and share your content on their own social networks (Instagram and beyond).

Consumers know when a business is being genuine and when they’re phoning it in on a fad. The former is how you’re going to capture the attention of the right consumer and the right audience.

We live in an age where giving back is just really cool. And I love this, because giving back is cool.

Think about the many brands that have popped up over the past several years with a mission to give back to the world. Think: Toms, DIFF Eyewear, Love Your Melon and Warby Parker. These brands are built on giving back, and they’re just some of the big players – there are so many organizations whose mission is to provide resources for those that need it most.

I bring up these brands because they’re inherently authentic brands, and they’ve been able to take their mission and show their followers how a purchase can positively impact others.

Let’s take a look at Love Your Melon.

If you haven’t heard of this apparel brand, their mission is to support the fight against pediatric cancer by giving a hat to every child battling cancer. 50% of profits from their products are given to the Love Your Melon Fund, which partners with other organizations and helps create therapeutic experiences for children battling cancer.



Throughout their Instagram, they not only share images of their products – which funds their giving – they also share images of how these funds impact the ones who need it most. By combining their own photos with photos from customers wearing their product, they’re dripping with authenticity: buy a hat and give back to someone in need, who wouldn’t go for that?

For businesses on Instagram, you can learn a lot from a brand like Love Your Melon. One major takeaway being ‘be who you are’ and then show that to your audience –  it’s how you’re going to turn strangers into customers and those customers into advocates.

5. Use video and stories.

Instagram is all about the visuals. If you’re not using any visuals, you’ve got Instagram all wrong. In addition to images and graphics, Instagram has really become a place for brands and users to share videos and stories.

While videos don’t earn the amount of engagement (likes) that photos do, they do generate more comments. That said, I would still argue that videos are a great way to engage with your followers and show them more. Videos can be used to showcase DIY projects, interviews, answering FAQs, animated videos, teaser clips, and tips and tricks.

In addition to a video post that lives on your profile, you can also use Instagram Stories. Stories is an Instagram feature that allows users to post photos and videos to a feed, vanishing after 24 hours. The stories feature allows for additional engagement with your brand, and are great for asking questions to your followers, sending them to a link (like a blog post), taking a poll or having influencers take over your feed.

One example of a brand that successfully uses both video and the Stories feature on Instagram is HGTV. Different from the other examples so far, the purpose of HGTV’s Instagram it to offer behind-the-scene content. In addition to photos, videos and Stories from their shows, they also post different how-to videos and design tips.

With Instagram, and any social network, the key to finding success and what works best for your business is trying different things. Test out a mix of videos and Stories to see what engagement looks like. Use different calls-to-action in videos and image posts. Once you see what works best for you, it’ll be smooth sailing to ramp it up a notch.

6. Use #hashtags.

Similar to using hashtags on Twitter, hashtags on Instagram help make your content discoverable. With 25 million businesses on Instagram, you have to make your content stand out. One of the best and easiest ways to do it is through hashtags.

On Instagram, hashtags are used to categorize content. Using the search feature, you can sort results by people, hashtags, places and top results. This is why hashtags are great for helping to increase your reach and engagement, grow your audience and capitalize on campaigns. With this, you can choose to incorporate branded hashtags, community hashtags or both in your Instagram posts.

Branded hashtags are specific to your company, and can be created around your brand name, products, and campaigns. Some examples of branded hashtags include #justdoit, #lowesproject, #MagnoliaMarket, #wholefoodsmarket, #AerieREAL, and #ShotoniPhone. Branded hashtags are great for your brand enthusiast to find you and engage with your content. They can also be used to encourage others to tag your brand, allowing you to share more user-generated content.



Community hashtags, on the other hand, are more general hashtags. While the hashtag doesn’t have to relate back to your company, it should relate back to the image or video you’re sharing. Examples of community hashtags include #buffalony, #ootd, #tbt, #farmhousedecor #marketingtips – you get the idea.

Because community hashtags aren’t specific to your brand, they are great for increasing brand awareness and gaining new followers. When using community hashtags, make sure you research which hashtags are used often enough, but not so often that you’ll get lost in a sea of other posts sharing the same hashtag. Using a hashtag with 1 million posts vs. a hashtag with 10,000 posts would make it much more difficult to be discovered. 

7. Set a realistic budget for ads.

Similar to Facebook, what’s seen on any given Instagram feed is determined by an algorithm. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, Instagram’s algorithm is largely based on engagement (likes, comments, etc.). Essentially, the more engagement your post gets, the higher it will stay on your followers’ feeds.

For many businesses, the algorithm can create quite the challenge for their content to be found by their followers. To help combat this, incorporate an Instagram advertising budget into your plans. You don’t have to go crazy with the budget, but you will want to spend a little bit of money.

To get started, test promoted posts versus organic posts to compare reach and engagement. When promoting your posts, you’ll want to target a specific audience (think: your buyer persona, target audience), to help increase engagement. This will help push your content to the top of your followers’ feeds.

“A seamless experience” according to Instagram, ads can be formatted as photos, videos, carousel ads, and stories, and will appear among organic content. One tell-tale sign of an Instagram ad is that the “Sponsored” tag will be at the top of the post.


So, there you have it, seven simple tips for success with Instagram for businesses. As with most things, testing and refining are important pieces of the Instagram puzzle for businesses. Find what works for your brand and go with it!

What works or doesn’t work for your business on Instagram? Let us in on the secret, too. Share your thoughts or tricks in the comments below.


19 IDEAS is a New York State Woman-Owned Business that believes in the power of integration. With specialties in design, development, marketing and PR, we fuse strategy together with creative solutions to discover the possibilities for our community and our clients.

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