Instagram marketing is competitive, but not impossible. Follow this guide and try our 18 strategies to succeed in 2023 and beyond.
With over 2 billion monthly active users as of Q4 2021 (up 200% from 2018) Instagram is both the O.G. and trendsetter of social media marketing. Instagram has shaped the landscape of social commerce, the creator economy, and how brands use social media for over a decade.
So how can you use Instagram marketing to grow your business in 2023?
Do you need Instagram ads (or worse: dancing Reels) to be successful? How can you best use Instagram’s shopping tools?
Find out how to use Instagram to grow your business online, no matter your industry or goals.
Bonus: Claim your free pack of 15 creative Instagram post templates made by Hootsuite’s professional graphic designers. Easily customize them in Canva, and start getting more engagement today.
What is Instagram marketing?
Instagram marketing is the practice of using Instagram to grow your brand awareness, audience, leads, and sales. As the favorite social media platform of people ages 16-34, Instagram is a highly effective marketing platform for brands, entrepreneurs, and creators.
Instagram marketing strategies include:
Organic content: Photo, video, or carousel posts, Reels, Stories
Paid content: Instagram ads, including Stories ads, Shopping ads, and more
Shopping tools: Shop tab, Product tags and catalog, Live shopping, Instagram Checkout, Shopping ads
How to set up Instagram for marketing
If you’re just starting out, here’s what you need to do to set your company’s Instagram account up for success.
Set up an Instagram Business profile
To use most of the marketing tips featured here, you need an Instagram Business account. It’s free, and you can create a new one or convert your existing Personal account.
If you have an existing Personal account, skip to Step 3.
Step 1: Download Instagram
You can only create an account using a mobile device.
Tap Create new account. Follow the prompts to enter your email and phone number and choose a username and password. You don’t need to fill out the rest of your profile right now (more on how to optimize it later).
Step 3: Switch your new account to a Business one
Go to your profile and open the menu. Go to Settings and choose Switch to professional account near the bottom. Select Business as the account type and follow the prompts to convert your account.
Most companies aren’t verified. Research shows 73.4% of creators or brands with over a million followers are verified, but only 0.87% of those with 1,000-5,000 followers are.
You don’t need that little blue checkmark to be successful on Instagram, but having it can help you earn trust and stand out.
To apply for Instagram verification:
1. In the app, open the menu. Click Settings, then Account, then Request Verification.
After submitting the form, you’ll receive the answer as a notification within Instagram in about a week. Instagram will never email you, ask for payment, or contact you any other way.
If your verification request is unsuccessful, you can try again in 30 days. If it’s approved, hooray and welcome to the super-elite Insta club.
The tricky part of getting verified is having enough third-party content to prove you’re well-known enough to warrant needing verification. We cover tips for getting that supporting content in our complete guide to getting verified on Instagram.
Try Instagram ads
Expanding your marketing strategy with ads can have a big impact. Even simple ads can earn results, like coffee retailer Country Bean’s 3 week campaign which resulted in a 16% sales increase.
There are two ways to get started with Instagram ads:
The easy way: Boost a post
You can turn any existing Instagram post into an ad by clicking the Boost Post button. You need to have either a Business or Creator account, though.
After clicking Boost Post, follow the quick prompts to set your budget, narrow your target audience, set a duration, and boom—you now have an Instagram ad.
You can customize the targeting options or have Instagram automatically target your ads. Boosted posts are a good way to dip your toe in the advertising pool, so if this is all new to you, stick to auto mode.
Go big: Launch a full Instagram ad campaign
Step 1: Log in to Meta Business Suite
Click on Ads in the left menu, then Create ad at the top right.
Step 2: Choose a goal
Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? It’s like that, but for marketing.
For a first campaign, Automated Ads are a good option. Instagram will try to get you the most results with the least budget possible, and they auto-adjust your targeting and bidding strategy as they learn more from your audience’s reactions. It’s like having a 24/7 robot assistant.
If you want to experiment with ad targeting yourself, or have a specific goal, try out one of the other options, like focusing on leads or traffic.
Step 3: Create your ads
The prompts to complete your ad vary depending on which goal you pick, but generally the next step is to create the ad creative. For example, this is what the next step is for the “Build your business” goal.
For a well-rounded campaign, you should have at least 2-3 ad groups, each containing 3 or more ads.
Most ad formats have an option to allow Instagram to switch out your creative assets automatically to optimize ad performance. It’s like having a real-time, built-in A/B testing process. Add multiple creative assets for each ad to take advantage of this.
Try to include a mix of photo, video, Stories ads, Reels ads, and Catalog and Shopping ads if you sell products online. Test out different ad copy and calls to action.
And, ensure you have ads for each stage of your buyer’s journey, from consideration all the way to conversion.
Step 4: Define your audience
Take a shot every time you read “define your audience” in a marketing blog.
Targeting is critical to your ad’s success. Meta Business Suite gives you five options:
You can target:
An Advantage Audience (Recommended for newbies!): This is Meta’s AI-optimized audience based on your existing account audience, and updates itself automatically as your audience grows or changes. It analyzes what interests and demographics your followers share.
People you choose: Create your own audience from scratch, including location, demographics, interests, and more.
People who’ve previously engaged with posts or ads: Create a retargeting campaign to remind people who already know you about your offer.
Page Likes: Targets your existing Facebook Page and Instagram followers.
Page Likes and similar: In addition to your existing audience, this will also expand to target people the algorithm thinks are similar to them to bring in new leads.
If you’re new to ads, use the Advantage audience option. Want to learn more about perfecting your ad targeting? The info in our Facebook ad targeting guide works for your Instagram ads, too.
Step 5: Set your budget
Whichever targeting option you pick, you’ll need to set a budget and duration. You’ll see the predicted results of your choices on the right side in estimated reach and clicks.
Step 6: Launch
Lastly, choose if you want your ad to appear only on Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger, or across all three platforms. We recommend running it across all.
Click Promote Now to save and launch your Instagram ad campaign. Woo!
Running a successful ad campaign is a huge undertaking. Check our in-depth Instagram ads guide for tips on creating great ads in 2023.
Step 1: Ensure you meet Instagram Shopping requirements
Brands using Shopping features must adhere to Meta’s merchant policies. You’re probably doing all these things correctly anyway, but it’s a good idea to review Meta’s commerce policies first before applying.
Step 2: Sign up for Commerce Manager
To create your Instagram Shop, you need to have a Meta Commerce Manager account. You need a Business or Creator Instagram account first, then you can sign up one of two ways:
Through your ecommerce platform
If your website runs on Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, or other major platforms, you may only have to click a button to set up your Instagram Shop.
Popular Instagram Reels ideas. Not sure where to start? Try a Reels template.
Use graphic templates to up your style without spending a lot. Hire a designer to make them, or use an app like Adobe Express.
4. Champion user-generated content
The best way to boost your Instagram for free? User-generated content.
Encourage your followers to share photos or video of your products. Not every shot will be an Ansel Adams-worthy one, but you can’t beat the authenticity of real customer photos and stories.
Instagram makes this easy with the Tagged tab, which shows all the posts other users tag you in. There’s a hack to make it so only the crème de la crème are visible: Enabling manual approval for tagged photos.
So instead of a jumbled mess, you can curate user-generated content that fits your aesthetic.
Speaking of style… have one. While your audience isn’t going to hand over their wallets solely due to good looks, make an effort to create a cohesive-looking profile.
Why? Because people will see one of your posts in their Instagram feed and instantly know it’s from you before even seeing the account name. They’ll recognize your style. That’s branding at work.
6. …But don’t be too concerned with aesthetic
Yes, having a recognizable look helps you attract the audience you want, but style without substance isn’t a strategy. 58% of Instagram users say they like it more when brands share candid, unpolished content.
Don’t let the fear of your content not looking “pretty” enough stop you. Post it anyway.
7. Have a distinctive brand voice
One thing that always needs to be on point, raw or not, is your brand voice.
Your voice comes through everything you communicate, such as:
How you come across on video
Key terms you use
How people speak on camera when representing your company
Your bio copy
Text in videos or Reels
Besides what you say, it’s how you say it. Are you casual and fun, or serious and scientific? Keep things light with jokes, or stick to the facts? There isn’t a wrong way, but you need to stay consistent.
It seems like all you see when you open Instagram now are Reels, and there’s a reason for it: They get engagement. We conducted an experiment that found a significant correlation between posting a Reel and an immediate boost in overall engagement rate.
Some may not get many views and that’s okay, because when one of yours does go a lil’ bit viral? It’s all worth it.
Anyone can be successful with Reels, it just takes practice. We’ve got tons of resources to makes yours reel-y (ugh) good:
Reels may be newer, but Instagram Stories aren’t going anywhere. Popular for more informal content, Stories allow you to develop relationships with your audience in a unique way.
It doesn’t take a ton more work to see a big effect, either. A year-long study found that when companies shared one Story per day, it resulted in a 100% retention rate.
Not only that, but 500 million people use Stories every day. I’m not great at math but having 100% of your audience remember your content, with a potential reach of 500 million people? That’s a no brainer.
To hashtag or not to hashtag? Is it nobler to suffer the highs and lows of the algorithm, or take arms against a sea of content?
You can add up to 30 hashtags per Instagram post. But a 2021 experiment we did showed that using more doesn’t get more views. Last year, Instagram’s official @creators account recommended no more than 3-5 per post.
What about in 2023?
A casual experiment I ran on my account this week showed an opposite effect. I loaded up on hashtags, using between 15-20 per post, and most of my (albeit small) reach came from those hashtags.
So what does this tell us?
TL;DR: Science is hard, no one knows how many Instagram hashtags are “the perfect amount,” and you should regularly experiment with this.
Engage with your audience! Reply to their comments, messages, carrier pigeons, etc.
Because a higher engagement rate looks good on your analytics reports, right? No!Reply to your followers because it’s the right thing to do.
Yes, it also boosts your engagement rate. But more importantly, it encourages your potential customers to start conversations with you. Over time, those conversations become the foundation of their perception of your brand and greatly influence purchase decisions.
Hootsuite Inbox allows you to stay on top of all comments and DMs across all your platforms in one place. Assign conversations to team members, track responses, and ensure no one falls through the cracks. See how efficient it is to foster genuine engagement with Inbox:
14. Try Instagram Live video
Live video doesn’t need to be scary. It’s a powerful tool for Instagram growth and deepening your relationship with your audience.
Contests don’t need to be expensive. Give away free products in a simple raffle by having users like and comment on your post, or partner with someone else in your industry to split the cost of a larger prize package.
It’s also the only way to know if your marketing strategy needs a tweak, or if you should double down on what you’re doing.
Rather than sifting through each platform’s analytics dashboard and attempting to assemble the full picture yourself, lean on Hootsuite Advanced Analytics instead. This tool (available as an add-on for Hootsuite Business and Enterprise plan users) pulls together data for all your organic and paid content across every platform in one place, giving you powerful insights whenever you need them — and measures your ROI across channels and campaigns.
Last but not least, don’t wildly follow every Instagram marketing tip you read on marketing blogs. 🙃
Seriously: You need to experiment. Every audience is different. Maybe your peeps hate live video. Maybe they’re only online at 3pm on Wednesdays. Maybe they will give you their first-born child for a free sweatshirt.
Evaluate your performance often and set aside time to run experiments to see which tactics work best for you. Don’t worry, we have a free social media audit template to help out.
Why use Instagram for marketing?
Need a bit more convincing? Here’s how Instagram marketing can help you grow your business.
Instagram Shopping tools can boost sales by 300%
44% of Instagrammers shop weekly on the platform. Since launching basic shopping tools in 2018, like linking to products from Stories, Instagram is now a complete social commerce solution.
Brands can achieve up to 300% more sales with a combination of Shopping tools and ads.
People spend 30 minutes per day on Instagram
Instagrammers spend 30 minutes per day on the app, which is fairly average among major social platforms, but it’s the session length that really stands out.
People spend about 18 minutes per session, which beats out the average Amazon shopping trip (13 minutes), Twitter scroll (14 minutes), and YouTube session (7 minutes). Surprisingly, also the average session on Pornhub (14 minutes).
Lil’ biased here, but Hootsuite really is a great choice to manage all your social media marketing. We have all the basic tools you need, like scheduling, planning, and analytics, as well as advanced capabilities to take you even further.
With Hootsuite, you can schedule posts for Instagram (Posts, Stories, and Reels), Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest. from one intuitive dashboard. Think of all the time you can save not switching between 7 apps to post content!
Hootsuite also offers detailed analytics comprehensive reporting, as well as a calendar view and content creation tools that allow you to publish the best content possible.
That’s not it. Every Hootsuite user gets access to custom, fully personalized recommendations for the best times to post content for maximum reach, impressions, or engagement.
Notion is like if a notebook and a spreadsheet had a baby. A Gen Z baby ‘cause it’s digital-first.
You can add anything to a Notion page that you add to a document, like text, images, etc. But its real power is databases, allowing you to filter and sort your info in multiple ways, including on a calendar, in tables, or with Kanban boards, to name a few.
It’s what I use to plan my social media content (before I put it into Hootsuite, of course) and I love how easy it is to edit on mobile. Plus, if I had friends a team, everyone could collaborate in the same Notion workspace, too.
Check out Notion’s template gallery, or make your own content board from scratch.
Adobe Express is a free online tool to create great-looking social graphics and more. You get additional features if you already have an Adobe subscription, including Adobe Stock access and more.
With Hootsuite’s Creative Cloud integration, you can view all your Adobe libraries directly inside Hootsuite, and edit photos in Hootsuite Composer. It’s a perfect pair, especially if you already use other Adobe apps like Photoshop or Illustrator.
Manage all your Instagram marketing alongside your other social platforms with Hootsuite’s time-saving tools. From a single dashboard, you can schedule posts, Stories, and Reels, engage with your audience, and measure your social ROI. Try it free today.