16th Oct 2015

Instagram as a Marketing Tool

Social media platforms tend to get stereotyped. Facebook is for spotty faced, game obsessed, duck faced teenagers. Twitter is for intellectual news lovers (pseudo or otherwise). YouTube is the new way to ‘book learn’, and so on. But where does Instagram fit in?

Instagram has been around since 2010 and in January this year it hit over 300 million users which is more than it’s much older sibling, Twitter. Followers of a certain demographic are flocking to the site and sharing their hearts out.

“Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day,” writes co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom of Instagram, and that doesn’t take into account the 2.5 million ‘likes’ they click every day. Instagram has some serious traction!

With serious traction like that comes a gaggle of marketers that want to leverage it.

Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your Instagram account.


It’s easy to abandon a lot of tried and true marketing rules when big numbers are on offer, but do not be tempted to abandon the demographics of your target audience.

Instagram is mostly used by 18-35 years olds and, like most social media sites, is skewed towards women.

Business Insiders reports the “top statistics on Instagram’s users are: 

If your product doesn’t fit that demographic you are unlikely to be able to actualize any revenue from it and all it will achieve is to suck money down the rabbit hole.


If you’re having trouble breaking into other social media markets do not look to Instagram to replace it. It has great traction, but again may not have the audience you are looking for.  For example, this graph from Business Insider shows the breakdown of income on each social network. If you are trying to tap into affluent users, Instagram in not the platform for you, but Facebook is. It’s worth dropping any Instagram activity in that case and put the time, effort and money into making your mediocre Facebook page something special.



Hashtags started out on Twitter as a way to organize the morass of chatter going on. It never really gained steam, only succeeding now in sorting out who it Twitter obsessed and who isn’t, but Instagram has welcomed the hashtag with open arms. It has almost become an unwritten law that every post needs a Hashtag, and every poster needs their own, personalised one too.

Take the time to get yourself a memorable hashtag that people can latch on to and follow. Search your marketing keywords as a hashtag to see what is going on Instagram under those themes and it will give you a good feel for what is palatable to your audience. It will also help guide you to the movers and shakers in your industry that you can garnish ideas from, and interact with.


Instagram is the perfect place to form an alliance. Hashtags are used so well that it’s easy to find a company that compliments your brand, with the same ethos, so that together you can raise your profile and credibility with each other’s audience. Partnerships can include restaurants and food charities that process leftovers, a book shop and nearby coffee shop or a manufacturing plant with a charity they are supporting. As Instagram is photo based you can share photos and double your traction.


One trap you need to be aware of, and avoid at all costs, is over posting. If you have streams of photos or promotions remember this is not Facebook! If you have that type of marketing that is good for Facebook – stick it on Facebook! With Instagram less is definitely more. One beautiful, expressive picture a day is plenty per day and will impress your followers.


The image you post on Instagram is very important. Stunning is the only way to go. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a professional photographer and post another boring photo in a different angle of the same thing every day, but think sideways. If you sell cars, put up a beautiful picture of an open road. Or an abandoned gas station. If you sell power use a sunset shot of wind turbines or a hydroelectric waterfall. If your business is chocolate then post pictures of happy faces at a party, or a chocolate wedding cake or sculpture. You don’t have to keep to the photos in your company, branch out a bit. There are many beautiful things to be found around your industry.


Instagram is an excellent medium for showing what goes on behind the scenes of your company and who they are dealing with. Don’t be afraid to post pictures of visitors or vendors, staff or delivery people. Celebrate anything and let your audience know you are human.


One of the things that sets Instagram apart is the features it has on its app. Investigate all that it has on offer and then work with it.

WordStream recommends:

  • Get to know all of Instagram’s filters, special effects, and editing tools. Utilize your creative team to help manipulate your photos to get the most visually compelling result. If you’re a one-man-band, and not skilled at photo-manipulation, seek alternative opinions. Some of the most popular rated filters include Low-Fi, Valencia, and X-Pro II.
  • Three months ago Instagram released a suite of business tools to help brands analyze the performance of their posts. The highlight of this release is that these tools are available to all businesses, not just the select brands with advertising capabilities. The tools include account insights like impressions, reach, engagement, ad insights – this feature is for paid advertisements only, but gives the advertise more detail into brand analytics, and ad staging, which allows businesses to work together to preview, save, and collaborate on their ad creative. No, these tools are not perfect, but they’re a start into getting a clearer picture on how effective your posts are performing.
  • Lastly, stay Insta-smart.  Instagram is young, hot, and growing fast, and with the success advertisers have seen thus far the platform is only going to keep catering to businesses since this is how they’ll make money as well. Instagram has already done a lot to support businesses on the platform with a whole section of their site dedicated to business owners and marketers. I’d recommend subscribing to the Instagram For Business blog to stay ahead of the game.

There is some great traction to be had from Instagram but work smart, otherwise you may get sucked in and make the time incredibly unproductive.







Image from GongTo / Shutterstock.com