Six years ago, Nathan Chan had an idea.

He wanted to launch a digital magazine for startup entrepreneurs, providing as much helpful information to them as possible. As he developed his business model and marketing plan, he made the decision to focus on one social media platform exclusively – Instagram.

Chan began with a theme -inspirational quotes superimposed on beautiful photos. And he posted several times a day. Of course, he included CTA’s to share his posts, offered some incentives, etc., and used a number of other tactics to spread his brand all over Instagram.

But the “proof is in the pudding” to borrow an old saying. Within 5 months, Chan had 110,000 followers; within 10 months, he had 300,000. This type of business growth on any social media platform is quite a feat, but Chan obviously did it right. What was his secret to success on Instagram? It involved a number of tactics that any brand can and should use.

Here are 10 tactics that will help you build a great presence on Instagram and connect with your target market. While many business marketers find Instagram a bit mysterious, it is not at all, and you can easily use these tactics once you understand them.

1. Get Involved in the Instagram “Community”

Social media is just that – social. While Instagram is primarily a visual platform, it is still used to establish relationships, to build a community of followers, and to participate in other communities. There are a number of ways to do this.

  • One is via hashtags (more on that later);
  • Another way is to “like” and comment on the photos of others, getting you engaged with them. They will often like and comment on yours in return.
  • One more tactic is to get involved in campaigns for social causes. And, if you are supporting any cause, posting photos of that involvement will also garner more connections. People like to feel that they are involved, if only indirectly through following you.

2. You Must Use Hashtags

Except for the visuals you post, hashtags are the next important element. You may have captions, and those can tell a story about your image, but hashtags will be how others find you.

Think of hashtags like keywords that you insert in your other types of content. And think of Instagram as a search engine.

When people conduct a search on Instagram, they do it by hashtags related to your business. And just like with keywords, you will want to do some research to identify those hashtags that are most likely to bring a visitor to your post. This is relatively easy to do.

  • Come up with a list of hashtags that relate to your products or services and conduct your own search on Instagram.
  • If you see your competitors’ pages coming up, then you know that you should use that hashtag as well.
  • And check out the other hashtags that your competitors are using on their posts. Using the same ones will ensure that you appear in any search results that your competitors do.

There may also be some hashtags that aren’t most popular or used but that relate very specifically to your product or serve. Add these to your list too. If they drive fewer visitors to your post, at least those visitors will be targeting your niche more specifically and are probably better leads.

Using generic hashtags can also be good. #followme is a good one.

You need to use at least one hashtag per post, but there is some research pointing out that as many as 11 will gain more followers. The point is this: don’t scrimp on hashtags.

3. Frequency

There is no definite answer to the question about how frequently you should post.

Nathan Chan posted several times a day in the beginning. While each of his posts were unique, yours need not be.

Remember, your target audience may access their Instagram at very different times of the day, so re-posting the same thing is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, you want to have as much variety and consistency as possible.

Again, there has been some research on the frequency of posting, suggesting that between two-three times a day seems to be optimal. But even then, other research suggests that increasing frequency does not result in engagement decrease.

Frequency and even time of day for posting will vary with audiences. And you will need to experiment with your posting behavior and see how much and when works for your brand.

Bethany Clarkson, a marketing specialist for Resumescentre.com states, “We developed a presence on Instagram because the age demographic makes up a huge percentage of our audience.

We did the research and decided to post 2 times a day. Our following grew regularly but somewhat slowly. We modified the content of our postings over time, after consulting with copywriting consultants, but one change was increasing the number of postings per day and scheduling daily postings up until quite late, at 2:00 a.m. in fact. We have realized an uptick in following and sales as a result.”

(Source: blog.tailwindapp.com, 2017)

Again, experiment with frequency and times, giving yourself appropriate time to measure the results of any changes you make.

4. Getting the Images and Captions/Content Right

Your brand has an image.

And any visuals or videos you post must support that image. Rolex, for example, would not post photos that appeal to college students. And a brand selling energy drinks would certainly not post photos that appeal to senior citizens. The same applies to captions.

Do not dismiss the importance of captions.

They must engage your audience in compelling ways. And it may be difficult for you to come up with those easily. If so, there are any number of creatives, either as freelancers found on Upwork and similar sites or at writing services, such as those found at Online Writers Rating.

Find a specialist who can create compelling captions that match the pain points, the sense of humor, and inspirational needs of your audience demographic.

Tom Shoes is a great example of a brand that promotes its image. While many of its Instagram posts show their shoe varieties, just as many point to their many social causes – shoes for poor children, water accessibility, end to gun violence, eyesight, prenatal care – all over the world.

(Source: instagram.com, 2018)

(Source: instagram.com, 2017)

Toms audience is comprised of millennials, most of whom share the social concerns that Toms addresses with its giving program.

5. Consider a Theme

Chan had a theme. He wanted to inspire his audience of young and budding entrepreneurs.

(Source: instagram.com)

If you can craft a theme for your posts, you will gain followers who come back to see what you post next. And your theme can change too.

Suppose you sell paint. You can begin with a theme related to color and color combinations; then, after time, change it out to a new theme – perhaps newer “design painting.”

Keep each theme for a good period of time, to develop and solidify your following, and promote your next theme toward the end of the current one.

6. Craft an Engaging Profile

Your profile is a key fundamental piece of your total presence, and you should put it together carefully. It must match your brand image. Here are the easy steps:

  • Choose a username. Obviously, it does not need to be unique – it should be your brand name.
  • Establish Your Visibility: You want to set your visibility as “public” – obvious
  • Choose a Profile Photo. For a brand, you need something recognizable – your logo, your product, etc. Searchers need to know who you are.
  • Your Bio: Your bio will only be 150 characters but must give a clear overview of who you are, what you offer, etc. Given the character constraints, you will want to use single words or very short phrases. Try to focus on solutions you bring to the table, based upon what you know about your audience.
  • You can add a hyperlink to your site, as well as a hashtag or two
  • Be certain the photos you add to your bio reflect your brand image.

7. Consider the Tools That Will Make Your Job Easier

As a marketer, you certainly understand analytics – that process by which you gather data about traffic and use it to improve your content, your advertising, and, yes, your social media performance.

Instagram analytics (called “insights”), provides a wealth of information on performance, including views, likes, who your followers are, and much more.

You will learn where your followers are from, their demographic data (e.g., age and gender), and the days and times of day when you are getting the most views. All of this information will let you know which posts are most popular for which segments of your audience and will allow you to duplicate the successes.

Which brings you to the next key tool.

You can spend hours in a day posting your content. And, given potential differences in time zones, you can be up at odd hours. But there are scheduling tools that you can use to do this automatically.

Once you set your posting schedule, all you need do is create the posts and submit them to the tool.

8. Follow, Follow, Follow – But Do it Strategically

You should follow your followers, of course. This helps to establish connections and relationships. But you also want to find new people, businesses, and influencers to follow too – those who are worth following, that is.

Here is how you can go about this:

  • First, follow those you already know. Go to your profile page, click “Find Friends” and you will find Facebook friends who are also on Instagram. There will also be a “suggested user list” based upon your profile.
  • Use the “search and explore” feature – you can search for posts or people
  • Find influencers in your niche – search by hashtags, and you will also be able to see how popular they are.
  • Hashtag searches will also bring up related niches along with users who are following them. You can then target these users.

9. Use Instagram Advertising/Collaboration/Incentives

This feature will allow you to extend your reach. You need a Facebook account to advertise on Instagram, and you must use Facebook’s Ad Creation or Power Editor. Use some of your most popular posts for this activity.

Use analytics to test the performance of your ads.

James Daily, head of the content department at Flashessay adds: “Develop relationships with owners of related businesses. Propose mutually-beneficial collaboration to both share user lists and to publish one another’s posts with recommendations.”

Offer your current followers incentives to share your posts with their tribes. You probably already do this on your other platforms, and Instagram should be no different.

10. Variety – It’s the Spice that Works

Even within themes, you can still add variety to your posts. Let’s go back to selling paint for a minute. Here are all of the types of posts you might use:

  • Solicit photos from your current customers that show off your product on their walls, etc.
  • Photos of your team at work
  • Short videos of tutorials or demonstrations related to painting and your products
  • Photos/videos of the personal side of the business owner or team members
  • Photos/videos of any community or charity-related events in which the business participated
  • Humorous memes related to painting
  • You don’t always have to have a photo. Sometimes, just posing a question in a fun font will generate lots of responses and sharing.
Different types of content by Bulletproff (Source: instagram.com)

There’s Much More

One thing to remember: As with anything, quality is better than quantity.

Don’t just post for the sake of it. Each post should be engaging and memorable if you expect users to become regular followers.

While Instagram is a visual platform, the small amounts of text are critical too – your profile and bio, and the captions you create.

Again, if you feel challenged in these areas, get professional help – search for creative minds at such places as Freelancer, Essay Supply, and Guru or on many of the writing community websites.

As you become more experienced with Instagram, you will discover there are other tactics in use for growing a following and, ultimately, sales. But these 10 will get you started.

I hope the 10 strategies above have given you the motivation to start using Instagram as part of your marketing strategy or to increase your current investment in the platform.

With over a third of all marketers now using it, it’s clear that Instagram holds true value for businesses, regardless of size or industry.

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James Daily is a professional writer, content manager, and blogger. When he is not involved in career-related tasks, he follows his other many interests, including astronomy, psychology, and cinema. You can connect with James on Twitter.

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