How to Use Instagram for Marketing: From Content to Hashtags

How to Use Instagram for Marketing

If you’re still wondering how to use Instagram for marketing, you’re already behind the 8 ball. Instagram marketing has been around for years now. We’re going to play catch up in this article so that you’re ready to use this exciting social media marketing platform to catapult your business into Internet marketing overdrive!

How to use Instagram for marketing: Grow your business!

The very first thing we need to talk about, before anything else, is your strategy to create, and keep on creating, great photos that relate to your brand. Having great photos to use in Instagram marketing is the absolute top priority. We’re talking about a platform where people take about less than 5 seconds to look at a photo and determine if they care. I can’t personally recall ever reading a description on a picture that didn’t catch my eye right away.

Some Instagram marketers have an unfair advantage, like GoPro. They’re a brand that’s only objective is to help people take pictures, and take them they do:

That’s a photo that’s going to get attention, and truly market their brand on Instagram. They’re using the power of user generated content as well, but more on that later.

So. You’re not a camera brand, and you think that your business doesn’t have anything worth posting about on Instagram. Are you kidding? Keeping up with the Kardashians is one of the most uninteresting shows on TV, and yet it’s incredibly popular! Knowing what moments to shoot, and finding your audience, is possible no matter what your brand markets.

A great example of this is the Hootsuite account. They have their famous Twitter/social media management dashboard to market. What in the world could they take photos of? Statistics? Boring!

When in doubt, disguise as an owl. #TBT to the Singapore office launch party!

A post shared by Hootsuite (@hootsuite) on

Instead, they go behind the scenes and show off their company culture. Their entire account is full of fun, silly, behind the scenes content like this. It may not be blowing up the Internet like GoPro, but they’re doing the best they can for their brand.

Other ways you can make your photos pop when you’re not filming surfers from their surfboard inside a wave:

  • The right filter can complete change your photo’s ability to attract attention. Experiment.
  • A description that gets right to the point can help people quickly understand your photo.
  • Satisfied customers with your products, taken selfie style, can fill any account up with warmth.
  • Don’t give away all your secrets, but show a side of your brand that people haven’t seen before.

How you will succeed on Instagram will always be a content first solution. You can’t move forward with learning how to use Instagram for marketing until you figure out this vital aspect of your plan.

Using hashtags for Instagram marketing

The first thing to learn about hashtags on Instagram is that they are meant to properly categorize images into chunks that people can view. Your goal is to put your appropriate images into those categories and gain new followers.

Here’s an example from Pepsi trying to get in on the #AllStarGame for baseball’s annual celebration:

An all-star hat for an #AllStarGame

A photo posted by pepsi (@pepsi) on

Anyone interested in general All Star Game hashtagging will find their photo, and maybe give them a follow.

The second thing about hashtags that you need to know for marketing is that you can create your own to start to tell brand stories. This is how to use Instagram for marketing your brand, rather than riding on the coattails of someone else’s hashtag/success. Red Bull do a great job of it with their #CanStand hashtag. It has prompted hundreds of ordinary users to take their own photos, with a can of Red Bull, and hashtag to help Red Bull tell a bigger story. Here’s an example:

Tar du utfordringen? Tag ditt bilde med #CanStand 👊🏼

A post shared by Red Bull Norge (@redbullnorge) on

This is the great thing about hashtag marketing on Instagram: Your fans can step in and create content for you. This is when you reach that next level of social media marketing where you are no longer telling your followers stories, and you start engaging in telling stories together.

A final piece of advice about hashtags on Instagram: Don’t overuse hashtags! More than three is just ugly, hashtagging every word …should be against the law. You can also apply some of the things learned in this Twitter hashtag marketing article to expand your understanding of hashtags in a business context.

Promoting your brand and products on Instagram

Great, now you know how to get people to look at pretty pictures that you take. Where’s the money?!? Here are the main tools you’re going to use to promote your products, and get some ROI, on Instagram:

  • Use your brand logo as your profile image, and incorporate it into images when possible. Proper branding, to create brand recognition, is huge on Instagram.
  • Completely fill out your profile details, with the link to your website featured prominently. Contact details can also be helpful depending on the size of your business.
  • Links to products in the description area of a photo that they’re about is not only accepted, but truly helps your fans find a product when they want it.

The first two points are pretty elementary. The third point is where you’ll really start to make headway with ROI on Instagram. These pictures, that have links leading to landing pages, deserve your fullest attention and care. They’re going to succeed at their best with:

  • One hashtag that’s unique to your brand, and part of your overall story.
  • One hashtag that’s general, or fitting into a current event.
  • A promotional push behind it such as a contest, or another incentive to share such as an event you’re planning.

Not every single post is going to be a product. Those that are deserve your focus and planning as these are your opportunities to really make money using Instagram. Build your account with the more low-key content that isn’t a direct product push, like Hootsuite’s goofy office photos, and save the best tactics for those moments when you’re putting a product front and center.

If you have any other questions on how to use Instagram for marketing, or if you want to share some tips of your own, please comment below!


Feature image via Ingvar Bjork / Shutterstock

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