In many ways, Instagram seems built for branding. It rewards stylistic visuals, encourages interaction, and suits a wide variety of niches, making it accessible to virtually any business. And most of all, people love using it, with over a billion unique users, so your Instagram branding campaigns start out with a captive audience.
But what really sets apart Instagram for branding is how receptive its users are to businesses. As long as your content works, Instagram users will be more than happy to follow you and support your business. Just look at these internal Instagram statistics:
- 90% of Instagram users follow a business account
- 2 out of 3 users agree that Instagram helps them talk to brands
- 50% of users become more interested in a brand if they see it in an Instagram ad
If you’re new to branding on Instagram, though, things may not seem so smooth at first. There’s a bit of a learning curve and the best choices aren’t always obvious. So to help you get your name out there, here’s our Instagram branding guide with 11 advanced tips on how to use Instagram for branding.
But first things first, if you’re serious about Instagram branding, you need to set up a business account…
How to set up an Instagram business account
A standard account is fine for personal use, but if you’re using Instagram for branding specifically, switching to a business account is recommended.
For one thing, a business account makes it easier to buy ads without Facebook, but there are other benefits as well. In particular, a business account lets users message you directly with a contact button. If you want to sell branded merchandise, a business account lets you sell items straight from the platform with Instagram Shop. You also get access to Instagram Insights, a useful internal analytics tool that reveals which of your content works and which doesn’t.
Luckily, starting an Instagram business account is both easy and free. If you already have a personal Instagram account, just follow these steps:
- Tap on the menu icon and select Settings.
- Tap on Account.
- Tap on Switch to Professional Account.
- When deciding between Creator or Business, choose Business. (Creator accounts are for professional influencers.)
- Choose the category that best describes your brand
- Review your information and tap Done.
That’s it! You can also switch back and forth between your business and personal accounts at any time by going to Settings > Account.
11 advanced Instagram branding tips
1. Optimize your profile
Your profile is your home base for Instagram branding, and most of the people interested in your brand will pass through it. The main parts are your username, handle, profile picture, but your link, address and bio are crucial as well.
When choosing your usernames and pictures, always favor being clear to being clever. A good default picture is your company logo, although feel free to change it up with special backgrounds for events like holidays or pride month.
Using your logo as a profile picture strengthens associations between your customers and your brand, so it’s most effective with a skillfully designed logo.
You get one outgoing link in your Instagram profile, so use it wisely. Your bio description is great for introducing yourself, but the downside is that it’s only 150 characters. You definitely want to include your primary and secondary hashtags in your bio.
2. Choose a theme that complements your branding goals
Instagram is a broad platform, so trying to please everyone is not a good idea. Rather, you want to find your niche audience and post content for them and only them.
This strategy works best when you pick a theme and stick to it. For example, if you’re a fashion brand, your theme could be candid photos of people wearing clothes in everyday settings, or glamour shots of accessories. What brands shouldn’t do is mix themes, such as a fashion brand posting clothing pictures and cat videos. Stay in your lane!
Themes apply to your visual style as well, including filters, color schemes and shot compositions. If your audience likes gritty black-and-white photos, give them a lot of gritty black-and-white photos. You can use the analytics tools to see which themes and styles get the most likes and comments, then alter your strategy accordingly.
Don’t forget to keep your Instagram branding consistent with your branding on other channels as well. Use the same color schemes and visual styles across all mediums to maximize the right associations and avoid mixed messages. On that note, include Instagram in all your other marketing campaigns, such as video ads or contests.
3. Set realistic KPIs
It’s hard to measure success on social media, but it’s tempting to use likes and follows as a type of “scoreboard.” Like other business avenues, it’s best to set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your performance and shine a light on problematic areas.
For Instagram branding, KPIs are often targeted toward the amount of likes a post gets, its comments, page follows, or uses of a hashtag—but to be effective, they must be realistic and attainable.
You’ll see brands on Instagram with millions of followers, but that doesn’t mean getting a thousand or even a hundred followers isn’t still a success story. Your performance in numbers depends on your industry, company and target audience, so try basing your goals on the numbers of brands similar to yours.
Look to brands your size, in your industry with your type of consumer for this as it doesn’t necessarily need to be your competitors, especially if they have a bigger marketing budget.
Also, pay close attention to growth rates. Having a hundred followers may not be considered a success, but gaining a hundred followers in a day might mean one of your posts or campaigns was exceptionally successful.
4. Use popular styles of content
One of the most common questions about Instagram branding and marketing is “what do I post?” As mentioned above, different types of brands will find different types of content successful, depending on their unique style and goals.
That said, there are common genres of content that seem to perform well, no matter what style or industry they’re used for.
Photographs that are aesthetically pleasing are why Instagram was made, and still generate plenty of likes and interactions. Artistic photos are not a standalone theme, but rather a visual style that can be applied to any industry or content strategy.
Comics poking fun at whatever theme you’ve chosen can be a great way to show your sense of humor, and work well as multi-image posts for extra engagement.
You can even use comics made by your followers to hit two birds with one stone.
Quotes and text
Single-line quotes, whether motivational or cynical, do well when people agree with the sentiment.
Just make sure they fit your overall Instagram branding theme—funny one-liners won’t work if your brand is aiming for sentimental or saccharine.
Posting the work of your followers (with credit, of course) is perfect for developing connections with your audiences and incentives your followers to post more about your brand.
If you’re having trouble getting your name out, you can run a contest with awards to people who post the best content about you. But don’t forget to use a special hashtag for the contest.
Instagram Stories and Reels allow video content on the platform, which can open up a lot of new doors, which we’ll talk about more below. Videography and editing skills are always welcome, but don’t feel limited by your inexperience—Instagram users aren’t expecting Citizen Kane.
Try experimenting with a few of them to see which ones resonate with your target users. You’ll find your Insights analytics especially useful in determining your winners and losers.
5. Pay attention to captions and hashtags
Captions are great for adding context to your photos. Although Instagram allows captions to be 2,200 characters, only the first two lines are visible without tapping “more.” That’s why it’s best to say the most important words in the top one or two sentences, and save the rest of the space for the details and hashtags.
Choosing the right hashtags is one of the most important decisions in branding for Instagram because they determine who sees your posts. People often scroll based on hashtags, so using the right ones means your posts show up to strangers who share your interests. They’re an ideal way to attract new, like-minded followers who might have never heard about your brand.
How do you know which hashtags are best for you? Do some trial-and-error searches within Instagram to see what pops up for each hashtag. Don’t just look at how popular each hashtag is, but also see how frequently people post to it and what kinds of content are used with it.
6. Integrate videos with Stories and Reels
If your target audience likes video content, your best choices on Instagram are Stories and Reels. Just like your other content, it’s best to experiment with both to see what works.
Instagram Stories are like video blogs, where the user typically films themselves doing something or discussing something for a short interval. Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, so it’s more of an ongoing commitment users stick to day after day.
Instagram Reels, on the other hand, have more production: filter, sound effects, text, stickers and editing options. Created as a response to TikTok, Reels are more like a string of short clips tied together.
For both, remember to stay consistent with your other branding, in particular your tone of voice. Instagram Stories and Reels are an ideal opportunity to put a live-action face to your name, so make sure it’s the right representation of your brand.
7. Engage with fans
All social media is a two-way street—and that’s part of why it’s so useful for businesses. Instagram branding isn’t just people seeing your content; it’s also about meeting your brand and having a conversation.
Above all, this means responding to comments. Usually, people will compliment you or express interest; occasionally, they’ll ask a question about your business that gives you a good opportunity to answer publicly.
Dealing with insults and criticisms, too, is important for Instagram branding. Even your supporters will pay close attention to how you deal with trolls, so be sure to handle them smartly, and in keeping with your brand identity—as in, responding politely vs. retorting with something even more offensive.
8. Work with influencers in your field
Especially when you’re just starting out, you can get a lot of new followers by “piggy-backing” on other more successful accounts. Influencer marketing gives you not only access to thousands of new users with the same interests as you, but also a vote of confidence from a trusted source. After all, part of the reason people follow influencers is for their expert recommendations.
It can be intimidating reaching out to influencers when you’re an unknown company, but just remember that they’re business people just like you. Typically, you would offer them a free product or sample and, if they liked it, they’d talk about it on their feed. Remember, influencers are constantly searching for new and undiscovered things to post about, so you could be helping them out.
If you’re going after big whale influencers, they may have fixed pricing for mentions and publicity. If you don’t want to invest too much in influencer marketing, try going after smaller, middle-tier influencers. They’ll be more appreciative of free samples, and you’ll still get access to new followers, even if in a smaller pool.
9. Post at the right times
Like all social media, Instagram has its peak hours and dry times. However, the best times to post aren’t always uniform—it depends on when your particular type of user prefers to log on, not to mention other factors like time zones and the beginning and end of work shifts.
As always, you can experiment with posting at different times to see which works best for you but it can be tedious to experiment with every hour of every day. Rather, you can use the universal guidelines as a starting point and begin your experiments from there.
While Hootsuite states the best universal time to post on Instagram is 11 am on Wednesday, Hubspot has more thorough research, broken down by industry and illustrated with heat maps.
10. Sell merchandise through the Instagram Shop
Not all brands have something to sell, but if you do, you can sell it directly on Instagram through Instagram Shop. This allows users to purchase by tapping on your posts, and you can even tag individual products in your Instagram stories for more subtle advertising.
Instagram Shop makes it easy to sell branded merchandise, even if you’re not equipped for a full-scale ecommerce outfit. There are plenty of white label products that you can buy and resell under your brand, from general swag like t-shirts and hats to more focused merchandise like stuffed animals or enamel pins.
As always, choose the merchandise that best represents your brand identity—and what your kind of followers would like to buy.
11. Consider Instagram ads
If you have enough money to spare in your marketing budget, Instagram ads can effectively boost your brand awareness and attract more followers.
You can buy Instagram ads in a variety of forms: image ads, video ads, carousel ads, ads in Instagram Stories, and more. Moreover, your ads can work for a variety of different goals, such as general brand awareness, tunneling traffic to an external page, or even getting your app or software installed.
Just like Facebook advertising, one of the best features of Instagram advertising is the ability to hone in on your target audience. Instagram ads let you filter who sees your ads by their location, interests, behaviors, and general demographics. When you put all these nuanced choices together, you’re able to tailor intricate and highly focused advertising campaigns that make every penny of your ad spend count.
Instagram is all about visuals
Even if you follow this Instagram branding guide to the letter, there’s still one part we can’t prepare you for: what makes a good visual? Instagram success depends on the quality of your content — in whatever theme or genre you’re using. Your top priority should be creating or finding posts that people get excited about, so keep your eyes peeled for inspiration or content you can repost.