Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has been growing steadily as a social media platform. Even 10 years down the road in 2020, it was among the top five most downloaded applications globally, scoring over 500 million downloads in the year.


As of the beginning of 2021, Instagram has a total of 1.15 billion active users and is the fourth most-used mobile application. On average, its users spend an average of 30 minutes on the application per day.


Despite already being amongst the top 10 in the world’s most-used social platforms, Instagram’s growth is expected to continue. This presents as a good opportunity for businesses who engage in social media marketing, as it is a platform with a substantial existing userbase and promising further growth in numbers.


In fact, many businesses have been tapping on Instagram as a digital marketing platform, with Instagram reporting over 25 million businesses as of 2017. Furthermore, about 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business, and more than 83% of Instagram users have discovered a new product or service on the platform.

Evidently, it is a platform that has gone beyond personal use. Over the years, it has grown into a platform fostering communities and enabling Business-to-Consumer interactions, and therefore effectively promoting a company’s brand awareness.


Thus, for a company looking to promote itself and increase customer engagement, Instagram would be a good choice of platform.

1. Who is Instagram marketing for?

Before we look at how Instagram can be used for marketing, let us first take a look at what kind of companies Instagram marketing should be used for. It is perhaps natural for some to think that big businesses have an advantage when it comes to social media marketing, for they have a larger follower base.


However, the power of social media lies in that it is about customer engagement, not the number of followers. The same goes for Instagram. Because of that, small businesses may even have more success on Instagram marketing as compared to big companies for the following reasons:

  • Small businesses tend to be community and individual focused

Many small businesses choose to be heavily involved in their communities, which leads to a connection with their customers. On social media, small businesses can more easily handle the influx of comments from customers, hence fostering connections with individuals.


  • Joint marketing efforts

Small businesses can collaborate with other small businesses that target people within their niche. This way, the businesses can get on the radar of potential customers and encourage individuals to buy from both businesses.


  • Personalised attention

53% of consumers want to shop at small businesses for the personal service they receive. This personal touch to the service provided can be done on social media too. As opposed to big businesses, small businesses will have time to provide genuine responses directly addressing the customer’s situation, thus developing a direct connection with the customers.

For these reasons, small businesses are likely to have an advantage in social marketing, and thus in Instagram marketing. By adding a direct touch to the engagements, small businesses can potentially have greater success on social media marketing.


Perhaps that is why 71% of small-to-mid-sized businesses actually do use social media to market themselves, with 52% of them posting at least daily.

2. Instagram as a Marketing Platform


Nonetheless, regardless of size, it is important to know how to use the platform effectively to make the marketing campaign a success. As with any other social media platform, there are two ways to market on Instagram – Business Account (for providing content) and Instagram Advertising (sponsored ads).

2.1 Business Account

A business account is essentially setting up an entire profile for your business. Having this business account would allow the user to learn more about your business.

The screenshot above shows the profile of an Instagram account. As reflected in the image, the profile is where users will get to have a quick idea of what your business is about. Here, the username, profile picture, and full name (business name) must be aligned, to keep the branding consistent. This part also consists of the Instagram bio, which should be a quick summary reflecting the business’s nature. It is also the only place to feature a clickable URL, should you want to drive traffic to an external site. If the user finds your business interesting and useful, he or she can then follow your account, allowing them to receive updates in their timeline.


With an account set up, one can start posting various content to engage the customers. The start of a business account could be difficult due to the visual nature of Instagram. 

There are specific here are 4 tips that could help in your journey of using Instagram for marketing:

Screenshot 2021-07-15 at 5.23.17 PM

Having a profile is the start. By setting the profile up as a business profile, Instagram also offers tools and stats to provide data for analysis. Businesses can use this to further enhance their content to increase outreach.


To further enhance the marketing strategy, businesses can also seek to use Instagram Advertising to expand their audience.

2.2 Instagram Advertising


There are six types of ads available on Instagram, namely:

Each type of advertisement has its own functionalities and supported objectives. As such, the most appropriate ad choice depends on the company’s intended objective of marketing. This cements the importance of clearly defining goals.


The set-up process of the advertisement has also been made easy. There are only five steps in putting up an advertisement:


  • Create a business page and profile: As Instagram’s Ads Manager is highly integrated with Facebook’s, both a Facebook page and a business profile on Instagram are required to set up an advertisement.
  • Set up your Ads: Select your ad objective, target audience, and placement of ads.
  • Determine your budget: Decide on your marketing budget and the scheduling of the ads.
  • Create your AdsChoosing the format of your ads and the actual creation of them.
  • Publish: The ad is now done and will be ready to run when approved.


Once the ad is up, the Ad Manager also provides performance metrics of the ads, which companies can analyze for refinement of the ad and for driving future content generation.

In terms of pricing, the average costs for Instagram ads are as follows:

However, Instagram ad pricing is largely influenced by several variables. This includes the campaign objectives, audience size, and click-through rates. To make the most out of your marketing budget, it is important to select funnel-appropriate campaign objectives to start. The costs can also be lowered by using automatic placements.

3. Learning from Others: Case Studies

3.1 DJI


DJI is one of the leaders in the drone industry. Having consistently put out high-quality content on their Instagram profile, it currently has garnered 2.7million followers.

Back in 2017, DJI rolled out their latest product – Phantom 4 Pro. To market it, they partnered with various Instagram filmmakers and posted images and videos onto their profiles.

Above are examples of the posts updated in line with this product’s rollout. On top of partnering with filmmakers and explicitly tagging them for more publicity, DJI also used the hashtag #Phantom4Pro to specifically raise awareness of their product. As seen in the second post, their video garnered 55,925 views within the first 3 days.

3.2 IMAX


IMAX (UK) is amongst the many companies that used Instagram as a marketing platform as well. Despite already being known as an innovator in entertainment technology, they ran a campaign intending to test the effectiveness of the interactive polling stickers in Instagram ads, as compared to the standard Instagram Stories format.

The screenshot above is a still shot of the story ad IMAX put up. The polling stickers were used to encourage interaction, and the Book now option served to call upon them to act on their decision.

Though IMAX’s primary aim was just to test the effectiveness of the functions, this campaign was met with success, with the results reflected as tabulated:

3.3 Reformation


Reformation is a fashion brand focusing on eco-friendly and sustainable fashion. The company consistently provides updates on their Instagram profile daily, and the company has a network of 1.5 million followers on Instagram as of date.


However, not every of their marketing on Instagram has turned out positive.


In fact, Reformation once entered quite a bit of controversy when they advertised the return of their popular “guava dress” on Instagram. In the photo uploaded, the model poses on a factory table as workers toiled in the background. This post garnered lots of negative reactions, with some consumers finding it deeply offensive.


While Reformation continued to achieve success on their social media platforms over time, this definitely cast a negative impression on them in many people’s minds.

3.4 Sunny Co. Clothing


Sunny Co. Clothing is a company that sells swimsuits and sunglasses. In 2017, to promote their new swimsuit, the Pamela, they ran a promotional campaign where everyone who reposted and tagged their promotional picture within 24 hours would receive a free swimsuit worth $65.

The picture went viral quickly, and over 3,000 people reposted the image within a few hours. With the overwhelming response, Sunny Co had more orders than it could fill and was forced to implement a cap to the number of free swimsuits it would give. As a result, their fans and followers were upset and disappointed, and they received many furious responses.

Instagram Marketing: Would it be a Success?


We now know how to possibly market a business using Instagram, and we have seen how some companies do it.


Be it simply tapping on the power of Instagram for free, or actually investing money for paid ads, success can be achieved as long as the campaign is well-thought-out and appropriate features (e.g. hashtags, polling stickers) are used.


There is just one thing to remember: The visuals are the appeal of Instagram, and that can go both ways.


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