If you know anything about Instagram, you're aware of the hype.

Well the hype is well-warranted, as Instagram is fantastic for both users and marketers.

It's a clean, powerful, and pleasing social medium that is trusted by many – and because it's so good at what it does, it's an effective marketing medium for all sorts of businesses.

Considering organic exposure potential alone, it would be foolish to ignore the potent marketing opportunity that is Instagram. After all, social relevance is critical to the success of many businesses of the digital age. Your brand needs to thrive where your fans hang out. 

Instagram just so happens to be one of the best places to find your audience. It’s a great starting point if you’re just now getting your business on social, and it’s also a fantastic option if you’re already on other networks.

Why marketing on Instagram matters

The reason is simple: it's the second largest social platform in the world. Instagram is only second to its parent company’s main platform, Facebook.

The platform sees 1B monthly active users. In the US alone, 35% of adults use Instagram.

Arguably, YouTube is the second largest social network in the world at 1.9B monthly active users, but it’s not really used as a social network. That’s not to say you should ignore everyone’s favorite video platform as a marketing medium – but that’s a whole other topic. It would just be inaccurate to say that people use YouTube the same way they use other social networks. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say Instagram is the #2 “pure” social network.

So back to the audience – it's huge, but that's not all. Those 1B Instagram users are actually tolerant and even receptive to ads on their platform. About 83% of Instagrammers say they discover new products and services on the platform. The same can't be said about other networks.

Few ecommerce businesses can say that the gain nothing from their products being on Instagram; it’s too common to ignore. This is especially true for Instagram, as brands can expect to reach nearly 100% of their audience per post.

You can look forward to these benefits when using Instagram for marketing: 

  • Free, if not cheap marketing - Creating an Instagram page is as free as it gets, and organic content can be more lucrative than paid promotion. If you do go the route of paid promotion, Instagram ads are relatively inexpensive compared to all other forms of traditional ads.
  • Dynamic product ads - A fantastic marketing option for ecommerce businesses, dynamic product ads target leads with relevant, product data generated ads for the products they’re most likely to buy.
  • Lead generation - Followers are great and all, but another effective thing you can do with Instagram is to gather leads lead gen ads.
  • Advanced audience targeting - Social ads aren’t just inexpensive compared to traditional ads, they’re also way more targeted – and the more targeted your ads are, the more effective and cheaper they’ll be.
  • Built-in, useful analytics - No need to get overly technical with how you measure your social marketing on any of Facebook’s properties. Facebook Insights does all the work for you and reports it in the most user-friendly way possible.
  • Increase site traffic - Link sharing on Instagram is a bit tricky, but it’s doable. You can include one link in your bio at any time – posts with a call-to-action, relevant landing page, or other corresponding link can refer people to your bio for that URL.

Ecommerce businesses in particular can greatly benefit from dynamic product ads. Retargeting via dynamic product ads secures sales that would have otherwise been forgotten, remind people of your brand, and really just give your products another layer of marketing depth that they wouldn’t otherwise have. If your product data is solid, your dynamic product ads are sure to be viable.

There’s no shortage of other reasons to be on this free marketing medium.

Now, let’s get back to the core of it all, the people.

What sets it apart & why it works

By and large, the most significant defining factor of the general Instagram userbase is age.

Instagram is extremely popular for the under 30 crowd, especially teens – 71% of Instagram’s 1B MAU are under 35. That’s not to say there aren’t older users on the platform though, Instagram appeals to many different kinds of people.

In general, Instagram is full of features that would be useful to any business, and its audience is receptive to marketing.

Instagram’s Feed is the perfect place for building brand awareness and for spreading targeted ads. Instagram gives each post maximum emphasis as it passes through your feed. If your content can grab someone’s attention, there won’t be much else distracting them as they take it in. Oppositely, users have become adept at scrolling through countless posts. If your content doesn’t pique their interest, they’ll keep scrolling and probably won’t think any less of your brand.

Users are aware and tolerant of the randomness of their feeds. This directly translates to an environment ripe for marketing and an audience broad enough to benefit any business.

Social marketing

Let's get back to social relevance.

The least you can do for your business in the digital space, is to be present on the top social network of all time. You can easily add to the credibility of your business in no time with minimal activity. It's free, easy, and it's also the foundation for that priceless relevance.

When it comes to being relevant on any social network, the answer is fairly simple – albeit, easier said than done – make good content.

Brands don’t usually acquire a mass following overnight. Followers come over time, and with more frequency the more engaging your content is. Put yourself in the position of your audience. What would you want to see from your brand? Why should people listen to you? The answers to simple questions can inspire some of your strongest content.

Then there’s paid promotion.

Before getting into that though, it’s important to remember that marketing doesn’t only come in the form of paid promotion. Good “free” organic content can be more powerful than refined ads, especially good UGC (user-generated content).

That said, Facebook offers a multitude of ad options.

Paid promotion

Instagram ad options are part of the greater repertoire of Facebook ad options. Because Instagram is a subsidiary of Facebook, Instagram ads – along with all other Facebook property ads – are all managed through the Facebook Ad Manager.

Facebook Ad Manager allows you to make and surface ads across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, as well as the Facebook Audience Network (a dense network of 3rd party apps that surface Facebook ads; similar to the Google Display Network).

These ads come in a variety of formats and they're assigned to different placements across Facebook properties – in this case, across Instagram.

This is the full range ad formats you can go with for Instagram ads:

  • Video - Show off product features, and draw people in with sound and motion.
  • Image - Drive people to destination websites or apps through high-quality visuals.
  • Collection - Encourage shopping by displaying items from your product catalog. 
  • Carousel - Showcase up to 10 images or videos within a single ad, each with its own link.
  • Slideshow - Use motion, sound and text to tell your story. 
  • Instant Experience - Provides a full-screen, mobile-optimized experience instantly from your ad.
  • Lead Generation Ads - Presented using an image, video, or carousel, these ads help you collect info from people interested in your business.
  • Offers - Presented using an image, video, or carousel, these ads promote a discount to share with your customers on Facebook.

And these are the applicable placements for those Instagram ads:

  • Instagram Feed - Ads appear in desktop feeds when people access Instagram on their computers or in mobile feeds when people use the Instagram app (or mobile site).
  • Instagram Explore - Ads appear in the browsing experience when someone clicks on a photo or video.
  • Instagram Stories - Ads appear in people's Stories on Instagram.

There are virtually no presentation limitations when advertising on Instagram. Facebook Ads offers a wide range of flexible options, and they’re always innovating for marketers.

For ad specs and more information, reference Facebook’s Ads Guide.

What to do from here

There’s definitely no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to Instagram marketing. The only thing that can’t be overstated is how important being present on Instagram is. What you choose to do after signing up depends on your audience, the nature of your business, content production capabilities, marketing strategy, and more.

Play to the strengths of the platform. Instagram is ideal for spreading visually appealing content, showcasing new products/services, influencer marketing, comparison shopping, and engaging with customers. Whatever you do, just make sure it’s genuine and either useful or engaging.

Ultimately, Instagram is great to promote the visual elements of your business.

Final thoughts

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being on #2 social network of all time. Your audience... and your competitors are already there.

The least you want to do is have a presence on the platform. Aim to create solid and engaging content, and consider investing in some ads. There’s definitely no shortage in presentation styles or targeting options.