Instagram Marketing Secrets: Great Ideas from the Experts [Infographic]

Instagram is a hot social media platform with rapid growth and high engagement rates. Learn the best marketing secrets here.

By Barry Feldman ・11 min read
Best Practices
Business & Marketing Strategy
Social Media

You think Instagram is hot? Kardashian gossip is hot. Those fidget spinner things are were hot. Instagram is on fire. It’s enjoying gonzo growth, unmatched by any social media network ever.

  • Smart Insights reports Instagram doubled its user base, to 800 million, during the past two years.
  • Sprout Social reports 70% of US businesses use Instagram.
  • Instagram itself claims 80% of users follow one or more brands on the network.
  • created an infographic with Instagram stats for 2019.

It seems like a good time to research, gather and offer you the best and latest Instagram marketing secrets. In this post, I gather a wide range of ideas from the experts—authors, bloggers and power users of the hot social media channel hundreds of millions tap into daily with their smartphones.

Research your industry

Nathan Chan 1

“A good way to find out what your customers like is by checking out what your competition is posting, or what kind of imagery is used in the websites or blogs that are popular in your industry. There are types of images that work well with most industries, though posters with inspirational or humorous quotes, quality food photography, or scenic images are safe bets in general.”~ Nathan Chan, Foundr (Foundr blog post)

Optimize your bio

Sue B. Zimmerman 1

Design an informative bio. Along with an eye-catching avatar, your profile should tell people what your business is all about. Use industry keywords that help strangers easily figure out what it is that you offer.”~ Sue B. Zimmerman (2017 Instagram Strategy Guide)

ShortStack's Instgram Bio

Here’s the ShortStack Instagram bio. Follow us.

Use your bio link wisely

Kim Walsh

“The link inside your bio is the only spot you can use to actively drive a prospect into your sales funnel. This link should be used wisely and never simply as a link to your homepage. To use this networking platform as a lead generation tool, you need to offer your prospects something of value. The goal with your Instagram link is to provide something so valuable that the prospect would pay for it if it wasn’t free.”~ Kim Walsh Phillips (Book: Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business)

K Walsh Phillips bio

Note how author Kim Walsh Phillips offers a link to her “Instagram followers” guide in her bio.

“Your bio is crucial. You can best make use of this section by having a strong call to action (which is basically marketing speak for an instruction for your viewer to do something). You can use up to 150 characters, so a short snappy call to action works best.”~ Nathan Chan, Foundr (Foundr blog post)

Authenticity rules

Jim Belosic

“You’ll always do better with authentic content. Quick snapshots—even with crappy lighting—are better than professional photos. This is why UGC works so well.”~ Jim Belosic, ShortStack (Interview)

Authentic post by ShortStack

Authentic post by ShortStack

Jim Belosic

“Your audience can tell when you are trying to sell something. Don't be sneaky. Say, ‘Hey, this is for sale’ or don't. Don't try to get too clever. It's okay to just show your product without a CTA. And it's okay to have a clear CTA once in awhile.”~ Jim Belosic, ShortStack (Interview)

Use the right hashtags

Ariel Rule

“Whether you have zero followers or thousands, hashtags are your best friends on Instagram. Instagram makes it easy for users to type in keywords (hashtags) to find new things to like and new people to follow. Therefore, finding the right hashtags to use for your post is essential for effective Instagram marketing.”~ Ariel Rule (Guest post on

Hashtag usage by New Belgium Beers

New Belgium Brewing doesn’t max out its use of hashtags, but wisely includes hashtags for a holiday, product, brand, and product category.

Create strong descriptions

Sue B. Zimmerman 1

“Put thought into your descriptions and tagging. The description of your post is just as important as the image itself. Always provide additional value, insights, or inspiration as context around your post. Tag people or other brands that are in the picture. This gives credit to them and gives supporting information to your followers.”"Before you share a post, think to yourself ‘is this meaningful, entertaining, interesting, funny, informative, resourceful, or motivational?’”~ Sue B. Zimmerman (2017 IG Strategy Guide)

Chewy Strong post

The marketers at Chewy put some thought into this post using the description to promote one of its products, which resulted in many likes and comments.

Grow your following with contests

Kim Walsh

“When it comes to social media, the number one reason most use it is for entertainment and a momentary escape from reality. To tap into this audience behavior, try gamification. Getting your community involved in a contest is an effective way to build your market and brand message.”~ Kim Walsh Phillips (Book: Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business)

“Set one of the criteria for contest entry to follow your account, and the second criteria as having all entrants mention 2-3 of their friends in the comments on your post. This directly exposes you to new people and if they want to participate in the contest too, they have to follow you and name more people. This is hugely valuable to grow your audience quickly.”~ Jenn Herman (Modern Social Magazine , May 2017)

Instagram Video Hashtag Contest

Several ShortStack contest templates—such as the Video Hashtag Contest—encourages participants to follow the brand. Learn how to create an Instagram contest with ShortStack—Free.


Ariel Rule

“Instagram is a highly interactive social platform. To gain followers, you need to interact with them and gain some respect. One of the absolute best ways to gain a following on Instagram is to do giveaways or host contests. Post a branded image on your Instagram account that says ‘Giveaway’ or ‘Contest’ somewhere on the picture.”

~ Ariel Rule (Guest post on

Instagram giveaway post

Build an email list

Jim Belosic

“Followers are nice, but email addresses are better. Turn your followers into a list by leveraging interactive content, quizzes, coupons, etc. Do whatever you can to make sure you own your list outside of Instagram.”~ Jim Belosic, ShortStack (Interview)

ShortStack's Discount Reveal template is a great way to collect leads

View and Create Your Own

Optimize your stories

Benjamin Chacon

“We recommend always using location and hashtag stickers in your stories. If you can get enough people to engage with your story, you might even end up on the Explore page. It goes without saying that the ability to send your followers to specific landing pages from your stories is extremely useful. Whether that’s a product page or a new blog post, you can use this feature to drive Instagram traffic to relevant landing pages.”~ Benjamin Chacon (Later blog post)

Share images on your blog

Ariel Rule

“Use your Instagram pictures in your blog posts…

  • Log in to your Instagram account and click on the photo you would like to use in your blog post.
  • Copy the URL and then paste it in your post editor in WordPress.

It will automatically render and become a clickable feature in your post making it very simple for someone to follow you there.”~ Ariel Rule (Guest post on

@jilla.tequila in comfy cotton basics. #AmericanApparel #AAselfie

A post shared by American Apparel (@americanapparelusa) on Nov 20, 2017 at 8:45am PST

I followed Ariel’s instructions. It worked. If you’d like to follow American Apparel USA, there you go.

Foster community

Jim Belosic

“Many of your followers might be existing customers. If they already own your product, don't keep telling them to buy it! Instead, make them feel like one of the cool kids for owning your product. Show them new ways of using it. Show them all the other people who have it so they feel like part of a club.”~ Jim Belosic, ShortStack (Interview)

Spotlight your customers

Constantina Kokenes

“Spotlighting customers, followers or even non-followers can increase your engagement. When you tag them in the post or caption, they'll get a notification and check out your page. They'll be thankful that you liked their content enough to share it and will possibly like or comment on the post, which their followers will see (which in turn, leads to higher reach for your page).”~ Constantina Kokenes (Social Media Today blog post)

Use polls

Benjamin Chacon

“Instagram recently launched new interactive poll stickers on Instagram stories, which lets you ask questions and see results from your followers as they vote. Whether you want to collect feedback on your products, crowd-source ideas, or simply entertain your followers, poll stickers offer an entirely new way to engage with your Instagram audience.”~ Benjamin Chacon (Later blog post)

Instagram Polls for Stories

Post albums

Jenn Herman

“Love Instagram stories but hate that they disappear? Are you creating awesome content on stories but wishing you could share more of it with your regular Instagram audience? Now you can take your best stories posts and repurpose them into an album on your regular profile so that they can live on indefinitely.”~ Jenn Herman (Jenn’sTrends blog post)

Instagram Albums

The albums feature was introduced in February 2017. In August 2017, updated it to  enable albums with landscape and portrait pictures. (As Reported by The Verge)

Run ads

According to Forrester, Instagram ads have the highest engagement rate of all digital ad placements. This means that sometimes, you could pay a little more for a click or 1,000 impressions and still come out as a winner.Use the Instagram app to promote your posts for small ad campaigns. If you want to create an A/B test or run an extensive campaign, use the Facebook Ads Manager or AdEspresso to set up your promotion.”~ (Aggregate Instagram advertising guide)

Instagram Ad Placement UX

A stellar post on Sprout Social walks you trough the Instagram ad buying process, which you manage with Facebook’s ad platform, famous for its laser targeting features.

Promote your account via other social media

Constantina Kokenes

“A simple and effective way to increase your Instagram following and engagement is by promoting your page through other social channels. Share your page through whatever other social channels your small business is on. Encourage your followers there to follow you on Instagram as well as engage in conversation on your posts.”~ Constantina Kokenes (Social Media Today blog post)

Instagram feed embedded in a Twitter post

Designer, creative director Miguel Herranz cross-promotes his Instagram creations in his Twitter feed.

Use direct messages

Sue B. Zimmerman 1

Direct messages allow you to send private messages to a single account or anywhere up to 15 accounts at a time. It is a great way to get special attention and communicate with your followers. You can reach out to leaders in your industry, offer special coupons or promotions, or even send a simple thank you message. In any case make sure you’re never asking anything outlandish or spammy.”~ Sue B. Zimmerman (2017 IG Strategy Guide)

Share reviews and testimonials

Andrew Thompson

“Reviews and customer testimonials carry a lot of credibility and people tend to believe them far more than advertisements or claims that businesses make. If you are receiving good reviews or your customers have issued letters of appreciation, then you should make it a point to post them on your Instagram account. Videos showing customers appreciating your products can be particularly effective in building brand credibility.”~ Andrew Thompson (Doz blog)

ShortStack's Hashtag Feedback template

ShortStack's Hashtag Feedback template is a great way to share reviews and testimonials. Create Your Own Testimonials Promo.

Broadcast live

Ramzi Chamat

“Countless international brands are using Instagram Live and there are plenty of reasons for this. It allows you to strengthen your connection with your followers, teach your audience something or simply keep them in the loop about your brand.”~ Ramzi Chamat (8 Ways Media blog)

Creative post by Beauty Geek

#InstagramLive can be used in so many creative ways. I had to know what #MUA means. Answer: makeup artist. Image courtesy of beautygeekng.


Neil Patel

By joining Instagram community groups you will have access to hundreds and even thousands of other marketers in your niche who want to collaborate, not compete. These groups will often comment on each other’s posts, like photos and use follow-for-follow to help every member quickly grow their Instagram accounts.”~ Neil Patel (On Forbes) Note: The groups described above by Neil are often referred to as “pods.”

Emily Lydon

“Pods work with group chats via DM (direct message) on Instagram. Podmates send each other a DM whenever they share a new Instagram post. Every member of the pod then heads straight over to the post and gives it a like and a genuine, thought out comment. The idea behind this being that the more engagement a post gets within the first minutes, the higher up on users’ feeds it’ll appear. Joining a pod could just be the best thing you ever did for your engagement rate on Instagram.”~ Emily Lydon (On IconoSquare)

Stay tuned…

A partial list of Instagram updates from a timeline in Simply Measured’s The State of Social Marketing—2017 Annual Report includes:

  • Jan 2017—Instagram introduces Business Insights
  • Feb 2017—Users can upload up to 10 photos on a single post
  • Mar 2017—Stories ads are available worldwide
  • June 2017—Instagram gives users live video replays

Dizzying, eh?

Instagram is not only growing fast, but also evolving at a steady pace as it aims to grow its revenue stream while addressing the needs of both its members and millions of marketers.A great example and hot new development is Instagram Shopping (which is referred to asShopping on Instagram” and other monikers in its development phase). The new feature lets businesses tag up to five products within an image to reveal a price, description and a link to an online store.You can learn more about Instagram Shopping here, but understand as of holiday season 2017, the feature remains in a limited test phase. Suffice to say, to master Instagram marketing secrets, you need to tune-in and stay tuned.

Hot Instagram Marketing Tips

You’ll find the following ShortStack content about Instagram marketing helpful:

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42 Instagram Promotions, Contests, Ideas and Tips for Christmas

Instagram Holiday Marketing Guide

Instagram Holiday marketing Guide (eBook)

About the author

By Barry Feldman ・11 min read

Barry Feldman is a content consultant for ShortStack. He is the author of several books and contributes to many of the web’s top marketing sites. Barry was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn.

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