Tips for Marketing Your Startup on Instagram

March 12, 2016

7:00 pm

Pictures and hashtags? How is this a marketing strategy? Most startup entrepreneurs are busy creating a “killer” website, developing a business blog and getting themselves all over Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Instagram is just not on their “radar,” because, after all, it is just pictures, and it’s hard to figure out how that can be used as a marketing tool.

What established business owners know, however, is that Instagram is an amazing way to market their products and services, get audience engagement, and bring traffic to their websites. Here are several ways in which you can use Instagram as a great marketing tool.

Pick Your Visuals Carefully

If you are already marketing on other social media platforms, you have a “persona” identified. You know your customer, so now you need to figure out what types of images, photos, words, and hashtags will be appealing. One of the best ways to do this is to look at the Instagram posts of other businesses that appeal to the same audience. These do not necessarily have to be direct competitors. Use the ideas from these businesses to craft your own posts.

ModCloth, a clothing retailer for millennial women, does a great job of this. It posts photos of customers modeling its clothing, often using the carousel feature that allows as many as 4 photos at a time. Their hashtags are creative too.

Use the Hashtags That Appeal

Since you have really limited space to place any text on your photos or images, using catchy hashtags is a great way to engage your audience. You can use a tool like to get some great ideas. Once you’ll grow your following a bit, you can create a special branded hashtag to curate submissions from your audience and expand your reach.

Reserve the picture description for some catchy lines and a CTA e.g “tag someone you want to make smile” and use the comment section to add your hashtags (up to 30 currently allowed).

Use the Geotagging Feature

A lot of Instagram users access this feature to look for geographically convenient locations for what they want. A user may search for a Starbucks in a specific location, and if Starbucks has used the geotagging tool (which it has), the search results will reveal Instagram posts of Starbucks in that area. Geotaging your pics is an excellent way to get extra exposure in search results.

Curate User-Generated Content

As already mentioned, you have a great opportunity to encourage your audience to share their own content that features your brand or is theme-relevant by creating a branded hashtag. When you feature a member of your community and give credit for their content, you provide an incentive for others to share in the hopes that you will feature them too.

One word of caution: Be certain that you check a user’s account before sharing their content to be certain that it matches your level of appropriateness. And, it may be a good idea to ask for permission too.

You can find user-generated content to curate using Mulpix – a nifty Instagram search engine tool.

Seek Engagement

You want viewers to interact with you. When you post an image or photo, ask a question. They can tap once for agree and twice for disagree. Or ask open-ended questions and ask viewers to answer in the comment section. Ask them to tag their friends to answer the question as well.

Republic of Tea is a fairly new startup that has quickly generated 4000 followers by asking questions right on its post. Questions can also be asked in the captions, though they are probably better placed on the image itself.

Get Visitors to Do Something to Spread Your Brand

This really goes without saying, but get as much information as you can without destroying the image that is your focal point. You can actually get quite a bit on a single post. There is an example from Foundr Magazine, an Australian publication that markets subscriptions specifically to startups like you. The owners decided to run a contest on Instagram.

Note that to enter the contest, viewers had to do 3 things. These three things spread the brand by getting a new follower on Twitter, a “like,” the tagging of two of the visitor’s friends, and traffic/5-star review of a podcast. The site URL is also at the top.

For other tactics that Foundr’s owner Nathan Chan uses to grow his Instagram following, check out this interview.

Be Consistent and Automate

Just like any other social media venue, you have to be consistent and regular with your posts or you will lose followers. They want new, engaging, and fun stuff, and if you have nothing new, they will stop following you. When you have time, you should create a number of posts in advance, which you can post later, using tools like Wordswag, Hootsuite or

You can upload any number of images and photos with your quotes, captions, hashtags, etc. and set a calendar for posting. A big time-saver and you will not have to worry about forgetting to get a something posted.


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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien