Over the past five years, Instagram has emerged as one of the key social media channels for brand promotion, with more and more people now turning to the app for inspiration, discovery, and increasingly, direct purchase options.

That means that, for many brands, Instagram is now a key consideration – but maximizing your Instagram presence can be challenging, with the rising battle for attention in the app making it more difficult to stand out, attract new followers, and boost your messaging.

So what are the best ways to approach Instagram marketing in 2021, and how can you improve your posting strategy and presence?

To glean more insight on this, we recently spoke to Emily Reid, the Product Marketing Lead for Small Businesses at Instagram, to get her tips on some of the key elements of Instagram posting and promotion.

Q. What ad/promotional elements are seeing best response on Instagram right now?

ER: Each surface on Instagram can help you do something different, and when put together, we see businesses building communities of loyal customers.

One of the benefits of using Instagram is the various surfaces, through which you can reach your fans, community and customers in different ways. You can use Reels to create short, entertaining videos, and increase the chance of your brand being discovered by people that don’t follow you. You can use Stories to connect with your audience in different ways, from showcasing behind the scene clips to polling your followers, and interacting with them to get a better understanding of what they’d like to see.

We recommend experimenting as much as possible to find that sweet spot. Things that end up becoming hits are often the result of businesses and creators riffing and trying out new things. 

Q: What’s the key to an effective Instagram marketing strategy?

ER: Today, over 90% of people follow a business on Instagram. People come to Instagram to be inspired and discover things that they care about, which includes content from brands – so businesses should use this to their advantage. 

Our biggest tip is to experiment! Try using the different surfaces and free tools on Instagram to connect with and build an audience, whether that’s using stories to show behind the scenes, Instagram Live to have a conversation or tools like Shopping tags to drive direct sales. 

With the shifting trend towards eCommerce, we recently added a new Shop tab in the main navigation bar, so in one tap, people can shop the latest trends from creators and brands on Instagram Shop. We also introduced shopping on Reels and IGTV to give people the ability to shop at the moment of inspiration. Businesses should use these tools to drive product sales directly. 

Q: What are some good examples of brands that are achieving strong results with Instagram marketing?

ER: @halfdays – A small DTC brand started by an Olympic skier who had a hard time finding proper fitting ski apparel designed and made for women, by women.

Halfdays

As founder Kiley McKinnon explains, “A lot of skiwear brands use the ‘shrink it and pink it’ method – take men’s gear, make it smaller and add something like a floral pattern.” Rather than shrinking and pinking, the team looks to their own closets for inspiration, with the result being minimalist pieces in neutral shades and inclusive sizes.

@HillHouse – A woman-owned small business behind the Nap Dress that was everywhere on Instagram this last year.

@ultraviolet.nyc – A small, black woman-owned shop specializing in handmade jewelry. Instagram has helped her build awareness and reach customers that love her work who otherwise may not have found her.

Ultraviolet on Instagram

Q: What would be your top tip for someone starting out with Instagram ads?

ER: We’ve made it simple for small businesses to advertise on Instagram directly within the app using our Promote feature. We know that small businesses are often short on time and resources. Our ad options are designed to help them easily reach an audience that we think may be interested in their products or services.

We encourage businesses to try to think like a creator when producing ads – be scrappy, experimental and take inspiration from trending content and effects on the platform.